Jul 30, 2014

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.

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