‘Need someone to cut my hair in exchange for a homemade sourdough fruit loaf’ was a Facebook status and tweet I posted not too long ago. The response underwhelming, not one person put their metaphorical hand up (except my dad, but I wasn’t going to let him cut my hair and I would give him a fruit loaf for nothing).

I was in an utter state of disbelief that there wasn’t 1 person willing to have a go. A little history about my hair. I’ve always had the same paid hair dresser, she’s done my hair since I was about 6. We’ve done all different colours. Upon leaving home at 18, I began allowing friends to cut it for me, I didn’t care, I just wanted it out of the way. At 21 I did shave for a cure. At 25, the day after we got engaged, I cut it pixie shirt from longer than shoulder length because I didn’t like how it had grown out from my last hair cut. My hair dresser was horrified, knowing we had less than a year for it to grow out ready for a wedding up-do. I’m not precious about my hair, and I would not have asked if I’d cared too much about the result. It was an experiment.

People have an innate understanding of the bartering concept, think children swapping Pokemon cards for footy cards in the play ground.  It happens daily in prisons, swapping cigarettes for extra food or protection. Each item is given a certain value and is repaid accordingly.

Kyle Macdonald traded/bartered at red paper clip for a house. Granted he had help from governments, councils and celebrities.

But what happened to the exchange of our skills, knowledge or goods in our day to day lives? Why is the exchange of services and money more acceptable? Why can’t a cake be exchanged for someone fixing your plumbing?

Recently I’ve found a produce swap in our local town. I’m excited for our veggie garden to be over producing and be able to go down there and swap excess for things that we need.  I love that our trash (excess) with become another’s treasure, that we’ll be able to create full meals from produce we’ve grown or bartered.

Soon we will have silverbeet, beans, peas and beetroot coming out of our ears, there’ll be way too much, some may get feed to the chickens but I wait with baited breathe to see what others in our area are willing to swap.

I asked J the best way to round this post up, I thought maybe I should mention that this way of life isn’t suitable to everyone, he’s response, ‘why not?’

Think about our professions, our hobbies, this movement wouldn’t just be about swapping food. It could be about car pooling in exchange for lunch, baby sitting for some wiring, a loaf of bread for some design work. Everyone has a skill.

And therein lies the question; what would you be able to swap?  

30 thoughts on “Bartering?

  1. Well, I would love some of your homemade bread but I doubt you’d want me cutting your hair. I think a lot of people are into bartering but you have to find someone within driving distance so you can do the swap xx

    1. I think you’re right about having people will to swap close by, but I think that there should be more willing to swap too. I’d absolutely give you a go at cutting my hair! 🙂

  2. I think they less of a village life that we lead, the less people are likely to barter. To a degree I can understand why – if you don’t know the person, you can’t assess their skill to know if it’s a valid exchange.

    1. Vanessa, I hadn’t thought about assessing the levels of peoples skills. I think part of my problem is that I’m too trusting, as I assume that if someone if willing to do something, then they would have adequate ability to do it.

  3. That took gumption to put that out there. Well Done. Im not a hair dresser and a little away but i would barter, no shame. Not sure what with, accounting skills! Babysitting – im the pied piper with kids. Since you seem to have as much front as Myer and David Jones put together (this is how my husband describes me and not referring to boobs) why dont you just call one of your local hairdressers that operate mobile or from home. Pay them the first time and then whilst there, discuss options. Feed her cake, and they will come. Your veggie swap people may know a hair dresser willing. More word of mouth. Why not put a free ad on Gumtree.

    1. Thanks Lynda. That’s a great idea to call a hair dresser and eventually ask if someone there would be interested. I wasn’t necessarily looking for a hair dresser, just someone to have a hack at it. An add on Gumtree is a great idea too. Thanks for your suggestions.

  4. I think it’s a great idea Clare. I’ve always wished I could feed trades people in exchange for their work especially when they’re doing something so simple.
    I’d be more than happy to exchange food for a service.
    I’d cook or bake or swap home-grown goodies.
    I guess with the hair idea… if you’re a hairdresser and people are paying you to do your job, would you do the same job for a loaf of bread. It probably all comes down to $. They think that they could buy a lot of loaves for what they’d usually get for a haircut?

    1. Here’s another idea. You live in paradise right. Lots of backpackers staying close by. Put an ad on the board at the local hostel that you will feed people for: hair cut (by trained hairdresser), labour for your yard, anything else you want? We often contact hostels when we need some short term labour for one off projects in the factory and they have always been really lovely and very interesting young people. The manager knows we wont take riff raff so he doesnt send any. I know if i was travelling id do someone’s ironing, wash a car, mow the lawns etc for a meal in a home

      1. I hadn’t thought about that, which seems silly as I once travelled world by WWOOFing. I worked on farms in exchange for food and accommodation. This is a wonderful idea and I’m sure that there are travellers near by. Thank you for the suggestion!

    2. That’s true that a hairdressers could get a lot of loaves for what they charge. I suppose I was really looking for someone who was willing, not necessarily a hair dresser. It’s ok though, in the end I cut it myself.

  5. I have successfully bartered, but at craft markets. My son spearfishes and while I was tending my stall, he went out to sea and came back with a few nice fishies which we bartered for homemade (and they were fabulous!) cheese. Someone else was interested in giving us fruit and veggies for fish and at another market I bartered with a lady who paints the most amazing scenes on stones and rocks for a baby dress that I have sewn she wanted to gift to her grandchild. Bartering works when all parties are willing and not toooo far away from one another. Good luck for the next time!

    1. Marlene, what wonderfully successful bartering. I love that you exchanged the fish for so many different things.

  6. Bartering is tricky becaue one person’s idea of the worth of a service or product is not another person’s and so there needs to be a fairly large pool of barterers to choose from for compatibility to happen.I would take your loaf for a haircut though. But like Charlie said, you might not like the result. I once cut Dario’s hair when he was small and I had to take him to the barber to repair it.

    1. Suzanne, I love that you gave cutting Dario’s hair a go, tough that you had to go and get it fixed though. I’m hoping to be able to branch out more in our community, and find others who are interested in bartering their various skills.

  7. This is a conversation I used to have with a friend who had read that during an economic crisis in Argentina (I think), people turned to bartering instead of payment. Having no trade of our own cooking, cleaning and ironing were our services of choice but then how much ironing or dinners would I be prepared to do in exchange for someone repairing a leaky tap or replacing a tyre? Like for like is difficult to assess isn’t it? I know the time and effort and dedication that would go into a sourdough loaf and see the value in it, but someone else might not.

    1. It absolutely difficult to assess the value of various trades, but I think that this would be up to the parties involved. I don’t think we should revert to this method, but I think there should be an increase of it.

  8. What an interesting idea. I guess the only thing is matching worth for worth and perhaps haircuts are more expensive than bread but of course it’s all about how much people want the other item too! I’d love a loaf of your home made bread but like Charlie said, I doubt you’d want you’d want me cutting your hair! 🙂

  9. I love the concept, I wish people embraced it more often!! I once gave my neighbour a full laundry bag worth of lemons from our crazy tree in return for some home made salami. It was definitely worth it and while I have since moved out of that home where the lemon tree was, I’d have happily traded lemons for other items

    1. What a wonderful trade! We have so many limes, and I’m going to be looking for someone to trade them with.

  10. I love the idea of bartering. I have recently done so with some friends swapping bunting for their craft talents in other areas. I’d love to do more of it.

  11. I’d love to be able to swap my blogging knowledge for travel help – crashing at peoples houses, and asking for lifts in exchange for what I know. Don’t know about how feasible this is though 🙂

    1. I can’t see why that wouldn’t be possible! Jade, I’d love to be able to trade things with you for your blogging knowledge!

  12. We adopt a more relaxed approach – we share our surpluses from the kitchen and garden with our immediate neighbours, and they do the same. No checks and balances, but everyone looks out for each other, and our community relationships are so tight that no-one minds asking a neighbour for a favour – would you mind my kids for an hour? Would you drive me to the airport? It’s a nice way to live. I reckon if I asked, there’s a chance that one of them might even cut my hair.. 😉

    1. This is such a great approach! I love the no one owes anyone kind of approach, but everyone is willing to help.

  13. Clare bartering is a hard thing to do most of the time. I am very cautious of bartering because I am happy to swap an hour of my time for anothers, or some veggies for other vegetables. Its when people take advantage of the system and swap a loaf of bread that came from a packet mix and took them a whole 5 minutes before they dumped it into their breadmaker to building a patio. It happens honestly, so before I go into a bartering deal I like to outline who is offering what and will it work for me.

    1. My problem is that I have too much trust. I’m so willing to believe that people would always do the absolute right thing that it never crosses my mind that someone would try to scam their way through a trade. I think the toughest part is trying to put a value to each others items.

  14. I love my local food swap. It operates on a donate your excess and take what you will use basis. Personally I think that works well as you only take what you don’t need – thus is no longer valuable to you but will (presumably) be valuable to others. I think that often issues arise with bartering when people trade things that do have value to them (for eg, their time, something that cost something to produce etc). Too much potential for either party to feel ripped off I guess. Having said that I would have happily cut your hair. I cut both my kids hair, admittedly with mixed results… but uneven is cute right?

    1. I think that it such a wonderful and honest system. I’m not too fussed about the results of my hair, I just needed the ends cut off. But I do understand the tricky nature of putting value to a skill.

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