Think swapping is just for clothes fanatics? If you’ve ever used Netflix, Craigslist, or attended a garage sale, you are a swapper. I recently talked to Melissa Massello, co-founder of TheSwapaholics, which was recently acquired by Swap.com, about swapping beauty products, vegetables, and cars. Full disclosure: Melissa and I co-hosted a swapping event called the Frugal Festival this past July. At the end of our interview, I pulled together resources to find a swap near you, what to bring to a swap, and swap tips for newbies.
Clothing swapping is fast becoming main stream. Clothing swaps have been around, as one blogger said, for as long as women knew their friends had closets. So it’s really this age old thing. We’ve been bartering since before we had currency. It makes sense with the recession and more of a focus on environmental awareness. People are focusing on smarter ways to get and use the things they need, but not necessarily own them.
What are people swapping? DVDs (Netflix), kids clothes (ThredUp.com), vegetables (VeggieTrader.com), designer dresses (RentTheRunway.com), purses (BagBorrowOrSteal.com), books and CDs (PaperbackSwap.com), cars (RelayRides.com), general items (RentCycle.com) and beauty products.
Beauty products? What woman or man hasn’t bought a product that touted itself as “volumizing” or “great for curly hair” and then it totally doesn’t deliver? You use it twice and it ends up in the back of your cupboard. You don’t want to dump it down the drain, so what do you do with it? We bring in beauty experts who look at what people are swapping and they recommend new products. This is why I’m making bad purchases, I don’t know what shade is right for me. It’s empowering.
Are people swapping electronics and appliances? No, but I’ve seen some really cool companies helping people recycle them and give money back.
What about swapping children’s clothing? ThredUp started with women’s and men’s clothing swaps through the mail. It didn’t really take off until they introduced kids swapping. ThredUp recently got a round of funding and moved their offices to San Francisco.
What other things are people swapping? VeggieTrader.com is a way that hobby gardeners, small family farms, and victory gardeners who grew way too many eggplants can swap. It’s very local.
There is also car sharing. Relay Rides is in Boston and there is Zip Car and Rentcycle [a general marketplace for renting].
Your own clothing swaps are very high end. Near high end. We never charge more than $20. If it’s $20 that’s because they are getting freebies in their swap bag, a wine tasting, food, a runway show with outfits created entirely from swap clothes. It definitely makes it into more of an event, a girls night out.
Thanks for your time, Melissa!
Here are three places to find a swap near you.
Swaporamarama.org also lists their own events, which are low-budget clothing swaps and do-it-yourself workshops to help swappers find creative ways to reuse clothing. Admission to past events has been as low as $5.
ClothingSwap.com runs high-end clothing swaps in San Francisco, New York City, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
TheSwapaholics.com’ swap sheet lists swaps around the country for the coming month.
Really, really, free markets are grassroots meet-ups where people offer goods and services for free. There is no charge to attend these events!
What to bring to a swap
Leave at home anything you’d be embarrassed to pass onto a friend or sibling. Same goes for anything with rips, tears, stains, or that is excessively worn. There are certain garments nobody wants to swap, like underwear (I had to toss out many pairs of men’s boxers at the Frugal Festival – gross!), bathing suits, sports bras, or dirty socks.
How to make the most of a swap
There are many types of swaps, from casual free exchanges that go on for hours to ticketed swaps that are a frenzy of activity for 20 minutes. Then everything is gone. Try to find out as much as possible about how the swap will be run (do VIPs get in five minutes early?) and plan accordingly. I recommend going with a friend who can nab things she think you’d like and help you decide yay or nay on borderline items. Wear comfy shoes and remember to only take what you really like.
If beauty swaps piqued your interest, read this article on what you can and cannot bring to a beauty swap, and how to run a beauty swap at home and where to find one near you.
If your appetite for swaps has not yet been satiated, read Rachel Botsman’s book, “What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption.” The hardcover is $18 and cheaper than the paperback for some reason.
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