Community Life

West Orange Introduces 'Safe Exchange Zone' to Community for Safer Swapping and Face-to-Face Transactions

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“I have gotten some incredible deals, said Doreen Rinaldo of Roselle, a self-proclaimed ‘Swap-a-holic,’ who is a member of 12 swap sites on Facebook. “I recently spent $80 for a bird cage that would have cost $200, bought a used Rubbermaid outdoor shed for $50 that would have cost $700, and about a week ago, I bought a riding airplane toy for my grandson for $75, that would have sold somewhere else for at least $540.” Credits: Kathy Lloyd
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Pictured here is the ride-on toy that Rinaldo bought on a swap site. Credits: Kathy Lloyd
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Pictured here is the original price for the ride-on toy Rinaldo bought at a discount on a at a swap site.  Credits: provided by Doreen Rinaldo
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West Orange artist Julie Levine is seeking donations of broken violins and more for her upcycled artwork. Here are three of her works of art as examples of her "found art" projects. Credits: Jackie Goldman-Schatell
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West Orange artist Julie Levine is seeking donations of broken violins and more for her upcycled artwork. Her show at B'nai Jeshurun is running until August 17. Credits: Jackie Goldman-Schatell
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WEST ORANGE, NJ – Most people want to buy things for a bargain. But in order to make room for new items, it is often necessary to get rid of old ones. The options to do so are endless—throw them away, give them away, donate them or sell them.

There are many possibilities for selling items—from having garage sales to listing them on Craigslist, which tuned 20 years old this year, on eBay, or even on Facebook, via the new generation of ‘swap sites’ that are popping up all over the place on Facebook.

Swap sites allow people from local areas to either trade, give away or sell items to other people who live nearby. They promote a sense of community and offer upcycling opportunities for participants. In addition, when buying new is cost prohibitive, buying the same gently used item, or even new item on a swap site at a discount can provide the buyer with a good deal.

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“I prefer to sell something cheap or give it away so the landfills are a little emptier,” said Lynn Klein Glantz of Livingston.

“Some people are passionate about upcyclong and recycling to keep useful things out of landfills,” said West Orange resident Caroline Cole, who runs a West Orange Facebook swap group.

“I have gotten some incredible deals," said Doreen Rinaldo of Roselle, a self-proclaimed ‘Swap-a-holic,’ who is a member of 12 swap sites on Facebook. “I recently spent $80 for a bird cage that would have cost $200, bought a used Rubbermaid outdoor shed for$50 that would have cost $700, and about a week ago, I bought a riding airplane toy for my grandson for $75, that would have sold somewhere else for at least $540.”

Miyoshi West of West Orange said, “I'm a certifiable swap-a-holic. I keep a stack of recycled envelopes in my car to stuff money in them so that I can shove it in mail slots, flower pots, wherever. I also do true swaps – usually for stuff that I really don't want cash for … instead, I'll ask for canned goods in exchange and I'll donate them to my church's food pantry for the needy.”

While sites like eBay provide sellers and buyers with privacy—sites like Craigslist and Facebook often require face-to-face transactions or having strangers pick up items from one’s porch. However, on Facebook, buyers and sellers can look one another up and review their profiles. They can see if they have any friends in common. This can offer a sense of familiarity and comfort—especially if inviting a buyer to do a porch pick up or to meet at a public place. On Craigslist, this does not happen. Here, buyers and sellers are anonymous—they are strangers.

Aside from people not showing up for pickups, swap sites like those owned by West Orange residents Cole and Lois M. Reichert, have produced safe transactions. These sites, like most swap sites, require that members live in town or in a closely neighboring one. And, the owners of the sites vet the members.

Reichert, who runs four Facebook swap sites, said she checks every profile for evidence of a local address, photo and proof that the person is who he/she says they are. She also takes the time to send those interested in joining a private message asking where they reside when investigating whether they are real person and local resident.

“I am very, very selective of whom I allow in all four of my swap groups,” said Reichert. “I check their timelines, check other groups they are in; if their town and groups don't coincide with the seven towns in our groups, they don't get in. Period. I probably turn down at least a dozen people a day on my regular swap page for various reasons.”

Cole said she started her swap group because she had stuff to get rid of. She had been working through one in South Orange, but tired of driving back and forth for transactions. She decided that West Orange was big enough to have its own site and started one 18 months ago. It has since grown from 40 members to more than 1,500, with a waiting list. She said that like Reichert, she too looks at every profile and if it doesn’t say a person’s town, she asks them where they live. She also posts lists of prospective members’ names to the site for existing members to see. She then asks members to look over the names and vouch if a person is real. She said this has helped her be successful in keeping membership to West Orange residents only.

In addition, according to Cole, having s swap group in a town offers a sense of community.

“Honestly, I am thrilled with the success of my West Orange Swap Group here on Facebook,” said Cole. “I have met great people and seen parts of the town that I never would normally go to. And I am always getting messages from people saying that they are having great experiences.”

“’The Swap’ has become a community onto itself,” said Glantz. “It's funny when you introduce yourself to someone and they say they know you from the swap site.”

Stacey Troilo of West Orange agreed and said, “Swap groups are more than just online groups ... they are vehicles that bring the community together, making the bond between neighbors stronger and the landfills a little emptier.”

“Being new to not only the SOMA area but also the state of NJ, "The Swap" has introduced me to the community as a whole as well as individuals,” said Shea Schiel of Maplewood. “I feel like I know people that I often see on The Swap, even though we have never met.”

To increase the level of safety for a deal, some people agree to meet in public places. This eliminates having to tell a stranger one’s address for a porch pick up.

However, not all transactions are safe. In fact, there are reports of 86 murders associated with Craigslist including a recent one that occurred on May 7, 2015, where a St. Louis man was arrested and charged with murder of a college student who vanished while trying to sell his sports car on Craigslist.

“It all depends on your comfort level,” said Rinaldo. “I always take a friend or my wife with me when I make a swap transaction and have met people in public places with a lot of people around.”

“I have used a lot of the online yard sale and budget sites through Facebook,” said Jennifer Colavito Miller of Piscataway. “I have had people pick up at my house or meet at a public location like a Target parking lot or mall lot. Always in daylight hours.”

Livingston resident Gina Aversano Goldman said, “I bring the stuff to work. It is a community center, open to the public so there are lots of people around. I have also met people at Panera or Starbucks.”

Recognizing that people may sometimes need a safe location for such transactions, effective July 1, the Township of West Orange and the West Orange Police Department have started the Safe Exchange Zone Program. This program is intended to create a safe environment for the transfer of goods and money for the seller and buyer involved in an internet based, in-person sale.

According to a document issued by the town, “Recent national incidents have indicated that in-person sales, transactions and exchanges originating from online marketplaces such as Craigslist have experienced an increase in violence, fraud and theft by deception. In an effort to promote safer transactions between strangers, we are encouraging residents to use their local police department parking lots and lobbies as a meeting place for in-person transactions to occur.”

“The Safe Exchange Zone Program is intended to create a safe area for citizens to make transactions when dealing with internet sales and in-person encounters,” said Susan Anderson, spokeswoman for the township. “West Orange has designated its police headquarters as well as the Washington Street Substation and the new Valley Substation as Safe Exchange zones.”

Cole said, “Safe Swap Zone is more for Craigslist things in my opinion, although, I see cars, boats, snow blowers, etc. on my regular swap page. But again, they aren't dealing with just strangers in my opinion. I also don't allow anyone in without reviewing pictures and a profile picture, no made up names either. Must be real people.”

“I've posted the Safe Exchange Zone Program on all my pages,” said Reichert. “I haven't had any complaints about safety. A few people have not showed to pick up, two complaints and they are out of my groups.”

“This (the Safe Exchange Program) gives you a sense of security since you do not have to open your door to a stranger,” said Glantz.

Cole said, “I think it (the Safe Exchange Program) is a great idea because you just never know. It is a nice option to be able to meet in a safe location with witnesses, because there can always be problems like forgetting to leave an item or money out.”

About The West Orange Safe Exchange Zone

The parking lots of Police Headquarters, the Washington Street Sub-Station, and the Valley Sub-Station are open and available to the public as a “Safe Exchange Zone” for conducting in-person transactions that have been facilitated through online marketplaces.

The lobby of these three buildings shall be open and available to the public as a “Safe Exchange Zone” from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday (holidays excluded), for conducting in-person transactions that have been facilitated through online marketplaces.

Access to the Police Headquarters lobby may also be granted during evening hours at the discretion of the Station House Commander and on a case by case basis.

The Township of West Orange and the West Orange Police Department make no guarantees, assurances, or promises as to the safety or security of any in-person transactions that may take place on Township property.

It is not the intent of the West Orange Police Department to provide police personnel or staff to witness any transaction in person, but the video surveillance by and proximity to police personnel is meant to increase the public’s peace of mind when engaging in such transactions with unfamiliar individuals.

It is recognized that Police personnel are not trained nor authorized to validate the legitimacy of any transaction, item for sale, the integrity of any product or goods, or legality of a sale.

The West Orange Police Department encourages all residents to engage in such transactions during daylight hours; to bring a cell phone along in case of emergency; to notify friends or family of the intention to meet to conduct such a transaction; to never invite strangers to the home or agree to meet at a stranger’s home; and to reconsider any transaction with someone who refuses to meet at a Police Department.

American Pickers is Coming to NJ: Do You Have Any Hidden Gems?

Editor’s Note: For anyone hoping they have a real gem hidden away in the basement or attic--American Pickers, a documentary series on the History Channel, is coming to New Jersey in August in the hunt for valuable antiques.

Items sought include: motor scooters including Vespas, Lambretta, and Cushman, old advertising signage, motorcycles, pre-60’s to turn-of-the century bicycles, old tin, wind-up and cast-iron toys, pre 50’s vending machines, pinball and slot machines, old movie posters, unusual radios, old casino and gaming machines, vintage movie memorabilia, vintage advertising items, taxidermy, vintage concert posters and tee shirts, early Boy Scout items, pre 60’s vintage diner collections, pre 60’s TV merchandise, pre 50’s western gear, classic motorcycle memorabilia, sports memorabilia, casino tables, Houdini items, old rodeo items, airline collectibles, late 70’s and earlier military memorabilia, vintage police and firefighter collectibles, pre 40’s telephones, folk art, vintage BB and cap guns, early Halloween items, pre 40’s Christmas items, Hawaiiana and Tiki collectibles, vintage election memorabilia, musical instruments, Civil war antiques, vintage gas pumps, pre 70’s neon signs, strange woodcarvings, vintage collegiate collectibles.

Bryan Powers of American Pickers state that “we're looking for leads throughout the state, specifically, interesting characters with interesting items and lots of them!”

The show American Pickers follows expert pickers Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz as they travel across the country in search of antiques. They state that they are “on a mission to recycle America, restore forgotten relics to their former glory, and learn a thing or two about American history along the way.”

The show has been aired since 2010 and presents a face of the “picking” movement. Mother Earth News describes picking as “the art of buying antiques from auctions and sales and people and selling them at a profit to antique shops. People who do this are known as Antique Pickers.”

American Pickers is produced by Cineflix Productions for History. New episodes air Wednesdays at 9:00 p.m. ET on History.

Anyone with a large collection or who wants to refer someone to Mike and Frank, should send an email with their name, number, address and description of the collection and photos to: americanpickers@cineflix.com or leave a message at 1-855-old-rust.

Donate Broken Instruments and “Found Items” Here

In addition, West Orange artist Julie Levine, whose art show “Transformed,” is being held at Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills through August 17, is also looking for donations of “found items” including broken musical instruments—especially violins to incorporate into her artwork. An article on Levine will appear in TAP into West Orange shortly. Contact her HERE.

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