Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bartering for beginners

Many blogs have articles on bartering that go into great detail about security, third parties and attracting larger audiences.  Intellectually it all makes sense, but that's a lot to take in if you've never tried it.  How do you get started and develop bartering skills without getting screwed in the early deals? How do you maintain your information security about having some preparedness supplies yet 'put it out there' that you have something to trade?  I've just had my first private barter experience and thought I would share it with you.

My across-street neighbors are part of my neighborhood preparedness team (I'll call him 'Mike' for ease of the post). Because of our location, we have some ability to control entry to our part of the neighborhood in an emergency. In conversation, I asked if he had need for an item I bought, even though I didn't need 'it.'  It was a good deal and it is something in short supply,  so I thought someone I know might buy or trade for 'it.' Mike had no need for 'it.'

A couple weeks later, Mike asked if I still had 'it' and we discussed a trade.  Turns out, a friend of Mike's was in need -- got caught short.  Mike traded with me -- not sure what he got from his friend for 'it,' other than good will, but not my business. I got several useful or hard-to-find items for my $17 initial investment, so I'm happy.  Mike seemed to think he had gotten a good deal as well, because at the last minute he threw in an extra bit of goodness -- a couple of new but inexpensive pocket knives that would be good for future trading. I wasn't even waffling about the deal at the time.

The lessons I've learned about learning to barter include: start local, with people you trust. Use your personal network. Don't start out trying to drive the hardest bargain.  In small trades, think more about what you need or want (or can trade easily), not about the retail value you paid for your trade items. In a real emergency, expensive stuff may be worthless and stuff that's cheap now may demand the highest 'prices.'  It's OK to hold out for something you want -- that's different from driving a hard bargain.  Example: I was offered some MRE entrees.  I am allergic to chili and other peppers, so I specified that I would trade for entrees that did not have peppers as ingredients.  That worked out. Mike also knew of an item I wanted for my first aid kit.  He had an extra one that he threw into the deal -- possibly knowing that in an emergency I might use it for a member of his family.  Smart trade, Mike!

Last lesson: If you know that your trading partner is going to trade the item with one of their other contacts, don't pry in to that transaction. It's not your business and it could hurt your future transactions with both parties. You are looking for a deal that is fair to you, not the best possible deal in the world, even if it is a 'smaller world' than we have today.

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