Toy swapping, in the context of toy collecting, refers to a heinous practice (some might consider it outright theft, because it is) that involves buying a new toy, opening the packaging, replacing the content with another toy (or something else entirely), then returning the packaging with the replaced content to the store and claiming the money back. In essence, this means getting a new toy for free while leaving the store with an older toy (or complete junk) that will most likely never sell. Obviously, this situation is anything but desirable.
Aside from people who simply find this an easy way to get a new toy without actually paying for it, some fans think they can get away with swapping out older toys in favor of "better" redecos; for example, buying Energon Galvatron and then returning the packaging with the original Megatron version of the mold. Those people usually argue that "it's basically the same toy, only in different colors." Another common excuse is that "Kids won't notice the difference anyways, nor would they care."
In some instances (such as the recent "Premium Series" lineup of improved, more movie-accurate redecos of some of the toys from the 2007 live-action Movie toyline), some fans even claim that Hasbro "screwed them over" by not releasing the redecos in the first place, thereby arguing that they were just taking what they felt entitled to anyways, so they swap it out with a regular movie toy for the Premium toy, or just swap the parts.
Some people are obscenely self-entitled douchebags.
Problems caused by toy swapping
The problems of toy swapping are multifold. Fans and collectors usually know what the toy they're looking for is supposed to look like, so they most likely won't pick up a swapped toy, unless they're not paying attention for whatever reason. Therefore, the most likely victims of this practice are parents who buy a toy for their kid. Imagine the look on a child's face when he gets Movie Leader Class Optimus Prime for his birthday, opens the packaging and finds an old, beat-up Robots in Disguise Optimus Prime inside.
And no, this is not funny. Really not.
The practice of toy swapping is not limited to the Transformers toylines, but is considered an easy way of getting new toys for "free" by fans from all kinds of different toylines. Examples of reported Transformers-related incidents include:
- Armada Giga-Con Jetfire, with the packaging including nothing but the chest plate.
- One half of a broken up Robots in Disguise Ultra Magnus in a much smaller box that belonged to a toy from a later line.
- Alternators Dead End, with the packaging containing a non-transforming black Dodge Viper convertible model car. This was actually sold on eBay as a "rare factory error variant" of Alternators Side Swipe.
- A painted piece of wood (!) in a Transformers packaging.
- Cybertron Leader Class Optimus Prime, with the packaging containing a bootleg of the Power Rangers figure Ninjor.
- Movie Voyager Ratchet and Movie Voyager Ironhide, with the packaging containing either Cybertron Deluxe Demolishor or Cybertron Voyager Mudflap.
- A pair of binoculars (!) in Transformers packaging.
- The original release of Voyager Class Ironhide from the 2007 Movie toyline in the packaging of the "Premium Series" redeco.
- The original release of Voyager Class Starscream from the 2007 Movie toyline in the packaging of Revenge of the Fallen version.
- Robots in Disguise Armorhide, a toy that was originally released in 2001, in the packaging of Hardtop from the 2007 Movie line. What's worse, someone actually tried to sell this as an "error variant" on TFieds.com.
Toy swapping in other countries
Interestingly enough, the only large-scale reports of such occurrences hail from North America (i.e. USA and Canada), with overtly liberal store policies allowing people to return opened products to stores and claiming their money back usually being blamed. Also, stores like Wal-Mart are often accused of not paying their employees enough to care for checking if they're being deceived, as is their policy of always giving customers the benefit of the doubt, especially when the product's packaging includes a note saying "details and color may vary".
Meanwhile, reports from Australia, Asia or Europe, where stores either don't allow returning opened products, or if they do, usually give them a closer examination, are much scarcer, or even pretty much nonexistent.