May Swap (10th!) recap

May swap – the 10th! – was, well, normal… Typical. As planned. Pretty much a well-oiled and known event. The highlights and aftertastes include:

(a) There were enough people, not too much people, feeling even a bit empty at times. The only approximation to the scope and attendance I have are the FB event numbers, so… I have FB ‘reach’ stats since Swap IV, and these thousands of people – the record 19.7k for Swap IX – who have scrolled past it on their FB feeds is why I often joke that it’s surprising that we haven’t had to call Guàrdia Urbana just yet. Well, this is how one learns that reach does not translate into action… and the reason why I’ve had several unexpected conversations along the lines of ‘oh, those swaps are yours? Sure I know them.’ Or people who come by and, when asked, say that they probably saw the event on Time Out. Ha!

I have also learnt that ‘interested’ doesn’t mean shit. Some of those turn up but what they actually serve it to show the potentials – as they cannot see the FB reach – to what extent is this event an appealing idea to other FB users… To illustrate my point with an example: 148 ‘going’ for Swap IX vs. 150 ‘going’ for Swap X make sense, the 343 additional people who clicked ‘interested’ did not turn this one into a more crowded swap. But it is satisfying to see the number grow, or, well, stay high.

(b) As for the demographics, fun fact: the audience is a faithful reflection of who I am. Early thirties expat smarty-pants all the way… Men’s corner is a rather sad affair, children and older people are not necessarily catered to, and the class bias are enormous. Easy-to-implement ideas on how to mix it up a bit are most welcome!

(c) Being featured as one of the ‘official’ Barcelona swap-thrift events. All it took was one FB message, but felt and looked cool anyways.

(d) Seems that the separation between bar money and tips/taquilla inversa is finally clear. Cool. By having all the free stuff inside the event space and leaving the drinks at the bar, geographic distance did its magic.

Also, I had a lot of fun making my lettering signs that would guide people to the bar (and the tip box). So much so that I forgot to take a picture of them. Here’s one from the ‘dress rehearsal’ at home:

(e) To be completely open about the money, these are the stats since I started having a tip jar… Keep in mind that I spend around 25€ for the snacks and then there’s the tape, the garbage bags, the incense, the posters I had printed *and* the time invested. Time for finishing the thesis? Time for growing my KonMari consulting business? I won’t even try to calculate the hours spent because that would be very depressing, especially taking into account that a great part of it is answering idiot questions in two languages to people who clearly haven’t even clicked on the event description. And the time and resources of other people, too, of course. Thank you so much, Mara! And Margareta! And Patricia and Chus! And Lala!

We get – quite consistently, curiously – 30€ in tips. Except for Swap IX which was 7.30, and truly enraged me. Hence my money anxiety after these 10 editions… An anti-capitalist labor of love is alright but I am angry when it clearly isn’t appreciated because the dots are not connected. If every person who passed through a swap put just 1€ in the tip jar, this would be amazing. Even if only those who come by and thank me effusively for the ‘amazing idea’ would do so… It sounds incredibly naïve, I know, but it’s rather unpleasant to run an anti-capitalist operation in a capitalist world with no capital. Who knew?!

I already shared my fatigue after the Swap VII, then mostly about the lack of volunteers, and this circles back to it. I’m working on how to square the circle and continue my labor of love while getting all the right feels out of these event, as opposed to feeling exploited and like paying a great party for other people.

(f) And, talking about volunteers, we have a problem. My angry September post got quite few reactions of ‘oh, but just ask for help’. I do. A week before the swap I dutifully ask for volunteers, with clear hours and ‘job’ descriptions. And, with very few noble exceptions, I get the typical Wild West scene of tumbleweed on an empty street. Yes, back to the appreciation of the effort needed to host a swap the way I like it…

This time the setting it up started late, so some people had to be sent away at 11:00 because the ‘shop’ was not there yet, and it just happened that only three of us wrapped it up. Thank you so much, Margareta and Anouar! The open question is how to ensure timely and numerous volunteers whose pay is the pleasure of taking part… I thought it was enough, but clearly I’m weird.

(g) There were a lot of leftovers this time. Aimee (or any other crafter, remember the offer to come pick up whatever?) wasn’t there to collect any of it, so the wrap-up and final disposing of was lengthy. I prefer to think that it is because my loyal un-customers are losing their attachment to the idea of clothes as a scarce resource and shedding garments instead of accumulating…

This is just a fraction of leftovers, on their way to Botiga Gratis:

Both the wannabe Vans slip-ons that I had picked up at the December’18 swap and the ballet flats I tried on during this swap ended up at the Banc Expropriat. Hope somebody there will be happy to adopt them!

As for me, I have two new lounge pants. The yellow ones need a couple of new elastics, and the red ones can accompany me on a new yoga journey whenever that comes. Cool, thank you my beloved anonymous donors!

And there is a care suggestion too: (a) do a more-ritualistic-than-truly-cleansing (i.e. cold, short and gentle) wash of your new garments to make them symbolically yours, acquire the smell of your detergent, and (b) be cautious while doing it, as you don’t want that first wash to be the one hat destroyed your whites. Just be adult about this!


Do you have any swap experiences? Have you ever organized a swappy event? If yes, how did that go? If you have read this far, what advice would you have for my discontent?

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