It is termed the Free Napkin, and visitors to FreeNapkin.com can find free stuff to claim. Once claimed, they pay shipping and it appears at their homes. The catch? None. The potential for entrepreneurs? Priceless. The enforceability of Free Napkin covenants? Iffy.
Log on to the Free Napkin at FreeNapkin.com, and you are most likely surprised by the hodgepodge of items that look like your neighbor’s garage sale. At the same time, a closer look reveals that these items could all have been found at said garage sale, except on Free Napkin they are free of charge.
Donors like the Free Napkin idea because it allows them to get rid of working appliances and other items for free. FreeNapkin.com lets them post pictures of the items and interested parties may then claim them. Once claimed, the person pays for shipping – or drives on over and picks up the item – and the transaction is complete.
Best of all, Free Napkin suggests that there is no liability attached to the transaction. Thus, if you post your old waffle iron on FreeNapkin.com and it sets someone else’s house on fire, they cannot come back and sue you. Resellers are discouraged from claiming bunches of free items and then offering them up on eBay to the highest bidder; Free Napkin suggests that other users keep a watchful eye open for this sort of behavior.
The Free Napkin site is wonderful and the idea is grand, but the potential for problems is not answered by the FAQ. First and foremost, donors do not receive the tax write-offs they would otherwise enjoy if donating their unwanted items to a charity. Moreover, in spite of the protestations that there will be no liability claim forthcoming, it is questionable how much of this is truly enforceable and how much is more or less a Free Napkin gentleman’s agreement that won’t hold up in court.
Entrepreneurs appreciate the fact that they can advertise their businesses on their donation pages. Unfortunately, there is no telling if someone is actually claiming and keeping the goods for personal use, or if the Free Napkin recipient of free stuff will turn around and sell it – if not on eBay, then on Craig’s List or another site – or simply donate the items themselves to a charity for the sake of a tax deduction.
Even more concerning are the ads for free animals. After all, even though Free Napkin users might be the nicest folks in town, it is hard to differentiate them from the shady characters that might sell Fido to a lab or offer Squeaky to a pet snake as breakfast. Donors and recipients should proceed – but with caution – when making use of the FreeNapkin.com site.