While many of us still found novelty in Zoom group calls last May, Demi Skipper decided she was going to have a home. But not by 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 reach a home by the end of the summer, the 29-year-old’s journey began where many journeys go: in a YouTube hole.
Sitting in the living room of her rented house in San Francisco, she had just finished watching a Ted Talk by Kyle MacDonald, also known as the red paperclip, who traded 14 times to go from a red paperclip to a house in 2006.
MacDonald was a 26-year-old unemployed Canadian who went from a red paperclip to a fish-shaped pen, to a handmade doorknob, before trading it in for a camping stove, then a generator, then a keg of beer and a neon sign, followed by a snowmobile, a trip to Yahk in BC, a van truck, a music recording contract, one year rent in Arizona, at an afternoon with rock band Alice Cooper. His strangest trade then was for a Kiss-themed motorized snow globe, which he swapped with snow globe fanatic and actor Corbin Bernsen for a role in a Hollywood movie, before swapping the role of film for a two story farmhouse in Kipling, Saskatchewan, Canada. .
Skipper, a “disjointed entrepreneurial guy” who describes himself, lived up to the challenge.
“I can’t buy anything. I can’t use money. And I can’t trade anyone I know, ”she explains enthusiastically during a video call at 7 am. She is used to early mornings as she works from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. as a product manager for BuzzFeed. “Lots of comments [about my project] are like, “You have to find a job,” and I’m like, Oh my God, if they knew I was working like 12 hours a day, “she gestures incredulously.
Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and Ebay are must-haves for Skipper. She first posted an image of the hairpin explaining her mission and traded it for brand new earrings from a woman on Facebook who was excited to participate. The eagerness of people to get involved was the most surprising thing. “I probably get 1,000 messages a day on Instagram. And a lot of them are like: I don’t have a profession 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 keep a shop. “
She left the earrings on the porch of a woman eager to get rid of four margarita glasses, which Skipper exchanged for a vacuum cleaner. Then she had to trade outside of her town to meet a couple who traded in their child’s old snowboard for a vacuum cleaner. The snowboard has opted for an Apple TV. It was the first branded item she received, which made her exchange easier. She then arranged to trade it in for a pair of Bose headphones, before finding a man on the neighborhood app Next Door to swap it out for an old Apple MacBook.
A MacBook from a hairpin: that was a defining moment. Until then, his project, named Trade Me, was not well known. Now she had the eyes of thousands of people on her. “The next trade was really scary because it was the first one I had to ship. So I had to trust that the person I was trading with would send me the camera and the lenses, ”she explained.
The camera went looking for the first pair of collector’s sneakers she found. “I reached out and the guy really helped me figure out how to tell if sneakers are real. Skipper then traded two more pairs of sneakers, which the first trader advised him to do. 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 brand new iPhone 11 Max.
A family of Trade Me fans gave him a red minivan for the iPhone. While this was the most surprising upgrade, Skipper remembers it as the most emotionally difficult. A couple were so inspired by the project that they drove the van for 29 hours from Minnesota to San Francisco with their two children.
The van broke down after its long trip and Skipper posted this hiccup on his TikTok. What she hadn’t anticipated was the amount of hatred the family soon had, including a lot of Islamophobia. “The worst aspects of the internet are out,” she says.
With the minivan broken down and unable to spend the money to fix it, she was forced to trade in an electric skateboard. that went for the latest MacBook. She traded that for an electric bike food cart, followed by a Mini Cooper.
The following trade deteriorated.
“Ah, the diamond necklace,” she said. She thought it was worth $ 20,000, but was quickly told that even though it was worth that amount once made, it would only be purchased for $ 2,000. The necklace’s appraisal value was $ 20,000, but as she quickly learned, it’s not the same value as the resale value. “It was an overwhelming moment. I had just traded in this really nice Mini Cooper which was probably worth $ 8,000, and I practically cut it down to a quarter.
She then again traded in for a Peloton exercise bike. Next is an extremely dilapidated Mustang, followed by a Jeep, a tiny cabin, a Honda CRV and three tractors.
Like Kyle Macdonald, Skipper has a large following. Almost 5 million people follow her on TikTok. His most recent business – the three tractors for a Chipotle celebrity card – was gifted to him by the fast food chain after posting the tractor video. There are only about three. (The owner of this celebrity card receives free, unlimited Chipotle food for one year, as well as a dinner prepared for 50 people.)
Obviously, they wouldn’t be so keen to get involved without the millions of potential clients who have followed Demi’s journey, but Skipper is adamant that anyone can make their own trading project. “There’s this 18-year-old guy in London who’s come a long way, and he’s not even famous for TikTok, but he did it alone, interacting with people he knows,” recalls- it.
Although Skipper does not spend any money on transactions, she decided early on to pay the shipping costs. “It’s not okay when you’re negotiating with someone and you’re like, ‘oh, can you pay my postage too?’” She has spent about $ 4,000 on shipping so far.
Today’s world revolves around money, but money by itself has no real value. As a company, we have agreed on a story of value for money. We spend most of our time earning or spending it, but that has only been the case for 5,000 years. Before that, we traded goods and services directly: I would fix your roof if you gave me a sack of potatoes. ” [You can] say: it’s worth so many dollars. But part of the exchange is finding the person who finds a different kind of value in it, ”Skipper explains.
Skipper hopes more and more people will trade in this way. “Trading makes the playing field more level, because everyone has this hairpin or a paperclip.” Thousands of TikTokers are now marking his project in their own activities, from cars to tuition.
“Honestly, I like that it’s a bit of a FU to capitalism.”