The mobile app that I want

Dear barter exchange Big Wigs-

If you are trying to figure out what your new  smart phone app should do, here it is:

  • GPS enabled Restaurant/hotel look-up for barter exchange members
  • member search (GPS enabled)
  • authorize transactions (with email confirmation)
  • wireless transactions between two phones, aka “paperless scrip” (blue-tooth)
  • one-touch call or email your broker
  • one-touch call the closest broker in your exchange (GPS enabled)
  • streamlined posting of  items to the exchange’s on-line store using your camera phone
  • one touch scrip purchase to be mailed to my office

Don’t forget that you should build this for Android phones and Iphones.

Switch vendors to spend barter credits

I spoke to a barter partner recently who said he was having a hard time finding smart things for him to spend his barter credits on.  He belongs to a good national barter exchange that has many vendors that are local to him because they have an office in the same town as his office.  I belong to the same exchange and spend thousands of dollars wisely each month.  So… got me thinking….what can he do that he isn’t doing now?  I came up with two answers:

  1. Switch Vendors
    When you already have a vendor in place to provide you with a particular product or service, there is a lot of resistance to switching.  That being said, in order to get the most out of bartering, you have to actually spend barter credits.  That means that you have to at least consider switching from cash vendors that you know and love to unknown barter vendors.  It’s a bummer to say goodbye to trusted suppliers but the pay-off can be huge.  A couple examples that I can think of that were particularly difficult for me was our dentist and someone who helped with house-keeping.  When we failed to get either of them to barter with us, we decided that we had to at least try vendors that would barter.  Both of the new relationships ended up going well and of course we are now saving all of the cash that we were formerly spending.
  2. Recruit New Parter Partners
    Another area that has helped me spend barter credits is to recruit new barter partners.  Don’t be satisfied with simply looking at the list of vendors that already belong to your barter exchange.  Choose a particular product/service that you would like to barter for, find some prospective bartering partners and make the pitch.  The beautiful thing about pitching barter is that it is usually very easy to explain that it is a win-win proposition.  Don’t be nervous about suggesting barter.  Many accomplished business people love to barter

Also, don’t forget to apply these two principles to personal expenses also.

Barter Price Gouging

One of the common complaints that I run into with unsuccessful barter exchange members is that other members  price gauge.  Honestly, it’s a complaint I make myself sometimes too.  I think there are a couple reasons why this problem can crop up.

1)  It’s not fair to compare the best possible cash price to the barter price.  In general it’s an unwritten rule that everyone charges their full retail price in barter.  I think it’s totally reasonable to charge MSRP for barter goods even if you NEVER sell at MSRP for cash.  All sales or discounts should also be ignored when selling a product/service for barter.  This is true both when you sell your product/service and when you buy a product/service on barter so that price increase should cancel itself out when you take into account your own barter prices. With this in mind, you shouldn’t try to compare the barter price to a sale price, a big-box-store price, a price on craig’s list or a price on ebay.  Make sense?  You are GOING to pay more on barter, but of course, you are still earning barter credits at your wholesale rate so you should still be well ahead of the game.  Plus this can help recruit new barter partners.  When I’m talking to someone who is new to barter I will almost always tell them I can “pay high retail” or  MSRP if it’s on trade.

2)  Some vendors really and truly do over-price their services on barter.  I had a plumber over a couple weeks ago to fix a leaking sink.  When it was all said and done he left with over $600 in barter credits for about an hour’s worth of work.  I was blown away.  The truth of the matter was that I didn’t have the cash to pay a plumber to do this work even at a reasonable rate and I didn’t have time to do it myself, so I was stuck and just didn’t have any choice this time.  That being said, you better believe that I will NEVER call this vendor again.  I will also tell anyone I know (both in the barter and cash world) that I would never use this vendor.  As a matter of fact, within a week of this happening, my neighbor called and asked me if I knew of a good plumber (for a cash job) and I told him NOT to use this vendor.  The lesson to me was to be especially careful with tradesmen on barter and to get an estimate if I can on the phone before they even come out to my house.  The other lesson is actually for this vendor:  If you rip someone off on barter, it will effect your business reputation in the cash world.

3) Some vendors seem to think that it’s OK to price gauge simply because they think their cash costs are higher than most.  Sorry.  I don’t buy that.  If there isn’t enough of a margin on a product/service to barter profitably at reasonable prices, then you shouldn’t barter that product/service.  Period.  Exactly the same rule applies to the cash world.

4)  I think one of the reasons that some vendor’s price gouge is simply that they can.  Some products/services are in high demand and they regularly get away with super-high rates.  If you are dealing with a devalued barter currency and can earn it really cheaply then I could see over-paying to get something in high demand.  Other than that… forget it.  Do your homework and keep walking if the price is too high.

Try not to take over-pricing personally.  Generally speaking, vendors with really high prices aren’t doing it just to you.  They are trying to hit everybody.  I don’t understand moral outrage at high prices.  If someone’s price is too high I just keep looking elsewhere.

For the haggling-challenged there are a few types of trades where you are pretty much guaranteed a reasonable price: Restaurants and retail stores.  On both of these types of traders you purchase from a printed menu or a pre-marked price and you should feel safe that you are paying the same as a cash customer.

Bottom line:  Don’t let the folks that over-price their goods/services ruin barter for you.  Barter is too great to let things like this get in your way.  Know the value of your barter credits and the value of what you want to trade for.  Take the good deals and reject the bad ones.  It’s that simple.