Anyone who has bartered for very long is aware that occasionally you can run into a vendor that treats you like a second class citizen because you are paying for a product or service in trade. It goes without saying that this is to be avoided and that we should all do our best to service our barter clients just as well as folks that pay with cash on the barrel-head. That being said, it’s also possible to treat your seller poorly when you are buying something on trade.
Let me put it this way: It’s a lot easier to blow off your personal training session if you are paying for it in trade than if you are paying in cash. Doing so however is not fair to your barter partner or yourself. The vendors that you buy services from on trade, like personal trainers, massage therapists, doctors, chiropractors, CPA’s and yes even lowly web developers deserve to be treated like the professionals that they are even when you are paying them in trade. This means you need to show up for appointments, follow through with “homework” they assign, and even take the advice that you are paying them to give.
Additionally I should point out that it is totally self defeating to hire a professional then not follow through. In order for consultive work to have the desired effect you have to actually act on the advice you are given. When you get that advice at a discount through barter it may be tempting to discount the actual advice. To do so however would be a mistake.
I once read a report that said that the success of any given smoking cessation program is directly proportional to the cost of the program. Simply put, the more expensive the program, the more the participants were emotionally invested in quiting so they had more sucess. So…with that said I think it’s very important to understand how much of a blessing it is to be able to take advantage of services through trade at a substantial cash savings and for you to NOT use this as an excuse that undermines the whole point of the service.
Over the years it has come to my attention there there are a couple things that us barter fanatics can do when we trade that will gain us a little “float” with our transactions and help with cash flow. Here’s my current list:
- If given the option when setting up your exchange account always opt to pay as much of your commissions as possible when you are making a purchase. That way you don’t have to pay commissions immediately when you make a sale. It may even be worth while to pay a slightly higher commission if you can pay it all on your purchases.
- Put your “commisionable” transactions through your exchange after the first of the month. Most exchanges bill on the first of each month. If you wait until after the first you won’t be billed the commission for an extra 30 days.
- Assuming you are paying part of your commissions on your “sell” transactions, then it doesn’t make any sense to build your account up to a high balance. Not only does this incur barter commissions, but you will also be taxed on this income that is sitting in your barter exchange account. It is more to your advantage to earn at roughly the same rate as you spend.
- Once you have proven to your exchange that you are a good member that can and will earn barter credits on an ongoing basis, they may extend you a line of credit. By using this line of credit you can purchase products and services without paying any “sell-side” commissions at all up front. You will of course need to earn those credits back eventually and the commissions will be due at that time. Also if your exchange is charging you interest on the line of credit that probably more than wipes out any cash flow advantages.
It should go without saying that you should do everything you can to always pay all of your exchange fees on time once they are invoiced. If for some reason you will not be able to make your payment on time it’s always best to call your exchange and let them know what is going on. Most people will appreciate your honestly and are happy to work with you to help you get your fees paid.
Criminals have a vested interest in barter. It’s simple really. Barter transactions are harder for enforcement agencies to track than cash. I’ve mentioned in the past that the alternative electronic currency known as bitcoin is known to be used by drug dealers in an attempt to hide their business. Now there may be a new and much stranger alternative currency that the underground economy is using: Tide laundry detergent. That’s right! Based on the news articles I’ve been reading (just Google “Tide theft”) criminals have been specifically using Tide as an alternate currency. If true, I’m sure this is just breaking hearts over at Proctor and Gamble.
Although there is some debate as to the voracity of the news reports about this (snoopes) I think the concept is still interesting. There is no good reason why we should be trading government issued pieces of paper to buy and sell products/services especially seeing that the paper is a fiat currency that is backed up by no real assets and has no “real” value. As such a jug of Tide is arguably much more valuable than US dollars. When you combine that fact with the declining confidence that many Americans have in the Federal Reserve System it makes perfect sense that people are going to look for an alternative currency with real value.
More than anything else I would take these news reports as a sign of the times as to the current openness of folks to accept payment in barter. As such I recommend to strike while the iron is hot and do your best to recruit as many of your vendors/customers/friends/enemies/etc. into the Cult Of Barter.