Good things come to those who wait

There are some things that are harder to barter for than others.  Some of those more difficult things to barter for are physical products like construction materials.  For a year or so I’ve been consistantly told that I will not find double paned windows for my house on barter.  Every time I was told this I would smile and say that it can’t hurt to ask.   I am pleased to announce that my new custom-ordered 100% barter windows and sliding glass door will be ready in about two weeks. The supplier is only an hour and a half away so I can pick them up myself and avoid shipping! So….the lesson is to just keep trying.  And with that in mind I should probably remind you all that I am looking for a late model Toyota pickup (4wd).  Yes…..I know….I’ll never find it.

Hiring staff on barter

I’ve often heard the complaint from unsuccessful traders that they can’t pay some of their most important expenses on barter.  If your business is anything like mine, a major expense is payroll and this article is about how I’ve lowered my payroll liability by hiring staff on barter.

The basics:
There are a few basics about hiring on barter that I should get out of the way right off.  Firstly, you of course are still responsible for all taxes, workers comp, and withholding just like you would a cash employee.  Also, in most cases it isn’t practical to try to hire full time staff on barter.  As much as I love barter, I can’t live off it 100% and that’s true for your staff too.  Lastly (and you probably already know this) it’s a pretty tough proposition to switch cash staff over to barter.

So that’s all the negative news; here’s the good news.  It can be very easy to hire new part time staff on barter.  The easiest way to do this is simply to find sub-contractors that can fulfill a needed position in your business that are already in your local barter exchange.  This is exactly how I hired my book-keeper.  He comes in for about 3 hours a week and does all our books.  I’ve never paid him a cent in cash.  Sub-contractors are also easy because you don’t have to worry about taxes/workers comp/etc.

I’ve also hired traditional employees on barter.  When I’ve done that I’ve usually found the employee by posting in the barter section of craigslist.  As I mentioned it needs to be a part time position.  I then pay all taxes/withholding etc in cash, but the net pay is paid in barter.  I have given the staff member the choice of receiving credit in a barter exchange account or having me carry the balance for them so they can use the credit throughout my entire barter network (of multiple exchanges and direct trade partners).  The key to it is that it always has to be a win-win for everyone.  If it’s not a good deal for your employee, then they will not stick around.

Prescription Drugs on Barter

Depending on your medical insurance (or lack there of) the value of bartering for prescription drugs will vary.  In my family’s case, we have excellent insurance, however it has a high deductible which means for the first half of the year I pay cash on the barrel head for all things medical.  So at the beginning of the year, I’m paying cash for prescription drugs.  I’ve been buying perscription drugs on barter for about a year and this is what I’ve learned.

  • Although I have found a number of pharmacies that will barter for prescription medications, they have never been near by.  That means that you are working through the mail.  This is not necessarily a problem, but it does mean that you need to plan ahead.  It also means that it’s unlikely that you will get antibiotics for your children when they have an ear infection.  Bartering for medication is suitable for ongoing treatments that you know about ahead of time.
  • Pricing is not fantastic with barter pharmacies.  Especially if you are used to simply paying co-pays.  If you are bartering for prescription drugs, get ready to pay more than the retail rate.  That being said, I’ve found that when I take into account the wholesale price that I acquire barter credits at, the pricing works.   There are a couple reasons for the high prices:  First off, as with all hard goods that are in demand, it’s pretty normal to pay a relatively high barter rate.  Secondly, it’s generally smaller independent pharmacies that are open to trade.  They don’t have the muscle to negotiate the kind of prices that big chain pharmacies do.
  • While my wife was recovering from major surgery, she was on pain killers that are more strictly regulated than most medications.  I was able to barter for these, however these prescriptions cannot be called or faxed in to the pharmacy.  The pharmacy needs the original prescription.    I would personally recommend that you have all prescriptions like this mailed directly from the doctor’s office to the pharmacy.  That way if it gets lost somewhere along the way, no-one will ever think there was any funny business on your part.
  • Because timing and accuracy are so important with prescription drugs you really have to watch for good customer service.  I’ve worked with two pharmacies.  One was fantastic and the other one was horrible.    Find one you like and really take good care of them.  Pharmacies generally aren’t used to dealing with barter and adding another layer of complication in a business were mistakes are not allowed can be tough.
  • It has not been my experience that pharmacies work with insurance when they are bartering.  What I have done is paid for the drugs on barter, then submit them to my insurance company myself.   Each insurance company while allow a different price for a particular medication and it will probably be considerably less than what you paid on barter.  As I mentioned in my last post…once I hit my deductible, I can submit my receipts to my insurance company and they will send me a cash reimbursement check.