The answers to our most Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Swap-O-Matic?

The Swap-O-Matic is a vending machine that encourages users to SWAP rather than buy! It playfully reminds us that reusing and recycling can be just as fun as buying something new.

What is the goal of the Swap-O-Matic?

The Swap-O-Matic is intended to inspire all of us to rethink our consumption habits, and consider more sustainable methods such as trading and reusing goods. The machine’s retro design and user-friendly interface makes the Swap-O-Matic a powerful, iconic symbol that gets people excited and talking about their own personal consumption habits. On a much larger scale, the ultimate goal is for the Swap-O-Matic to inspire a movement, affecting change for large numbers of people and communities as trading and reusing re-emerges as a means for increasing local sustainability, reducing waste, and reigning in overconsumption.

How does the Swap-O-Matic work?

The basic rules of use for the Swap-O-Matic are quite simple. Each of the donated items in the machine is free and there is no charge for using the Swap-O-Matic. The basic currency for a transaction is a “credit”. credit is earned when the user donates an item, and a credit is required to retrieve an item from the machine. All new users receive 3 credits to start. Users can donate, receive, or swap using the touch screen interface on the front of the machine. Other features, such as a user flag system, are included to prevent misuse and provide occasional curation of the machine.

What’s been traded in the Swap-O-Matic?

Almost anything that can fit into one of the thirteen compartments has been traded. Recent items include a handwritten poem, metro cards, guitar picks, shoes (both children and adult sizes), shirts, books, a free haircut, mugs, movies, t-shirts, and even a purse!

How are items “valued”? What if I take something that is worth more than I put in?

The Swap-O-Matic does not assign values to items because it operates on the simple assumption that value is subjective. An item you need has value to you, while an item you don’t has none. Every item in the machine “costs” 1 credit and every item donated “earns” 1 credit. In addition, you don’t have to swap all in one step. If you see something you like and don’t have anything on you to trade, you may take the item, and return later when you have something to donate. We’ve found that most people enjoy donating just as much as getting items!

How does the Swap-O-Matic prevent abuse of the machine?

While the Swap-O-Matic is based on the “honor system,” users can flag items they think are inappropriate. Once an item receives a sufficient number of flags, the next user is prompted to remove the item and is rewarded with a credit for their trouble. The overall administrator or owner of the space containing the Swap-O-Matic can also remove any items they deem inappropriate or abusive.

Where do you think the Swap-O-Matic should be placed?

The Swap-O-Matic works best in a space that is lightly monitored, such as a café, office lobby, or in a closed community with respectful users. If you have ideas on where you think a Swap-O- Matic would find a great community of users, please get in touch and tell us about it.

How did the Swap-O-Matic start?

The Swap-O-Matic is the creation of Lina Fenequito, who developed it while working towards her MFA at Parsons School of Design. To read more about her inspiration see the personal statement. Initially, an analog version utilizing combination locks was installed at the Lower East Side Girls Club and the former Bluestocking Bookstore in 2005, both located in New York City. Since then, using her personal funding and the help of others, Fenequito created a second version complete with digital locks and a touch screen interface. This version debuted in August 2011 at the Launch Pad in Brooklyn, NY. In December, 2011 the Swap-O-Matic moved into its current home at The Ample Hills Creamery in Brooklyn.

What are the future plans for the Swap-O-Matic?

We are excited by the outpouring of support and positive feedback for the Swap-O-Matic. We are dedicated to putting new Swap-O-Matics in as many communities as we can throughout the United States and around the world. We are currently redesigning the interface and add- ing new features that will make it even MORE fun to swap, and hope to have new machines available in the Fall of 2012.

How can I get a Swap-O-Matic?

If you’d like one in your city or neighborhood, please send your email address and zip or country code through the form on our website:

If you are interested in purchasing one for your private or public space, please email us at for more information.


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