Repair Café Etiquette

Due to this or that, I hadn’t been at a Repair Café event in over a year. I figured that things might have changed a ton, but I was wrong. The volunteers were still happy, repairs were still getting made, and on this particular summer-like evening, the sun was still shining. Perfection. Whether your cause is keeping accumulated stuff out of the landfill, teaching bike repair or community service, the Repair Café offers a wonderful group of people dedicated to repairing rather than tossing.

So what got repaired? It was a big night for sewing, folks. Pants, gloves, scarfs, shirts, and a fair amount of sleeping bags came through the door. Holes everywhere were getting patched. We had lawnmower repair, too. It’s cool to see lawnmowers rolling in and out. And small appliances (toasters, blenders, fans) are always showing up. I saw a toaster so old it had Bakelite handles!  It got repaired. The event was at [] Bike Farm, so of course lots of bikes were worked on. Bike Farm is a great location for a repair event because you can buy bike parts there if you didn’t bring your own.

Are you thinking about coming to the Repair Café? Smart move. Are you wondering what to wear, what you’ll see and what to bring? First, wear whatever you want – it’s Portland. Second, what’s the vibe like? Mellow and happy. This is an entirely volunteer-run group, so everyone wants to be there. Participants run the spectrum of the Portland populace; in other words, the people-watching is excellent. What can you bring? Check the Facebook page before hitting the road to verify the type of repairs being offered, but in general there is small appliance repair, electronics repair, sewing, bike repair, and sometimes knife sharpening and lawnmower repair. If parts are needed for your repair, bring them. If you don’t know what parts are needed, a repair volunteer might be able to trouble-shoot and let you know what parts to buy. Buy the parts, fix it yourself, or bring your item (with parts) back to the next event.

Do you want some Repair Café etiquette? Most volunteers are too nice to talk about etiquette, but I have a love of lecturing that is hard to suppress. So here it goes: First, feel free to bring multiple items for repair. However, you are only allowed to queue up for one item at a time. To get multiple items repaired, you have to get in line multiple times. This means you should come with a mental list of your most important repairs in descending order. Get in line as many times as the queue permits. Here’s the tricky part – don’t complain that you have to keep getting in line! We want everyone to get a chance at repair, hence the rule.

You will have to fill out forms each time you come to an event. Yes, you probably had to fill out the same forms last time you came to a repair event. And yes, you might already be on the mailing list. One of the forms is a liability waiver that has to be completed and signed for each event, and the repair tickets track data at each separate event. No, we are not including the forms to piss you off. Yes, forms on an iPad would be nice, but we’re not there. You’re getting free repairs. Smile, fill out the forms, and say thank you.

Consider donating. Repair Café is a free event, staffed by volunteers (have I hit this point enough?). No payment is ever required or requested. But, we do have a cash jar, and if you’re happy with the service provided and can afford to donate, please do! The donations primarily go to buying used T shirts and screen-printing supplies.

And of course there’s another way to donate: With your time. Can you repair anything? Do you have a skill? Contact the Repair Café via the Facebook page. Come and hang out. Have some snacks. Fill out some forms. People watch. Use your mad skillz to help repair a sleeping bag or a clock. It’s a really good time.