Beauty Swapping

Have you ever tried online swapping? I just recently discovered this summer that there are all sorts of groups on Facebook for this. Some of them are tied to the subscription boxes that are out there, like Birchbox, Julep, and others, because people who subscribe to those tend to end up with some items here and there they don't care for. There are other groups out there for "yard sale" type sales of just about anything. People tend to use these groups as a substitute for eBay or Craigslist to get rid of stuff they don't want and to try new stuff. 

Swapping online comes with some risks, and at first I was super concerned about the risks involved and thought the whole concept was nuts, honestly. But since then I have been given some great advice from other girls in the swap groups and done a bunch of homework to figure out how to protect myself. Lately, I've been dipping my toes in the water a little more, and so far, I've been having fun with it. 

The first thing I tried in the swap groups was just selling some items because I figured there was not a lot of risk in that- I would already have my money, and didn't have to wait to see if someone would fulfill her end of the bargain. I had a lot of ten Nars Orgasm nail polishes that I got on eBay for a great deal and wanted to sell some to make some of my money back. It was kind of a lot of work, but since Nars is a hot brand, it went pretty quickly and smoothly. I kept a Google Drive spreadsheet to keep track of all those sales. Since I did that, I have also bought some things outright from a few girls.

I have learned recently that even selling or buying stuff outright can be risky. Most people use PayPal to transfer money for these sales. Within PayPal, you can send payments for goods and services, gifts, or you can have the seller invoice you. It's important with swapping not to use the "gift" option since you can't invoke the protections PayPal provides if you do. Sometimes girls will request the "gift" option because there are fees associated with the other option, but the fees are nominal, much less than eBay's fees, and if the girl I am buying from doesn't want to pay the fees, I will offer to do so. 

Personally, I just roll the fees into the pricing of my item, and advertise it something like this "Nars Orgasm nail polish $10 including PP fees and shipping." If anyone really insists you use the gifting option and refuses to do invoicing even if you will pay the fees, it's advisable to back out of the sale. I have seen people online talking about how they did pretty big sales using the gifting option and then once they shipped, the buyer reversed the payment and PayPal's hands were tied since gifting doesn't provide seller protection. 

When is a gift not a gift? When it's on PayPal and you don't know the person.
It's also important to always provide tracking with your shipment for a couple of reasons, and you can easily buy shipping with tracking through PayPal as well. First, it's just nice for the girl on the other end to know when her stuff is coming. Girls in the swap groups tend to be very involved in checking their tracking numbers for their subscription boxes on a regular basis, so I only assume they feel the same about their swaps. Second, it protects you if the person on the other end wants to say she didn't get the item. 

Where's my stuff!?
How do you know who to swap with and who to avoid? In the swap groups I belong to, there are feedback files that are important to check before doing business with anyone. The groups function as a community, and if you keep your eyes open long enough, you will easily see which girls are considered good swappers. Most of the girls in the groups I am in are great swappers. The quality of the group dynamic makes a huge difference. I have joined groups in the past and quickly left them because they seemed rife with drama. To me this means a couple things: 1.) I don't want to swap with these girls, and 2.) the admins are not paying attention. The admins of a swap group can't really enforce anything with regard to a sale- they don't have the power of say an eBay buyer/seller protection policy, and everything is at your own risk. But they are surprisingly effective at resolving conflicts, and I admire these girls who take the time to do this work on a volunteer basis- there's no way you could get me to admin one of these groups! 

There are a very small minority of people out there known as "swaplifters" who just go around to the different groups and take advantage of people, use fake names, etc to get a lot of stuff without following through with their end of the bargain. So I don't swap with anyone unless I have a really good feeling about her both through reading feedback and through seeing her other posts in the group and thinking she is a somewhat nice person. 

Watch out for swaplifters!

I've never been swaplifted, and I've only had one negative experience with swapping so far. I did a swap early on where I didn't use tracking because the item was small and light enough to just mail in a regular envelope, so I just used stamps. I didn't use enough stamps though, and it came right back, and I had to send it again. I sent it right back out, was open with the other person and even sent photos of the envelope (a common practice in swapping). She mailed her item around the time I mailed mine the second time, and she did provide a tracking number, but it didn't work. A few days later, she started very aggressively asking me what I was going to replace the item with because she hadn't gotten it yet, but it was way too soon to worry since I had just re-mailed it and we live all the way across the U.S. from each other. She never followed up with me again, so I don't know if she was honestly concerned and just not gifted with patience, and eventually got her items, or if she was trying to take advantage of the fact that I hadn't used tracking. Either way, I won't take that risk again. And even though I did get my item from her, the tracking number she gave me never worked, and when I got the package, she had gotten my first name wrong. My last name and address were correct, the item was as described, and I had also made a mistake by not using the correct postage, so I didn't complain about her or post negative feedback, but I didn't post positive feedback either and I won't swap with her again. 

There is also a kind of meta-group called Safe Swap Society where people go to discuss swaps that went wrong if they didn't get resolved within the group. If you miss your afternoon soap opera, go read the posts in Safe Swap Society. :) It can get pretty dramatic! But it's interesting that all of this goes on and a strong community can enforce standards where there is no real legal jurisdiction. And it's good to read some of the posts to learn where things can go wrong and what type of swaps to avoid.

OK, enough about the downsides of swapping. Now for the fun part! Now that I have been in the groups for a little while and learned how to judge whether a swapper can be trusted, I have gotten more into swapping items. With swapping, you generally don't pay each other any money, so there is no PayPal protection involved, and the only cost to you is shipping your items out. So I've been doing smaller swaps here and there and mainly swapping items I really didn't want or like that came in sub boxes, or items I got on clearance or eBay that I won't use. I have specifically purchased a few items when I saw them super cheap on clearance, but those items didn't swap or sell very fast, probably because all the other swappers have access to the same clearance I do. :)

So this week's swaps- I had some nail polish and stickers I got on clearance a while back. I used to really like using nail decals, but since I have gotten into stamping, I haven't been using the decals as much, so I have a bunch to get rid of. I've been wanting to try Rainbow Honey, an indie brand, and so I swapped several of my clearance items for a couple of Rainbow Honeys that this other girl had. In this case it seemed we both just wanted to try some different stuff without paying retail for it, which is one really good reason for swapping. Here's what I got!

Rainbow Honey Confetti and XOXO
The other swap I did this week was super exciting to me. I had some bath oil on my swap list forever because it came in a subscription box months ago and the scent wasn't my style. I had never opened it, stuck it in my box with my other swap items, and kind of forgotten about it. I hadn't researched the cost until someone said she wanted it, but it turned out it was fairly pricey! It was a half size, and the full size is selling on Amazon for $50! So I was able to swap it for a brand new NYX makeup palette.
Brand new, in the box!
I had no use for the oil whatsoever, and now I have a fun makeup palette to play with. NYX is a lower-priced brand, but a good quality brand for the money. I am excited about having all these new colors to try, and glad the pricey bath oil I would never use went to a good home.

And now for the best part of swapping- the extras! Because swapping is a community, and the good swap groups also host a lot of side conversations about beauty topics, there is a lot of goodwill and friendship that forms. So swapping is always an opportunity for a little gifting in the form of "extras." I don't know about others, but I usually put little "extras" in the package if they are things I won't use, but I think another girl really might like. In this case, this swapper sent me all kinds of goodies in the package and I'm especially excited about the little towelettes because it's a brand I have wanted to try but not shell out the money for.
Extras! It's like Christmas in here!
Any additional tips you have about swapping? Leave them in the comments!


  1. First off, I love swapping with the person you listed about with the extras; she's awesome. I keep a list of all those I've had unusually good swaps with. I also keep a running list in a book so I can mark all the transactions I receive.

    I've been lucky and have never had one bad swap (ie, item not as described, damaged, or "swap-lifted"). I always use PP and never the gifting option. I also discovered printing my own labels from PayPal. It's cheaper AND you get free tracking. Providing a tracker is a great idea and protects both swapper and swappee.

    There are some really great swap groups out there but I generally stick with just 2 that I am super comfortable with and know most of the ladies.

    Swapping is super fun and can be a real time-suck but it gives me something to do when the kiddos go to bed. I could spend hours looking through Pin boards.

    I've also discovered sooooo many new products that I never knew existed, mainly indie nail polishes that I know love.

    And about the "extras" - my son loves me for keeping his goodie box full of candies from all the sweet ladies I swap with. Some send me cute stickers which promptly go on my Kindle cover. :) I think little extras are very nice and I try to do it. It builds relationships and repeat swappers/buyers.

    Anyway, great post!

    Jill Geraci

    1. Good point about discovering new products!

  2. Anonymous2:26 PM

    I got into swapping recently and also went the slow approach with buying and selling first. My wallet likes when I sell more, but also loves when I swap instead of purchasing. You are definitely right about the group dynamic. I'm in 3 and the one I've had the best experiences with is the one that behaves more like a close knit community.

  3. This is a great guide! Thank you! I didn't consider the issues with paypal at all. I'm swapping my PSMH fall notebook for some hairchalks and rainbow honey polish. A little weird, but we'll use it, and the notebook would take a while to get to. Even though I get a lot of stuff, I try to find a home for everything at home first. I do have some stuff put away for xmas gifts!