What It Takes to Barter

pumpkinsMy friend, Speedy, is quite possibly the best horse trader within a 200 mile radius. In all the time I’ve known him, he has never held a job and yet seems to do quite well for himself. No, he doesn’t actually trade horses. He uses a system of bartering. He has a knack for trade.

I asked Speedy if I could tag along with him one day and do some research on the fine art of bartering. He said “Yup, as long as you don’t slow me down.” This is really funny because here in the south, we like to give folks nicknames that are the opposite of what they are, like the big guy named Tiny. Well, Speedy wasn’t speedy at all. It took him ten minutes to fasten up the four buttons on his overalls.

On this particular day, Speedy was on a mission. His wife wanted 4 big pumpkins. Two of which, she would turn into several delicious pies for the church social and two, which would become jack-o-lanterns for the grand kids. Speedy loaded up his truck and we set off to the local Farmer’s Market.

Now I should tell you that Speedy has an interesting hobby. He finds branches in the woods behind his house that are all twisty looking. He whittles these sturdy branches into fine walking canes. They’re not anything fancy but folks like them. He won’t put a price on the walking canes but often uses them as part of his bartering.

I knew that Speedy wasn’t about to give up any of his trade secrets, so I didn’t ask him any direct questions. I just watched and learned. We spent three hours at the Farmer’s Market. Three short hours. I learned a lot about bartering and about what’s fair and not fair.

Speedy got four big, pretty pumpkins and the farmer got a fine walking cane and the promise of two freshly baked, and delivered, pumpkin pies. It was a good morning. Let me share a few things that I learned.

The first thing I learned is that you can’t be shy when bartering. You have to friendly, open, agreeable and democratic, but never shy. If you don’t speak up then you might be missing out on a good trade. Also, if you are unwilling to carry on a bit of small talk, you might be considered untrustworthy.

Trust is the soul of bartering. When you want to develop bartering skills it is important to also develop casual friendships, consider them your network. You never know who might have something you will need or want in the future.

I learned that what you barter can have no direct relationship, for instance, a walking cane and a pumpkin.

I learned that value is a perception. If I have something you want and you have something I want, then we only have to agree on the worth.

I learned that anything can be bartered. The price of the object doesn’t matter. I’ve even heard of houses and cars being bartered.

I also learned that after you agree on what is to be traded, you agree on when it is to be traded. Sometimes bartering has time constraints.

Now I wanted to take what I learned and apply it to our day to day living and find out if bartering could supplement our income. We love fried apples and apple pies. So we were planning on taking a 40 mile daytrip to an excellent apple orchard to purchase some apples for the winter. This has been a bumper crop year for apples in our region. I noticed that a few of our neighbors had apple trees just loaded with fruit that was falling to the ground. I mustered up my courage, (I’m a bit shy when I haven’t met someone.) and talked to them about their apples.

One neighbor was an elderly woman who wasn’t able to take care of her apple tree or her yard. We got all the apples we wanted in trade for mowing her lawn and picking some apples for her. I even baked an apple pie for her. We saved the cost of gas for the trip we didn’t make and the money for the apples we didn’t buy. She has a pecan tree that is loaded down and when those get ripe, we’ve arranged for a trade on that as well.

I’m very encouraged by my first bartering attempt and plan to do much more to supplement our income. I urge you to try it as well. I did a bit of research on the internet about bartering and was surprised to learn that there are actually sites called Barter Clubs. You can sign up for these and barter away on the net. So bartering isn’t just limited to your neighborhood, it can happen anywhere at any time. A good place to start learning more about bartering to supplement your income is Bartering 101.

The thing about bartering is that you have to use your imagination. You have to be open to what ifs. Take stock of what you have to offer. Is it a personal service, such as home cooking or teaching computers, dog sitting, plumbing, working on cars or even yard work? Do you have an extra TV sitting around unused? Can you do something no one else can do? Do you have an unusual hobby? Then consider what it is that you want or need. Do you want fresh fruit and vegetables? Do you want someone to baby sit for you? Do you need your house roofed? Do you need a tune-up on your car?

After you figure out what you have to offer and what it is you want in return, then go out and find someone that will be willing to barter with you. That’s really all there is to it. In bartering, both parties benefit. Everyone is happy.

Image coutesy of M Dot

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8 Responses to What It Takes to Barter

  1. Max says:

    Wow — this is a nice great-Depression-y post :)

  2. Pingback: The Basics Of Barter | BarterNewsBlog.com - Barter, Indirect Barter, Business-to-business Barter, Barter Companies, Entrepreneurship, Commercial Barter Industry, Multilateral Barter

  3. Dody says:

    Max’s comment was mean.

    Bartering was our first trade system.

  4. Thank you for sharing this article. I had no idea there where barter clubs. I recently posted a baby grand piano I want to sell/barter for a small dependable car. Although I posted on craigslist the response has been limited. More curiosity than interest from barters.

  5. John says:

    Great post!

    I really enjoyed your story. It showed how easy and simple it is to barter.

    Best of luck to you.


  6. ThiNg says:

    I used to work at a famous canadian coffee shop, where the owner would drop off a dozen donuts or half dozen muffins once a week to pay for his gym membership. Bartering is happening all around us folks, just two weeks ago I fixed a computer for a guy down the street and he opened and cleaned out my furnace and tightened the belt which was rattling.

    The key thing is to know what you have that other people want. And then figure out who has what you want. Everything else is actually know as ‘friendship’ or being ‘neighbourly’.

    I use my snowblower on my neighbours driveway, adds about 15 minutes to my work, he dropped off a case of beer the first summer, and this summer he let us use his cottage for a day.

  7. Joel says:

    Great article,some people enjoy it as a profession.

  8. giovanni says:

    Bartering is truly very important especially when the economy is not doing well. I know this great bartering website (www.favorpals.org) in which you can barter with others on a safe and secure site. Its goal is to live in “a world without money”, which is really interesting.

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