Negotiating the Swamp: How to Buy a Used Carrier

wrapsforsaleCongratulations. You’ve decided to buy a used baby carrier. But then you clicked on “The Babywearing Swap” Facebook group, saw over 40,000 members and a billion carriers and a sharp admonition to read the rules, and you backed away slowly.

But despite the utter terror you felt when confronted with screen after screen of used carriers and inscrutable acronyms – TTTFTO? BNIB? BWDAP? – you can do this. Take a deep breath, a few shots, and remember: it’s cheaper than buying new.

Despite the constant sellers’ complaints (the market sucks! I’m sick of the stupid questions! damn kids get off my lawn!), most mamas are pretty nice. But there’s a definite hierarchy of niceness. My preferences for buying?

Where to Buy
  1. The Babywearer,com forums has the oldest community and the most reliable feedback system (iTrade) this side of eBay. While BWI has taken control of it, the community feeling hasn’t changed. TBW mamas tend to be very honest, helpful, and sweet.

  2. The Budget Swap, High-End Babywearing FSOT, and brand-specific facebook swaps include more knowledgeable sellers and less random stuff to wade through. Be sure to check for feedback – some groups don’t require it.

  3. The Babywearing Swap, AKA The Swamp, is by far the largest and scariest FSOT around. Despite lovely admins, this 40,000 strong group is known as the Swamp for a reason. Fairly reliable with feedback, and with tireless admins ready to mediate disputes, The Swamp has some good points. But its sheer size and scope make it super daunting. A last resort for most experienced sellers.

What to Buy

Do your research. No, seriously, research. Do not be distracted by the shiny unicorn hair. Figure out what you want and look for it.

Don’t know what you want? That’s okay. Narrow it into a category (size 6 wraps, for example), and start looking at what’s for sale. When you find your chosen magic puffskein wrap, research the hell out of it. 

Check out the search function on forums. Someone has gone to The Babywearer to ask about a puffskein wrap, and someone answered them. Don’t message the puffskein seller and ask if the wrap will work for your toddler; they may want to sell you a wrap more than they want to educate you (Puffskein fur’s only supportive enough for fat babies in multilayer carries, in case you were wondering, because it’s so thin and fine). Find this stuff on your own. Some mamas will be honest, but some just want a sale.

Can’t find out if Puffskein fur is prickly? Ask in any of the catch-all babywearing or brand-specific Facebook groups. Better yet, ask on TBW. Someone may answer you.

Your research should turn up not only reviews, but also information about common flaws. Puffskein wraps don’t felt like wool, but get permacreasing. Cotton blends from Rivendell are prone to shifting because magic unicorn poop makes the threads slippery.  Persian minotaur has normal slubs and nubs; wraps spun from the fire tears of a sorrowful Incan sun god commonly come with wrinkled hems. Knowing these flaws will save you a lot of panicking when you find them after purchasing. You’ll also know what to ask a seller.

Research will also do something else: Google now has a picture search. More importantly, there’s enough babywearers out there to turn up pictures. So go looking for them, because then you don’t have to ask the seller for 18,000 more.

Assume that the photographs on a listing are designed to a) catch the eyes, and b) prove the seller actually has the wrap. For anything else, just google. If you can’t find it post-search, thenandonlythen ask the seller.

When to Buy

When tax returns come in and teachers go back to school, people start buying and price start rising. Various fabrics also fluctuate by the season. As a rule of thumb:

  1. Buy around and after the holidays, when the post-Christmas credit card statements arrive.
  2. Buy in August, when some teachers are totally broke.
  3. Buy woolies from April to July, linen and thin hemps from October to March.
  4. Buy what isn’t trendy right now. It’ll be cheaper.
How to Buy

I just wrote a post complaining about getting five bajillion questions when selling, most of which could have been answered with a freaking google search (satire alert: if you believed this one, let’s all solve the hunger crisis by eating babies). But there’s some questions you can’t farm out.

  1. Ask about smoke/pets/fragrance/demons. If a mama doesn’t say it’s a non-smoking home, you better damn well ask, because it probably isn’t. If you’re allergic to goldfish, make sure you ask about goldfish.
  2.  Ask if the carrier has any flaws. Remember that research you did? Ask if that Rivendell unicorn poop wrap has any of the classic thread shifting.  Because then you know, and knowing’s half the battle. EUC and GUC mean different things to different people. Don’t know what those stand for? Go read some of the acronym translation documents in the Facebook groups.
  3. Ask when the seller intends to ship. Some mamas guarantee within 24-48 hours of listing. They are saintly and not me. Don’t feel bad about asking, post-purchase, if the carrier’s shipped. Delays happen, but a good seller will communicate.
  4. Ask for a tracking number. Don’t freak out if it takes her a few hours to pull it up, because some people don’t ship via paypal.
  5. If the listing isn’t explicit, ask if the wrap includes shipping and paypal fees. Americans usually add them into the price; Europeans don’t.
Money and All That

Paypal exists to protect you. Do not ever ever ever pay gifted, unless you’re sending money to your mom. No one should ever ask you to pay gifted, unless they’re your mom. If they do, and they are not your mom, run away. Then report them to admins. Only mark payments as goods. 

Research current market value. Paxbaby had a giant sale? Those wraps will hit the swap three days later and seem like the hottest deal ever, except they’ve been marked up 25 bucks. Mamas regularly buy Little Frogs for more used than new – because they didn’t google. Google that shit. Don’t be that person.

Pay promptly. The influx of mamas from the cloth diapering community has led to buyers asking for invoices to their paypal address, which offers the seller some protection. Some mamas do it. Some don’t. Whatever you decide on, pay up quick: either answer that invoice or send that money along to the seller’s paypal within about two hours, unless you’ve agreed otherwise.

If your carrier doesn’t come, and your seller isn’t answering, open a dispute. Don’t dither. Bitch to paypal, who will bitch to your seller, and you’ll either get your money back or get your carrier.

This is a baby carrier, not gold speculation.

Do not buy wraps expecting to get your full resale value when you sell. It’s a baby carrier. Your kid chews on it. As my friend Patrick said, expecting to get retail plus shipping when you sell is a Mac user level of delusion.

This is not three years ago, when you could buy wraps just to try them, then sell a week later for what you paid, minus shipping. Expect to get 25% less than you paid, more if you abuse the carrier or suddenly need  a quick sale.

Things that are unsuspectingly totally insulting:
  1. Asking a million questions and then not responding to the novel-length reply. At least say, “No thanks, mama!”
  2. Asking for a discount more than 10% of the listed price. This isn’t the flea market or a yard sale, y’all. 25% less is insulting, and 50% less means she’s bitching about you in a secret Facebook group.
  3. Asking what she paid for the wrap. Even if she got it for free, you cannot call her out publicly or via PM for  wrap scalping. It violates rules in the big swap, and is generally shitty everywhere else.
  4. Commenting that the wrap is too expensive. You can say, “A mama on x swap is selling the Rivendell Elrond Exclusive for ten dollars less. Would you take that?” That’s polite. “OMG your price is off!!” Not polite.
  5. “Subbing for price drop”
  6. Offering trades that are explicitly not what she’s asking for. If she says “No pink,” don’t offer her your pink wrap.
  7. Offering trades when the listing says “FSO” (“for sale only”).
  8. Getting a good deal on a wrap and immediately flipping it for more than you paid.
It’s coming!

Your seller has shipped. You’re super excited. You want to stalk the postman! But here’s a few things to remember:

  1. Generally, stuff isn’t lost forever. So if it takes a long time, or the tracking disappears, or it gets routed to Outer Mongolia instead of Duluth, don’t freak. Talk to the seller and have her make inquiries.
  2. Tracking say delivered when it’s not? Talk to your post office.
You’ve got (fluff) mail!

When your precious finally arrives, check it out before using. Look for anything atypical (don’t use a magnifying glass, people), and don’t wash or wear before you do. Talk to the seller immediately if you have any issues. Insurance is the seller’s responsibility, not the buyer’s. Paypal will side with the buyer if the item does not arrive, and you will be refunded. The seller’s on the hook, not you.

What about returns?

Y’all, the swap is not Target. You have to have a damn good reason to return a wrap. These include:

  1. The wrap measures substantially more or less than advertised.
  2. The wrap has undisclosed flaws that are atypical.Thread shifting is expected in some wraps; it’s abnormal in others. This is where research comes in.
  3. The typical flaws are excessive. An indio with a few pulls? Normal. An indio with 60? Not okay. If you can slip a digit through the weave, the thread shifting is excessive.
  4. The wrap has holes, or more than 2 broken threads.
  5. The wrap has stains. While sellers should disclose any discoloration at all,  don’t freak out about a tiny dot on the tail. Do not wash the wrap – that means you can’t return it.
  6. A dyed wrap bleeds excessively, therefore discoloring the wrap. Always ask about dye fixing when buying a dyed wrap.
Then leave feedback.

It’s the buyer’s responsibility to leave feedback first. Be honest about the transaction. If something went wrong but the seller fixed it quickly, or communicated well, be sure to note it.

You shouldn’t have to worry about retailatory feedback. If your deal went South and you’re freaking out, contact an admin of whatever group you dealt with.

Some people will inevitably tell me how very, very wrong I am on every single point here. That’s okay. Opinions are like – you know. But if you feel it necessary to freak out over a strange internet lady’s opinions, take a deep breath and go parent or something.

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