JeanineJeanine Cook, an employee of Corner Carry Out Deli on North Washington Street, waits for a buyer to pick up the Hot Wheels she sold through Swap and Sell.
Outside of Walmart on any given afternoon, you may find a woman with a clipboard waiting to collect payment from her drive-by buyers. Or, you could spy a Volvo idling in the outskirts of the Target parking lot, eager to complete the previously agreed-upon internet sale. They are not pedaling girl scout cookies or something more nefarious; they are members of Easton’s Swap and Sell Facebook group, and they trade in outgrown clothes and garage shelf-holders.
Founder Wendy Basil began the group after a failed yard sale, where she was left paying for a newspaper advertisement even while rain effectively canceled her efforts. A born coupon-clipper and deal finder, Basil wanted to find a better way to get rid of unwanted items and still make a profit. “We all love Facebook, so why not use it to our advantage?” Basil asks.
Swap and Sell is a “secret” group on Facebook, which means you have to know someone to be added. Currently, Swap and Sell has almost 3500 participants, all from Easton and its surrounding areas, who meet around town to trade goods. Scrolling through the postings, one can find a miniature donkey, a worn-out Old Navy sweatshirt, a Coach purse, and even an Audi TT convertible.
Megan Nittle, who has bought and sold through the group, says that Swap and Sell transactions “can feel like a drug deal—sneaky, even though it’s not.” She bought a baby toy from a woman, who instructed Nittle to pick the item up from her husband while he was on his break at Lowes. “We got a big chuckle out of it,” she recounts. “It seemed so out of place.”
In an age where Craig’s List and eBay have millions of transactions per day, selling used items on the internet is commonplace. But this new local group makes quick sales—sometimes in less than five minutes—of a nativity set, pink flannel pajamas or a plaid recliner. It also gives buyers peace of mind that they are seemingly dealing with people in a community they know. A level of comfort and ease of use are Swap and Sell’s appeal. Once someone becomes a member, pictures can be uploaded from a phone with a few-word description. Comments and questions are forthcoming, price is discussed, and plans for an exchange are made.
Molly Frankos reports that she has made over $300 selling stuff that was just “laying around the house.” “I think it is great for items that are hard to ship or things you want to get rid of pretty quickly.” For more expensive items, she still prefers eBay: “I don’t want to ride around town for $1.” She has bought American Girl accessories in near-perfect condition and has been happy with her experience on Swap and Sell overall.
The group isn’t drama-free, however. Users are asked to read the group “rules” before beginning their involvement. One woman, who unwittingly posted a picture on a no-new-items Wednesday, did not take well to the negative feedback she received. “I’ll go back to Craig’s List,” she wrote, after complaining about how members treated her. Tiffs crop up over who is first in line to buy an item; other times, deals fall through.
Swap and Sell, for all its deal-scouring craze, has a philanthropic side as well. On Black Friday, the group held an auction to help both members who needed assistance and local foster children. “I really want this group to not only be a useful tool to clean out your closets, but I want it to benefit the community as well,” Basil states. The auction raised several hundred dollars through its efforts, and the group also delivered truckloads of items to local families affected by recent house fires. There is one current post by a mom who is willing to exchange housecleaning services for Christmas items for her children.
Although the group has been wildly successful since its mid-October beginnings, Basil and her co-administrators, Laura Wooters, Betsy Wooters, Jessica Tomlinson, Susan Hall, Laura Gimbel and Jessica Muller, want to move Swap and Sell to its own website. There are several features on Facebook, according to Basil, that aren’t ideal—such as the lack of categories, which means users must sift through every post to find specific items. In addition, Basil and others are “putting in full-time hours trying to keep up with the group— resolving conflicts, deleting old photos, and reposting important messages,” without any compensation. A website outside of Facebook could generate advertising revenue.
So far, Basil has not been able to find an affordable solution that mimics Facebook’s ease of use. But she is nothing if not resourceful. Swap and Sell will continue its internet presence—and around-town exchanges—in one form or another.
*With thanks to Kristin George and Jeanine Cook for their assistance with the article and photo.