Calling all bargain hunters; treasure seekers; true fashionistas, dyed-in-the- wool Swapaholics; Swapping across the country is the big thrill; surely one of the, if not the, very best ways to get some really good karma going; de-clutter your life and your home; donate things that you already have; do not need or want anymore; get your Swapping jones on at the same time, by snagging a little or a lot of other donated, gently used and new items that you love or didn’t even know you ever could love or want, with all leftovers donated to various charities; a win-win-win all the way around for everyone.
Swapping - Retail's Worst Nightmare, a Shoppers' Best Dream!
While the Swapping mantra seems to always revolve around the chant of “patience, patience, patience is a virtue”, nearly every event this C&C editor has attended has been chock-a-block full of hefty assortments of something for everyone’s tastes; gently used and often-times new with labels merchandise for women, men, kids and pets, too, meaning tons of stuff from soup to nuts.
Think about clothing (modern, vintage; well-known brands, Designer labels (Chanel, Gucci, Prada, Dior, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Nanette Lepore, et al, mais oui) ; accessories galore (although jewelry is sometimes in short supply); home and paper goods, books, electronics; maybe a big-screen TV, a toilet seat in its original box; diapers, sealed and, or packaged food; lots more; you get the idea.
The Hunt is On!
Photo Credit: Jenifer Rosenberg
Now, while not every Swapper (this editor included) may not always have the opportunity to find her or his heart’s desire at one Swap, not to worry and stop crying, because, eventually, that one coveted item will surely turn up somewhere down the yellow brick Swapping road.
Photo Credit: Jenifer Rosenberg
So, forget about those super-pricey (off-price, too) brick-and-mortar retail stores, online auctions; home shopping networks; flea markets, garage sales, thrift stores, and the like; leave all of that behind; just get up, get out, start Swapping; grab that next big haul at a Swap Meet near you right now; weekly, monthly; bi-monthly; weekdays, weeknights, weekends; Libraries, Churches, Temples, Schools, Public Spaces, et al.
Seriously, while the idea of Swapping may not be the be all and end all to fulfilling every person’s desire for the most outrageous high ever, for this editor, who loves the idea of Swapping for way too many reasons to list here, the name of the game is getting that high fulfilled (at least 99.9% of the time) right along with donating and giving back to the community, not to mention, of course, getting more than a mere few of free, nifty things in the bargain (yes, pun intended).
Sure, while there is the thrill of the hunt and although nobody ever knows what kind of merchandise will be available at any given Swap; moreover, nothing costs $$$$, the fact remains that not all (or even some) of the stuff featured at a particular Swap may be your style. But, given the fact that the best things in life are free and that everything at every Swap event is up for grabs, the cardinal rule of Swapping is always the same: if and when anything catches your eye, you need to be prepared to move fast; navigate quickly through a sea of swappers; no thinking about “should I or shouldn’t I,” because if you want something, and you are not the first one to latch onto that chosen piece; toss it into your bag, and move on, well, as the old adage goes, “you snooze, you lose.”
ADWB's Find; She Moved First and Fastest!
Swapping is definitely it. At a recent Greenpoint, Brooklyn event, feeling like a kid in a fun-filled candy store, I not only donated lots of cool things, but, I also snapped up some of the best goodies ever; vintage kitchenware (wooden/aluminum spoons, ladles, etc.; pair of perfect, never used, vintage Revere for Corning; USA made, glass cooking pots; coffee table and children’s hardcover books; dolls, toys; name brand cosmetics and perfumes; crazy socks; leather wallets; designer sunglasses with cases. But, the real find here was the one-of-a-kind, embellished, vintage, “Capixay” Medicine Man/Mountain Shaman’s boiled wool coat from Guatamala; just the thing for good luck; warding off evil spirits. One can only imagine the big ticket price this coat would command in a Brooklyn or NYC vintage store; absolutely fabulous.
Greenpoint's Next Swaps
C&C sat down with two venerable Swap mavens (and long-time Brooklyn residents); Jenifer Rosenberg (Organizer, Greenpoint, Brooklyn Bi-monthly Swap) and Pia Noble (Volunteer, Greenpoint Swap; Coordinator; Free Store Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn; Judson Church, Greenwich Village, NY) to get the inside scoop on the wild, wooly; uniquely different world of Swapping. Here’s what they had to say:
How and why did Swapping get started? How, why did you get into Swapping?
JR: Swapping has been around for the past 25 years; the concept likely came out of the Environmental movement; trend towards minimalism, downsizing, de-cluttering. There is a very strong “I want it; I must have it right now” kind of shopping mentality for most consumers, particularly in America, to buy and hang onto far more things in abundance than these people will ever need, and I think that many people have far more things in their homes and their closets than they will ever use in a lifetime. I kind of fell into Swapping; I started seeing lots of fliers and posters advertising Swaps, and I went to one event; found out about other Swaps from talking to people; got myself on mass-swapping email lists; this is a tightly, knit community; mostly everyone knows and talks to everyone else; word is always spread around about next up events.
PN: I was a shopaholic; I don’t shop in stores anymore. A friend invited me to a Swap; I had no idea what a Swap was; I’ve been donating and Swapping ever since; just a wonderful way for people to donate and clean out their homes; trade, barter, give back to the community for the greater good.
Why has Swapping become so popular? Is there a “typical” Swapper or neighborhood?
JR: I feel that more people are realizing that there are other options aside from spending money for unnecessary things; holding on to unneeded things; happily living with less. Look, times are tough; making ends meet is a daily challenge, especially with astronomical rents, food, clothing, etc. Swapping is a free way for a person to find wanted or needed things; a way to give to others who may need or want something that the donor no longer needs or wants. I think bthat most people love the idea of saving time and money; never knowing what amazing things they might find at a Swap. On average across the board, Swappers embrace all ages, ethnicities, social status; mostly women, but, more men are showing up at events. Swappers are basically sharp and savvy, and although not everyone is into haute fashion, swappers in general are always searching for great finds, treasures, clothing, gifts; anything and everything interesting.
PN: I go all over to Swaps; there is no particular Swapper, neighborhood or expected location where people are going to go for the best Swap and the best goods. Look, merchandise is merchandise; you just never know who’s going to walk into any Swap, anywhere in the city; anywhere in the world, really; who is going to bring in what, and all of this is what makes people excited about wanting to go to Swaps, because every event is different, unique, often intimate; friendly (we hope); lots of fun.
Do you think that Swapping and the people who attend the events get a bad rap?
JR: Some people are such snobs; will never touch or want to use anything secondhand; some people may have a germ or bedbug phobia; maybe, that person grew up with hand-me-downs and still feels that anything other people are willing to part with for free, must be useless, worthless junk. For me, all of this is just a silly bias; not based on fact at all. I do think that there is a stigma about Swapping, meaning that events must cater only to riffraff, the homeless; downtrodden people; the poorest of the poor; raggedy, undesirable merchandise, which, in reality, these ideas are simply not true. While there are needy people who attend Swap meets, and why not; these people deserve to be shopping along with everyone else, I have never seen any person whom I would be ashamed of or embarrassed about. As for merchandise being shoddy, not true; I have found many Designer items, often with tags attached, expensive electronic items in their original packaging; DVD’s; lots of great things, all in mint condition.
PN: Yes, of course, there are always going to be some greedy people who grab everything; people who think their God given right is to be verbally, physically abusive to others; making things uncomfortable, pushing, shoving, being loud and all, just to have a free item; take more things than they could ever really need or use; other shoppers see this going on; not good for our reputation. But, we are all in this together; people need to be considerate; mindful of others. There is always more than enough merchandise to go around, but I have been to Swaps where people fight to the death.
C&C: Tell us about items which we probably would not find at a Swap?
JR: No unpackaged, untagged undergarments, swimwear, lingerie; no broken items with missing parts; no damaged, ripped, torn, stained items.
C&C: What were your best and worst Swapping experiences?
JR: Huge, incredible event along the Gowanas Canal several years back; mother lode of all Swaps. Even before I got on line, I was able to get a Food Processor in its original packaging. My cart was loaded with the most amazing finds; this event has become mystical in the Swapping community; you were either there or you weren’t. Then, there are Swaps that think way too much of themselves; in it only for the money charged for people to get in; long waiting time. Some of these Swaps have the most ridiculous, long set of rules and regulations, which hinder everyone and make the Swap a miserable and uninviting experience; recipe for disaster. I know of one Swap, which is set up in a U-shape; teenage volunteers with bad attitudes, sorting and hoarding the best items for themselves; fights going on because Swappers cannot select items at the same time; waiting game; feeding time at the shark tank; nobody even has a chance, great merchandise gone in a flash. There are Swaps doling out one token at a time; (15 minutes of Swapping per token; limit of five items per token); these Swaps are horrible and probably the reason why they have now disappeared.
C&C: What changes have you seen in Swapping over the years? What does the future hold for Swapping?
JR: While many of the more mainstream events, such as the Greenpoint Bi-monthly Swap, for example, never charge an entry fee; there are no tokens; no timed shopping; no nonsense going on; generally nice, friendly people; no snooty attitudes for the most part, there are a few, exclusive “Fashionista” Swaps popping up. These events, which can and do get away with charging $25 (or more) for an entry ticket, offer an array of super expensive, mostly designer items, but, along with the toney merchandise, there is a very strict limit on how much merchandise people can bring and take away. So, with this being said, I do think that these types of events are really not so representative of, nor are these events truly serving the Swapping community well, because, there are generally more volunteer workers than swappers; most of the events are run by people with little or no interest or understanding about what Swapping is meant to be. But, in the end, no matter which kind of Swap a person chooses to attend, I know that Swapping is increasing in popularity, because more people are much more aware of and want other ways to shop vs. spending their hard-earned dollars at traditional retail stores, along with the idea of selling, donating used, unwanted items to the usual suspects; Salvation Army; online websites; yard sales, flea markets, auctions, per se.
I definitely see more people saying, “I wish Swaps were in my area; maybe, I will host an event myself. And, that is exactly how I felt; exactly what I did, when, around three years ago, as a member of the historic Greenpoint Shul, I went to the Rabbi and talked to him about my idea. He is a young, hip Rabbi; he was looking for ways to expand the Shul’s repertoire and reputation; spread community goodwill; he liked my concept; the Greenpoint Bi-monthly Swap was born. I made the decision to hold events in the open, airy, lower sanctuary, adjacent to the open garden. We always serve refreshments and snacks; just another nice touch. I have gone to many Swaps over the years; I feel it is important for me as a volunteer of the Greenpoint Swap, to give back to the community; uphold the charitable traditions of Swapping in a beautiful House of Worship, because helping people and the less fortunate are both key parts of what we stand for; what we are doing here. I understand this mentality well, because I have gone through different times in my life. I know that Swaps definitely help many people who are down on their luck; may be too proud to ask for help; Swapping is a shame and guilt-free way to give and get a helping hand, even though a person does not have to be poor to attend a Swap. In fact, most people are not needy or poor at all. We never turn our backs or look down on any person who is truly in need.
PN: Swapping has gone way beyond the big, Metropolitan cities; New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, et al; Swapping is internationally known; events are growing more and more; becoming even more popular and well attended; an accepted and well-known breeding ground in shopping. – ADWB FOR C&C