How I Got Swindled


It all started with a guy calling about a washer Peter and I had posted for sale. The man had a whirlpool washing machine that “worked perfect except for it wouldn’t go into the spin cycle”. At least that’s what he told me. I figured it needed a lid switch, which cost us less than $5. So I arranged for him to bring it over and we would fix his washer in exchange for a refrigerator “in excellent condition”. The only thing excellent however, was the man’s ability to embellish the condition of his appliances!

About an hour later he showed up with a trailer containing the washing machine and refrigerator. Peter and I quickly unloaded the washer and Peter began testing it out. He quickly discovered that the lid switch was ok. What wasn’t ok was the motor. The power cord was also fried and the agitator dogs needed to be replaced as well. The deal was turning rotten quickly.

At this point, I went out to inspect the refrigerator’s condition as I was having my doubts that it was “in excellent condition” as I was told. The first thing I noticed was that it was a 14 cu ft apartment sized refrigerator which have less demand and are worth slightly less than standard size fridges. The second thing I noticed was that there was a decent sized gap in the corner of the seal. It was big enough for air to escape from the freezer and mold/mildew to build up on the seals where the air was escaping. The swindle was on!

I had asked very specifically about the condition of the refrigerator, knowing that if it needed almost any work done to it would make the deal not worth doing. I had very specifically asked about the condition of the seals to make sure there weren’t any gaps and that they were still in good condition. I was told they were in excellent shape.

So I went back to Peter and told him that the deal was rotten and that it wasn’t even close to being equitable. We were basically going to have to give him a washing machine motor, a new power cord and agitator dogs. That was just the physical goods. It was also going to be about 30-40 minutes of labor to fix. Now, with the seal gapped, we were going to have to switch the hinges on the refrigerator to close the gap up on the one side. That would take another 15-20 minutes of work, plus the time to clean the fridge. In exchange for all this, we were getting a refrigerator that we probably wouldn’t buy at any price.

Peter was on a mission to fix that washer. I was on a mission to fix the deal. He thought he could fix it quickly and knew he had the parts sitting around. I couldn’t quickly convince him to restructure the deal. In the end, I wasn’t going to make the final decision. It was ultimately his time and labor that was more at stake than mine, as he was the one doing the repair. He chose to go through with the work.

When the work on the washer was done, and Peter had another moment to check out the refrigerator, he started to realize the reality of the situation. At this point, it was too late to do anything about it. When the man came back to pick up his washer I explained the extent of the repairs, pointed out the blown seal on the refrigerator and asked him if he could add a little cash to the deal to make it more fair.

To his credit, he came prepared, with exactly zero cash on him. Well done sir, I thought to myself. Holy smokes. We all stared at the ground. It was painfully awkward for a few moments, but in the end I told him we would learn from the situation and wished him well. Sometimes you receive money in a transaction. That day we received an education on bartering. Here are a few of things we learned.

No one ever wants to trade down. The entire bartering world is filled with people trying to turn their junk into more valuable items. Everyone always wants to trade up. You must know this going into any bartering situation.

Promise nothing. People lie, or they misrepresent, or inaccurately describe their items. Until you know the true condition of the items involved, it’s foolish to set the terms of any deal.  You can’t rely on the other person to accurately inspect the items.

Isolate the components. We failed to isolate and place a value on each component of the deal beforehand. Had we done that, and declared the value of the fridge, and the value being added to the washing machine we would have restructured the deal or not done business. We learned our lesson.

Usually, a barter is not going to be worth it. If someone is contacting you with a proposed trade, it’s probably not going to be a good one. There are very few products that are worth the same amount of money in the marketplace. I recommend allowing the market to dictate the value of each product or service separately, and then exchange a common currency, which is usually cash.

Have any fun experiences with bartering? Crazy ones? I’d love to hear your stories!


  1. Had a guy who wanted a portable air conditioner. Bring it on down (about 90 minute drive) and we’ll do the deal.

    Once I got there, then he started having second thoughts, mostly silence. The leverage had swung, I was the person all in and he just waited for me to make the deal better.

    Hooker pricing, no services until the terms, pricing and maybe even some money has traded hands.

    Good story Ryan, thanks for sharing. Joe

  2. I think there is money to be made in bartering but you have to definitely know what you’re getting into and assess the situation. And if at any point you feel uncomfortable don’t be afraid to say no. I tune pianos, and I’ve made some extra money through bartering where I was able to sell the items for more than what I would usually charge for the job I did, and a cool thing was that I could enjoy the items while they were up for sale. I know there are people who trade up like that kid who went from an old cell phone to a Porsche. I think I’d like to do more bartering myself. Usually people will offer junk not worth as much as what you’re trading but sometimes people will offer something more valuable for different reasons. There’s a lot of people out there, and a lot of different opportunities and ways to make money.

  3. What a bummer…this guy sounds like a real piece of work. Never been a fan of barter…it rarely works out to everyone’s benefit. As for the fridge…I’m with ya on the gasket…some of them are outrageous in price. Need advice from a “pro”… I have a soon to be 15 year old Kelvinator in one of my rental units. the unit is vacant and I’m considering buying a new effecient one and sell this one. The unit is smaller (16 cu ft) and has no (evaporator?)fan in the back like larger models and gets very warm in the back especially during the summer. Do I put it on CL and sell it and buy a new one or do I keep going until the unit quits?

    • I would say keep it until it quits. Or, if you decide to swap it out now, get a used GE fridge. I’m not a fan of Kenmore/Frigidaire brand refrigerators at all. Hope that helps!

  4. I picked up a free truck camper shell in great shape except a broken window. I cleaned it up and priced it low. I actually reduced the price several times but sat on it way too long. About 3 months. I turned someone away who wouldn’t pay more than $75.00 when I was only asking $100. I kicked myself in the butt for that until I decided to add will consider trade to my listing. Right away a guy offered me a telescope. It was in great shape and barely touched. I took the offer and turned around and sold the telescope for $135 within a couple of days. 100% profit for me and lesson learned about picking up an item that I knew needed work and wasn’t worth the financial investment to do so. I just lucked out on that one.

    • That’s awesome. That is where bartering really pays off, swapping a slow moving item for a potentially fast moving one. Cool story, thanks for sharing!

  5. Looks like you and I both have had some “learning experiences” lately.

    I never used to barter, but it’s something I’ve started to do more of recently, to earn some extra profits. I’ve found that many people are willing to trade their old phone + cash in exchange for the phone I’m selling. What I’ll do is take the cash value of the phone and add $20 or $30 to it, and then tack that on to the amount of additional cash I will need to complete the deal. The total profit ends up being more than if I had just gone straight cash.

    I especially do this on slow-moving items like Joy mentioned. I sat on a Galaxy s4 that I paid $450 for, for 4 weeks, because I couldn’t get anyone to come up with the market-value of $550 cash. I ended up swapping it for a 64gb iphone 4s + $120 cash, and then sold the iphone within 24 hours. Ended up with $60 profit, which was less than I had hoped for, but it got the deal done and got the cash back in my pocket.

    • Cool example, thanks for sharing. Yeah I’ve thought about offering certain slow moving appliances up in the barter section and see what types of items people offer for them. I’ll have to try it and report back. I would probably approach it the same way you are, which would be to try to make a few bucks on the deal while getting a faster selling item.

  6. My first week of selling washers and dryers and I had already been doing good and had sold 12. I had a Hotpoint washer & dryer. Bought it for $125 and had it sold for $275… until my brainless hands started messing with it. Come to find out the back on a Hotpoint doesn’t come off but being on a mission to be as stupid as I could be, I kept unscrewing screws until it dropped… the heating element is secured with 4 screws from the back. I was so mad at myself that I knew I better stop before I destroyed the whole thing. Would have thrown it out of the garage but it was too heavy. lol Now I was suppose to deliver these within an hour. I was not familiar with this at all and I knew the delivery was not going to happy that day… if any day at all. lol Made up an excuse and we decided I’d deliver the next day. 2 days later I finally had to take it across town to my buddy’s dad who has worked on appliances for 50 years and he sat there and told me how to fix it while I did the work. But this didn’t happen until after the 2nd delivery was suppose to be completed. I finally told the lady what happened… she didn’t want the washer & dryer by now. I did end up selling it for only $200 but I had that much in it by the time I added up all the gas trying to fix the dang thing. Luckily the original lady was cool with every thing and just 5 hours ago I bought some jewelry boxes from here (we sell jewelry too). I guess new and old, thee are always new lessons to learn. 🙂


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