Dear Backpacking Light Admin and Community,
The BPL Gear Swap is one of the best online classifieds for lightweight backpacking gear that there is. I have bought and sold many items through it and have yet to experience a sour transaction. However, if it is to be for members only, I will never sell any gear through it again.
First, let me clarify because there's a kind of elitism in the forums that causes members to act as though they are superior to non-members just because of a little badge by their names. I used to be a subscriber of BPL. I stopped subscribing because I just don't read magazines, online or not. As a poor college student, I made a policy of not paying for products I don't use, and now that I've graduated, I feel no different. The forums, however, are a knowledgeable and colorful community, which I continued to follow long after letting my subscription expire, and hope to follow for many years in the future.
As a source of revenue for BPL, I believe this is the wrong move. Oh sure, you may get a few of the most active non-member Gear Swap posters subscribing out of necessity, but for me, a part-time poster and occasional seller, if I want to sell a backpack in the $70 range (something I seem to do once a year or so), I'm not going to buy the $24 annual membership just for that. Nor would I buy the lifetime membership, which would put me in the negative (on that hypothetical sale). Instead, I'm going to take it to another site where I can get more bang for my buck. Was that the desired effect when the decision was made to make the Gear Swap members only? If not, it may deserve some re-thinking.
A better way to go about having a constant trickle of income from a classified section is to request a percentage-based donation from sellers, based on the selling price. Another forum I occasionally post to has just this system. Set up a Paypal account and ask all sellers to donate 3%, 5%, or whatever percentage of the selling price to support the forums. It may be on the honor system, but if my experience is any guide, most people who sell through the Gear Swap are honest and would follow through. A small percentage of the selling price sent through Paypal is easy for sellers, and long-term income for BPL. A subscription is a serious hit for a seller like me, and only a one-time fee for BPL. As far as I can see it, a percentage-based donation system as win-win.
I sincerely hope that the new BPL will find a way to live in harmony with people like me, the occasional forum-posting, gear-selling, non-subscribers, who really do love the site. We just don't love it in *that* way.
Edited to redraft line one of paragraph three.