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Hold on, there's a back story. Last year I ordered a wood shed from FlimsyChineseExportsReseller.com, and one of the latches broke after a month. Via e-mail they said they were incredibly sorry, the item had been tested by angry monkeys who hit it repeatedly with hammers, the managers had been liquidated and videos of the entire factory staff apologizing and weeping would be sent on request.

But they couldn't find a replacement for the part that broke.

So they sent an entire shed. From factory to rail to port to cargo ship, across the bounding main, to the West Coast, to port, to train, to UPS, to truck, to my house. All for a part that cost them a nickel.

I dragged the enormous box into the garage and said, "Well, I'll get to that at some point, that point being three weeks after my wife asks if I am going to get to that."

Nine months later I got the part out of the box. Now what? I could scrawl "Flat Screen TV" on the side of the box and wait for the neighborhood burglars to take it.

Are you sure this is a TV? It's pretty heavy.

Maybe they only used it to watch PBS.

Or, I could go on nextdoor.com, a neighborhood forum. Post a picture, warn them about the latches and offer it for gratis.

If you put half a bowling ball on the boulevard with a Post-it note that says "FREE" someone will take it.

Nextdoor.com has curb alerts all the time: "Rattan chairs not entirely falling apart." Gone in an hour. "Sony TV circa 1997 whose approximate weight rivals a propeller blade on the Titanic." Snapped right up.

The phone rang three minutes after I made the post. Arrangements were made. I took down the post, but since it went out as an e-mail, I got calls all afternoon. It went like this:

"Hello, shed's already gone."

"Hey, I'm calling about your shed?"

Because A) no one listens to what you say when you answer the phone, or B) people think your name is actually Shedzo Reddygon.

As one caller explained: The key word in my post was "free." It makes people sit up as though an electrical current has been applied to their hindquarters.

The speed of the response was so impressive I am now replacing 911 with posts to ­nextdoor.com. Such as:

"Subject: Free deck of playing cards, some missing.

"Hey, neighbors! My house is on fire. Maybe you saw the plume of smoke that signals the immolation of our domicile, and if you are a firefighter or know anyone in the flame-suppression trade, there are free cards if they show up and put it out."

Or ...

"Subject: Free bag of withered, expired salad.

"Hey, guys, I'm being held up at 42nd and Nicollet right now, and the guy is asking for my phone, so I'll have to type fast. Can you bring the cops? I can give you the salad I have in the fridge. It's mostly OK, but some of the stuff at the bottom is probably slimy."

And the cops would be there in seconds. The guy who wanted free old salad, maybe sooner.