The Growing Worldwide Trend in Bartering
March 15th 2009 19:32
Online swapping is catching up to online shopping as a popular trend on the internet. Is it any wonder? As unemployment continues to rise and no turnaround predicted in the foreseeable future, age-old methods of survival are becoming fashionable again and bartering is one of them.
Bartering and swapping goods and services have always had a place in our culture and many of us have picked up some pretty memorable things doing so. Think about the things we've found at garage sales and local markets.
Trading goods through specialised newspapers such as The Trading Post or in the many classified sections of newspapers has also been pretty common since I can remember, and since the internet, online trading has more or less taken over.
What is changing is that the transactions are now becoming cashless and, as in years long ago, people are starting to trade their services for other goods or services, rather than charging cash for them.
It’s not that bartering ever disappeared completely. Even in the so-called good times, people negotiated their skills and crafts for payment by means other than money. It's just that the global recession, which is looking more every day like turning into a depression, has made bartering all the more popular and the internet has certainly made it a hell of a lot more convenient.
According to the Washington Post on the weekend, the growing list of websites and organisations promoting cash free transactions is escalating all around the globe.
In an article from London, As Economy Plummets, Cashless Bartering Soars on the Internet, journalist Kevin Sullivan visits many of the internationally hosted sites that have gained in popularity over the last year or so. The trend goes beyond making a little money on the side or selling something to help pay for a holiday. It has now become a way to help people make ends meet.
Sullivan introduces the article with Kevin Quinn, an English project manager who decided to make use of his sailboat to have some plumbing done in his home and took the plumber for a boat ride in return for some work.
According to the article, bartering on the online classified site, Craigslist, has doubled in the past year and proposed swaps recently included accounting services in return for food and a week’s vacation in a holiday home in return for personal dental services.
In England recently traded goods include several old mobile phones for a second-hand motorcycle and many skills and chores such as gardening for babysitting.
Although survival has been the driving force for many who are trading away their possessions, for 42 year old, Simon Roberts, from Nottingham, England, the motivation is very different. In fact, he has turned his efforts into a business. Roberts has had so much success with his online trading efforts since his first attempt in 2008, he even recommends selling your home to get into the act.
Roberts’ first transaction was a old Ford van of his that he estimated to be worth about $400. Someone needed a van and was willing to give him an SUV worth about $3,000. After 39 swaps in the past year, Roberts says he is about $30,000 in front.
The growing trend is also generating a lot of creativity in the trading of services. A recent bartering proposal, reported by Reuters in New York, had a funeral director offering a free funeral to someone who would undertake a construction job at his Manhattan home in exchange.
Probably the first proposal of its kind, it is also a pretty equal one with the average cost of a funeral in the United States around $7,300 and the estimated cost of the construction work between $6,000 and $10,000.
This may seem a little odd to some, but paying for a funeral in advance is not all that unusual - at least it isn't in Australia. The proposal for this one though has had some enquiries so far but no-one as yet has come forward with any real offer.
An article in the International Herald Tribune in February, reported that barter transactions in Russia were also on the increase. Russia had long mostly abandoned the practice, even though in the mid-1990s barter transactions accounted for an astonishing 50 percent of sales for midsize enterprises and 75 percent for large ones.
Some bartering and trading sites listed in the Washington Post article are:
http://U-exchange.com lists people looking for barters and swaps in more than 80 countries;
http://swapthing.com lists more than 3.4 million items for barter or swap, from Chevies to Frisbees to gymnastics coaching. It is California-based.
http://homeexchange.com an increasingly popular site with those who don't want to pay for a vacation home. But there are others that cater for more modest tastes.
http://swapaskill.com a bartering Web site based in Britain. "It's a great way to get things done without using cash."
http://whatsmineisyours.com a swapping Web site based in Britain that focuses on fashion has 22,000 users from around the globe. According to founder Judy Berger, users are swapping about 1,000 items a week.
http://swapz.co.uk the site where Simon Roberts completed his first successful transaction.
Anyone wanting to barter or trade their services should also be aware of the Australian Government Tax Office Guidelines for business conducted this way. Barter transactions, they say, are assessable and deductible for income tax purposes to the same extent as other cash or credit transactions. The ATO's guidelines can be accessed here:
Really Long Link
This new trend should probably have governments and business more than a little concerned. It's hardly going to help stimulate the economies that all need more than a little consumer indulgence at the moment, but what can people do who have no means of paying for things?
Many of the hosts of these trading sites agree that, although the major cause of this growing trend is the plunging global economy, these sites were already growing in popularity long before the downturn and see no reason for the trend to stall. The sites, they say, also build strong communities which is a pleasant way of doing business and creating new social networks.
The Washington Post
International Herald Tribune
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