Old-fashioned bartering and new sharing technologies are together carving a disruptive niche in our economy. Yahoo is collecting first-person accounts from Americans who are sharing, lending and bartering their way through everyday activities. Here’s one story.
FIRST PERSON | Throughout nine years of running a small family art studio in New Bern, North Carolina, my family has had to get creative with how we make due. We discovered that the little pottery studio was just not a sufficient income for a family of six. But we learned early on that if we really needed something that we couldn’t afford, there was usually a service of value that we could trade for it.
For example, one unlucky trip to the orthodontist proved that my little brother was going to need braces. My parents understood that these things are important, and so they weren’t about to shrug it off. But there was just no way our family could afford something like that. So they sat down with the very reasonable, local orthodontist and talked with him about what they could do in exchange for the service.
At first, we couldn’t figure anything out. It didn’t seem like he needed anything we had to offer. But a few weeks later, he started planning his annual party for all of the dental assistants and staff in the area. They decided to go the creative route and host a painting party. A member of their staff suggested that they book with us, and we struck a deal. Painting Parties were already a strong part of our business model, and we were getting good reviews. Each person who attended would give us a fair amount of credit towards my brother’s braces. Almost two hundred people were invited.
This wasn’t an isolated incident in our lifestyle. We have also traded pottery studio membership for much-needed blinds in our house. We’ve exchanged advertising space for fundraising events, and education for education.
When I was approaching eighth grade, I wanted to go to “The Epiphany School,” a private school that had just opened up in New Bern. At this point, the school was very small and didn’t offer a lot of scholarships. I heard about them because they offered my dad a teaching position as an art instructor. My parents have always supported my desire to learn. I said, “can I go to that school?” and they made it happen. My dad took the teaching job, and my mom taught the yearbook and journalism class the next year. Their efforts and barters were the only way that we could afford such a fantastic education.
Now, I’m twenty years old, and I am one of the owners of my family’s business. I came home from college and worked hard to keep the doors open during some pressing times. My parents appreciated my work and said I could continue living with them as long as I help around the house, run a few errands, and cook dinner when they need me. One of the ways I help is by teaching classes and field trips for a Christian school in New Bern that my brother goes to. We host two field trips each year for each grade in the school.
With the bartering and trading lifestyle, I can have a lot of financial freedom if I have valuable services to offer. When I need something that I can’t afford, there are other ways to earn the privilege than forking over the cash. Trading isn’t cheating the system, it’s just a creative way of using your resources. Trading one service for another is just as fair, just as legitimate, as writing a check. And in the long run, it can be better for everybody. It can enrich the lives of more people, provide local companies with exposure, and strengthen relationships within communities and families.