Is Trading up Ethical? You Might be Surprised

In my endless search to find you guys all the helpful information I can in regarding bartering, I’ve stumbled across quite a few articles that talk about how trading up is unethical.  Meaning you should always just be trading items of equal value and not look to “take advantage” of others.

Reading these articles rubbed me the wrong way so I need to vent a little.  Bear with me.

One item is ALWAYS going to have more value than other.  Let me explain why I think/know this is true.  If you give me an iPhone 4 I might think it’s worth $300 while you think you can get $250 for it.  Is either one of us wrong? No.

Ok, so then if I traded you something I think is worth $250 and you think your iPhone is worth $250, we’re even then, right?  I guess if you think so then that’s great, but what if I turn around and sell that iPhone for $300 or trade it up to something worth $450?  Did I do something wrong? I absolutely did not.  So how is this taking advantage of someone?

The cool thing about trading is no one is obligated to do anything they aren’t comfortable doing.  I’ve pull out of trades after seeing the item in person and realizing it isn’t quite what I was thinking.   Sometime you just don’t want to make the trade.  There’s nothing wrong with that.

The goal of a successful trade is for both people to leave happy.  I’m happy with my new item and you’re happy with your new toy.  If I’m not in the trade up game, which VERY few people are, I don’t necessarily care if my item is worth more than what I just traded you for because I wanted what you had.

Keep in mind no matter what someone’s item is worth less, value wise, than the other persons.   Because we are dealing with all secondhand items, what you think it’s worth will mostly likely be different than what I think it’s worth.

I’ve done trades where I KNOW the other person thinks they are getting the better deal.  And you know what? Maybe they’re right.  However, I know what I can get for the item they traded me and I’m happy with it.

I very strongly don’t believe trading up is unethical as long as you are representing your items correctly and not purposely deceiving someone.  You are just intelligently making trades and you just so happen to be ending up on the right side of things (hopefully) every time.  Isn’t that the smart thing to do?

To better understand the mindset, check out the article I wrote about the psychology of the trade up which can be found here.

What do you think?  Do you feel like trading up is unethical?

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Leave A Reply (7 comments so far)


  1. Jim Dixion
    1703 days ago

    I agree with you, trading is not unethical. Clearly, just like beauty, value is in the eye of the beholder, or in this case the two parties. So its foolish to bring this ethics question into it.

    You have outlined many good examples, so there is no need to add more – you have the matter settled.

    It’s a valuable post, bartering and trading is the way to go!


  2. Melody
    1703 days ago

    The way I see it is value is relative. I may have an item like a smart phone that doesn’t work for me. You have a smart phone that cost less but it is exactly what I need. The item I have is useless to me so I wouldn’t mind getting something that cost less because it will fit my needs. Unless you are deliberately trying to deceive some knowing your item does not live up to what you say it is, it doesn’t seem unethical at all. The only caveat I would put here is if the person is gullible, naive, or not smart enough to evaluate the product. Then, you are taking advantage of their naivete. But, that would also fall under deliberately cheating someone.


  3. Cindy Freeman
    1703 days ago

    Bartering is ethical because no one is obliged to do anything. Everything comes naturally and from the will of the ones involved.


  4. Steve P
    1703 days ago

    I found this read quite interesting and you have made some really good points within your post. I blog online and I enjoy knowing that there are other legitimate bloggers out there doing positive things and sharing valid information. I will be sure to come check up on this blog so that I better understand Trading.


  5. David
    1703 days ago

    Value is always about perception. Is it used, is it new, is it functional and who would need it? Trading is all about getting the most cost savings possible while still getting the product you want or need. I think trading in many ways benefits both parties, the supplier is able to move the product and make a profit on an item such as an older piece of electronics and the buyer is able to upgrade or get a needed product at a reduced cost. Both parties benefit in the end.


  6. Brian Morrison
    1702 days ago

    Trading up is definitely not unethical. I strongly agree that as long as both parties leave happy, that’s really all that counts.

    The only case I can see trading being unethical would be in the case that one party is being dishonest or deceitful. As long as all information is presented up front, there really is no problem here.

  7. Sean
    Sean
    1701 days ago

    Thanks for the comments everyone! I’m glad a lot of you see my point here! Keep the comments coming!

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