RISMEDIA, July 9, 2009-(MCT)-Christopher Fuentes, a self-described “computer geek” from Massapequa Park, N.Y., first got the idea to barter his computer know-how when the stock market crashed in the fall and newly unemployed friends were asking him for lessons.
“I thought: Let me put an ad on Craigslist to see if anyone else wants to do this,” said Fuentes, 25.
Turns out they do: In return for computer lessons, he’s gotten baked goods and food plates, home gym equipment and a Ferrari car stereo, a fish tank and World War II weapons, lawn care, laptops, power tools and, soon, language lessons and a backyard deck.
He’s turned down offers of a Florida time share, sex and assault weapons.
“I didn’t think anyone would be sending offers like this,” marveled Fuentes, who makes his living providing computer services to businesses. “To me, it’s fun . . . and I’m almost doing better on the barter end than in my regular business.”
He’s not alone. The classified listing website – a kind of glorified supermarket bulletin board where people post items or services they want to buy, sell, rent or barter – reports an increase of 80% in barter listings in May 2009 compared to a year ago.
And new barter sites are cropping up, with names such as ioffer.com and thesmarterbarter.com, as well as business barter exchange groups and co-ops where individuals offer and get services (including baby-sitting) based on a point system. They’re capitalizing on the recession, which has reduced access to cash or credit.
Bartering does have drawbacks: the countless e-mails, questions and calls that go nowhere. But it’s also worked out for Emil Kolenovic, an apartment building superintendent in Freeport who does custom car paint jobs on the side. He entered the bartering arena when the recession turned off the flow of paying customers.
“First, this guy with a pickup truck said, ‘I really can’t afford it, I just lost my job, but I want to get the rims painted. Will you accept a laptop?’ and I said, ‘OK,’ ” said Kolenovic, who has since traded his skills for amplifiers, car parts and PlayStation games, which he can sell or trade. Some trades are worth more to him than actual cash would have been, he said.
On the other hand, he said, “I turn people down all the time. A used kid’s bike, old-school big TVs, old couches. . . . Let somebody else take it.”
Bartering hasn’t been the boost to Dave Glatman’s recession-battered plumbing and heating business that he’d hoped for when he turned to Craigslist last fall.
“Barter – it really hasn’t produced much, to be honest with you,” said Glatman, 44. People have offered record collections and furniture instead of the services or materials he could use to lower his business costs, he said. “We all want something that is worth money to us, or that we can make money off of.”
For Rudy Zadwarny, 53, of Centereach, N.Y., the appeal isn’t only the value of the bartered services – dental work, chiropractic treatments and baseball instruction for a son – he’s gotten in return for teaching Japanese jiu jitsu self-defense. It’s the personable nature of the exchange.
“It’s an organic thing,” he said. “I don’t treat it as a business. . . . They have to be as passionate about what they’re bartering as I am. I’m not a clock watcher – and I’m looking for the same thing.”
Vanessa Bulcock, 23, an information technology recruiter from Patchogue is offering resume and brochure writing, along with household items. So far, she has gotten a designer wallet and sunglasses, and a promise of professional head shots.
It’s “more the thrill of it, the excitement” that keeps Bulcock bartering despite some setbacks and potential risks in dealing with strangers. “It’s more about getting what you want for free, pretty much.”
Of course, not everyone needs to go to a website to barter. Erin Maher, 34, accepts barter items as partial payment for her services as a labor doula, an assistant during childbirth.
And some rely on the old-fashioned way of getting what they need. “I watch my friend’s kid and she watches mine,” said Vicki Jacques, 37, of Kings Park, N.Y. “Is that barter?”
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.