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Monday, May 11, 2009

Bartering in a new economy

A lot of people have been discussing using bartering as a method of exchanging goods and services in the new economy, one where jobs may be scarce and the money tight, but where the need for exchange still exists.

Well, a Seattle company has created a website, called Dibspace, where you can post and exchange bartered services and goods. Basically the way it works is that you offer your services for a certain number of "dibits". Each dibit is equivalent to one dollar. So, let's say I sold my services providing canning lessons to someone for 25 dibits. I now have a credit that I can use for another service on the site, say housecleaning, window washing, sock folding, whatever is being offered. (For more detailed info you can read the FAQ.) The site does provide the appropriate tax forms at the end of the year as there are tax liabilities with bartered services.

The nice thing about Dibspace is not only is it free (for now), but you don't have to find someone to match an exchange with since you are bartering for dibits. It's an interesting concept and one might wonder why not dispense with the dibits business and just use dollars altogether instead? Their site offers the following answer:

Dibits pick up where the dollar leaves off. Even in a strong economy there's a whole lot of productive hours that go unfilled. Why? Because consumers don't always have enough dollars to afford to consume it all. To fill that gap, a specialized currency is actually necessary.

Consider the current economy. Cash is getting harder to come by and people are spending less. As a result, businesses are getting less work and consumers have more unmet needs. In economics-speak, we're value rich but cash poor. Dibspace.com makes it possible for businesses and consumers to continue to trade even when the US dollar isn't up to the job.

This isn't the only online bartering website. The issue with Dibspace, at this point, is that it's local to Seattle only. There are other online bartering sites that are national, like Joe Barter and ITEX, but you have to register to view data or make an offer and there just isn't much there in the way of services. Basically, the problem here too is that you have to find someone willing to accept some exchange that you can provide for their goods or services.

These sorts of sites offer some practical services (accounting, web design, etc.) along with more recreational things like pet portraits, photography and the like. I would love if there were a site similar to Dibspace that hooked up people needing basic homesteading goods and services in a similar fashion since finding someone to trade services where both parties match what they need is difficult.

Would you be interested in this sort of homestead bartering website? What kind of services would you be able to offer?