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A New Twist on 'Free Market' -- for Anyone


Everybody's looking to save buck these days. What if I told you there are places you can shop where everything is absolutely FREE?

That's right. Put your wallet away and leave your purse at home, because "free stores" and "free markets" are sprouting up in communities across the country-including San Francisco, Portland, Baltimore, Detroit and elsewhere. The concept is simple: People drop off items they no longer want and anyone is welcome to take what they need. There's no swapping or bartering involved, and no money changes hands.

Free stores and markets take many forms: from a box on street corner where people can simply drop off and pick up free items, to actual brick and mortar 'stores' staffed by volunteers, to a one-day open air market where everything is free (often including a variety of free services from  volunteers).

Although free stores and markets are particularly helpful to people of limited financial means, most free stores welcome everyone to take what they need. Worried that it'll be a 'free for all' in the bad sense? Representatives of most free stores and markets say that they rarely encounter a customer who is intent on grabbing as much as they possibly can.

In an article from the nonprofit organization Green America, Bonnie Nordvedt, administrator of the Baltimore Free Store, said: "The purpose of a free store is for everyone to rethink their shopping habits, spending habits, and general addiction to 'newer-bigger-better.' We use the distribution of free items as a catalyst for change and to demonstrate what can be done when communities work together.'" Their motto is, "Give what you can, take what you need."

Sounds like a priceless idea to me.

A nationwide listing of free markets (including the one pictured above, from Napa, Ca.:

More information on free stores: Also check out, a worldwide nonprofit movement that's sort of a "virtual free store" online. And there's always the free section of Craig'sList; go to your closest city's page and under For Sale, look for 'Free.' 

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