From Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo to Chicago and Seattle, bartering and swap meets are back in style, as businesses and individuals look for new ways to get what they want in a cash-strapped world.
In Argentina, bartering is a 14-year-old custom, an outgrowth of another time when the peso went bust, according to a report in Inter Press Service.
Argentines have formed 500 barter clubs, where people go to exchange everything from home-cooked meals and home repairs to a medical or dental exam.
Corporate giant Bayer AG is taking a different approach in neighboring Brazil, where it is accepting coffee, corn, cotton and soy from farmers in lieu of cash as payment for agrochemicals.
A company spokesman told Reuters that Bayer considers bartering “a good way” of doing business in uncertain economic times.
Up north, Chicago hotels, which have seen occupancy on a consistent downward spiral, are bartering hotel nights for the services they need.
Some give away room nights in exchange for advertising, according to a story in Northwestern University’s Medill Reports. Others are trading rooms for window washing and wineglasses.
A spokesperson for the National Trade Association told Medill so many hotels are calling about barter solutions that it is “almost like a crisis line.”
In Tucson, Arizona, a business-to-business barter company is lining up clients for exchanges of services that range from landscaping to acupuncture to automobile repairs and weekly dry cleaning.
The Arizona Daily Star reports that the company, Value Card Alliance, has grown from 1,000 to 3,000 business clients just this year.
In tech-savvy Seattle, a new Web site seeks to facilitate cashless exchanges among the self-employed or small business owners.
Seattlepi.com reports that Dibspace.com enables a piano teacher can trade lessons for a massage or a haircut, by paying with the site’s barter currency, known as “dibits.”
After two months online, the site has 600 members.
“Seattle startup Dibspace hopes to cash in on bartering”
Seattlepi.com, April 8, 2009
“Hotels bartering to combat low occupancy”
Medill Reports, April 9, 2009
“Expanding barter group carves a cash-free niche”
Arizona Daily Star, April 10, 2009
“Bayer barters to grease wheels of trade in Brazil”
Reuters, April 2, 2009
“Argentina: Bartering — Here to Stay?”
Inter Press Service, April 9, 2009