Swaptree – I can see why money was invented
I’m in the beta of swaptree, and after listing a bunch of stuff, I found something I have that apparently is of some value to someone else. The DVD of Hitchcock’s North by Northwest is the first item I’ve listed that people have actually wanted to trade for. Initially, there wasn’t anyone who had something on my “want” list who also wanted NxNW. But, the magic of swaptree worked quickly and soon I was united with someone who wanted NxNW and had something I wanted!
The Web 2.0 induced buzz wore off quickly, though. The item being offered in trade for this DVD was a book – a simple paperback book – and not one of the ones that I was really hoping for. I figured that sort of problem would come up when you have a site that’s trading things as diverse as books, CDs, DVDs, and video games. Those are essentially 4 different price points, and the only way to get over that is to swap things that you consider to be of the lowest common denominator of value – that being the book (paperback books, that is). So, when swaptree found someone who had a paperback I wanted, and that person wanted my DVD, I felt like I should be getting more for the DVD than a paperback.
To confirm this feeling I had, I checked Amazon and found that I could get the paperback for $0.01 + $3.99 shipping for a total of $4. If I were to sell the movie, I’d get $7.99 – $2.99 commission + $2.99 shipping credit – $2.00 actual shipping = $5.99. I just lost $1.99. Yeah, yeah, I’m an IT professional and I make enough money that I can give up a measly two dollars. Until I’ve made 10 trades and then I’m out almost 20 dollars. I can buy stuff for 20 bucks. I mean, if I you look at those paperbacks that are $4 each, that’s five more books I could read.
Another “swapping” site that I’m trying out is BookMooch. Now, as should be obvious from the name, only books are exchanged on BookMooch, but knowing what we know about the previous scenario, it does make things easier. The site gives you a “point” for sending a book to someone. Then you can “buy” a book from someone else for that point. Of course, there’s still room for some arbitrage there, but you don’t get into as much of a gray area as when trading books for DVDs or CDs for video games. In addition, since you get points for every book you send out, you don’t have to wait to find someone to trade with. Maybe I’m showing a little too much faith, but I sent out a few books before I even “mooched” my first; I’ve still sent out more than I’m due to receive, but I’m feeling good about the whole process. I know I won’t be able to trade my MoochPoints for real money like I can with my buckets of Linden dollars, but I (and everyone using the site) knows the value of those points, whereas swaptree relies on me denying trades to establish a value for my items.
Now… if only there was a place I could go where I could send anything I wanted to get rid of and get “EverythingPoints” and then use those “EverythingPoints” to buy whatever I wanted. Maybe when Web 3.0 gets here…