Flipswap Cell Phone Buyback Doesn't Work As Advertised

A Consumerist reader tried to trade in some old cellphones via Flipswap, and it did not go well. Actually, it pretty much didn’t go at all—he may as well have dropped them off at a Goodwill.

He writes:

I read your post from yesterday about Flipswap. So I took my three old cellphones, plus AC plugs, plus two car chargers, to the nearest Flipswap dealer near my home in LA. It did not go as expected.

They do not pay me for the phone, do not offer store credit and, as far as charity, I was told to throw all the stuff in a box and “the boss” comes once a month to pick it up. They do not offer a receipt or any confirmation that it goes to any charity. Mind you, this was before they even saw the phones, so that determination was not based on the phones’ condition.

I went to the Flipswap dealer on Overland Avenue in West LA.

Our verdict as of today: maybe Flipswap isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In addition to this story and the one we covered yesterday, there’s the matter of their fine print, which we discovered when we checked out the trade-in value of an old phone via their website. You must agree that Flipswap can change the amount they promised, after they see the phone, and can even change the offer to $0, and under no circumstances can you ask that the phone be shipped back to you. We think that’s too much trust to put into an untested company.

[Update: the last paragraph has been rewritten to address a misperception that we were blaming the OP or other customers.]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Crabby Cakes says:

    So they can take your phone, renege on the promise of $$ and keep the phone? Isn’t that… stealing?

  2. MercuryPDX says:

    I’ve sent my past two phones here:

    …mostly because AT&T provided a prepaid envelope in the box of my new phone.

  3. ratmonkey says:

    I work in the corporate office of a major cellular franchisee. I know that typically our stores follow FlipSwaps suggested value on phones and our employees tell you before closing the deal what you’re getting. The value is then deducted from your purchase of a new phone. In the end our sales rep is supposed to forward the phone to FlipSwap and they inturn send us a check for the partial value of the phone.

    The real problem with this is that it’s extemely difficult to ensure that our sales rep doesn’t just keep the phone for themselves instead of sending it to FlipSwap. I guess working in the industry it’s just become habit, but you should ALWAYS delete your personal information yourself before discarding or donating an old handset.

    I would also keep an eye out if you’re getting a new phone and the sales reps are transferring your numbers and pictures from the old phone to the new one. Some of the dishonest employees will transfer your data to their own phone or a backup phone first so they can go through your pictures and numbers once you leave.

  4. SabreDC says:

    Isn’t the Chris’s comment at the end dangerously close to blaming the consumer? Wouldn’t a commenter get disemvowled for posting a comment that points out the terms and how obvious they are?

    • tenio says:

      @SabreDC: shh you might get disemvolved your self….

      “No Writer Shalt ever be wrong”

      it’s thoughtcrime to even think of such a thing!

      what’s the harm of trying it, even if you get no money back, you still get more space in your house!

      And why should you get rid of old phones anyway? if your with a carrier that supports Sim cards, a backup phone is always useful.

    • @SabreDC: What? No, what I wrote was meant to be an “in addition” sort of thing–a way of adding more info to this post to indicate to readers that, hey, there are now two stories of people having bad experiences, PLUS their terms are sucky. Or are you just trolling? Or being sarcastic? Now I’m confused.

      • SabreDC says:

        @Chris Walters: Neither trolling nor sarcastic. It was an honest question. But I fear that if I elaborate more on why I feel your comment was wrong, I will be banned because it is already off topic enough. So, I’m not going to take it any further.

        Back on topic, am I the only person that has never heard of this service?

  5. Ein2015 says:

    Any word on how good the “Cell Phones for Soldiers” charity is?

  6. crazylady says:

    Huh, I did flipswap online. I knew that they could revalue the phone from the initial estimate after looking at it in person, but what they did for two of my phones was offer me MORE money than the original estimate.

    It goes both ways, Consumerist. Yesterday’s post was a case of caveat emptor (who the heck sells a phone without erasing their data), today’s is a lack of reading the fine print. If you can’t trust the company, then whatever, but remember that there would be plenty of satisfied cases. I’m well more than satisfied. I’d be glad to forward some of my flipswap estimate emails if you can’t believe it yourself.

  7. LesterGaze says:

    I only upgrade every 2.5 to 3 years, so I just assume that the value of my old phone is $0 (although recellular.com repurposes them for charitable causes).

  8. duffmanpants says:

    I used FlipSwap’s website this summer to send them my old phone for a check back from them.
    I registered on the site, got an estimate and about 4-5 weeks after sending them my phone I got a check for the full estimate amount.
    The only thing that was different from what they said was that they said they would email me when the check was mailed and they didn’t.

    Overall I was happy with the results as I didn’t have to pay shipping to them either. Guess the lesson learned is use their website for business, not a dealer in person.

  9. Robert Isbell says:

    I donate phones and other electronic gear to worthy groups that are not out to continue a fascist regime, nor the foot soldiers that are willingly doing the dirty work.

    • Tankueray says:

      @Robert Isbell: I could both agree and disagree with you, but this is neither the time nor place. This is not io9. You need to read this: [consumerist.com]

      On topic, I’m afraid to use any of these services because all of my old phones have broken screens and I have no idea what information is on them. I do know quite a few electronics recycling companies. Anybody know what chip the information is stored in so I can just remove that and recycle the rest? (Like, I don’t break the screens, but they all seem to go out out-of-warranty but within my contract so I don’t get “upgrade” pricing but do get a shiny new contract.) Although I switched to HTC handsets and have had one for four years and one for just over two.

  10. zjmuse says:

    I traded in a Sony w580i in the very beginning of august, I am supposed to get 75 bucks for it. I haven’t seen the check yet. This story doesn’t make me feel any better about it.

  11. rshettle says:

    [Update: the last paragraph has been rewritten to address a misperception that we were blaming the OP or other customers.]
    Good to see that you guys learned your lesson from the whole “Disney/no-insurance” fiasco last week…

  12. Parting says:

    If the phone still works : ebay, craiglist or some local advertising website. (You can, then, donate proceeds yourself, to the charity of your choice.)

    If it doesn’t : recycle, usually same places, that recycle laptop batteries.

  13. blockbustarhymes says:

    this kind of reminds me of those commercials where you send in your gold and they send you a check…if i see it on tv, it must be legit!

    I have not yet received my check, but anxiously await it’s arrival.

  14. blockbustarhymes says:

    oh man, i used an apostrophe wrong-like. three ruler smacks for me

  15. nick says:

    I used Flipswap a few months ago to trade in a handful of old iPods and REALLY old cell phones.

    It took them about two weeks after I shipped them the iPods and phones to “inspect” them, and another four weeks to get my payment (an Amazon gift certificate).

    So the service works, but it requires some serious patience.

  16. Vhalkyrie says:

    I traded with Flipswap once, and will not do so again.

    I gave them an old iPod with a failed hard drive and 2 cell phones. They changed the offer on one of the cell phones to $0. I received an email offering me $19, and said they would send me another email after they sent the check. A month went by and no email or check. I sent them a note basically saying, Hey, where’s my money? I got a one line email back from them saying the check was sent. No apologies, no company signature, nada. I received my $19 check, cashed it, and will not be sending them any more in the future.

  17. waitaminute says:
  18. Nik17 says:

    I used flipswap’s online service to trade in my old iphone, and it went flawlessly within 3 weeks or so I had my check for $181.

    • derek pembroke says:

      Nik is the name of one of Flipswap’s customer service people. I’ve received obtuse emails from Nik siting flipswap’s terms and conditions saying that i agreed to let them rip me off. This post seems suspicious.

  19. Asherah says:

    Sent an old Motorola and 1st gen iPhone to Flipswap using their online service and my only complaint was the significant delay in receiving payment (4 weeks). Read the terms and conditions before agreeing to do business with them, its really that plain and simple.

  20. droidd says:

    So it appears that “www.flipswap.com” may have a “sister” site called “www.cellphonetradeins.com.

    The sites look identical except for the name and the price you are offered for your phone.

    For a perfect condition Blackberry Curve 8320 on T-mobile with charger and battery
    [www.flipswap.com] says $109.33
    and [www.cellphonetradeins.com] says $92.06.

    Both are for the cash option.

    Domain lookup for Flipswap has this as a private domain which sends warning messages to me. If you are a legit then why a private domain hiding your details?

    Cellphonetradeins.com is not private registered and shows details as:
    LARGO, MD 20774

    So who knows…I think I am staying away.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Flipswap totally ripped me off. They offered me $45 for my phone. I sent it in and didn’t get squat. They tried to tell me they sent me a check which they did not. Then they wanted to charge me $25 to cancel the ffirst imaginary check and send me another. Yeah right. Flipoff Flipswap I say!

  22. Shay Turner Robinson says:

    I wished I’d researched Flipswap BEFORE I rec’d my refund! I was quoted a $76 refund. My phone was in good condition, I returned it with the box, USB cable and original user’s manual. Now they are sending me $10.50! I would have rather kept the phone! Not to mention that’s about how much it cost to ship it so I’m really just breaking even.
    Flipswap is a rip-off!

  23. Unsinkablesoul1 says:

    ONE WORD!!!! EBAY!!! I just sold my 3GS 16gb iPhone on ebay and in 120 seconds it sold for $200 and because I did a buy it now sale – the money was transferred directly into my PayPal account. I called Flipswap and asked them how do I know they won’t screw me over. They told me it is a risk but that they give close to what they offer. I didn’t take that for an answer and after reading some of the comments on here I decided not to go with flipswap and I’m so glad I didn’t!!!! Thank you Consumerist.

  24. q says:

    I sent them a my HTC myTouch 3G when I switched from T-Mobile to AT&T. I was told I’d receive $51 from Flipswap and I have the receipt from Flipswap to prove it. 4 weeks later I received a Visa credit card in the amount of $11. I called them and asked why the difference. They said because the phone wasn’t operational (couldn’t make an outbound call). The phone worked fine for me when I turned it in. The AT&T rep transferred all my data to my new phone, followed Flipswap’s instructions, sealed it in the envelope and mailed it in. Beware. Should have donated it or sold it on my own.