Dealbusters: When free costs a bundle

Sometimes, free can be very costly.

I’m a big fan of Freecycle. It’s a great community resource for people to give and receive things they don’t need or do need. Freecycle helps turn a city into a community and lets people find each other to recycle their old stuff. Their Web site explains in their own words:

“Our mission is to build a worldwide gifting movement that reduces waste, saves precious resources & eases the burden on our landfills while enabling our members to benefit from the strength of a larger community.”

A couple of weeks ago, someone was giving away a GreenPlug. We have an older chest freezer, and I thought this device — which claims to regulate power so that older freezers or refrigerators operate more efficiently — might save us some money. I got it, plugged it in, and off we went.

Or so we thought.

On Thursday, I popped out to the freezer to grab an ice cream sandwich and found … liquid. Fortunately, the freezer had stopped working just that day, I would guess. The bottles of water that we use to fill up space (and our cooler, when we use it) were still mostly frozen. There was no stench, and things were cool, but thawed. The bottom of the freezer was a pool of water and melted popsicles.

I had to throw out all the meat in the freezer, except for an old frozen turkey in the bottom (which I offered on Freecycle to cook for pets, at the owner’s risk — it was still mostly frozen, and the taker picked it up right away and cooked it that night). Lucky for us, we didn’t have much in there that was unsafe to have thawed (we keep 25-pound sacks of grain in the freezer, and a gingerbread house kit I bought on clearance after the holidays for this year’s festivities, but the thaw didn’t hurt those at all).

I removed the GreenPlug and plugged the freezer back in. It’s working fine.

I have to confess that I didn’t Freecycle the GreenPlug — I threw it away. I don’t want to be responsible for someone else’s appliance dying — what if we’d had a stash we desperately needed? And I couldn’t find any information on what type of plug it was. Too late, I learned that the GreenPlug must suit a particular type of appliance or it won’t work.

The lesson? Buyer beware. My free GreenPlug cost me about $25 or $30 in wasted meat, popsicles and veggies. It could have been much worse, but I wish it hadn’t happened at all.

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