FlipSwap.com Review: How to Trade in Your Cell Phone and Plant a Tree

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Planting Trees with Old Cellphones or iPods

My son left his new iPod in his pants on the day of his birthday party. He wanted to share the cool photos of the muscle cars in the iPod’s photos. Imagine my shock when my husband came to me with iPod in hand and an irritated look. What do you think happened? The iPod took a bath in the worst way possible: in the washing machine.

Of course, Apple couldn’t do anything about it except offer a 10 percent discount for the next purchase. I found a new iPod for him cheaper than the Apple store’s even with 10 percent off. I had a very nice looking iPod with no working insides (yes, we waited over a week for it to dry) and I couldn’t throw it away.

Shortly after this, I learned about FlipSwap. Though focused on cell phones, it included iPods. I happened to have a cracked cell phone needing recycling. You can either trade online or find a nearby store using your zip code. These stores tend to be cell phone and communications stores. Not only do you recycle useless phones the right way, but also FlipSwap plants a tree through the company’s reLeaf project with its partner, CarbonFund.org, for each recycled phone. The service costs nothing and even helps you with shipping by having you print out a pre-paid shipping label.

In case you’re wondering like I was, here’s why they take water-damaged phones and take care of shipping fees:

“If the device has been water damaged, then it typically has to be recycled. We work with Sims Recycling Solutions to properly recycle all devices that cannot be salvaged and plant a tree for every one of these devices that we can’t offer credit or cash for. For other devices that can be salvaged, we may be able to use parts to give other phones a second life or work to refurbish the phones and help get them into the hands of people who couldn’t previously afford them. We want to provide valuable and meaningful incentives to consumers to establish socially responsible behavior – that’s why we incur the cost of shipping, recycling and planting a tree even when a device has no monetary value. That’s our commitment to the global community as a socially responsible company,” says Courtney Carlisle, a representative for the company.

Using FlipSwap to Donate or Plant Trees

You might have to look deep to find your find. I had a Sidekick II ready to go to the recycling junk yard. T-Mobile didn’t appear in the list, but Danger did. Many folks won’t know that Danger was the official manufacture of the Sidekicks. I also had a Windows Mobile phone where few would know its manufacturer. Fortunately, that was the only problem I ran into in using FlipSwap.

The rest was a breeze. I selected the two items I wanted to recycle. The service asked questions about the phone to ascertain its health to provide a trade in quote. Obviously broken parts or missing accessories lower the trade in value. FlipSwap determines the final value after receiving the items and inspecting them. The next step was choosing the credit option:

  • Cash
  • Amazon.com gift card
  • Donate to American Red Cross
  • Donate to ASPCA
  • Donate to Sierra Club
  • Donate to Susan G. Komen for the Cure

Good deal. Before sending your phone, make sure you ended the service or upgraded your phone and erase the data. Check your cell phone’s instructions for resetting it back to manufacturer’s settings. If you don’t have the manual, look online. Print the pre-paid shipping label, slap it on the package holding the phones and drop it into a mailbox. You don’t need to stand in any lines as it’s ready to go.

In 2007, Flipswap put enough mobile phones back into circulation to keep the equivalent of 50 tons of solid waste out of US landfills. To offset carbon emissions created by recycling, the company estimates it will plant 25,000 trees in 2008.

What’s the Catch?

If you look hard around the internet, you’ll see folks raising flags about the company, its domain name and its payment or lack thereof. First, FlipSwap handles trade ins for Simplexity, who is a partner; they also handle for RIM, which shows Simplexity, LLC as the owner. It also does trade ins at cellphonetradeins.com.

I’ve read stories where the company changed the deal to $0 upon inspection. And it doesn’t return any cell phones. I confirmed with the company that it doesn’t change pricing estimates unless there is unreported water damage (signified by the red tab usually near the battery cover) or someone sends in a device past the 30 day estimate period, afterwhich the price is market-corrected. This happens infrequently.

FlipSwap asks that all consumers track their packages and/or insure them, but it plans to provide customers with the option to ship through UPS or FEDEX on the FlipSwap dime in the near future. The reimbursement process typically takes two-three weeks from receipt/inspection of the packages.

You can avoid issues by going directly to a local dealer for instant credit using the store locator, which contains over 6000 locations in the US, Canada and South Africa.

It works as I tested the service. On the bright side, you’re rid of the hardware in a socially responsible way without doing any heavy lifting on the shipping part.