Sunday, May 22, 2011

Makeup Swap

It took me forever to figure out what "MUA" stood for. It's a well-known acronym in the beauty community for two things: make-up artist and MakeupAlley. Once I realized what MakeupAlley was useful for, I tried to navigate my way through it and found it quite overwhelming without any sort of guidance. So I left it alone for a while and eventually forgot about it until a fellow beauty junkie referred me back to the site again.

MakeupAlley is a huge online beauty community, focused on three major things: swapping, reviewing and chatting. I was interested in swapping but didn't know how it worked. A few fellow beauty junkies and I shared newbie Q&As, guidelines and unofficial rules. Then we took the plunge and conducted a few swaps. I participated in three swaps and ended up with some great items while getting rid of things wasting away in my stash. Here's the result:


I'm happiest about finally snagging Bobbi Brown Beach which I've lusted after forever. It seems a lot of people end up trading little things like single shadows and a lippie here and there, which to me is mostly a waste since the cost of mailing a tiny item isn't always worth the shipping charges, especially if you ship priority with a tracking number. However, there is such a thing as "swaplifting" and it is advisable to ship with the speediest and most efficient method, especially when you and the other swapper live in different countries or if there's a trust issue. Unless I'm swapping an item worth $50 or more, I've decided not to swap on MUA unless I'm swapping two or more items, to make the shipping charges worthwhile.

Now, some people are just horrified at the idea of swapping used products while others maintain that it's efficient and reduces waste. I don't see a need to debate about it as everyone has her own opinion. It's up to you to choose your way among the thousands of swappers and their offerings and set boundaries and terms for how you want to negotiate. I definitely don't want to swap an eye shadow that is halfway through the pot or pan - gross. But I'm not a huge germaphobe and don't mind if a nice item has been swatched once or twice. When in doubt, you can also request pictures of the goods and filter through the other person's communication skills to decide whether they're trustworthy or not. Members are also awarded "swap tokens"  as an indication of positive swaps, along with reviews and comments by other MUA members on their swap experiences. Some people do want to swap brand new items, for whatever reasons. It's certainly possible to pick your way among the products for only the most interesting or unique items and determine how badly you want it.

One thing to keep in mind as you swap is to be negotiable and not harp on stuff like a $2 difference in the price of the item. However, it pays to be knowledgeable, about quality and price of products in general as well as shipping charges, rules and custom in your country and the other person's, as sometimes the difference in shipping cost evens out what feels like an uneven deal. There are also rules for who should ship first, which is that newer member of MUA should ship first since they have less positive swap tokens and thus is required to show their trustworthiness first. Obviously in the case of two members who arrived at relatively the same time period, they should send the items simultaneously. I advise everyone to ship with a tracking number and want the person I swap with to do the same.

Despite all the precautions, "swaplifting" does occur. A friend was recently swaplifted by a former MUA member who called herself F. Once F received my friend's items, she deleted her MUA account and disappeared. F had an established MUA account, had been active there for a sufficient period of time and had enough positive swap tokens to seem reliable. My friend is intelligent and careful, but she ignored her gut feeling and followed through with her end of the swap. It turned out that F spent some time building up a positive identity in order to swaplift at least (but probably more than) a dozen other MUA members for a huge number of products. The moral of the story is that if a deal seems to good to be true, you should be more careful than usual, don't be afraid to speak up and ask questions, and put a pause on the transaction if something doesn't feel right. Kind of an online version of what you would do if a pushy sales associate made you feel uncomfortable and tried to sell you things despite your reluctance.

Do you guys swap? Are you on MUA? I would love to swap with fellow trustworthy bloggers! Tweet me or email me if you would like to swap. I'm hoping to build a list of reliable swappers vouched for by the blogging community so that swapping can be a safe and enjoyable experience. Swaplifting makeup is so lame I can't believe the trouble some people go through to do it, but the lamers are out there. What they're doing may not be illegal, but swaplifting is a scam and those who do it should be called out on it. 

17 comments:

  1. You got some great stuff!
    I've never swapped on MUA for fear of getting swindled.
    But I'd love to swap with fellow bloggers-just not on MUA. I have tons of stuff to get rid of-ahem-blushes. :)

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  2. We can use MUA to list our stuff, though. DM me on Twitter if you want to see what I'm willing to part with. :)

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  3. @Liz: I will soon! I just need to go through my stuff-hopefully I have time tomorow, but I'm thinking a few NARS blushes for sure.

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  4. I've used MUA a few times, but only ever to check out reviews. The idea of swapping has never really appealed to me. Maybe it's because I always do a lot of research on the more expensive items I get, so those that end up beings busts tend to be from the drugstore and not worth the trouble of rehoming. I find the whole swaplifting thing absolutely disgusting. I'm amazed that people would conduct themselves in such an appalling manner. It would seem that it could be considered stealing since the products you swap are, in a way, acting as the currency to procure the other person's things. So without that even exchange, some one has received something for no payment. It seems reasonable to me, but then I'm no lawyer :P

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  5. I was just swaplifted by someone for perfume. I sent her a ton of brand new Bond no. 9 samples, and she had me pick out what I wanted of hers, and I thought everything was fine. Well, 10 days went by, and we started the volleying back and forth of emails, and she was always making excuses but was very apologetic, but she seemed manic in her emails. It's the first time this has happened to me (this was not long ago), and I have to say that it's soured me quite a bit. I offered to help her out when I saw her posts on Now Smell This, and she was so sweet and out of her mind with joy. A month or more has passed now and she's stopped replying to my emails, so I've got no choice but to assume that she never planned to send me anything. Bummer.

    As a warning to everyone out there: she posts on Now Smell This (and possibly elsewhere) as Lavandula, and she's crazy about Bond no. 9 (she has bad taste, sorry, I had to say it). Her name is Eva (or Ewa) Jaskolska. I'm trying to spread the word about her so no one else falls for her nonsense.

    I wouldn't say I'm a trusting person by nature, but I just didn't see this one coming. I genuinely wanted to help her get the things she was dying to get her hands on, and I wasn't asking for much at all in return. If she'd emailed me and said she just couldn't (or wouldn't) send me anything, at least I'd have some respect for her for being forthright with me. I'm half-tempted to email her again one more time to tell her what a disappointment the whole thing has been to me, but part of me just wants to let it drop.

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  6. @Caitlin - Ethically, it's stealing, no doubt. Legally, it's not acknowledged as criminal activity (too many jurisdictions and definitions) and many police departments advised the swaplifted people to seek civil remedies instead.

    @Carrie - That sucks so much! Does she still post on Now Smell This after what happened? Someone else I know said she was worried about not getting her end of a perfume swap but said that since she was getting rid of something unwanted, she wasn't going to lose any sleep over it. But I think that generous feeling changes after you KNOW that you have been swindled. I think you should email her one last time, get everything out of your system, then let it drop. My friend who was swaplifted by Farashi is still on the hunt, though.

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  7. So sad that you can't trust people to have the same good intentions & ethics as you do. I think I might be too OCD to do swaps :)

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  8. Yeah, Maybe I should email her one last time. It's funny, when you proposed a swap, Liz, I didn't hesitate. I KNOW you're a good person, there's no doubt. I just need to be very selective with my swaps. There are lots of times I just send stuff to people without expecting anything in return (that wasn't the case with Eva, though), one would think that would secure my karma, right? Wrong.

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  9. @Tracy D - Totally understandable. I just can't stand having things that aren't being used. That's my OCD, I guess!

    @Carrie - Thanks! Generally speaking, I think most serious bloggers can be trusted. We don't want to tarnish our names and we're supposed to be truthful and honest in our reviews, experiences, etc. Plus I just really want you to have that LW nail polish! lol I wouldn't hunt down someone for swiping a lipstick I didn't want, but it's upsetting to know that there are people out there who will just go on tricking unsuspecting people over and over again. Let me know what happens with Eva or Ewa or whatever her name is.

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  10. Thanks Liz, a little sympathy goes a long way. :) If it were just a few vials I sent, that'd be one thing, but I sent her 20. The idea was that it was going to be good swap fodder. *grumble grumble*

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  11. I guess that's another thing to keep in mind, too - not to swap too many items at once, just in case. :( I mourn for your samples.

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  12. That's such a bummer that people would go through so much trouble to swindle. But it's also really cool that the internet can facilitate such a a far reaching community of like-minded people. Looks like you got some pretty awesome stuff! (And it's funny how you can just KNOW if people are good or not through internet interactions... Interesting and awesome how our guts can still guide us.)

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  13. It is, isn't it? Communication skills say a lot about a person. That's why I enjoy the blogging community so much! :)

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  14. I have created a MUA account but like you, was a bit overwhelmed. I would love to swap, but not sure if I can part from my pretties haha :)

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  15. My fourth swap package arrived safely this afternoon! So far all the people I've dealt with have been super sweet. Rebecca, there are a lot of things I can't bear to part with, but there are also a lot of things I'm dying to get rid of! I would never swap items I still enjoy or feel an attachment to. :)

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  16. i dont understand MUA :( but im looking forward to one more drugstore swap and if youd be interested, do let me know. it's kumikomae@lovingsunshine.com

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  17. What in particular do you have trouble with on MUA?

    Sorry, but I don't swap drugstore products. The shipping usually end up costing just as much or even more than the products!

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