Swaptree backs down

I’m a huge fan of BookMooch, an free book trading website. The website lets you put your old books up for trade. If someone requests a book, you send it to them at your own expense and receive a credit to get a book from another user. When you request a book from someone else, they send it to you at their expense. The system works great.

Unfortunately, I ran out of items to “mooch” on BookMooch, so I looked for a similar site and found Swaptree. Swaptree is a little different. Instead of accumulating and spending points, your trade is done real time. For example, maybe you have a copy of Ender’s Game that you want to get rid of, and you really want The DaVinci Code. Bill wants Ender’s Game but only has Where the Red Fern Grows. Susan wants Where the Red Fern Grows and has a copy of The DaVinci Code. Swaptree magically figures out that a trade can occur between these 3 users and sets it up.

Sounds great, huh? It is, until a book gets lost in the mail. Although the USPS is generally pretty awesome at getting mail to its destination, it occasionally loses packages, especially those shipped Media Mail (the cheapest way of sending books). Users of BookMooch recognize this and, unless it becomes habitual for a user, don’t get too upset when their books don’t arrive.

Swaptree, however, sends threatening letters. Back in May I sent a book that didn’t make it to its intended recipient. As mentioned before, that happens occasionally. But instead of chalking it up to bad luck, Swaptree decided to send me an email letting me know that they intended to file an official mail fraud report with the United States Post Office. That’s bad. The USPS is known to stop delivery of your mail in response to mail fraud reports.

Upon reviewing the form they were planning on sending in, I noticed several problems:

  • Swaptree claimed that they were defrauded by one of their members not receiving a book. This is ridiculous as I never agreed to send Swaptree a book, and their terms of service clearly state that they are not involved in the transfer of goods between their users.
  • Swaptree claimed that my beat up copy of Robots of Dawn was somehow worth $20 to the recipient.
  • Mail fraud requires intent to defraud. They have no evidence whatsoever that I ever intended to defraud anyone. I even explicitly posted on their site several times that the book was already sent.
  • The form claimed that they contacted me twice about the missing item when in fact they had only contacted me once (minor, but still a discrepancy).

I’m not a lawyer, but I’m pretty confident that threatening to file a mail fraud complaint against someone in this manner is blackmail. I sent a reply to Swaptree letting them know that I’m prepared to take any legal actions necessary to protect myself against libel and fraudulent claims against my character. I included the above list (in greater detail) letting them know exactly why I thought they were being ridiculous. And then I waited.

One week later (4 days after the deadline given in their threat), I received a reply:

Dear zulugrid,

Thank you for your prompt response regarding the Item Not Received complaint.

In an effort to better serve our expanding userbase, we have automated many of our processes, and the email you received was a result of one of these processes. We recently sent emails to a set of Swaptree users with outstanding trades, what we refer to as Items Not Received. These emails were sent indiscriminately, regardless whether the user had 1 or 10 Items Not Received. We do clearly understand that items can get lost in the mail, as well as the unfortunate circumstance when a recipient claims they have not received an item when in fact they have.

We have given your trade in question further review and consequently cleared the Item Not Received complaint. We do apologize for any misunderstanding and all apparent threatening language you were made subject to in our automated emails. Please realize that we are simply trying to improve our service, and as small but growing company, we are constantly learning along the way.

Once again, we apologize for the fault on our part and are in no way pursuing or facilitating the pursuit of any fraud reports in your name. We thank you in advance for your patience, diligence, and willingness to work with us as we continue to improve our service.

Best Regards,
The Swaptree Team
If you wish to unsubscribe or modify your email preferences, click on this link: http://www.swaptree.com/WebFrmMyAccountInfo.aspx

ECC1295213610013197635ECC ||zulugrid||

So if you end up getting a threatening letter from Swaptree, my advice is to assert your rights to not be threatened or harassed by “The Swaptree Team” and they will likely back down.

Or just stick with BookMooch.


  1. annalouisa

    I read your blast of Swaptree and really think you went over board on them. They are trying to help readers like me trade books, and Yes I agree there are deadbeats out there that will take anvantage of the system. and Yes I have lost books that I never received, but I look at it like this, if a person is that desperate for a book, let them have it. be enought of a man to say thank you to swaptree for their efforts, and by the way i am also a member of book mooch. LOVE THEM BOTH annalouisa

    • My “blast” of Swaptree wasn’t for the service they offer but for the illegal threats they made when a book I sent was lost in the mail. I highly doubt the individual who was supposed to receive the book would have made such a big deal out of it, but Swaptree took it upon themselves to threaten to send a fraud complaint to the post office. If an individual has a complaint, it should be the individual’s decision to file a fraud complaint, not Swaptree’s.

  2. I think swaptree has really bad PMS. I’ve had similar eccentric outbursts from them. In the end, all I can say is, “bad customer service”.

  3. Shoshanah Del Greco

    Jacob, I have had this exact same experience happen to me and was so disgusted with their email that I had to google them and see if this has happened to anyone else! I sent out a book on January 5th, it was only my 4th transaction with the other 3 being successful. It never arrived. I initiated and communicated consistantly with the receiving member and she was very understanding. One day about a month ago I log on to find that my account is suspended. I email the pseudo customer service department to no avail. I tried 3 times to get a response from them and got nuthin’. Today I receive an email from the “fraud department” with the exact verbage you described above. The audacity!!
    I scan and attach my receipt for sending the book and replied a scathing email back basically stating what you did.
    I am disgusted with this website and will be sticking with paperbackswap and bookmooch.
    I also like goodreads.com which is a great site for readers to discuss books but also have a swap section which allows you to pay postage on the book you want, which the owner prints out. Very simple, no points or anything. It works like a virtual used book store.

    Happy reading!

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