According to the New York Times, barter is the new buying. Since we’re all suffering from minor cash-low problems (no cash, no flow–no problem!) and on the butt-end of the massive wave of consumerism that were the ’80s and ’90s, seems we’ve all got junk lying around that somebody else might want to trade their junk for. I remember the old Carlin line: “Your stuff is shit. My shit is stuff!”
Not that barter ever went away–a lot of business is done “in kind”, and all those synergistic partnerships every corporation worth its salt boasts about are nothing more than a swap of brand influence–but I’ve no doubt that personal barter is coming back. The online epicenter of the new rise in barter is craigslist, which offer’s free beer (or Mt. Dew for the under-21 crowd) in exchange for helping someone load his truck, the loan of a digital camera for a week in exchange for a large pizza or lasagne, or your house painted in exchange for a futon or TV set (to take the first three barter ads from SF). According to the article, craigslist’s listings have doubled over the last year, no doubt reflecting the bottoming out of the job market and the ongoing repercussions of Bush’s friends on the stock market. As with most other activities, the Internet expands and intensifies the possibilities of bartering, and with peer-to-peer systems like eBay becoming increasingly corporatized into top-down blahness, I imagine that good end-matching services like craigslist will sustain a more stable barter market.
Of course, this article is in the “Style/Fashion” section, so you know it’s gotta portray bartering as less of an economic or, god-forbid, political strategy, and more as a lifestyle. Even when their respondants say nothing of the kind. Consider:
Ms. Bowling says she barters as a lifestyle choice as much as out of economic need.
“I think we live in a society that places too much emphasis on the value of money,” she said. “We are a throwaway society, and we don’t realize that something that is a throwaway to someone might be of value to another.”
Is there anything in that statement that indicates Ms. Bowling sees bartering as a “lifestyle choice”?
That aside, though, it’s an interesting article. craigslist doesn’t list my city, unfortunately, but I’m gonna keep my eyes open for local bartering networks–I’ve got a box of stuff destined for eBay that might be better served by a local trade.