In a day and age where costs seem to be ever on the rise, learning the skill of bartering or trading can be useful. In a case where cash might not have next to no value, think Greece, or you just don’t have any, having the capability to barter for an item or a skill you do not possess, can be very helpful. Bartering is a lost art, but it is not a dead one. Over the past few years I have learned to barter quite well. So much so that, that almost all of my bartered deals come out drastically in my favor. I don’t think this is because I have the best bartering skills around, I think it is mostly because I have honed a skill that most people no longer possess.
To barter is to exchange a good or service for another good or service with out the use of money. Basically you work at a deal until both parties are happy with the outcome and agree on the exchange. Bartering can be, strike that, IS a very good skill to have. Even in today’s world where cash is king bartering goes on more than you think.
If I told you that over the coarse of a year I was able to barter something with a value of around $3,000,and ended up with an item with a value of around $12,500, would you believe me? I hope so, because that is exactly what happened. It wasn’t all done through bartering. I did sell one item for cash to obtain another, which was then bartered away. The point is, through mostly trading/bartering, I started out with a 15 ft boat, and ended with a 23ft boat that was 8 years newer a year later.
I had become pretty good at buying things and flipping them quickly for a profit so I wanted to see exactly how far I could take it by bartering. I traded that little15ft boat, worth $3,000 on its best day, for a motorcycle worth more than double that. The key here is that we were both happy to make the trade. He got exactly what he was looking for and so did I. How do I know the motorcycle was worth more than double you ask? Because I sold it 4 days later for $6,500. Through a series of other trades I ended up with with a clean, low hr, 1995 Mariah Z235 Davanti worth $12,500
Bartering is alive and well in the USA. There is even a section on craigslist just for it. You can barter for more han you think too. Many times when someone has something for sale they are also open to a trade even if its not listed in the add. You just have to ask.
Three keys to the lost art of bartering.
1. Knowing the value of what you are offering.
This one is not as easy as it sounds. While trade value is usually a little higher than cash value this is not always the case. You need to do a little homework on what you are offering before you start. Know why your item is valuable. That way you have a good base value to start with. Check local sale sites or eBay to see what this item has recently sold for. You now have your starting point. You know what your item or skill is worth. The value will now go up or down dependent on how badly the person you are bartering with needs or wants your item. It can also fluctuate on their knowledge of both items. The better you know your items and can tell them why they need it, the better it looks to them. There is a skill involved here that takes practice. You want to up-sale your item without coming off pushy or overselling it. I cannot stress this enough, DO NOT BE DISHONEST. Nothing brings out a person wrath like being lied to. Everyone who barters in the tri-county area will know your name and not for a good reason. If you come by a good deal honestly, you will actually gain respect in the bartering world. People will know they need to start on a level playing field when dealing with you. That always works in your favor!
The value will also depend on your relationship with this person. If this someone who you will be dealing with once, than try to work the deal to your best interest. If this is someone who you will be dealing with in an ongoing relationship, working a deal that suits both sides equally is usually better for easier future trades.
2. Being able to read the person your dealing with.
There is not much I can tell you here other than this takes time to develop. Don’t be in a hurry. Its a skill you will begin to acquire during your first trade. You will start to spot the nuances that give people away as to how badly they need/want what you are offering. You will learn how to work the deal from here.
Offer low at first. You can always come up if you need to. The key here is to not start out so low that you offend them. Watch their reaction to your offer, both verbal and their body language. It will tell you a lot. Make your offer and then SHUT UP! Yes, its a little harsh, but you have no idea how much people give away because they ramble on. Many of my greatest deals have happened because people feel uncomfortable with silence. They start talking to fill the void and tip their hand for all to see. If someone is making you an offer, tell them you need a few minutes to think about it. Do it in silence. They will often up their offer to fill that silence because they have overthought your silence for rejection. This truly is an art and can become quite fun when done properly.
3. Knowing when to walk away.
This can be difficult when its an item or skill you really need. There are many deals that you will just need to walk away from. The person on the other side of the trade simply wants to much or has overvalued their item. This is where setting a maximum value on what you are trading for ahead of time is very useful. You don’t get caught in any heat of the moment decisions. 98% of the time when the maximum value you set up is exceeded, its time to walk away. This is after you have bickered back and forth, not in the beginning. When you have come to your predetermined impasse, get to steppin’. Do it politely and with few words. Make sure they know how to contact you if they change their mind. I have had a few deals go through a day or two after walking away, but most die when you leave. This is ok. You have lived to barter another day and didn’t get caught up in the moment.
I will recommend you start out small, learn your craft, and work your way up. I have found almost anything can be bartered for if your listening. Here is one example. If you have mechanical skills and your neighbor, whose wife just happens to make the worlds best pies, car breaks down. You hear him say he doesn’t have the money to fix it. You could work out a deal where your labor is worth X amount of pies. This way for a few hrs of your time, you help out a neighbor, and get to eat good pies for months to come. I’m positive you can come up with many more.
Bartering is also a good way to get rid of items that no longer have value to you. Often these items still have great value to someone else. Sure you could sell them for pennies on the dollar in a yard sale, or you could get some much needed items in return and have some fun doing it. Bartering is fun.
So there you have it. The lost art of bartering wasn’t lost after all. It just got misplaced.