While out for a jog a few weeks ago, I spotted a table and four chairs with a sign saying zu Verschenken (the expression used to indicate that someone is giving something away). Since I was not far from home, I picked up one chair and proceeded to run home with it. I then rushed back to stake claim to the rest of the set and found a woman and her daughter considering the remaining chairs and the table and discussing how they might get them home. This is where it helped to be able to speak German. I told them that I had already taken one chair and began to ask if they might at least allow me to take another one to make a pair when the woman completed my sentence by commenting on my being unable to manage to carry much at one time (she was quite tall, I am not). She said that they already had a similar set at home and didn’t really need this one. and then she and her daughter smiled and went on their way.
I took away two messages. First, don’t be afraid to ask, all someone can do is say “no.” And second, if you see a set of things left on the curb for anyone to take, first remove the item with the sign welcoming you to help yourself.