Mark Atkinson – Content Writer
A few years ago, CBC news in Canada reported the story of a Montreal man who bartered his way via the Internet from a paperclip to a house in just under a year. His first trade was for a fish-shaped pen – then a handmade doorknob, a 100-watt generator, an illuminated drinks sign, a snowmobile, a snow globe that once belonged to a famous rock band, a film role and eventually his house.
The tradition of bartering goes back far before the advent of money – back to 6000BC as some sources suggest. In more recent history, the Great Depression of the 1920s saw a particular surge in bartering as people had no money to buy food or clothing. Over the past few years, bartering has seen another revival – particularly in certain European communities with high unemployment levels.
Bartering is big business also. “In 2011, over 400,000 companies worldwide used bartering to earn an estimated $12 billion on unwanted or underused assets,” a Harvard Business Review report suggested last year.
Internet sites dedicated to bartering are popping up all over the place – just punch the term ‘bartering websites’ into a search engine. For a fee, they offer an exchange for a plethora of products and services.
I haven’t yet tried such a site, and I’m not sure if I necessarily would – but I do help close contacts with their copywriting needs in exchange for some help with my website or gaining some valuable first-hand social media tips for example.
The rule of thumb, some say, is to agree on some sort of parity in what you give and gain. With products this might be easier to measure. With services it’s less easy – there’s no exact science – but you’ll soon get a good idea in a qualitative sense of what you’re giving within a bartering relationship against what you’re gaining. The main thing in exchanging services is to do it with goodwill and good favour. Besides, what’s wrong in paying someone a good turn from time-to-time?
By all accounts, as the business environment becomes more challenging, bartering between businesses and within communities will play a growing role. Perhaps our forefathers had some of the fundamentals right.
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Mark Atkinson - Content Writer