Bartering is not a new concept. It’s been around probably for as long as man has walked the earth. In fact, long before money existed people traded goods for services or services for other services. That’s how commerce took place.
Today, bartering is as popular as it has ever been, particularly among small businesses that are often strapped for cash. The internet features hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of barter exchange websites that have been set up to help small, struggling businesses survive and even thrive by providing a way for them to access needed goods or services they might not otherwise be able to afford.
The owner of a shoe store may trade a pair of loafers to the dentist for a check-up and a teeth whitening treatment if both are members of the same barter exchange and have access to one another. An interior decorator may barter her professional service for a pair of stylish earrings and the transaction, without the exchange of any money, will be helpful to both businesses.
But bartering is not exclusive to small businesses. It is also commonplace today among ordinary consumers – private citizens. That’s because the depressed economic climate has left many people short of funds, without employment or facing other hardships. Many regular folks just don’t have the money needed to buy the goods or services they want or need. But, they often have something they can trade.
Barter exchange websites exist for consumers, too. And every day more and more people with access to computers are joining these websites and taking full advantage of the opportunities that exist on them. In fact, online communities like Craigslist and Swap Thing provide environments that encourage members to trade goods and services without any movement of money. Not a single dime changes hands.
These websites are adding members daily … lots of them. Just recently, Craigslist had a whopping 142,000 postings offering everything for exchange except the kitchen sink. And it’s actually possible that was available, as well.
Swap Thing is even more engaged. It generally has up to a phenomenal 35 million listings of everything from school clothes to school books … vacations to home rentals … labor for merchandise … and on and on and on.
Does it really work for people who commit themselves to the idea? The answer is a resounding yes, particularly in these economically-depressed times when money problems are common in many households.
Consider the case of a woman I will call Rachel (not her real name). She and her husband Ted (not his real name, either) live in a Midwestern city and have always dreamed of vacationing in Cape Cod. For Rachel, in particular, it’s been a lifelong dream. And Rachel and Ted were finally going to realize that dream … until they found out that decent lodging in the area would cost about $200 a night, somewhat beyond their vacation budget. In most cases, that shortness of available cash would absolutely squelch any chance of the vacation becoming a reality.
However, given the current proliferation of barter exchange websites for consumers, Rachel seized upon an idea. She advertised her husband Ted’s professional accounting services in exchange for lodging for 3 or 4 nights in a Cape Cod hotel, motel or similar kind of lodging. The posting appeared on Craigslist and, as a result, Rachel and Ted will be able to enjoy their Cape Cod vacation – cost-free.
There are, of course, thousands of other examples of successful swaps or barter exchanges between consumers in which each party to the exchange ended up a winner. In fact, each year, as summer ends and fall arrives – along with the beginning of a new school year — many hard-pressed moms are able to trade a coveted service for school uniforms for their school-age kids. That, of course, saves a costly trip to the clothing store. Parents and older kids, especially those already in college, enjoy trading for school textbooks which any advanced student knows tends to be alarmingly expensive.
Clearly, barter works as well for individual consumers as it does for small businesses. And, as is true for small businesses, the consumer who engages in bartering meets many new friends (businesspeople meet and get many new customers) … enjoys a transaction in which he or she almost always wins … and develops a pastime (or habit) that often turns into a compelling passion.
There is more for ordinary consumers to like about bartering, as well. It provides a real opportunity to move and rid yourself of old, dust-collecting items (just as would happen if you conducted a yard sale) … enjoy the true fun that comes from trading (you’ll be like a “kid in a candy store”) … and, of course, when you trade or barter, you save money. That is particularly meaningful now, in these difficult economic times.
What’s more, you may also be able to acquire goods that you’ve always wanted, but could never afford (such as expensive, if slightly-used, luxury items, including clothing and jewelry, exotic vacations or great electronic merchandise for your home)… or services, including health or cosmetic care and treatment … or professional services, such as accounting, tax returns, even legal advice just because you’re a member of a website exchange community=2 0and you’re willing to give up something to get something in return – with absolutely no exchange of cash.