Balloons for Body Work and Other Barter Agreements

This installment of an ongoing feature on barter agreements includes stories from a woman who traded gift balloons for auto body work and a man who traded use of his camping gear for lawn mowing services.

| March/April 1983

  • barter agreements - illustration of a grease-covered mechanic presenting balloons to his wife
    Barter agreements are possible almost everywhere for almost anything, including auto body work.
    Illustration by MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff

  • barter agreements - illustration of a grease-covered mechanic presenting balloons to his wife

Bill Wodraska shared some of his thoughts regarding one of mankind's better ideas — barter — and offered up an interesting suggestion: "I'd like to see a continuing feature on barter agreements and skill-and-labor exchanges," said Bill. "You're on!" MOTHER EARTH NEWS replied.

Balloons for Body Work

Back in 1981, I started my own part-time bootstrap business: "The Balloon Shoppe" delivers inflated bouquets for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and other special occasions.

Recently, though, a traffic accident left my delivery van with a broken windshield and a bent window frame. When I checked at a local body shop I found that repairs would be quite expensive. I decided to propose a swap, and since it was then the second week in February, I asked the shop owner what he planned to give his wife for Valentine's Day. He hadn't thought about it at all, so I suggested a beautiful balloon bouquet — which, together with a small amount of cash, he accepted in trade for repairs on the van. That balloon/body-work barter made a happy holiday for all of us!

North Carolina

Trading Flowers

My wife and I are exceedingly fond of perennials — the iris is our special favorite — and we used to spend many hours in the early spring poring over seed catalogs and wishing we could afford to purchase the many beautiful varieties available. Unfortunately, it would have cost a small fortune to buy all of our choices in one season, so we resigned ourselves to dreaming. This year however, we were able to make those fantasies come true — and triple our perennial bed — through bartering.

The farm on which we live, at one time a country squire's estate, has thousands of daffodils arranged in formal and naturalized beds. Years of neglect had led to overcrowding, though, and the plants had to be thinned if they were to bloom. After digging the beds, replanting, and giving away bulbs to a local park and various friends, my wife realized that we still had more than enough for the property. So she took out an ad in the county newspaper proposing a "perennial swap."

Surprisingly, many of the responses were from people who invited us to thin their perennial beds in exchange for all the bulbs we wanted. We were delighted to oblige, and everything worked out beautifully: Overcrowded gardens were restored health, while we reaped a supply of irises, grape hyacinths, and lilies in exchange for only a few hours of digging. In short, barter turned a garden chore into a plant bonanza for us!

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