ThredUP Helps Clean Out Your Kids' Closets for Christmas Toy Swap

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ThredUp toy swapThe closets in my house would be a gold mine for a kid who doesn't have many toys. Almost every closet has a few old toys that my daughter, now 6, no longer plays with, but she can't bear to part with them. If she played with them once in awhile, I'd understand, but they sit alone, like the old toys in "Toy Store 3," waiting for someone to take them out and enjoy.

But now, instead of having to secretly throw some of them in the trash when she goes to bed, I can use a new service from ThredUP that lets me give $50 worth of used toys to someone else who pays for shipping costs and a ThredUP fee that totals $15.70. I can clean out the closets and be rid of the toys, or I can fill them up again with slightly used toys from ThredUP members by paying the fees myself.ThredUP's holiday toy swap starts today (Monday, Dec. 6), and is aimed at parents with children 12 and under. About 250 boxes of toy are expected to be available for swaps, although it's not what you'd think of as a traditional toy swap since you can be a "buyer" without having to be a "seller."

Started as an online site where parents can swap children's clothes, ThredUP has expanded to toys and is having what it calls the nation's largest online toy swap. Here's how it works, according to the company:
  • Browse toy boxes on the website and pick one you'd like to receive. Boxes can be browsed by age and gender.
  • Pay $5 plus shipping and the box of toys is sent to your doorstep via the U.S. Postal Service in one of its flat-rate boxes. The shipping fee is $10.70 -- what the USPS charges for a medium-sized box that's about the size of a big cereal box. Only the person receiving the gift box pays the total of $15.70.
  • For "senders," they list boxes of toys that their kids no longer play with, and are notified when another member has picked their listing.
  • ThredUP generates the shipping label and schedules home pickup.
The box must be filled or have items in it worth at least $50. They must be gently-used items and items that you'd be willing to give your child yourself. In other words, don't go digging that old doll out of the closet that's been chewed on by the dog.

The site uses an honor code and ranking system by members to ensure quality and gently-used toys and clothes are sent, said Karen Fein, the marketing and public relations director at ThredUP. Unsatisfied customers can either offer the box available to someone else who wants it, or call ThredUP for a refund.

"A lot of these toys are close to new and haven't nearly been played with as much as you'd expect with a new toy," Fein said.

Before buying a box online, you can read the description of its contents before deciding if you want to buy it. Here's a sample of what was inside a box of girls' toys, most of which are DVDs:
  • Strawberry Shortcake Memory Game
  • DVD's -- Dora and the 3 Little Pigs, Elmos' Potty Time , Barney's Musical Scrapbook, Elmo -- What Makes You Happy?, Blues Room-Knights of the Snack Table, Nick Jr -- Favorites 2 (6 episodes of Nick Jr Shows), Blues Room -- Alphabet Power
  • Books- Little Mermaid Golden Book
Although the toy boxes weren't available for purchase until today, the boxes were available to browse through online. You might not find the hottest toys of the season, but you might run into a few gems. The best toy that was available was an almost new Nintendo Wii game system, Fein said. There are also lots of books, video games and even an American Girl Doll was offered.

I'm unclear on how children will react to getting a used toy for Christmas, although they might not notice if they're as gently-used as ThredUP says they are. Or instead of wrapping the gifts in holiday wrapping paper, just give the kid the USPS box to open. I recently went to my local used book store and bought my daughter a few used children's books as Christmas gifts, and I don't expect she'll notice the difference when I'm reading them to her.

The thrill of opening a brand-new toy on Christmas morning can't be beat, but for a parent, getting a box of toys for their kid that only cost them $15.70 is a whole different kind of good deal.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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