The Magical World of Free & For Sale

It is late at night. The pitter patter of a light rain outside nearly lulls me to sleep in the comfort of my Stiles dorm room until a notification lights up my phone. It’s a message from a stranger on Facebook: “I’m here.” I leap to my feet and fly down the stairs. Outside, I see someone silhouetted by the blue glow from an exterior safety phone, near the gates of my residential college. We nod at each other, and I hand her a small pouch. My phone receives a Venmo notification: my wallet just got a little thicker. We part ways into the night, both feeling a buzz of adrenaline.

No, that wasn’t an illicit drug deal. Rather, this was an exchange that happens pretty often on Yale’s campus thanks to the magic of a (totally legal!!!!!) Facebook group called… Free & For Sale. (It was a sewing kit. I sold her a sewing kit.)

sewing kit
The deal in question.

I fell in love with the group in sophomore year, when I was looking for furnishings for my suite: maybe a set of fairy lights, or throw pillows for our couch. This group operates like a narrower version of Facebook Marketplace; created 9 years ago, Free & For Sale is mostly composed of Yale affiliates in New Haven and nearby cities. It was here I truly learned that one student’s trash really is another student’s treasure. Not only did I find what I was looking for, but so much more, at insane prices:

cassandra's room
One part of my room! The mirror, coat hanger, & coffee table were all deals from Free & For Sale.

Cassandra in a poncho
Sold this bee poncho!

I’ve scored a pink foldable chair for $5, a FREE black Ikea desk, an office chair desk for $10, cute notebooks for less than $5 each, a full length mirror for $6, a coffee table for $7, and a red coat rack for $15, and a set of 1, 2, and 5 weights for $25. I’ve bid for LSAT books, scooters, ottomans, rugs, and keyboards and learned my lesson: you snooze, you lose. I’ve sold ginormous boxes of books for class, spacesaver bags, a poncho, extension cords, a weight machine, and Broadway tickets. At the end of this semester, you’ll see me selling my fits on Free & For Sale—everything that can’t fit in two checked suitcases and one carry-on will have to go!

People sell a variety of items on the site.

I asked group members to share some of their favorite deals over the years. One student scored an unlocked (only slightly cracked) iPhone 6 for $30 in 2018. Others have collected/sold a sourdough starter, a residential college lanyard, a bike, a plant collection, a backpack for $5 that has lasted 3 years, a free bed. The mini-adventures to retrieve goods also make for memorable stories: one student hauled a free vacuum and a large pillow on his skateboard for a mile and a half. Sometimes trades are arranged, like a trash can for a set of hangers. And sometimes buyers never meet the sellers, because a Yalie’s schedule is always in flux; instead, students might stash their goods in plants next to a sidewalk, and inadvertently lead the buyer on a treasure hunt. Sick and tired of seeing people try to sell Canada Goose jackets, someone tried to sell themselves as a Canada Goose date. I don’t know if it worked. The best purchase I’ve seen is probably this cut-out of the cursed Robert Pattinson meme of him in a tracksuit. No explanation from the buyer or the seller, but honestly? No explanation needed.

Canada Goose
Parka date!

robert pattinson
A group of friends collectively picking up the prized cut-out.

With every purchase, I experience the unique high of snagging an awesome deal. With every sale, I feel the creators of minimalism beaming at me as I shrink my haul of worldly possessions (I suppose the buying and selling do cancel each other out). However, join at your own peril—Free and For Sale has an addictive power. It takes time and energy to score deals; I turn on notifications for keywords when I’m searching for something specific. Even now, when my room is fully and beautifully furnished, I still scroll through the group for funsies. The angel on my shoulder tells me, “Cassandra, you don’t need more stuff,” while the devil on my other shoulder just smiles and whispers, “Think about the dealsssssss.”

And the devil’s voice always wins.