While many of us still found news from Zoom’s group calls last May, Demi Skipper decided she was going to get a house. But without using money. Instead, she was going to exchange items.
Now the owner of one of the few Chipotle celebrity cards in the world, and hoping to make it home by late summer, the 29-year-old’s journey began where many journeys do: into a YouTube hole. .
Sitting in the living room of her rented house in San Francisco, she had just finished watching a Kyle MacDonald’s Ted Talkaka the red clip guy, who changed 14 times to go from a red clip to a house in 2006.
MacDonald was a 26-year-old unemployed Canadian who switched from a red paperclip, to a fish-shaped pen, to a handmade doorknob, before swapping it out for a camp stove, then a generator, then a keg of beer and a neon sign followed by a snowmobile, a trip to Yahk in British Columbia, a box truck, a music recording contract, a year’s rental in Arizona, even an afternoon with rock band Alice Cooper. His weirdest trade then was for a Kiss-themed motorized snowball, which he traded in with snowball fan and actor Corbin Bernsen for a role in a Hollywood movie, before swapping the movie role for a two-story farm in Kipling, Ohio.
Skipper, who describes himself as a “struggling enterprising guy,” rose to the challenge.
“I can not buy anything. I can’t use money. And I can’t exchange anyone I know, ”she explains excitedly during a video call at 7 am. She is used to early mornings, working from 6 am to 2:30 pm as a product manager for BuzzFeed. “Many comments [about my project] They’re like, ‘You need to get a job,’ and I say, Oh my gosh, if they only knew I’m working like 12 hours a day, ”he gestures in disbelief.
Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and Ebay are Skipper’s favorites. She first posted a picture of the hairpin explaining her mission and traded it in for new earrings from a woman on Facebook who was excited to participate. The enthusiasm of the people to get involved has been the most surprising. “I get probably 1,000 messages a day on Instagram. And many of them say: I don’t have a trade, but I live in this state and I would be willing to drive your car from here to here, or I have a garage or a safe place where you could have a business. “
He left the earrings on the porch of a woman eager to get rid of four glasses of margarita, which Skipper traded for a vacuum cleaner. Then she had to move out of town to meet a couple who traded in their son’s old snowboard for a vacuum cleaner. The snowboard was for an Apple TV. It was the first branded item he received, which made trading easier. He then managed to trade it in for a pair of Bose headphones, before finding a man on the Next Door neighborhood app to trade it in for an old Apple MacBook.
A one-fork MacBook: it was a historic moment. Until now, his project, called Exchange me, was not very well known. Now she had the eyes of thousands of people on her. “The next operation was really stressful because it was the first one I had to send. So I had to trust that the person I was negotiating with would send me the camera and lenses, ”he explained.
The camera went looking for the first pair of collector’s shoes it could find. “I got closer and the guy really helped me understand how to tell if the shoes are real.” Skipper then went on to exchange two more pairs of slippers, which the first merchant advised him. Desperate to get out of the sneaker world, Skipper found a man who had been looking for those $ 1,000 sneakers for a long time and traded them in for a new iPhone 11 Max.
A family of Trade Me fans offered him a red minivan for the iPhone. While it was the most surprising update, Skipper remembers it as the most emotionally difficult. One couple was so inspired by the project that they drove the van for 29 hours from Minnesota to San Francisco with their two children.
The minivan broke down after its long journey and Skipper posted this issue on his TikTok. What he did not foresee was the amount of hatred the family soon received, including a great deal of Islamophobia. “The worst parts of the Internet came out,” he says.
Since the minivan was no longer working and she couldn’t afford to spend money to fix it, she was forced to exchange it for an electric skateboard. which was for the last MacBook. She traded that in for an electric bike food cart, followed by a Mini Cooper.
The next trade was downhill.
“Ah, the diamond necklace,” he says. She thought it was worth $ 20,000, but was quickly told that although it was worth that amount when made, it would only be bought for $ 2,000. The appraised value of the necklace was $ 20,000, but as he quickly discovered, it is not the same as the resale value. “It was a moving moment. I had just traded in this really nice Mini Cooper that was probably worth about $ 8,000, and I practically cut it into a quarter. “
Then he switched back to a Peloton exercise bike. Next was an extremely dilapidated Mustang, followed by a Jeep, a tiny cab, a Honda CRV, and then three tractors.
Like Kyle Macdonald, Skipper has a huge audience. Almost 5 million people follow her on TikTok. His most recent trade, the three tractors for a Chipotle celebrity card, was offered to him by the fast food chain after he posted the video about the tractors. There are only about three. (The owner of this celebrity card receives unlimited free Chipotle food for one year, plus dinner for 50 people.)
Obviously they wouldn’t be that keen to get involved if it weren’t for the millions of potential clients following Demi’s journey, but Skipper insists that anyone can do their own business project. “There’s an 18-year-old in London who has come a long way, and he’s not even famous on TikTok, but he’s done it alone, trading with people he knows,” he recalls.
While Skipper doesn’t spend money on exchanges, he decided early on to pay for shipping. “It doesn’t feel right when you’re negotiating with someone and then you say, ‘Oh, can you pay for my shipping, too?’ She has spent around $ 4,000 on shipping so far.
Today’s world revolves around money, but cash itself has no real value. As a society, we have agreed on a story about what money is worth. We spend most of our time earning or spending it, but that has only been the case for the last 5,000 years. Before that, we exchanged goods and services directly: I’ll fix your roof if you give me a bag of potatoes. “[You can] say: this is worth so many dollars. But part of the trade is finding the person who finds a different kind of value in him, ”says Skipper.
Skipper hopes that more and more people will operate this way. “Trade evens the playing field more, because everyone has that hairpin or a paperclip.” Thousands of TikTokers are now tagging your project in their own searches for anything from cars to college tuition.
“Honestly, I love that it’s a bit of a UF for capitalism.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism