Balanced bartering

The idea of bartering is alluring, especially when money is tight and we are forced to forego one basic need for another.  Everyone has something other than cash that may be valued by another.  However, in a casual setting, it is easy for one or both parties to feel short-changed at the end of a bartered transaction.  Too often, little thought is given to the measurement of value.

In 1974, Uriel and Edna Foa developed the six basic types of exchange mediums. These classifications of compensation for goods and services continue to serve as a solid assessment of value in situations where goods and services are traded for monetary or other forms of payment.  The next time someone asks you to barter for goods or services, take a moment to assign a value to what they are offering in exchange.  If you do not have firsthand knowledge of their ability to pay or perform, seek references.  Communicate expectations both verbally and in a written agreement.  Do this for the protection of both parties. Finally, consider the tax ramifications (if any) of the trade.  Uncle Sam will expect his fair share.  Remember, "balanced exchanges sustain peer relationships, unbalanced exchanges establish power relationships."

Warning:  Counterfeiting is a risk factor for all of these currencies.

  • Money:  Cash, checks, promissory notes, other forms of legal tender
  • Intangible services:  Medical care, legal advice, expert advice or assistance (financial, creative, etc.), any other valuiable service
  • Tangible goods:  Decorative, useful, rare or sentimentally valuable physical items.
  • Positive regard:  Friendship, love, attention, empathy or caring that that demonstrates you are sincerely valued by another.
  • Prestige:  Respectful titles, deference, status symbols, recognition and other ways to acknowledge stature.
  • Sexual gratification:  Ranging from attention and flirting to full and enthusiastic sexual access.  This currency is most available to the beautiful and sensuous.

One final note, if a favor is what you seek, ask for it.