26 Sep

A “sharing economy”

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You may have heard earlier this month of “Free Money Day” (freemoneyday.org). The organizers of this event were promoting a day where people world-wide were encouraged to give away money to complete strangers to promote something called a “sharing economy.”  Although not directly related to barter, I’ve run into the concept of a “sharing economy” multiple times in my life and think it’s very interesting.  The concept is to give away products/services with no expectation of receiving anything in return.  For example, participants of Burning Man are encouraged to provide products/services to each other free of charge during the event.  Not only is cash strongly discouraged, but barter is as well.**   Before you dismiss this as a Utopian hippy-dippy idea, there are some practical applications of this approach in the real world.

In my life I participate in a sharing economy with people that I have the closest relationships with.  For example, I will often do things for (or give things to) friends or family without expectation of reciprocation.  I also partner in business with a consultant where we often do things for each other in business with little expectation of receiving something in return.  There is something interesting going on here physiologically because it’s easier for me to give freely to people who are close to me that I feel will not take advantage of me.  This really doesn’t add up because if you are truly giving without expectation of return then it’s impossible for anyone to take advantage of you.

I think also it’s important to differentiate between a true sharing economy and a loose barter arrangement.  It is very common for people to barter with each other without tracking the details of who did what for whom.  Because there is a general expectation that everything needs to “come out in the wash” in those situations, it really doesn’t qualify as giving w/o expectation of return.

You can learn more about the sharing economy in that most-dependable-of-all-resources, wikipedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharing_economy

** I’ve been told the only things that are allowed to be sold at Burning Man are ice and coffee (the necessities of life there).

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28 Jul

People who just “don’t get” barter

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Negative decision

The longer I’ve been bartering as a business strategy, the more I come to a conclusion that I don’t like:  There are people who don’t understand barter, and they probably never will.  They just don’t get it.  It doesn’t matter how many times you explain it, what analogies you use, or how advantageous a particular deal might be to these people.  They are often fear-driven and cannot get past untrue preconceived notions.  These are the folks that think that barter is a tax-dodge, or that it’s a slippery used car salesman technique.  To these people barter is by definition unsavory, dishonest and even criminal.

Ug.  These people drive me crazy!!!!  I think the reason they bug me so much ISN’T because they have the wrong idea about barter.  That’s actually not a big deal.  Most people don’t have an in depth knowledge of barter.  What makes me nuts is that I’m often unable to help them understand the reality of barter; how good, honest and profitable barter can be.  It’s almost like there is a barter gene, and people either have it or they don’t.

So….what to do?  You have a great trade lined up that’s a win-win for both parties, but it turns out that the person (or persons) you are dealing with just doesn’t “get barter.”  I wish I had a magic answer for you.  The way I see it you have two options, neither of which are particularly good:

1)  Walk away.  This is definitely the low-blood pressure approach that saves time and stress.  Unfortunately it also means you are walking away from a mutually profitable deal.  I’ll say it again:  Ug.

2)  Try to work with them anyway.  You may be able to talk them into the deal.  It is, after all a good deal for both parties so it seems reasonable that you should be able to show them the benefit of the transaction.  Their are a bunch of downsides to this approach though.  Firstly this kind of sale totally stresses me out.  Life is short.  Is it really worth it?  Secondly, you could be unsuccessful in selling the deal which means a big waste of your time. Thirdly, you may actually make the transaction, only to find out later that they were only begrudgingly “sold” on the idea and still don’t really grasp why the deal was mutually beneficial.  In that case you can forget ever trading with them again.  Plus when that happens I personally want to stab my own eyes out.

When I read over the two options above it seems obvious to me that the “walk away” option is the wiser of the two, and yet I often find myself in the potion of trying to barter with people who are uncomfortable with the concept.  Clearly I can’t take my own advice.  The good news is that there are plenty of people who do understand barter and are happy to do it.  I’m much happier when I stick with those folks.

I’d love to hear back with advice from my readers!


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05 May

Barter exchange “stealth mode”

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Let me start out by saying that this particular article is specifically for barter exchange members.  If you don’t already belong to an exchange, I suggest you check it out.  You can learn more about what barter exchanges are in my Barter Basics article.  OK, with that bit of housekeeping out of the way, let’s proceed.

Are you aware that there is a significantly larger number of members in your barter exchange than is listed on their website?  There are also more members than your broker can refer you to.  Intrigued?  Good.  Here’s the deal;  when an exchange member isn’t especially good at spending their credits (don’t get me started), they will sometimes go into “stealth mode.”  What that means is that the exchange takes them off their “active” list which removes them from the exchange’s website and flags their account for brokers that they are not currently accepting barter credits as payment.  The ARE STILL MEMBERS though.  They usually have credits that they want to spend so they continue to maintain their membership.

How does this help you?  Often even members that are in “stealth mode” will actually still accept credits if you contact them directly.  This is especially true if you’ve traded with them in the past and have maintained a good relationship.  With that in mind I would encourage you to maintain good contacts with all of your barter partners.  If they do need to reduce the amount of barter credits they are accepting, your relationship will make the difference when they are choosing which barter partners they keep.  For example, if you are known to be a good tipper at a local restaurant that takes barter and the restaurant makes their account inactive, it’s very likely they might still accept barter credits from you.  All you have to do is ask.  The worst thing they can do is say “no.”  AND…. do what you can to help council these folks on how to spend barter credits wisely.  Usually the whole reason for going on hold is that they are not good at spending barter credits.  I certainly wouldn’t mind if you send them to this blog!  :)

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