The Swap Shop: Victim of Its Own Success?

If we’re going to make the shop a real success, writes Jim Cameron, we all have to do our part.

In the 18 months since its opening, the at the has become a huge success, a real money saver for the town — and a major headache. If you haven't visited, you're missing out on one of the real treasures of this town: free, high quality junk!

When Dot Kelly, Susan Cameron, and Reese Hutchison first persuaded the to , few aside from this dedicated trio thought it would work. Their thinking was that, rather than throwing unwanted items into the trash — forcing the town pay to have them hauled away — residents could instead leave them at the Swap Shop and see if they found a new home.

This being Darien, we have some desirable detritus. Something like ten tons of furniture, computers, books, hardware, kitchenware and toys come and go each week. And you don't have to donate something to take something. Some people even scavenge items and sell them online. And that’s cool with Ms. Cameron (no relation), as long as items stay out of the waste stream.

But there's the rub. As the popularity of the Swap Shop has grown, a few folks have tried to act like the "boss of the dross," coordinating intake and dispersal. One well-intentioned guy practically lived at the shop, holding back primo donations for friends, matching up donors and special requests. Nothing illegal — but not in keeping with the spirit of the effort.

He's gone now, replaced by a couple of women who spend most of their weekends trying to keep stuff organized. (Full disclosure: I try to curate the used books, taking a few more home than I donate.) But without those volunteers, the Swap Shop would be an incredible mess.

And then there's the issue of out-of-towners. The word is out that Darien's trash (others' treasure) is there for the picking, and try as he might, the guard at the gatehouse can’t keep everyone out who may lack a dump sticker — the only invitation you need to shop at the Swap Shop.

In fact, Stamford officials recently toured our year-round free tag sale and there's a good chance they;ll be offering a similar service to city residents pretty soon.

This year, DPW did not offer its town-wide spring cleaning pick-up.  Instead, each resident had to call Town Hall and make an appointment for pick-up. That new protocol coupled with the tremendous success of the Swap Shop saved us weeks of curbside crap awaiting pick-up, which many felt made the town look, well, untidy.

So c'mon down to the Swap Shop. Drop off your unwanted stuff. But please bring it inside the tent and place it neatly where others can "shop" for it.  Don't just dump it and run. If we’re going to make the shop a real success, we all have to do our part.

Chris Near August 04, 2011 at 07:13 PM
Cath, I understand your concern, but for every person who "takes" but does not "leave," there is at least one person who "leaves" but does not "take" (myself included). For died-in-the-wool recyclers, the Swap Shop is an incredible benefit to this town. Where else can you take partially used markers or crayons, a slightly broken (but fixable - by someone!) chair, or leftover scraps of fabrics from a project? I cannot tell you how many times I have dropped off odd sorts of things that I can think of no other place to put (other than the trash), knowing that someone will gladly take them home. One day I brought in a stack of partially used SAT-type work books - they were gone within hours. Ditto with mismatched gaming and sports items. People I talk to rave about the Swap Shop. I seriously do not care if a few "grabbers" are taking things without leaving anything - I'm just glad my stuff isn't going into the garbage. The people who worked to bring the Swap Shop to Darien should be highly commended!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
Nancy Sheed August 04, 2011 at 11:33 PM
Our family loves the swap shop. We have taken old electronics that the boys have used for tinkering. And they discovered usuable speakers for their basement disco. We are big fans of the Swap Shop and the dump in general!
Jayme Stevenson August 06, 2011 at 02:59 PM
The best "find" at the Swap Shop are the people that go there!
Karen Brewer August 11, 2011 at 12:36 AM
Take ,leave,whatever....the point is the stuff is going to people who need and want it.No score card for me.
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