Tuesday, January 27, 2009

fair trade

I'm really curious about this whole practice of bartering. It seems to be a hot topic at the moment, not that it ever really disappeared. It just feels like it's on a huge upswing right now. Surely the god-awful economy has a lot to do with it, but it seems like there are a lot of other factors in play, too, like being environmentally friendly. It used to be that it took place between people who knew each other, but there are on-line bartering sites all over the place in recent years. What started out with a sense of community has gone very global.

If you aren't familiar with the practice, it's basically trading something you do for something someone else does. Say you're a really good tree trimmer and your neighbor is an ace plumber. You cut down dead branches in return for getting that leaky bathroom sink fixed. It's an investment of time and skill rather than money, and the possibilities are virtually endless. This is really bartering in its simplest form, since you can, in theory anyway, barter anything anywhere. Some people barter for everything from airplane tickets to cemetery plots, but that's just too over my head to even contemplate.

I have friends who barter regularly and always have. I love the idea, and would like to start doing it, but I immediately run into a roadblock. I don't think I have many skills I could trade that people would want. It seems to me that the people who would be able to put this to good use have specific marketable skills. Take photography. I would think if you can take a good picture, you can swap that talent. How about other artists? Or any kind of household handiwork. Auto mechanics. Hair cutting. Graphic design. Massage therapists. These are all highly tradeable skills.

It's a little humbling to realize that you have no real skills when it comes to what you can trade. I've put time and thought into this, and here's what I came up with.

I bake really good bread, and make a mean homemade pizza crust.

And I think that's it. In a town loaded with fabulous bakeries and pizza places, those aren't going to take me far. I don't sew. I knit - badly. I'm totally crafts challenged, to my enormous chagrin.

I can always babysit. Or cook. But those skills are a dime a dozen. There is the nursing aspect, but I don't really see that as barterable. I'm always happy to be a Dial A Nurse for my friends, but that's different. I could come over to your house and take out stitches, but any moron with nail clippers can do that. It's too bad, really, because there are so many things I'd like to get from bartering. I just don't seem to be in a position to pull it off.

What about the rest of you? What are some skills you have that you could trade off for things you can't do? And what would you most like to trade for?


WT said...

I'm an IT professional in the middle of cattle country, I haven't paid for meat in over 4 years.

ped crossing said...

You could tutor, I wouldn't think that you could make it through nursing school without getting good at math and science (especially biology). And it is much more pleasant to tutor other people's kids rather than your own.

I could tutor, sew, paint (rooms, not art), be crafty, photograph or help with a remodel (cosmetic, not structural). Dang those fourteen 4-H projects come in handy. I would trade you for some cooking (bane of my existence) for the three picky eaters in the house. Or to teach me how to knit, even if it is badly.

Just don't ask me to help you with your computer (I have a degree, I choose not to use it). I'll leave tech support to WT.

Maggie May said...

Oh....... I can't think of anything I'm good at.
I look after my granddaughters and my son helps me with IT, and things that go wrong in the home!

When it comes to the general public........ that's another matter.

Rudee said...

Like you, I wish I had skills I could barter. We've traded some things along the way for services. We traded a generator for some cement work-right before that big eastern US blackout. Duh. I could knit for someone. That I can do-just not fast enough. Most people around here are more interested in trading their services for something green.

laurie said...

this is why i never joined the peace corps. those developing nations didn't really need much editing done.

The Finely Tuned Woman said...

I am totally lacking in skills. except that I have a lot of psychological insight and empathy and wherewithal and I make a good listener and rock in the storm. I can talk people through a crisis and calm them down. Do you think I can barter that for anything? Like having screws driven in my cement walls to have pictures hung up? Or having someone come over to give my linoleum a good shine?

Iota said...

Writing. You can write. Is that a barterable skill?

I want to ask a friend who is in the middle of painting her basement if I can go and help, and in return she could come and help me do a room. Much more fun to do it two together, and it will go more than twice as fast. Why am I so British and unable to suggest this?

Kaycie said...

Back when the older kids were really little, I had a girlfriend across the street with a daughter just about a year older than my daughter. She has a salon. I used to take her daughter on a moment's notice -- basically back-up day care -- and in exchange, she cut my hair. We did that for years, even after she moved out of the neighborhood.

Altaglow said...

You are an EXCELLENT cook with a BIG freezer. Why not double, or triple, recipes as you cook for your own family and barter frozen entrees. A week's worth of great prepared dinners should be a good barterable. You could even get your gal friends--the ones who would like a week off from the stove--to sell the idea to their husbands who have roofing, plumbing, etc. skills.

Daryl said...

I would swap some tech help for a good pizza crust ..

What I really need is someone to sew on buttons and do hems .. I cannot sew ... I can take pix and fix just about any PC or Mac problem short of replacing parts

And I smile nice

Akelamalu said...

My dear you are a Mother, that makes you good at everything! :)