I remember as a kid learning about trade: the East India Company, Silk Road, Japan, trappers trading with Indians and many other instances. Trade was and is a big deal in the global economy. I remember kids would buy candy in bulk and sell it for quarters, making big bucks for kids. My cousin and I even opened a lemonade stand that made around $40; not bad for two kids with some Minute Made.
A huge portion of our country buys cheap piece of shit plastic Wally World stuff. In my small universe and throughout the country, prices are set, you pay them and you go on your way. But I’ve traveled to a few countries like Costa Rica where bartering is commonplace and it made me think, “bartering is awesome”.
As a postgrad with higher than average loans, money is pretty tight. I get by, but there are some things that I need to get done that cost a lot of money. The value of networking and knowing people can never be understated. While it’s absolutely clutch to “know a guy”, for me, my bartering experiences are with my friends. They know I’m there for them in a pinch, and I know they’ve got my back.
I’ve been a proponent of the barter system for as long as I can remember. When I was in college, I had a deadline for turning in a paper that had to be a hard copy. My piece-of-shit Dell printer shit the bed on me and in an enraged state, I threw it out the fraternity house window. Although I felt better, I still needed to print my English final paper. With time running low, I asked one of my brothers to borrow his printer and traded two Natties for it. Not only did we continue our barter and trade system, but we became very close friends all because I rage-threw my printer.
Part of the greatness that is the barter system relies on fair trade. A lot of times, people have certain things that are expensive, like a printer. Or they bear some form of risk, like buying underage brothers alcohol where they in turn buy you a six-pack. All I’m saying is that appreciating people’s skills is necessary to facilitate a successful barter. When I was drunk and broke my laptop screen, my boy Jimmy saved me $200 by installing a new screen so Best Buy didn’t bend me over. Sure, I could have probably done it, but he’s a professional IT guy and a case of Red Stripe seemed much better than me fucking up my laptop even worse.
When we bought our townhouse, the electrical work needed to be fixed as per the inspector. Great news! My good buddy Peter is an electrician and got paid to hang out with me and do some easy work. He also installed another must-have, a garbage disposal. Knowing he wouldn’t take any form of payment and would be spending a lot of time on this project, I’ve offered up my years of hockey experience to help teach his kid. As one of the few kids that isn’t a little bastard, his mild-mannered son is a joy to coach, mostly because he listens and doesn’t cry.
Nothing sucks more than moving. The constant moving from different shithole to shithole in undergrad and grad school prepared me to be an expert mover. If you don’t have a lot of skills, being the mover with the truck is an underrated trait. I’ve helped move more people than I can remember. Part of the majesty of the barter is being a good friend but also knowing you can call on your buddy to help you out when in need, not because they have to but because they want to.
The barter system is all about friendship. My beer league’s favorite pastime, 4th period (beers in the lot after) facilitates a lot of dialogue. Being friends, I was airing some grievances about how my old landlord was dealing us some adversity regarding giving back our deposit. Without missing a step, my lawyer teammate took my case, no fees attached. A little non-profit grant help from my end, and we are on the way to trial. The whole process would have costed us each money, but a trading of skills, a few rounds of golf together and a strengthening of friendship, brings out the best of the barter system. Moral of the story: you scratch my back, I scratch your back and we all come out better. .
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