Is A Fair Trade?
By James Stout , Writer for
We can consider many
perspectives in setting our values in bartering.
We can transfer our regular dollar-salary into a barter
situation. For example, if we earn $40 per hour for our
computer repairs, we exchange a two-hour repair for our
barter partner's $80 bicycle.
We can decide that "all labor is equal; your hour equals
mine in trade." That attitude comes from people who are
idealistic -- and are usually unskilled. The difference
between a minimum-wage laborer and a $100-per-hour
professional can be too obvious when they are trying to
do a direct trade -- at a ratio of one hour for about 16
hours. Some barter organizations insist on a strict
hour-for-hour trade between members. But at one barter
club where a similar rule was enforced, few
professionals were willing to participate; eventually
the club's director discarded the rule and instead he
allowed the members to make their own agreements.
We create our own subjective values. Those values are
based on various factors:
appreciation of particular goods and services. For
example, if we knit sweaters in exchange for goods
and services, one doctor might give us a checkup in
trade for two sweaters. But a doctor who is
particularly fond of sweaters might notice the
extraordinary quality of our work, and thus be happy
to accept one in trade.
The emotional tone
of the trade. In some deals, we are interacting with
friends (or with friendly strangers). We might place
a higher value onto goods and services which are
created and delivered with love, warmth, and care.
On the basis of that friendship, or just the
humanness of the encounter, we both might reconsider
our fees into the kind of easy deal which is offered
from one friend to another.
influences. Our judgment of value can be influenced
by the media (particularly advertisements), or by a
profession's charismatic image. We can reject those
external standards in favor of our own, to decide
what is important
Get an appraisal of the
other person's goods and services.
Especially when we are trading expensive merchandise, we
should check with experts: store owners, directories,
catalogs, magazines, books, price guides, and
consumer-oriented web sites. Ask professionals to verify
that the camera is fully functioning, that the painting is
authentic, that the motorcycle really is worth that much.
Show the power saw to a carpenter who owns a similar model.
Go to appropriate stores to compare prices on furniture,
equipment, plants, clothing, and other goods. Ask a jeweler
to appraise the jewelry. At one barter club, a car mechanic
has offered to inspect vehicles before we buy them; the
mechanic can be paid via the club's units.
Cover your costs.
Consider the costs of supplies and depreciation. For
instance, if I am roto-tilling your big garden, are you
paying for the gasoline, or am I? If you wire up my
lights, am I purchasing the materials, or am I expecting you
to bring some materials from your shop? (Usually, the person
who is receiving the service pays cash for the
materials.) If you are a businessperson, consider your
overhead, the money which you have paid to your suppliers,