Bartering is an almost universal activity that harkens back to the pioneer days in this country, when trappers would trade beaver pelts for milk or moonshine.
Perhaps the gold standard of bartering, in recent years, was the young man who turned a paper clip into a house in just 14 trades. (Visit http://oneredpaperclip.blogspot.com/ for details.)
It's only getting easier to barter today because of the growth in Internet-based trading services and in formal barter exchanges that have popped up across the country.
Craigslist and other Web sites make it less difficult for people to find potential trading partners and to find exactly what they're looking for.
The barter section of the craigslist site in Buffalo is getting a decent amount of traffic.
One woman, for example, was trying to trade design or marketing work for repairs to her sewing machine. She hadn't gotten a barter offer in response, but she has traded a coffee and end table for some steaks and chicken from a meat distributor.
Many of these trades are on a one-for-one basis, but exchange networks offer companies the chance to trade excess inventory or services for needed supplies or specialized work.
One of the largest, IMS Barter, is making a push into the Buffalo area after buying out a rival firm that had a presence in Western New York. Experts say bartering should only grow in popularity as the economy sours because people will look to make a buck go further and trading is one way to do that.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that barter income does need to be reported to the Internal Revenue Service.
Do you think bartering will ever become a mainstream economic activity? Have you ever bartered, or do you barter regularly? And what's the weirdest trade you've ever made?
-- Stephen Watson