I’ve been taking a break from modelry, so today’s How-to is all about Bartertown.com, a trading forum for just about anything you’ll find in a game store. I also went a little lolcat crazy, since I’m tired and a tad slap-happy…
This hobby is expensive, there’s no doubt about it. The average heavy warjack kit costs the same as a nice meal for two people at a casual restaurant. As much as we all need to support the company and the brick and mortar stores that we play at, there comes a time when you just can’t afford brand new models hot off the shelf.
Sure, there’s eBay and craig’s list, and you may get lucky. eBay seems to have few deals – most items are the same 20-25% off you’ll find at any online retailer (miniature market, chaos orc, wargamer’s cave, thewarstore, etc.). Sometimes, that’s all you need. Honestly, sometimes it’s just about feeling like you saved some money, even if you actually don’t.
If you’re OK with spending some time looking for models, and you don’t mind getting models used, Bartertown.com is the way to go.
What is Bartertown?
Bartertown is a forum, like any other, with areas specific to 40k, Fantasy, PP, Wyrd, and all sorts of other game systems and types. Each forum hosts people’s ads: a list of whet they have and would like to get rid of, along with a wants list of items they are looking for. It works much like a swap meet, except everyone gets a spot at a table to put out their merchandise.
On Bartertown, the thread titles are formatted in a specific manner. They usually look something like this: “[H] Kha, Cyg, Cryx [W] CoO, Sko, $$”.
The [H] signifies the start of the haves list, followed by abbreviations for faction or army names. In this case, KHAdor, CYGnar and Cryx. Likewise, the [W] starts the list of faction or armies that the person is interested in. Here, this means Circle of Orboros, Skorne and money, so that tells you this person is willing to just straight up sell their models. Sometimes people put “Board Games” or “40k” or “Paypal” to be more or less specific about what they have. The titles are only so long, and idea is that you can skim the thread titles looking for what you’re interested in and skip the threads that won’t contain models you are looking for.
How does it work?
You surf the threads until you find someone who has models you are looking for. You also have to consider their wants. Some folks only want to sell, others only want to trade but most will be game for either. Be sure to shop around. Someone may be the perfect match for you – they have what you want, and want what you have.
Once you’ve found a prospect, fire off a PM detailing the trade you have in mind. Most people will want a trade to be as close to even as possible, and the monetary retail value is often what is used to calculate the value of each side of the deal.
I’ve often found that the more professional your messages are, the more likely you are get a positive response. If you volunteer all the information about your models, people are much more likely to respond in kind.
Once you and your trade partner have settled on a trade, it’s time to ship.
Always use bubblewrap or some other cushion-y material. Packing peanuts suck, avoid them at all costs. They kill pets when they are eaten, so just say no to packing peanuts. If you’re shipping a model in pieces, use a blister. Just be smart about it. When you’re all done, you should be able to shake the box and not hear any rattling (unless you have parts in a blister, obviously).
When you ship the package, pay the $0.70 for a tracking number. If it gets lost, you’ll know it. Your trade partner will feel better being able to spam the tracking site for hours as they salivate over their new shiny.
When you get your side of the deal in the mail, open it and verify that there’s nothing missing, and that you received everything you were supposed to. If it’s all good, leave the other person a good trade ref – the form is pretty straight forward, it’s easy.
Things to Remember
Before you go responding to a thread, there are some accepted conventions on how you conduct a deal on Bartertown. The site’s been around for years, and there are over 30,000 users, so there’s definitely some traditions and culture going on. Here’s a snippet from my most recent trade thread:
I like sticking to the standard Bartertown practices:
- lower rating ships first
- buyers pay for shipping, traders cover their own side of the deal
- always ship with a tracking number, and insurance (when over $100 in models are in the package)
- communicate frequently!
Lower Rating Ships First
Beside every username, you’ll see a number in parenthesis. This is the person’s ITL (Internet Trade List), and it functions very much like eBay’s feedback score. Whenever trades are completed, each person leaves a ‘reference’ for the other person, and that increases their score. So, the higher the score, the more successful trades that person has completed, and therefore they are more trustworthy. The other cool thing, is that you can see exactly who the person has traded with when you view their references. You’ll see repeat traders, and every reference has room to leave comments on the trade, so you can often see what the two people traded.
It’s a very common practice for the person with the lower number to “go” before the person with the higher number. It’s not personal, it’s just good business. Think about buying something at a store. You know they have the item you want, because it’s right there in your hand. What assurances do they have that you have enough money to pay for the item? They don’t until you actually pay them, and only after that happens are you allowed to leave with the item. Same deal here. If you’re brand new, no one knows you, no one has any history with you, so why should they trust you?
This extends to purchases (as compared to trades), as well. Even though someone may be “buying” a model, you’re still trading X for Y, and the lower rated person goes first. It’s a trust thing, it’s not about social norms. You aren’t conducting a sale in a store, you’re dealing with someone you’ve never met, never will meet and will likely never talk to again. Scary, right? All the more reason to protect yourself.
Buyers pay for shipping, traders cover their own side of the deal
This is fairly common – anytime you buy something from an online retailer, you get charged for the shipping costs. Why should the shipping eat into their profits – YOU chose to have the item shipped, they’d be just as happy to hand it to you if you came into their store.
For trades, it’s generally accepted that when you’re trading an equal size bunch of models, the shipping will be roughly equal for both of you. There’s no reason to add an extra layer of complexity by trying to figure out who owes more for shipping. Each person covers whatever it costs to get the models to the other person, and that’s that. Just be sure to cover your own ass. Use tracking numbers. If you’re shipping a large amount ($$) of models, get insurance, and ask them to insure their package as well. It’s rarely more than $3, and it’ll save you a headache if something happens.
Most people you’re working a deal with would rather get a short PM about what’s going on than be left in the dark. If you have something come up and need a few extra days to ship, just let them know. It doesn’t take long to type out “Hey, I left the package at home today, so I’ll have to ship Monday. I’m sorry!”. 9 times out of 10, they’ll just say OK, and nothing bad will come from it.
Get Everything in Writing
If you conduct a deal over the phone or chat, send them one more PM or e-mail detailing the entire trade you worked out, and ask them to confirm. You can be completely nonchalant about it also, “Hey, we talked about a lot of stuff the other day, and I just wanted to get the deal laid out in one place to make sure we were on the same page. Double check this and let me know if I missed something.”
This is a part of the “cover your own ass” thing you should always keep in mind. Just like agreeing to buy something on eBay, your trades on bartertown are a form of contract, so don’t take them lightly!
Have questions about Bartertown? Ask below!