Web-bartering enters new era
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Customers list what they have to trade by entering the product bar code, which allows the site to post a picture, third-party reviews, and to automatically identify details, ranging from the particular edition to whether a book is hardcover or paperback or if a DVD is in normal or widescreen format.Skip to next paragraph
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Swaptree can also help execute three- or four-way trades, which Hexamer says, "explodes the system," giving users added flexibility to find an exact match, trading, for example, an unwanted U2 CD for a coveted copy of "Huckleberry Finn."
From there, members pick the most suitable swap. After all parties have confirmed trades, swappers ship using envelopes provided by the company. The correct postage is printed from their computers as the exact weight of each item is known because of the bar code information that each user first entered.
Another feature, "Swaptree Shopper," is a toolbar that can be downloaded to attach to relevant e-commerce websites, which alerts users when they can get the same exact product for free on Swaptree.
Swaptree was conceived in early 2004 after the founders, who are avid readers and book swappers, found themselves joking about how many books overflowed their shelves. Mr. Boesel traveled to India later that year and assembled a technical team, hoping to transform his bartering brainchild into reality. He returned home in late 2004 equipped with the first of several prototypes.
Although the website will focus on its four core products, the founders hope it will garner enough interest to branch out into other highly exchangeable items such as textbooks and baby clothes.
Swaptree's founders believe they can steer clear of the pitfalls that befell their bartering brethren of the late '90s. "Like all great Internet ideas, we already do it offline, and doing it online just makes it all the more powerful," Hexamer says.
• Lala.com: Users create "have" and "want" lists for CDs and "la la" matches members. The more CDs users trade, the more they receive. La la will credit your account if a CD you receive is damaged. The website charges users $1 per every CD received, plus a 75-cent shipping charge, while 20 percent of la la's revenue from used CDs is given back to the musician.
• Peerflix.com: Members make similar lists for DVDs. Every item has "Peerbux" value, the virtual currency assigned by the website. After another user requests your DVD and receives it, the website credits your account, enabling you to "purchase" a DVD of equal value. Although the first trade is free, users usually pay 99 cents plus postage for every DVD they receive.
• Swapagift.com: This website gives users the ability to buy, sell, or swap gift cards. Users list both a desired selling price for the gift cards they own and what cards they would accept in exchange. A $3.99 listing fee applies.
• Zunafish.com: Trade audiobooks, CDs, DVDs, paperbacks, VHS tapes, and video games. This multimedia website only allows like-for-like swaps. Users post a "have" list and request items from other users. The user-rating system allows members to post feedback on their swap partner. Cost: $1 per trade.