It’s Official: Barter Works

Bartering with avocadosSo what do you do when your prized market umbrella goes flying off in the wind and breaks two spokes? And what do you do when your avocado trees are putting out so much fruit you fear the boughs will break?

In my case, with this very scenario, I put a free ad on Craigslist saying I would trade organic avocados for umbrella repair.

Five people answered my ad, including one fellow who had a list of electronic gizmos he was trying to unload. Seems he could almost taste the guacamole such a trade would bring him.

I chose the guy who said he had a carpentry shop nearby, and I was to drop off the umbrella the following Saturday. When I couldn’t reach him that day, I feared I had a flake on my hands. Maybe barter is too much trouble, I thought.

As it turns out, his pregnant wife had gone into premature labor and they had been at the hospital. This is what happens with barter. Instead of some impersonal clerk at a big box store, you’re dealing with individual human beings with real lives. It’s kind of shocking. But I think I can get used to it.

My ad for Craigslist showed these enticing images.

My ad for Craigslist showed these enticing images.

I dropped off the umbrella along with a bag of avocados as a down payment, and went out of town for a few days. When I got back, I e-mailed the carpenter, who said the repairs had been done. I brought another bag of avocados to settle the bill and got a tour of the shop where he makes furniture out of salvaged wood.

My umbrella came home with two new spokes made of some kind of salvaged exotic hardwood, and lovely copper nails where the pieces hinge together.

In this uncertain economy, I feel like being more careful with my cash. And with avocados or other fruit or vegetables as a new currency, who knows how far we can go with the bartering.

After this, I think I’ll start referring to myself as a writer and a farmer. It has a nice ring to it.