Barter in the Digital Age

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Bartering has returned in a big way as the Internet has become more popular and accessible to a wider range of people. Sites like Craigslist and eBay are prime examples of online bartering communities.

Craigslist and other digital classified sites often have offers of people who want a simple barter exchange; one item or service in exchange for another. Online auction sites like eBay allow people to exchange items they have and no longer want for cash. This is different from a retail store setting in that the items are generally previously owned and are frequently more difficult to locate than the mass produced items found on the average store shelf. Additionally, the auction-like setting gives much of the power to the buyers who are able to determine exactly how much they are, or are not, willing to pay for any given item. It is still a good place for the sellers however, because they can place a firm limit on the lowest price they are willing to accept.

More and more stores, both brick and mortar and online, are beginning to offer trade-in pricing on high end items and electronics. Some places like or Plato’s Closet offer cash for your items. Other places like, BestBuy, Apple, and Target typically offer you slightly more for your items with the caveat that you receive gift cards or store credit for that particular store in lieu of cash.

This might not work out so well if you are looking to trade a 50” television for food and water but if you are looking to get something in particular from that store you could end up spending quite a bit less going the trade in route.

If you are only interested in cash your best bet may be the old fashioned pawn shop. Pawn shops have been around for thousands of years and are one of the first business models that incorporated bartering. It is extremely important if you decide to pawn something that you do your research!

If you are selling gold and jewelry make sure you know the exact amount gold is worth the day you go in. Also it would be a good idea to have your gold weighed by a professional jeweler. That way you know if you are dealing with an unscrupulous pawn broker and with an incorrectly calibrated scale.

Bartering for food and items is also coming back in a more personal way as the popularity of yard sales and farmer’s markets continues to grow. The ability to advertise online allows sellers to reach a wider audience and increase the foot traffic and potential profits. Typically these events allow people to exchange money for goods owned, made, or grown directly by the individual selling them, however, some events encourage traditional barter as well. This entirely cuts out the middlemen involved in most retail exchanges and can lower the overall price for the consumer and increase the profit of the seller. This is what is known as a win-win situation for both parties.