A swap market concept

I’ve been playing around with a concept for a swap market that started out almost as a joke, but now that I have a prototype working I’m wondering if this could be a new approach to the classifieds market.

Photo: HapaK

My daughter has either outgrown or has lost interest in several of her toys that I’d love to pass on to someone else rather than store in our increasingly muddled basement. I’ve got a perfectly decent baby rocking horse, some slightly chewed books, a bunch of stain-free clothes, an immaculate car seat and a functional though well-worn stroller.

I’m sure I’m not alone with an excess of toys floating about. Actually, I’m fairly confident that there is a ton of kiddie gear in San Francisco that should be recycled through other children rather than relegated to each house’s used stuff cemetary. And I’d much rather trade my stuff than pay for new stuff.

So, I started running architecture scenarios through my head for getting a workable prototype of a web site that my wife and her friends could use to swap their used baby gear. It seemed completely out of my league the more I thought about it.

But as luck would have it I found that Jon Aquino built a Craigslist application for Ning that covers about 80% of what I need. I was able to setup and configure a site that looks and operates nearly identically to Craigslist in concept if not in function, as well. People can post things they want to sell. And shoppers can search and browse through lists of things in reverse chronological order. You can comment on posts and discuss topics, too. I was also able to configure the shopping categories for this particular vertical in just a few minutes.

You can see what I’ve prototyped so far here: http://flipstash.ning.com/. Again, it’s about 80% done, but it’s that the last 20% that’s the most important part of the prototype.

How do I facilitate the swap? How does a person decide that what they are offering is of at least a similar value to what they are getting?

One idea is to approximate 3 tiers of value and have users assign a value tier to their swappable items. Another is for FlipStash to approximate values of things posted and credit the user’s account which they can use to spend on other people’s things. Both these methods seem awkward.

A better way to solve the problem might be to allow you to post a dollar value for each item you post and then credit you with that amount to spend when someone claims your item. You would have to build an eBay-like reputation system to keep people from cheating.

And then there’s the revenue model. It seems this would be a great case for using subscriptions. Say, for example, you could trade items up to $5 in value for free, but if you wanted to buy or sell anything worth more than $5, you would have to pay a monthly fee.

Of course, I could just let people post prices and let them pay each other. But what’s the fun in that? It’s already been done. Much more entertaining to try and shake up the model a bit, eh?