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Exchange Yuck for Yay

So inevitably, you survived the holidays with some undesirable gifts. Before lamenting your next foray into eBay, check out, where you can swap your unwanted gifts for those coveted things you didn’t get.

Bay Area-based SwapThing operates on a “My thing for your thing” mantra, but you can swap goods for goods, services for services, goods for services, services for goods -- you get the idea. For example, one person was offering The Smiths’ Meat is Murder LP for vintage concert T-shirts. Once you see a potential swap, you simply contact the person to begin negotiations. Another user was offer gift certificates for Kreiss Furniture ( in exchange for web services.

Another convenience is that you can choose to list or view listings locally or internationally. This comes in handy if you want to meet your swapper to view the goods. There are several payment options: a dollar transaction fee for each swapper in one transaction, regardless of the number of items you swap; three dollars per month for a SwapSubscription, which allows unlimited swaps, and SwapServices -- a subscription-based fee determined by the length of your listing and whether it is viewable locally or nationally.

If you just want cold hard cash for your items, you can do that as well. As opposed to eBay’s Insertion Fee and Final Value Fee (percentage of the closing value of the good you are selling), the owner pays a one dollar transaction fee and purchaser pays nothing additional to the agreed upon dollar amount. You will, however, need to have a PayPal account in order to complete the transaction.

Rather than group things into categories, SwapThing operates on tagging. If you are trying to get rid of a record, for example, you could tag it music, LP, vinyl, shoegaze, My Bloody Valentine, etc., and when seekers enter these terms, voila! I am partial to categorization so I missed the category feature found on eBay and Craigslist. However, a useful feature is the ability to sort your search results by (1) offered items, (2) sought items, (3) accept cash items and (4) accept swap items.

Perhaps it’s not so surprising that there are no tacky holiday sweaters up for swap on SwapThing. After all, there are those tacky sweater-themed parties you can dress up for. But take note -- SwapThing is running its second annual Bad Gift Contest until January 15. The best holiday horror stories will be voted upon and winners will receive free swap transactions and SwapThing t-shirts.

With an open mind, SwapThing is a handy site to have bookmarked. Say you’d like to hold a swanky bash but can’t afford the staff. Here you can find a bartender to do it up in exchange for, say, those old punk show t-shirts collecting dust in your closet. Just because the holidays are over doesn’t mean the gift giving ends. Friend’s birthday coming up? Swap that old coffee table you no longer have room for in exchange for a certificate for a massage or pet grooming. SwapThing’s rating system ensures your swappers are reputable and trustworthy.

I am admittedly a fan of Amoeba, Craigslist and eBay, which I find to be effective avenues for swapping and obtaining desirables, but SwapThing offers a venerable alternative. As a search engine that matches items and services offered for items and services wanted, it operates excellently. Through user tagging, a blog and SwapCircles, SwapThing also encourages community interaction and social networking. With SwapCircles, you may join a group of users who identify with a particular activity, interest, locality or other commonality and find items or services more in tune with what you are looking for, as well as socialize with them.

Another admirable feature is the ability to donate things to nonprofits with wishlists. SwapThing’s Nonprofit Program allows users to look for organizations that need the items you don’t want, and upon completion of the transaction, you receive a tax-deductible receipt. Charitable contributions also bear the benefit of waived transaction fees.