Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bring Back Batering!

In the days before money everything was ‘free’, or at least didn’t have a financial cost associated with it. Instead people would ‘barter’, offering one good or service in return for another. Sometimes the ratio wouldn’t be exact so multiple products would be used to purchase a single service. I vote we bring this back!


Even when money was introduced, bartering remained an effective way of surviving when times were tight or when you simply couldn’t find someone else who had money to purchase your product. For painters this meant they would give paintings away in return for food and shelter. If you had a farm you’d swap produce for clothes and generally the economy was funded on more than just numbers in a bank balance.

Despite still having abilities that others value, we tend to mostly accept money for the work we do. This is a shame as it means the old principles of bartering have been lost, and that this once noble tradition has been replaced with corporate greed.

Bartering In The Modern Age
So I suggest we bring back bartering, especially as it will help no end with the goals we are trying to achieve. If companies want to give us stuff for free, then why not barter ourselves and our skills in return?

Want someone to mow your lawn for free? Well why not do their taxes, wash their windows or write them a poem? Find out what they want in return and offer it to them. You’ll get something without spending any money and so will they. Both of you will benefit and the good karma of bartering is more likely to make both of you do the same in the future.

Free things don’t always have to come from companies that have multinational offices and thousands of staff (although I will certainly cover how to get free stuff from them too). Any local tradesman or small business should be used for the concept of bartering, especially if you have something they want in return.

If companies want you to have something for free, then it makes sense that you should want them to have something for free in return. Sure it may seem that for something to be ‘free’ it shouldn’t require any effort on your part, but as with the free lunch example we know that isn’t always the case (and if it is it’ll be a one off that won’t be easy to repeat).

How Do Celebrities Do It?
Even those people in the public eye who are given things for free all the time are given them on the basis of ‘implied bartering’. This is when someone gives a product away for free, on the assumption they will receive something in return.

A famous celebrity who is given a designer watch for free may not give something back in return. However when the watch is given to them there is ‘implied bartering’ as the company doing the giving assumes one of the following will occur:


1) The celebrity will wear the watch in public; this could cause it to be photographed and shown in a glossy magazine. People will then see it and try to copy the style by purchasing the watch.

2) The watch will not be accepted; in which case the bartering contract is refused and the company can try again with another celebrity.

3) It opens a dialogue with the celebrity; perhaps the watchmaker wants the celebrity to be their spokesperson? Giving them the product for free let’s them test it and opens the road for future conversation.

4) Future purchasing; no celebrity lives on free stuff alone, therefore eventually they’ll need to buy another watch. This could be another one from the same brand, which was nice enough to give them one for free.
 
These are just four possibilities, in a much larger pool of outcomes, none of which the company can guarantee, but many of which result in extra exposure for their brand.

The celebrity can accept the watch and choose to do nothing, which is why the ‘implied’ tag is added to the bartering process, but this is the risk the company makes giving something away without a guaranteed return.

It’s the same risk as someone giving you a free product on the street. You may choose to use it, give it back, talk to the person giving it you, or buy more in the future. Even if you’re not a celebrity you’re in the exact same position of power, under the same bartering rules.

The celebrity example is based on a company contacting them, but you can flip this around and contact a company, offering to do something in return for a free product. We could also use ‘implied bartering’ by giving something to the company on the assumption that they could give something back.

How Can I Do It?
Let’s say we start up a book club with some of our friends. We choose our book of the month from ‘Optiread’, buy the book and discuss it. We then decide that we like the book and then want to ask Optiread to provide the next book for us to read.

At this point we have started the ‘informal bartering’ procedure as we have already purchased one of their books and are asking for something for free in return for exposing their books. Optiread can therefore choose to send us a book, on the basis that the other book club members may buy more of their books in the future, or decline our request, in which case we can contact a different company. We may also decide to buy an Optiread book anyway, depending on preferences.

Alternatively if we wanted to barter for real, making it ‘formal’ bartering we wouldn’t buy a single Optiread book and would only choose to talk about books in our book club that had been sent for free. We would call book companies offering to discuss their books in return for being sent them.

This is another low time intensive strategy that has good potential for return, and through ‘formal’ bartering we aren’t spending any money and have much lower risk than with ‘informal’ bartering. Our chance of success if slightly lower, because we haven’t shown any interest in the Optiread books, as we did in the ‘informal’ example, so it’s worth weighting up both options.

This is sample topic as covered in my new book FREE Stuff Everyday which contains 150 pages of tips and tricks on how to get stuff for free. For more information visit http://www.blagman.co.uk/eBook/

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