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COVID-19 Coverage

A TikTok user traded a bobby pin for a house

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

Demi Skipper had a wild idea at the start of the pandemic. It started with a TikTok account and a bobby pin.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DEMI SKIPPER: Like everyone else in quarantine right now, I'm looking to do something a little crazy for my friends on TikTok. So here's the plan - I'm trading a bobby pin up until I get a house.

DETROW: OK, I hear you on the other side of the radio, especially if, like me, you do not spend too much time hanging out on TikTok, you're saying there is no way that would work, right? Well, you were wrong. Demi spent months finding trades, making hundreds of calls and thanks to her growing social media following as this went on, amassing lots and lots of new followers and some new friends, some of whom pitched in to help. And now, a year and a half later, she has traded her way to a house in Nashville. And not only that, she has made her way to WEEKEND EDITION. Demi Skipper joins us now from her current residence in California. Welcome to the program.

SKIPPER: Hey, hey, thanks for having me.

DETROW: So congratulations. When are you making the move into the new house?

SKIPPER: Thank you so much. I am going right after Christmas. I'm going to do the holidays with my family. And then come January, I will be a Tennessee resident.

DETROW: So you did 28 trades starting with that bobby pin for a pair of earrings, then the earrings for margarita glasses, the glasses for a vacuum cleaner, and here we are at a house. What were some of the best trades you made along the way?

SKIPPER: I think, honestly, the trade where I really thought this is going to work was when I traded an old snowboard from someone's garage for an Apple TV.

DETROW: There was a lot of, I assume, especially early on, a lot of negotiations and trading with strangers. There had to be some trust here, huh.

SKIPPER: Oh, absolutely. So I was actually trusting people, hey, I'm going to ship this camera to you, please make sure you send back a MacBook, and just hoping that the person wasn't going to keep what was on the other end.

DETROW: Did you ever get burned?

SKIPPER: No, actually not. And I think it's actually made me feel a lot better about the world. We're in some dark times. And I have been able to trust people with cars, titles to things. And so far, nobody has done me wrong.

DETROW: What were some of the best and worst trades from your point of view? What was the point where you were like, I really might have pulled something over here on somebody?

SKIPPER: I traded what I thought was a $20,000 diamond necklace, and when I got it, I gave the woman a Mini Cooper convertible. I got the necklace, and I took it to a local jeweler in San Francisco, and he took one look at that necklace and was like, this is worth maybe $2,000, not $20,000. And I cried. The poor guy felt so bad, but there was nothing he could do. And I couldn't untrade, so just kept working.

DETROW: How long did it take you to get back to the Mini Cooper level that you were at before?

SKIPPER: Oh, probably another four trades, which isn't bad, but the trade after the necklace, I found somebody who was moving from San Francisco to New York and couldn't take their Peloton with them. And obviously, during quarantine, those things were sold out. So I thought, you know, I'm going to take something that's hard to get that maybe isn't a $20,000 necklace but maybe will help me get to the next step, and it was really, really useful.

DETROW: I actually thought the trailer, the solar-powered trailer, that was to me - I would have stopped there. I mean, that seemed like a really cool thing to to end up with.

SKIPPER: Oh, it was amazing. I mean, it had a full fridge and freezer. It had power outlets. You could work out there. So it was really, really cool.

DETROW: You got a pretty big social media following as this went on. What do you think it was about your story that so many people connected with?

SKIPPER: Yeah. So I think I'll say one thing, which is really interesting is that I started with zero TikTok followers. I'm 30 years old. I had never used TikTok. And I posted the first video thinking, you know, I'm just going to remember what I traded, thinking I would be alone. And clearly, 5 million followers later, I am not doing this trading alone. And if you look on social media now, there are hundreds of accounts that have formed all over the world. So it's Trade Me Project Australia, India, you name it. And I just think it's being able to get something that maybe seemed out of reach and not having to use money for it.

DETROW: You mentioned that you now have 5 million followers on TikTok. This is probably a hard act to follow to keep those followers. What are you going to do next?

SKIPPER: A definite renovation is in the book. So I'll be going out there in January and what I will say is the trades are not going to stop.

DETROW: All right. That is TikTok creator Demi Skipper, creator of the Trade Me Project, now a proud homeowner in Tennessee. Thanks so much for talking to us.

SKIPPER: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.