Thursday, January 31, 2008

Title Trader

I finally settled on Title Trader as my CD/DVD swap site of choice. Although I had some initial difficulty figuring out how to list my items, once I did, I was good to go, and was able to successfully trade the bulk of my items there. Also, Title Trader does not limit you to trading only CDs or DVDs. You can list all kinds of other stuff such as books, magazines, audio-cassettes, even household items ala Freecycle.

Here's how Title Trader stacked up against my criteria:

  1. Shipping

    Alas, while you can print a shipping label, inexplicably, it is not paid postage!?! nor at this time, are you able to pay for it online via credit card. . .

  2. Avoiding the Post-office

    . . .therefore you still have to go to the post-office, stand on line and deal with the quirks of the postal staff. Bummer!

    For example, I do not trust the postal service not to manhandle my CDs/DVD packages as they wend their way through the system. So, to decrease the chances of any damage during shipping, I err on the side of caution and try to pad the envelope really well. One postal clerk eyed my package suspiciously and asked what was inside. When I told him, he asked why was it so thick, was anything else in there . . .? But, after processing it he just carelessly tossed (more like hurled) it into the mail bin behind him, which is EXACTLY why I padded it to the hilt. I'm thinking to myself, "My package has hardly even gotten into the post office good, before it getting roughed up! Thankfully, so far the CDs/DVDs I've shipped seem to have arrived intact.

  3. Liner notes, artwork & case

    At Title Trader you have the option to send as much or as little of the accompanying material as you want. Some traders will note this type of information in their listing, which I found helpful in choosing with whom to trade.

  4. Simplicity

    It's very easy to set up an account. The site also loads quickly on my dial-up connection.

    Each book, CD, and DVD is worth one Request Point and can be used to request a book, CD, or DVD from Title Trader's collection once you have received positive feedback. An email notification is sent when one of your items has been requested and you can print a shipping label at that time. I listed several items, and got requests right away, but again, how quickly or how many of your items are requested will be dependent on what you have to offer.

    Although, at first I found Title Trader a little tricky to navigate (I couldn't figure out how to list my items) once I did, things went more smoothly. Searching by UPC or ISBN can also be a little tricky. Sometimes those number don't work, but then, plugging in the title or artist will yield the item. Just be forewarned that you may have to fiddle around with your search queries a bit.

    Also, in one case, I had a problem printing a shipping label because the recipient's address could not be verified in the USPS database. Although, I emailed the site for assistance on several occasions, as far as I can tell, I never received a response unlike the speedy one obtained from SwapSimple's customer service department. (see my post on that here) However, since shipping labels are not postage paid, you can manually create your own shipping label without losing anything, which is what I ultimately ended up doing.

All in all, even though the need to go to the post office is somewhat of a hassle, the site's overall ease of use and laid back feel is what won me over in the end.

One More Thing: Premium Features

Title Trader premium access costs $19.95/year. However, when you first sign up, they will give you a 30 day trial that includes a few of the site's premium features, most notably a daily, customizable, email listing newly added items

Other premium features include:

  • Wishlist Notification - email alerts when items appearing on your wish list have been added to the Title Trader inventory
  • Saved Searches - allows you to maintain a list of your most frequent searches. When an item is added to the site
  • Buddy List - allows you to bookmark your favorite users so you can keep an eye on what they have listed.
  • Safe Swap Premium Member - enhances you status as a reliable trading partner.
Again, please note that this reflects my particular experience ONLY! You're mileage may vary.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Another swap site that I looked into as an Exit Strategy for my CDs and DVDs was SwapSimple. At SwapSimple you can trade books, DVDs and video games, but not music CDs (go figure!). Setting up an account was easy enough. I provided an email address, made up a password and I was in like Flynn. I then received an email confirming my registration which included a clickable link leading to a few other questions to answer, such as how I'd heard of the site, my age (you must be 18 years or older), and stuff like that.

However, for me, that's about where the "simple" part of SwapSimple hit the road, and what I will mostly be discussing in this post.

  1. Shipping

    SwapSimple members can print a free shipping label, which to me was very appealing. 'Nuf said!

  2. Avoiding the Post-office

    Of course the pre-paid shipping label also removes the need to go to the post office, so long as your item weighs less than one pound. Another plus!

  3. Liner notes, artwork & case

    SwapSimple, members are expected to send all accompanying material, rather than just the disk alone, so that suited me as well.

  4. Simplicity

    Now, here's where things started to fall apart.

    Although, I initially listed three items, I only actually ended up trading one of them. And while I was able to send out that one item without incident, I found the actual process of doing that to be so exacting, that shortly thereafter, I delisted the other two items.

    • Pop-up Panic!

      For one thing, to even list an item for trade, in addition to my name I had to provide my gender and telephone number, something I wasn't too wild about, and wondered why that was necessary. Then, some pretty specific and rather stern pop-up instructions appeared about using the site and what needed to happen when, in order to effect a successful trade.

      There were other, similarly dire, warning pop-ups at just about every subsequent step of the transaction, through finally printing the shipping label once someone requested one of my items.

      Don't Get Me Wrong! In and of themselves, none of the stipulations were at all unreasonable. I definitely understand that some people need to have such things spelled out as explicitly as possible, because left to their own devices they simply won't follow through. Still, as a fairly reliable sort, myself, I was left feeling vaguely anxious. Even with the best of intentions, we all can slip up at one time or another. I tend to pursue several Exit Strategies at a time in order to maximize the chances of actually getting rid of something! As far as I'm concerned, all bets are on until that item is out of my house and into the hot little hands of someone else. So, I was terrified that I might fail to remove a no longer available item from my SwapSimple inventory quick enough! Consequences for such a failure included possible penalty charges or the suspension of my account.

    • Point System

      SwapSimple says that their point system is straightforward, but it seemed a little complicated to me. The site figures out and assigns a "market" value to the items you post. You receive a fraction of that value immediately upon listing the item (aka Instant Trade Credits) and the rest of it upon successfully completing your trade. From this standpoint you begin accumulating points and can request items right away. Also, as long as you have points, you can trade for any category of item. For example if you trade a book, you are not limited to requesting another book. You can request a DVD or a video game of whatever value, so long as you have accumulated the necessary points.

      However, when I went back to check on my account after the one trade I completed, I was surprised to find out that I hadn't earned any credits! I contacted Customer Service about it and to their credit , they got back to me pretty promptly. They explained that my trade item had a "market value" worth less than $0.50 and that they only award credits in whole numbers. Unfortunately for me, they round down instead of up. So my traded item ended up being worth zero points instead of one. They further advised that there were many 0-credit items that could be requested. I checked this out this category, but there weren't all that many things available, at least on the date I looked. But, in honor of completing my first swap, SwapSimple credited my account five points. Still, if I had not contacted them, I probably would never have received these points.

      Also, swapping is not actually free, unless you are:

      • swapping within a personal swap network of friends, their friends, etc. or . . .
      • . . .swapping items worth 10 credits or less

      otherwise, trading items worth more than 10 credits with people outside of your network will cost you $1.00 (items worth 11-20 credits) or $2.00 (items worth 21 credits or more) per swap.

      While not completely inscrutable, I would not exactly call this system straightforward either.

    • Site Feel and Navigability

      Finally, swapping via the Internet is probably an inherently social activity, however I would say that this social networking aspect is very much accentuated at SwapSimple. Just to say, that this may not be everyone's cup of tea.

      Also, I am probably one of the few people left in the universe with a dial-up connection, so it took a bit of time for some of the site's graphics and doo-hickey's to load as I navigated through the site. This became a particular issue while I tried to figure out how to display my inventory. Me and my dial up connection spent more than a few frustrating minutes clicking various links and then waiting for the screens to load while I tried to figure it out what I was doing wrong.

Obligatory Disclaimer: Anyway, as I stated in last week in the SwapaCD post, this review reflects the criteria that are important to me and how this impacted my particular experience ONLY! You're mileage may vary and SwapSimple may suit your needs perfectly.

Next up: Title Trader: The CD/DVD swap site, I finally settled on.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


SwapaCD is a popular music CD swap site. I actually discovered this site while checking out Paperback Swap, with whom they're affiliated (I also see they've added a DVD swap site to their offerings. I'll have to check that out!).

I have not, as of yet, used SwapaCD for reasons initially outlined in My CD/DVD Cup Runneth Over and which I will discuss in further detail below.
  1. Shipping

    While not necessarily a complete deal breaker, ideally, a swap site would allow me to generate a postage paid shipping label (either free of charge or for which the costs can at least be prepaid by credit card). SwapaCD members must pay the shipping costs when responding to requests, as well as a charge of 0.49 per trade, plus 1 CD credit. SwapaCD provides a downloadable template for a paper envelope mailer, which pulls the recipient's address information, however at this time, it does not also include the postage.

  2. Avoiding the Post-office

    In terms of ease and convenience, I would prefer to avoid a trip to the post office or waiting on a long line there. If you just send the CD in their special mailer as recommended, SwapaCD estimates that postage costs will probably be little more than a first-class stamp, give or take, and you can just drop it in the mailbox. However, if you add the goodies (jewel case, liner notes, artwork) it will probably be more. Depending on what you decide to ship, unless you have a scale at home or are comfortable guestimating the charges, a post office visit could be in your future. Which brings me to my next point.

  3. Liner notes, artwork & case

    Not so much with DVDs, but for music CDs I like having the artwork and liner notes, which can often include song lyrics or information about the artist and other musicians. A jewel case makes it easier to store, but those are otherwise easy enough to get elsewhere, if you want them.

    While SwapaCD members are certainly free to ship as much of a CDs accompanying materials as they like, in order to keep mailing costs to a minimum, SwapaCD recommends that they only ship the CD itself, using the aforementioned envelope mailer. However, they also provide tips and information about the approximate costs for various other shipping options and configurations.

    Incidentally, I have to say that at the particular time that I was considering SwapaCD, I was skeptical that a mere paper envelope would allow a CD to be delivered through the mail unscathed, while shipping them in their protective, plastic jewel cases might actually increase the likelihood of their being damaged (this in spite of proper padding which adds to the shipping costs). But, that was before I discovered and joined a popular DVD rental club and have since come to experience the efficacy of the paper envelope mailer, as paradoxical as it may seem! So far, in about a year's time, I have only had one DVD to arrive damaged.

  4. Simplicity

    Finally, a swap site should be as simple as possible to use, not only in terms of listing and tracking items for trade, but in comprehending the point scheme. Of primary concern would be

    • How is value assigned to the items being traded?
    • How do you accrue the necessary value to make requests?

    In all fairness, since I did not end up joining SwapaCD, I can't really speak to how easy or not, it is to use the site, but based on the information I was able to read there, it seemed easy enough. Of course, you'll need to take my comments here with the necessary grain of salt.

    The point system in use seems quite straightforward. As previously mentioned, each CD trades for one SwapaCD credit along with the 0.49/trade charge. You can earn one free credit after posting your first ten CDs. If you want to request CDs before you have accumulated enough points you will need to purchase SwapaCD credits available in increments of $5.00.

    Now, depending on your reasons for trading, the point scheme may be less important to you. Perhaps you have a glut of CDs you just want to get rid of and don't care so much about acquiring others. On the other hand, you may get into swapping as a way to acquire and enjoy new content, while avoiding the accumulation of stuff that you don't like so much. As I explained in Something for the Bibliophile, swap sites allow you to hold onto an item for as long as you want (forever, if that's the case), or trade it back once your finished with it.

    So again, logistical matters such as these are something to be aware of and keep in mind when considering a swap site.

Obligatory disclaimer: These are the criteria that are important to me and how they played out in evaluating this particualr site, however your needs may be quite different.

Next up: My experience using SwapSimple, another media swap site.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

twigghugger turns 1 years old!

A year ago today, I took the plunge and began this blog (see What Yet Another Blog). Why? Well, for one thing, I had finally finished grad school and consequently, had time to turn my attention to other matters. Since me and my tiny apartment harbor an Inner Packrat, paramount was the need to reduce my accumulation of stuff.

Over this past year, slowly, but surely I have made great strides in achieving just that. While constantly chanting the twigghugger mantra to myself over and over (...and over!)

  • Identify
  • Gather
  • and Remove!
I searched the Internet for donation, reuse and exchange options. I was delighted to find that there were many more such choices available than had even been the case just five years prior.

Space cleared, has miraculously, remained so! Let me tell you that I consider this to be a huge accomplishment! Before, I was basically just shifting the piles around, but the Secret to My Success has been the gradual, but actual removal of excess things. Now, not only does it look more neat and orderly, it stays that way. I even survived the holiday frenzy without too much disruption to this hard fought for turf.

If you are as serious, a packrat as I am (was...?), reaching this point may seem daunting, if not impossible, but by breaking it down into many, tiny steps over time you will gradually see results, like I did. As I stated last year, maybe the idea of hugging a tree is overwhelming, so start off small and do it one twigg at a time, and you'll get there! Also over this past year, consciousness about the environment has grown phenomenally, so I'm hoping my approach to decluttering will continue to grow easier as well.

Now, I'm not quite out of the woods yet! There are still a few things to tweak here and there, as well as working on a couple of projects like my Magazine Mountains, better clothing organization and Oh! A special mission impossible type project I've been procrast…that is saving for last: Kitchen!: the Final Frontier! (aka as 2008: A Lack of Space Odyssey).

But, this year, for the most part, will be about Accumulation Control. I plan to maintain last year's gains, by giving careful consideration to what gets brought into the house in the first place.

Anyway, in honor of twigghuggers first birthday, shout outs to

A year later, I can definitely answer, "Yes it can!"