Swap Etiquette?

58 Replies

I agree with AmazonV that using track-able mail makes it a lot easier for both the sender and the receiver. When printing your shipping label through paypal, tracking is only 19c (not available in postal office). I never figured out how to find the ship label printing page within paypal, but you can always go directly to http://www.paypal.com/shipnow to print a shipping label.

Besides, is there anyway to track one’s steepster history (like registration time)? I guess it’s easier for people to trust users who have been around for a while and have made dozens or hundreds of tealogs.

login to paypal
on the main page, “my account” right hand side column “My account tools” header under that “Multi-order Shipping”
enter information for 1+ USA packages, print, and mail

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What if the person never signals that he or she has received the package?
I’m guilty of this too, at least, of not PMing the sender. I do try to make sure that the person’s name is mentioned in my tasting notes/review however. And I almost always try to review at least one tea from a package the day after it arrives (or that day if it arrives early enough and I’m at home) so that the person sees my review and knows that the package arrived.

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wombatgirl said

Interesting thread. This is something I’ve been considering lately as well. Please forgive me if my answer rambles a bit…

I think that no matter what, there needs to be a lot of communication. I think that before anyone sends anything, there needs to be a good idea of what will happen. (I will send you X and you will send me Y.) If you’re posting a tea in the take it away thread, you need to specify if it’s just a gimme, or if you want something in return.

My previous experience with swapping or non-official selling (I know we aren’t selling here, but go with me on this for now) was on doll boards. I used to have a fairly large specialized doll collection with hard to find bits. The community was in had a feedback forum where we would rate people – nothing too detailed, but a + or a – to indicate if the sale or swap went well or poorly. And if you didn’t have a good feedback number, people didn’t trade/do business with you. If they won’t do business with you then you couldn’t get that limited edition doo-hickey someone just put up for sale that you’ve been looking for since you started collecting.

So you worked to make sure your swap/sale partners were happy with you. You wrote them when you sent the package, you wrote them when you got your package, etc. etc. You worked to make sure everything was as beneficial to everyone as possible.

So, what this means for me, is that I’m very conscious of my communication with my swap partners. I try, and have been pretty decent I think, to make sure that if anything, I over-communicate. And I will bug people – hey, did that package arrive? I think it should be there now? I’d rather get a PM, but if I see a rating mentioning my name, I’m fine with that too.

The fact that this thread has started however has relieved me a little bit. I was a little worried I was the only one who had a bad swap experience. I’d say about 80% of my swaps/give it aways here have been awesome. I got a tea from Lisbet yesterday that I just asked for on Tuesday. How cool is that? Wicked fast. And another 15% of them have been ok – little delays, etc. Nothing major.

But I have one swap partner where we agreed to exchange X for Y, I sent them the tea two months ago – they indicated that they got it, and then they stopped writing to me as I asked them for status on the teas they were sending in return. I know they were on the board, but they just stopped responding.

I actually wrote Jason about this a few weeks ago – not because I wanted the person punished or something silly like that. We’re all grownups here; every time you do a swap with someone, you run the risk of not getting anything in return. But if I had a bad experience with this person, I wanted to keep others from having one as well. I asked if we could start a feedback thread or some sort of feedback system. But I wanted to talk to him because I know this could open up a giant can of worms. In general, we’ve got a neat little site here, with some amazing people. I’d hate for some people ratings system to ruin the (for lack of a better word) vibe we’ve got going here.

He wrote me back, was sympathetic to my situation, and said he’d discuss it with the other overlords and let me know what they wanted to do. Which I thought was perfect.

I think there needs to be etiquette for tea swaps – definitely. I think that if you agree to swap with someone, and you send tea and they don’t – that is akin to stealing. I think that notifying someone that a package arrived in one way or another is just what needs to happen, because it’s polite.

It’s like the old saying – treat others as you want to be treated. And darn it, I want to be treated well! Don’t you?

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Erin said

This is a great thread. While I myself have never been the victim of a bad swap, I have heard many horror stories. Here are my thoughts, in no particular order:

I always let people know know when I have received their package via PM, just like I always let people know when I have sent out theirs. If the postal worker gives me an estimate as to when their package should arrive, I let the recipient know.

I always thank people in a tasting note. If I forget who sent me the tea, I’ll check my previous PMs for a record of all my swaps. It gives me a fuzzy feeling to see my name in bold in somebody’s tasting note, so I like to do the same.

As for giveaways… I have only ever won one, which was your marvelous Dragon Ball giveaway (thanks again, I loved them!). Upon receiving the package, I send the person a PM to let them know that the package has arrived and to thank them. Then I send out a hand-written thank-you note to their home address. I hope you received my thank-you note!

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I will start this off by saying that I read Miss Manners column religiously every week.


That being said – here is my personal view about swaps.

I do expect either a PM or to see a tasting note about the tea thanking me within a few days of when I think a package should have arrived. That’s just common courtesy, and one I of course observe.

I know people get busy, and I know money is tight – hey – I work full time, go to school, have a household to run, a sick mom, tree disasters, you name it. I’m not asking you to be perfect, but I am asking you to communicate. Just this week I asked someone with whom I am swapping with if we could delay sending out our packages for a week because I was broke. No harm in that! But if I didn’t say anything and she had sent out her package I would have been in the wrong. That isn’t nice and it isn’t fair, and let’s face it – would you like to be treated like that?

If we say we are doing a swap, and you don’t send me your end of the deal, that’s that. I’ll never swap with you again. As Maya Angelou said, “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.” I’m not going to “out” you, I’m not going to snub you, but believe me, I remember. I will decline future offers.

An overwhelming majority of my interactions here on Steepster have been positive. In fact there has only been one person who told me they would swap with me, and then didn’t (not to be confused with giveaways or packages I’ve sent because someone wanted to try something and I had it. I’m forthright and really mean it when I offer something but say I want nothing in return :) Most people have thanked me in some way or another, and many people have been super generous to me. I was joking with Rabs when we were planning packages for each other that we were in a generosity death match ;) That’s the way I try to treat others, and I appreciate it in a swap.

Doulton, your examples made me very sad. I don’t think you are being overly fussy at all. I have observed such a lack of common courtesy in our culture that I can’t say I’m surprised that you experienced these things even here in our Lovely Tea Bubble!!! I’m glad you brought this up and I hope that the people who have been less than courteous as swappers might reconsider their behavior.

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Rabs said

I heartily agree with many of the responses and also that Doulton’s concerns/frustrations are valid and not fussy in the least. I’m sad about hers and any other Steepsterite’s negative swap experiences. :(

I also wish there was some way to do what wombatgirl and others have mentioned in regards to having a way to give simple feedback on swap experiences. I think just having something like that in place would discourage both the people interested in swapping who may start off with good intentions and then not follow through, and maybe even the downright greedy.

I’ve been utterly blown away by people’s generosity on this site and hope that no one gets too discouraged by discourteousness. I’m trying my first swap out (so far so good!) and feel relief in knowing that others have had good experiences with my fellow swapee :) Now, if it was someone completely new to Steepster and didn’t have much of a background, then I would be much more hesitant to do a swap and I’d keep the swap to a low # of teas in low amounts. That way if I never heard from that person again and didn’t receive anything in return, then I’d know not to swap with them again and I’d let anyone who asks me know my experience with that particular swapper — not in a gossipy fashion, but more as a statement of fact.

Thank you so much Doulton for bringing up this topic — I think that it’s a good reminder and a good place to discuss this situation.

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Wow, I had no idea people have had such bad experiences with swaps… my sympathies on the 50% that have been negative!
You’re not being a fussy elderly woman, just having reasonable expectations of courtesy. I haven’t participated in any 1-1 swaps here on steepster, only the “Take it Away” thread which operates on a unidirectional/pay-it-forward basis, and now I’m kind of glad. I’ll make sure to only swap with people I trust (as much as possible) because I would be very disappointed by some of the behaviors you mention:

I like to be notified when someone gets a package, but I don’t consider it crucial – there are lots of reasons someone might not think to tell me it’s arrived. I’ve always told the sender when I receive a package (I think! I hope), because I don’t want them to worry and it’s a great time to say “thank you.” This goes doubly for giveaways. I do have lower expectations for the “Take it Away” thread, since people are generally giving away teas that they no longer want (so are less invested in, less worried if it doesn’t arrive promptly) and not necessarily expecting anything in return (any reciprocation is a bonus in my experience).

Since I don’t usually thank companies for sending me tea packages or pay individual people to send me tea, I certainly treat people differently than companies and have different expectations. People might be too busy to mail a package for a fews days, or likewise to pick it up, or talk about the tea on steepster… but presumably they aren’t managing hundreds of tea packages at a time, so I would expect some sort of personal response eventually (even if just in a tasting note – seeing "I got this tea from blank steepsterite – is pretty common on my Dashboard). People referring to what you sent as “free samples” is weird; I have misattributed samples a couple of times, but it’s still better to try to give credit.

Several of the things you describe are outright deceptive: I would feel sad and taken advantage of if someone said they would reciprocate then chose not to, or suddenly didn’t have the $2-5 for postage.

I would be a little confused if someone never told me the package arrived and reviewed it without mentioning where it came from, but yeah, maybe they bought it elsewhere.

Like I said, I haven’t participated in many swaps, I just wanted to chime in that your expectations are not strange or unreasonable; an occasional lapse is normal (I know I mis-attributed a tea at least once), but 50% not acknowledging or reciprocating would be very disheartening. I’m not sure I have any advice, or if you were looking for it, except maybe to not send out packages until the other person does; you could pay extra for Delivery Confirmation, but that seems silly when the real problem is a lack of courtesy.

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SoccerMom said

Wow I consider myself so lucky I’ve never NOT got a package in an intended swap. I do only swap with a couple of people and they are awesome! I won’t give their screen names because I am selfish and want to keep my friends exclusive LOL I’m sure you all know who they are and I know they know who they are (you all rock).

I did do a take it away one time and did not get a response that they had received it so I just pm’ed the person and they sent me a beautiful handwritten note in the mail.

Also I need to apologize to MeghannM and any others for when I first started mailing/swapping teas I wasn’t as organized as I am now and I thank others who have since sent me items that totally helped me be a better tea swapper.

For those of you who are not swapping you really are missing out. If you meet a couple people who you know post all the time and have similar taste it is totally fun! Doulton swapping with people you know and maybe narrow your circle and I’m sure you’ll get more pleasure from your swaps. That’s just my two cents! :)

Meghann M said

No need for apologies, SoccerMom, I think we both started swapping around the same time and have both improved our swap savvy. I’ve learned much from several wonderful swappers on here. Thanks to all whom have swapped with me.

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Shanti said

I’ve only done one swap so far, and I was a bad swap partner (sorry Ricky!) because my nearest post office is a long walk away, and I was so busy with school that I couldn’t get there until like a month later. But the package did finally go out!

I will say that, because of my difficulty in getting to the post office, I do not do swaps normally. I’m holding off on swaps until I move this summer to a place closer to a post office. Otherwise…yeah. No swaps for me—it’s just not fair to the person I’m trading with.

Ricky admin said

No worries Shanti! We can just blame Shantea and even then I’m not blaming your evil twin.

Shanti said

RICKYYYY I apologize for how horrible I am :( I just got back to CA last night, so I actually can get to the post office now without having to walk a billion miles. Yay! I’m thinking I’m going to repackage your, um, package, because it’s so squashed and tiny. But I promise I’ll get it to you soon. Send me a PM if you want me to send it to another address other than the P.O. Box.
~worst swapper ever, Shantea

Ricky admin said

I just left CA yesterday! Don’t walk a bijillion miles to send me a silly package! Take your time! I’m not in a rush, honestly. I suppose it depends how big the package is / if it can fit in my mail box. I’ll send you another address. I guess it wouldn’t make a difference cause if I miss the package I’d have to walk over to my post office anyways.

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Lori said

I am bad about getting to the post office- it usually takes me about 2 weeks to get organized to get there and it is around the corner..

Oh, and if I ever send a sample to someone and you don’t like it, my feelings will not be hurt if you forward it along.

Also Shanti- even if you can’t do swaps right now, please feel free to accept teas from the Take it Away thread…

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