Cash not accepted

Cash not accepted

Swap meets used to be treasure hunts. We could find the old, the odd, the broken, and the discarded; and we could even “swap” our junk for someone else’s. Today’s swap meets, like the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet and eBay, are really bazaars, where we can buy new and used, hand-made and mass-produced items.

The closest thing to a “swap meet” – an exchange of goods and services – is Craigslist, which has a small category called “barter” tucked away under “for sale.” Recently, under Hawaii listings, I saw a 20-gallon Contractor shop vac (new hose needed) being offered in exchange for a Mobi phone; an Xbox 360 being offered in exchange for a 64-oz Hydroflask; and a Safari van being offered in exchange for a motorcycle.

I really like the idea of a barter service – one that helps us save money, trade goods that might otherwise sit in the closet, and prevent more stuff from ending up in a landfill.

Maybe someone has already come up with a plan. If not, I’d like to see Hawaii set up a demonstration project – a barter service that matches people who need products or services and have something of equal value to offer in exchange. It would be a website more local than eBay and more bona fide than Craigslist.

Here are 7 guidelines to starting a barter matching service:

1. Barterers would have to confirm their identity through the service, while keeping their name and contact information anonymous until there’s a “match.”

2. Barterers could only offer legal products that they own, free and clear – no offering on behalf of someone else. Pick-up or delivery would be negotiable.

4. Barterers could only offer lawful services of their own time and effort, not someone else’s; though the offer could include help from one or more other people. The use of tools, equipment, and electricity would be negotiable.

4. Barterers would list what they need and what they have to offer in trade, no cash accepted.

* I need or I have products… valued under $100 (textbooks, an electric drill, a blender); valued over $100 (a bicycle, a handmade quilt, a washing machine); and recurring products (weekly seasonal vegetables, monthly flower arrangements).

* I need or I have services… valued under 4 hours (manicure, dog walking, lawn mowing); valued over 4 hours (home cleaning, home remodeling help, business consulting); and recurring services (weekly lawn mowing, weekly tutoring or coaching, monthly haircuts).

5. Barterers could set a geographic area for the exchange of products and services. In addition, safe and well-lit public libraries and shopping malls could act as exchange locations.

6. Barterers would be able to rate each other on communication, courtesy, and trustworthiness.

7. The barter service would be free to use and exempt from the general excise tax. No paperwork or tax returns.

We already do informal trades between family, friends, and neighbors. I think we need the opportunity to expand the “network” of people we trust and share the things we need.

Could a barter service succeed in Hawaii? Would you be willing to try it out?

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