I had this Battle Los Angeles DVD in my night stand drawer for months. Just sitting there cluttering up my drawer. It bugged me. I don't like clutter. I wanted it G-O-N-E. 

It finally dawned on me that this was the perfect excuse to try out Swap.com. I was curious how the swapping site worked. I also wondered how they addressed the coincidence of wants problem that makes bartering difficult.

Commercial bartering sites typically use an internal currency to get around this problem. $12 billion in barter happened this way last year. This is much better than waiting for the unlikely situation where someone has exactly what you need and you have have exactly what they need. 

Turns out Swap.com addresses the challenge through sheer scale. They've gotten enough people to upload inventory (mostly hard media like DVDs, CDs, books, etc.) that there was plenty of choice. I could swap my schlocky Hollywood blockbuster for thousands of others just as bad!

And that was part of the problem, how to sort through all the choices. I eventually settled on the Boondock Saints, but I wasn't that excited about it. It was the best I could find in the time I want to spend looking for a DVD. I wish there was a way to sort through all those choices. 

I initiated the swap with John Finneman of Fairfax, Virginia – my copy of Battle Los Angeles for his copy of Boondock Saints. About two days later, John accepted the swap. Now I could ship my DVD. Swap.com has this kickass mailing label app that saved me a trip to the post office. I simply printed the mailing label from my computer, the $3 in postage and fees included. 

One thing I got hung up on was that I had to buy a credit early in the process to cover postage and fees. It wasn't clear what I was buying at the time. I had assumed that I would pay for postage when I needed the postage. This seemed a little disjointed.

In addition, the lag in the acceptance of the swap added to the shipping lag time. I sort of forgot about the whole thing by the time my DVD showed up. In the mean time, I streamed half (that's all I could stand) of Boondock Saints on Netflix before the DVD arrived. It was just too easy to see it on Netflix. 

Nonetheless, Swap.com's system is impressive. My overall experience was good. I look forward to their relaunch when they expand beyond hard media. And they have a new local swapping feature that enables you to list a swapping event and invite other members. That could be huge. There's an untold number of swaps every day. Swap Local could make them more accessible while spurring more swaps. I can see Swap Local taking off like the way Freecycle did. 

Hey, anyone want a copy of Boondock Saints

Neal Gorenflo


Neal Gorenflo | |

Neal Gorenflo is the co-founder and board president of Shareable, an award-winning nonprofit news, action network, and consultancy for the sharing transformation. An epiphany in 2004 inspired Neal to

Things I share: Time with friends and family, stories, laughs, books, tools, ideas, nature, resources, passions, my network.