Stockpile Distribution Etiquette

My recent post about working the drug store games attracted a very thoughtful and relevant comment from one of my readers:

The down side [of bargain-hunting] is that as much as [my mother] loves a bargain, she looks for things not only for herself, but for everyone who lives close enough to her for her to give things to them. It drives my brothers crazy, because there comes a point at which her bargains– even the food ones– are junk coming into the house that they need to get rid of or find a place for. I’m glad that I don’t live close enough to her for her to be foisting so much stuff off on me. As it is, she’s sent me a few boxes of things that–yes, they’ll be useful eventually, but I didn’t really want them at that moment. It’s not always a bonus. Even if you’ll eventually use 10 bottles of glass cleaner, you only need one for now. The other 9 are a pain if you don’t have space for them. And sometimes, the reason a person doesn’t have an item is because he or she doesn’t really want to have it. Cost isn’t a factor– desire is.

I’m not saying that your family isn’t grateful and I’m not saying that you (or my mother, for that matter) shouldn’t enjoy what you do. I’m just saying that as a sometimes recipient and as a sibling of more-frequent recipients, there are times when “take it, it was free!” or “here, it was a bargain!” can be a nuisance.

Actually, I’ve never been on the receiving end of this kind of behavior so I can’t relate perfectly. However, I have had friends who would, for example, get tired of a hair product when only 1/4 of the way through it and foist it on me with “we have the same hair type, you’ll love this”. I’d have folks clean out their closets and make like they were being wonderfully generous by giving me the dusty, unwanted crap that they never found a use for.

I caught myself going down this road early on and changed my behavior. I went CVSing with a friend who appreciates a good deal, and I got 2 bottles of contact lens solution as a “money-maker”. Well, it takes me a long time to get through a whole bottle of contact lens solution, so I gave her the other one. She started to explain that it’s not the brand she prefers and then just shut up and took it. To this day, I’m not sure if she took it because (a) it’s hard to turn away “free”, (b) she re-thought her brand loyalty and realized it wasn’t that important to her, or (c) it would make me happy. So here’s what I’ve done to make sure I don’t annoy the people I distribute my freebies to:

Mom:  She’s with me for a lot of my shopping. I spread it all out before packing it up to bring back to NYC, and she takes what she wants. We occasionally come to blows over brownie mix.

Sisters:  In addition to their silly-but-useful “color boxes” that I’m preparing for Christmas, I set aside anything I know they use. Or more accurately, anything our mom knows they use – the woman has a shopping list in her head for each of us. When she doesn’t know, she defaults back to what we liked/used in 1985.

Brother:  He likes smelly things in general and is a very happy recipient for all the free air freshener contraptions that Glade keeps putting out. He’s also something of a naive new homeowner, so anything household-y will not go amiss. Heck, unlike the commentator above, he could actually used a few bottles of glass cleaner – the house has 4 levels and a whole lotta windows.

Ayten (aka Working Poor Mom + 2 teens):  The first delivery, she was so desperate for anything and everything from unwanted laundry detergent to milk that there was just no getting it wrong. But since I’ve established an ongoing care package relationship with her, I’ve gotten a wish list and also check that she and her kids actually use/need what I give her. I told her that if I ever give her something that doesn’t suit them for whatever reason, to tell me or even give it back – I won’t be offended. She then went on to describe how several of the items I’d supplied (peanut butter, Knorr pasta sides, etc) were making life a whole lot easier for her because they were things that her kids could make on their own while she’s at work.

Friend:  I asked my best friend for a list of her health/beauty/household stuff she uses – this is the same friend I gave the contact lens solution to last year. She indicated brands, which things she was brand loyal to and which ones whe wasn’t picky about. It was kind of funny how quickly she rattled things off:  Dawn but only the blue kind, Lysol but only the orange pourable, Tresemme for colored hair (really? it’s kinda cheap…), Satin Care or really any shave gel as long as it’s girlie, any toothpaste in a whitening formula, etc. Wow, I’ve got half her list committed to memory. Now that’s friendship.

Client:  Okay, so Ms Phone Sex is really turning out to be more friend than client, but I figured the odd things I’ve given her warrant a mention. I don’t think she’s all that picky she likes a bargain – especially one she doesn’t even have to go out and get herself. And heck, she’d actually requested dishwashing liquid. I loved showing up with odd bits and pieces that she needed, like Dawn and Nivea shower gel. It firmly established a lack of pretention early on in the friendship, which is really important to me.

So there – that’s how avoid turning my adventures in de-cluttering into someone else’s reluctant re-cluttering.

4 Responses

  1. Tresemme is some great conditioner for how cheap it is. I will pick it over Pantene sometimes to alternate my brands. (Never tried the shampoo though.) Have you tried it yet? I like it b/c it’s so cheap I don’t feel guilty glopping it on.

    • Yup, I’ve tried it. Liked the hairspray, didn’t like the conditioner. I should have mentioned that this friend spends $220 on a haircut, so I find it funny that she uses Tresemme. Maybe that says a lot for Tresemme…?

  2. I’ve got some coups to mail to you. Can you email me where you want them sent?

  3. Found you through Cheap Charity Blog (loved Cheap Charity) & you are FABULOUS! Do you tweet? Would love to follow you.

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