Can We Bring the Barter System Back?
Posted by Sadie Lulei
Kate and I walk into the tea shop that we all, including Lukas, enjoy buying our tea from. Not only are there few tea shops in the area, but we all agree that the authenticity and cultural connection to tea that this particular shop has brings us back each time. This time, though, we aren’t just going to buy tea. The woman working asks if we need any help.
“Well actually we’re a business,” says Kate. That statement causes the woman to scrunch up her face, seemingly defensively. It’s interesting, I noted in that moment, the inherent distrust that comes with a business beginning a conversation with you. Kate continues, “We love buying our tea here, and we wanted to make you guys a free video. You can post the video anywhere you want.”
The woman is skeptical. She asks us if we’re college students and when we say that we aren’t, she only gets more confused. I look around at some teas, quietly, allowing Kate to talk. Kate tells her, “We like supporting businesses we believe in.”
She shows us different teas, and a pamphlet they wrote about their teas. She still seems confused, so I decide to offer a piece of information. “We don’t have many videos for our business, we need some practice,” I tell her. “We also want to do this video so we can add to our portfolio.” Only then, when hearing what we as a business gain from making them free content, does she understand.
Unfortunately the owner is away for a few weeks, so we didn’t get a definitive answer. I left my card, which displays my business motto, Personal Growth Comes from Helping Others Grow. I hope that when she explains it to her boss, that bit of my card helps.
In any case, Kate buys some tea and we head to my house to begin shooting our tea video. The day before, when explaining to Lukas what we were planning to do with this tea shop, Lukas had an interesting response. He said, “Doing the bartering system, huh? I hadn’t even thought of that.”
I think about the bartering system, which itself represents my ideal business relationship. It mimics an ecosystem, wherein both parties gain without the in between use of money. Money, I might add, can be hoarded or hidden or easily used in corrupt ways. Bartering on the other hand gives everyone what they need or want while contributing to a sense of self.
The bartering system was strong for centuries, even in societies with common currencies, and was used into the twentieth century. The last time the bartering system was popularly used was during the Great Depression when barely anyone had enough money to get by. Since then, bartering has become a rarity, replaced entirely by cash or credit.
In terms of incorporating the bartering system in modern society, I’d rather look at these interactions between businesses as an ecosystem. If one member grows, all others can grow as well. The cyclical process between the bugs and trees, for example, replicates the kind of relationship that can be possible. We will continue to attempt this relationship with businesses we care about.
I hope that maybe this idea can create a professional environment where people don’t cringe when they hear you’re a business wanting to talk to them.