Most people throw away old cell phones without a second thought. Steven Ortiz is not like most teenagers. This 17-year-old Californian went on Craigslist to turn a used cell phone a friend gave him into a Porsche convertible. Harvard Business School, watch out for this guy.
Ortiz’s story brings to mind the similar accomplishment of Kyle MacDonald, a Canadian who started “Craigslist swapping” with a red paperclip in 2005 and eventually ended up with a two-story farmhouse. Through his blog and the kindness of strangers, MacDonald made 14 swaps over the classifieds website, upgrading one item to a more valuable one until he ended up with a house a year later.
Craigslist isn’t so different from a newspaper’s classified section: People list items they no longer want for whatever reason. But sometimes instead of selling these items for paltry amounts of cash, online users barter with each other. For example, one person might be willing to part with a record collection. But that bin of old vinyl might be a treasure trove to someone with an extra bicycle on their hands. So people email back and forth, meet up, swap, and oftentimes end up owning something far more valuable than what they started with.
Unlike MacDonald and his red paperclip website, however, Ortiz didn’t publicize his efforts—he did it quietly on his own. It took him one year longer than MacDonald, but the Glendale, CA, youth managed to turn an outdated phone into a 2000 Porsche Boxster S.
Ortiz spends five to six hours each day searching Craigslist for the right kind of swaps. Over the last two years and 14 trades, he’s had an eclectic assortment of items in his possession, including an iPod touch, various dirt bikes, a MacBook Pro, a golf cart, and a 1975 Ford Bronco. It was the Bronco that allowed him to become the only kid at his high school who drives his own convertible Porsche to class.
Although his parents are proud of him and expect a great future for him in business, Ortiz is sad to report that some of his relatives think he’s a swindler. “People just make these trades,” he told the Whittier Daily News. “I am not lying to anyone.”
More and more people are using the Internet as a virtual swap meet—only one with bigger and more specialized payoffs. For instance, Ortiz ended up with a 1987 Toyota 4Runner at one point because a musician decided he needed the MacBook that Ortiz was offering more than he needed the car.
In fact, when Ortiz made his final swap to get the sports car, he was actually trading down. After driving around the 1975 Ford Bronco—worth around $15,000—for a while, Steven decided to trade it for the renown of being a teenage Porsche owner, even though the Boxster was worth only $9,000.
In addition to phones, cars, and dirt bikes, some people are even turning to Craigslist for house swaps. No, families aren’t trading house deeds over the Internet, but many vacationers have taken to switching homes as a cost-effective, comfortable way of avoiding hotels. Similarly, there is a rideshare section on Craigslist where car owners embarking on long trips offer strangers a ride in exchange for splitting gas costs.
Speaking of gas costs, Ortiz has changed his mind about keeping the Porsche. Hefty maintenance bills have dampened his excitement over the roadster, and he’s looking to trade the Porsche for a more sensible Cadillac Escalade before too long.
You want to try your luck on craigslist? Then click the link!