Want somethin’? Got somethin’? Let’s trade!

Bartering subculture takes root in Chico via cyberspace

“I’ll trade ya!” This offer, heard in many a school lunchroom, has become a widespread reality in these hard times when incomes are decreasing and the cost of living is on the rise.

Bartering for what you need has become a viable option for many. With Web sites such as Craigslist.org and Freecycle.org, it is easier than ever to advertise what you don’t want in the hopes of trading for something you do.

The most prominent example is Kyle McDonald, the Canadian man who began with a single red paper clip and 14 trades later had a house (which, incidentally, he’s now trying to trade—details are on his One Red Paperclip blog).

But it’s happening all the time, all over.

Diana Renfro, a long-time Chico resident, recently started using Craigslist as a way to barter. She has bought and sold items on eBay, but with rising costs of listing and shipping items, she accepted a suggestion and decided to try bartering locally.

“Basically it’s about simplicity and necessity,” said Renfro—and using the bartering system is quite simple. To barter online, she explained, you write out a short description of the item along with what you are looking for, and possibly the value.

You can take pictures of your items—or not, because since everyone is local, potential buyers can come over to look at your item. After posting the ad, it’s just a matter of waiting for a response via phone or e-mail.

“This year, due to the rising cost of things and the need to have some sort of transportation—bicycles at the very least—selling, buying or bartering has become almost a necessity,” said Renfro.

Mitch Casselman, associate professor in the Department of Management at Chico State University, understands the reasons people are turning to bartering. Constraints on the family budget lead people to think of buying used or bartering as opposed to buying new. It made natural sense years ago, said Casselman, but now with markets so efficient, it hasn’t happened as much.

But now there’s a resurgence: goods for goods, services for services, and combinations thereof.

Renfro is currently looking to barter for a working bicycle for herself or a three-wheel adult bicycle for her learning-challenged teenage daughter. Although she has only just started bartering using Craigslist she is hopeful that she will be able to find the bicycles she needs.

“I’ve gone through all normal channels for a bike for my daughter with no avail,” she said, “so now I’m going to be more creative.”