LAUSD’s Up-Trade Program: “Where Trading Makes Cents”
What happens when one school has too many chairs for its classrooms and another school has too few? LAUSD has an answer.
Introducing the Los Angeles Unified School District’s new barter exchange program, Up-Trade, an online trading program that allows schools to trade their excess new and gently used furniture with other schools and offices district-wide.
“We’re giving schools and offices an opportunity to trade in new and gently used furniture and equipment that may otherwise not be used,” explained Quinton Dean, Deputy Director of Material Management and Purchasing. “One school may have some excess items that they’re not using and that can be traded to a school that does need that item.”
The Up-Trade barter exchange program was launched in March to provide a tool for schools and offices to trade items online for equipment they really need at their sites. Through this system, no actual funds are exchanged between sites nor does it cost anything to list an item to be traded.
“It encourages schools to effectively and efficiently trade excess furniture and equipment among each other,” said Scot Vorse, president and founder of Vorsetrade LLC, the developer of the program that Up-Trade runs on. “We provide schools with the tool to reallocate resources among every school and office in the district.”
The driving force behind this program is that what one school has more of, another school or office might need.
“Before, if something was not in use at a school, it would sit around forever: there was no incentive to get rid of something,” said Mark Hovatter, LAUSD’s Director of Procurement. “Now we’ve generated an incentive for a school to trade something they don’t need for something they do need.”
How does Up-Trade work? It’s as easy as 1-2-3:
1) A school or office submits an item for approval to the Up-Trade Program Coordinator.
2) Once an item is approved, it is uploaded to the Up-Trade site and the school or office is awarded points to be used to purchase items on Up-Trade.
3) Once an item is “purchased” by another site, it is picked up and delivered so the “purchasing” site can benefit from the item.
The value of the items within the Up-Trade program is determined by the program coordinator. The coordinator acts as the go-between by exchanging the items in return for points, then offering those items to other schools for points.
Pick-up and delivery of items are included in a nominal 5 percent transaction fee, a part of which goes back to the “selling” school or office as a contibutor’s fee.
“The transaction fee is a way to generate interest and motivate people to use the system,” said Hovatter.
Once an item is “bought,” points are deducted from that school’s Up-Trade account, and the transaction fee is deducted from the school’s funding line.
The program also supports student groups directly, as 3 percent of the transaction fee also goes back to the “selling” school to support their student groups.
“We are encouraging participating schools, especially high schools, to contribute their share of the transaction fee to their Associated Student Body (ASB),” said Dean.
Cost Savings with Up-Trade
According to Dean, by trading unused or unneeded furniture and equipment, participating schools and offices avoid the cost of purchasing the items they need at original costs.
“A school can go onto Up-Trade and furnish a classroom for a fraction of what it would normally cost them for new furinture,” he said.
As Dean explained, “Say a school needs a 12-inch plastic chair for an elementary school. On Up-Trade it’s about 90 points. The transaction fee, which is 5 percent of that, equals $4.50. So a school could actually get a new or gently used chair that’s ready to be utilized in the classroom that’s in safe, working conditions for $4.50 as opposed to purchasing a new chair that can run about $50.”
Then, the cycle continues as the schools and office that traded in items “for sale” receive redemption points in return so they can go back online and use them to “purchase” items they need from the Up-Trade website.
With the District’s budget being so tight, Up-Trade provides another means for schools and offices to get equipment and furniture needed without dipping into their funds. “It will be a tremendous help to our schools during this budget crisis,” said Hovatter. “Before a school goes out to buy a new desk, they can go online to see if they can’t get one for five cents on the dollar.”
To help direct schools and offices to the Up-Trade website, there is a link on the LAUSD Online Catalogue homepage https://storescatalog.lausd.net, where most schools and offices go to buy new supplies.
The Up-Trade Program also accepts donations on behalf of schools, which can be traded for points.
“Often we’ll have people that want to donate something to a particular school that the school doesn’t necessarily need,” said Hovatter. “Now they can donate it and the school can immediately load it to the Up-Trade system and get points for it to then go and purchase something that they do need.”
Or, as Dean explained, schools can share their donations with others.
“If 1,000 microscopes were donated to a school but they only need 500, the school can then upload the excess to Up-Trade,” said Dean. “The giving school receives points in return and the excess 500 microscopes can go to a school that needs them."
There are some limitations on what schools and offices can trade, which is described on the Up-Trade website. Most of the items that are being traded are furniture like chairs, desks, file cabinets, and tables, and equipment like paper shredders, televisions and overhead projectors.
Buyer is Always Available
A major bonus with this Up-Trade program is that schools and offices do not need to wait for an interested “buyer,” said Hovatter.
“Procurement ‘buys’ the items they are selling immediately when they post it,” he explained. “We buy it with virtual money or credit so that schools or offices can immediately use their points to ‘purchase’ another item they need on the listing.”
According to Vorse, this makes it a very efficient system.
“The District acts like the middle man and will ‘buy’ your items, give you points and then you’re free to go and immediately buy what you want,” explained Vorse. “In a typical barter exchange you have to wait until someone wants to buy your item.”
Vorse continued: “There are unused assets being stored at schools and this tool provides an opportunity for schools to reallocate their resources. The critical feature of the program is that all the schools in LAUSD use common assets (desks, chairs, etc.).”
Step in the Right Direction
As LAUSD continues to think outside the box in order to help schools, Up-Trade is a great example of how the District is reallocating its resources to try and save our valuable funds.
“This is exactly what the program is designed to do, pull things out of those closets, hopper rooms, gymnasiums or storage units that are no longer being used but still in good shape, and put them in the hands of schools that do need them, especially with the budget being as tight as it is,” said Dean.
By: Lauren Alicia Mendoza
Posted: April 24, 2012