Buying new items online comes with many challenges. The seller of the product might be a scam artist with nothing to sell at all or the product advertised might be completely different from the product you receive. When buying used items, such as electronics, it can be even more challenging to ensure you’re receiving the device in good condition or as advertised.
Mega ecommerce websites like eBay and Craigslist have been connecting independent buyers and sellers for years. However, it’s hard for websites like that to keep up with new products and posts to effectively weed out all the junk. We spoke with Ben Edwards, CEO of Swappa, about how he’s improving the market with a “no junk allowed” approach for used electronics purchases.
What Is Swappa?
Swappa is a user-to-user marketplace that helps people sell used electronics such as smartphones, laptops, video games, tablets, watches, home technology and more. The company was founded in 2010 when Ben Edwards had a bad experience buying an Android on Craigslist, which nearly lead to a high-speed car chase.
Buying and selling products on eBay and Craigslist proved perilous and time-wasting due to all the blacklisted phones, junk devices and fraud that plagued the marketplaces. Knowing there had to be a better way, Edwards started Swappa as a side-project to build a better marketplace for buying and selling quality mobile devices. Safety, simplicity, low fees and the “human factor” made Swappa different then any other company out there.
Since launching the company, Swappa has seen sales double year-over-year on three occasions and, what’s most impressive; the majority of their marketing is through word of mouth, which keeps costs down.
There are many positives to buying and selling on Swappa’s platform:
- Free Shipping: The price you see is the price you pay for the item. There are no additional shipping costs.
- PayPal Protection: By using PayPal, Swappa receives their extensive buyer and seller protection, while paying out funds fast.
- No Junk Allowed: Swappa doesn’t allow broken items and each product goes through an extensive approval process to ensure only quality products are listed.
- People Powered: The seller and buyer work directly—Swappa is not a third-party, but a sales facilitator.
- Graduated Fee Structure: Swappa is cheaper than both eBay and Craigslist, with fees ranging between $0-$50, depending on the sales price.
- Free to Sell: Fees may be paid by the buyer, but never by the seller.
- Free IMEI and ESN Checks: Users are allowed up to 10 free checks per day, which will tell you if the item is blacklisted, whitelisted or comes with carrier activation issues. Read below to learn more about ESN checks.
Extensive Approval Process Keeps Junk Out
Part of what makes Swappa so unique is their dedication to keep junk off their platform. They also don’t accept outdated electronics, so you won’t have to worry about being shown a flip phone or camera phone, for example. Swappa does accept some products that are considered “retro” or collection items, but the website doesn’t currently have a dedicated page for those listings.
There’s not going to be a guarantee anytime you’re dealing with a secondary source to buy a product because you’re not buying directly from the carrier or retailer. That’s why Swappa has more checks in place than any other site around to lessen the risk of buying from a secondary source as much as possible.
Here’s how Swappa quality checks their listings:
- ESN / IMEI / MEID Check: All devices will have some form of identification or serial number for the product. Running a system check will ensure the product is cleared for activation and tell if the device is still active on another account or is part of an Equipment Installment Plan. It also reveals the history of the device on Swappa (sales, users, etc.).
- Verification Photo: This helps provide evidence of the condition of the product being sold.
- IP Address: Checking the IP address for listings helps Swappa determine if there’s a scammer opening multiple accounts, creating fraudulent listings or trying to get around their approval process by opening a new account.
- PayPal Email Verification: Although it’s not a deal breaker if the email isn’t verified, it does raise red flags if there’s an issue with a listing and an unverified email.
- Seller History: Swappa’s quality checks will be more thorough for new sellers and sellers that have a history of fraudulent or scammy behavior. Alternatively, Swappa veterans with a positive selling record won’t be scrutinized nearly as much because they’ve clearly demonstrated responsible behavior on their platform.
- Other Photos and Descriptions: Swappa checks to make sure the description matches the product in the photos to ensure 100% accuracy.
Swappa vs. eBay and Craigslist: More Differences Than Similarities
There’s not much in common with Swappa and eBay or Swappa and Craigslist except that they all accept PayPal payments. Here’s how they stack-up:
|No junk allowed||X|
|Staff approved listings||X|
From the first Swappa sale (a Motorola Droid) to millions of dollars per month in commerce, Swappa has grown to the most-used tech marketplace. “We enjoy creating technology that makes it easy for people to directly sell devices to other consumers,” Edwards said. As Swappa grows, Edwards plans to focus on newer markets, such as laptops, video games and home technology.