It’s hard to pick up a paper these days without reading a story about somebody exchanging one service, skill or good for another. Need your bathroom tiled? Or a leaky faucet fixed? Even Japanese lessons? Try swapping out some of your firewood or fresh veggies. With the economy tanking and credit tight, bartering is on the rise across the United States. Craigslist, for instance, has reported bartering activity doubling on its site over the past year.
Some foresee a revolution underfoot in the way Americans obtain goods and services that is fueled by the internet and economic exigencies. Randy White, founder of the recently launched Bright Neighbor, a site which allows people to trade skills and possessions, believes communities must find new ways to tap local resources and encourage sustainability. Other people advocate for the creation of alternative currencies to supplement the dollar, a practice that was used during the Depression and exists on a small scale in a few places today.
And it’s not just direct bartering that’s making a comeback. Business barter networks such as BizXChange in Seattle have reported a spike in trade volume, and the company, which also has offices in the Bay Area and Dubai, says it has plans to expand into the Portland market in the coming months. David Wallach, president of the International Reciprocal Trade Association, which represents about 100 such networks including BizXchange, predicts growth of 15 percent in the coming year — and that’s on top of a similar jump last year. Wallach calls such networks, which allow businesses to trade excess capacity for much-needed services or goods, the “ultimate business ecologist(s).”
So what does all this mean for the economy and its recovery? Has the recession forced you to accept non-cash forms of payment? Or rethink the very concept of payment? Are you finding new ways to thrive? Has your company used a business barter network for supplies and services? What would you like to trade?
- Marcy Strazer: Joseph, Oregon, resident who barters
- Randy White: Founder of Bright Neighbor
- Bob Bagga: Founder and CEO of BizXchange
- Akbar Marvasti: Economist at The University of Southern Mississippi