In their efforts to cope with today's economy, our readers
seem to be in the grip of...
Since the first of the year, we've had an almost
overwhelming response to our offer to trade published
barter experiences for one-year subscriptions. Hundreds of
letters have poured in, and since it's impossible to print
even a small portion of them in our usual format,
we thought you might like to have a condensed rundown on
what some of these folks are doing to enrich the quality of
their lives through swapping.
If our mail is any indication, New Yorkers seem to be
inveterate swappers. S.S. had a couple of
crocheted tablecloths that had been handed down through her
family. They were just gathering dust until she ran across
someone who owned several handmade quilts and who needed a
covering for a trestle table. Now S.S.'s daughter has a
quilt for her redecorated room, and her new friend has a
table cover ...but best of all, the two families are
sharing beautiful parts of their heritages.
Also in New York, M.L.H. had some gallon drums in her yard.
When her garbage-man spotted them and said he could use
them to water his garden, she gladly swapped six of them
for six months of free trash pickup,
On the other side of the country, Californian V.J.H.
offered her old vacuum to a sales and service store to use
for parts ... and in return received a six months' supply
of bags for her current cleaner.
Still another California resident, M.C.M., bartered a
wallpapering job for hypnotism treatments for her husband,
who was trying to kick his smoking habit. (The treatments
The I.C. family-also in California-are owners of an organic
nursery and are always open to trades. Their best swap to
date was with a scuba-diving couple: a Christmas lobster
dinner in exchange for materials to make cactus gardens as
Mrs. B.K., a Pennsylvania housewife suffering from "cabin
fever" after the birth of her second child, found a nearby
horse owner willing to trade riding privileges for
occasional baby-sitting ...so he and his wife
could ride together again.
During the busy holiday season, a group of C.S.'s friends
in New Jersey engage in yet another good trade: After
making their own specialties in large batches (cookies,
candies, breads, crafts, and the like), they get together
for a swapfest. Everyone goes home with a large variety of
goodies and a happy heart.
On a different note, the owner of a tire store, B.B. (who
also lives in New Jersey), says he's always ready to
bargain. He has an ongoing deal with a friend in the
landscaping business: tire repair and replacement—as
needed—on his friend's truck in exchange for spring
plowing and fall fertilizing.
Mr. and Mrs. J.L.P. say their two sons are literally worth
their weight (well, at least a portion of their
poundage) in gold and diamonds. You see, their doctor
agreed to accept a pair of diamond earrings and several
gold pendants from their struggling jewelry business in
Colorado as the delivery fees.
Another Coloradan, C.K., remembers that when his family had
just moved to Georgia, his father spied a neighbor's
chicken coop made out of roughly hewn walnut boards.
Hastily, his dad offered to construct a new coop from pine
in trade for the valuable walnut ...and then had the lumber
milled so he could build the dining room table and six
chairs that are still being used a generation later.
Up in Nova Scotia, K.C. was living near the seashore and
needed a rowboat to pick Irish moss. He wasn't having much
success in finding one, but then he met a lobster fisherman
who was also a boat builder. The aspiring moss gatherer
helped the lobsterman haul in his traps in exchange for
help in building a craft suitable for plying his
When business is slow, .Mr. and Mrs. R.M., a Virginia
husband-and-wife paint, contracting team, check the ads in
their local papers for things they need or want. The they
offer to trade their professional services for those items.
Iowan D.B. has found a way to plant her garden without any
up-front cash expenditure. Since she's always been very
generous with her surplus produce, when she called on the
recipients of her largess for donations toward supplies,
they were more than willing to help out.
Lack of water (and of money to drill a well on
newly acquired Rhode Island property presented a problem
when W.G. and his family wanted to plant a garden and a few
fruit trees in anticipation of the day they'd live there.
The dilemma was resolved when their next-door neighbors
offered to run a water hose from their house to the W.G.
family garden in exchange for a share of the harvest.
As a ministerial student, Alabamian R.I. didn't have enough
money to buy all of his books. So when a bookstore opened
nearby, he struck a bargain with the proprietor: For
helping unpack and for doing some simple assembly and
cleanup work, R.I. was given the volumes that are now
important helpmates in his studies.
C.E.'s family thought that having electricity and running
water in their Indiana horse barn was an unaffordable dream
...until they became involved in a three-way barter. You
see, a farmer friend who wanted a horse for his children
didn't have the cash to buy one, and a contractor owed a
large sum of money to the would-be horse owner. For a
substantial reduction of his debt to the farmer, the
contractor put in utility lines to C.E.'s barn. Then C.E.
gave a horse to the farmer Everyone concerned got what he
wanted, and CIE. now has one less mouth to feed.
Now, if you've run dry of swapping ideas, this sampling
from our mailbag ought to get your inventiveness flowing
again ...and when you complete your next
successful (and unusual) exchange, tell us about it!