When Tae and Ghislain Thomas need something new, they dont limit themselves to what they can afford in cash.
Actually, bartering is more their style.
The couple has traded chiropractic sessions for welding work on their RV, a washer and dryer for tools and are seeking help on a website in exchange for contract work or wellness consultations.
Trading is a way to keep cash in their pockets, said Ghislain Thomas.
I really believe in it, weve been bartering for many, many years, he said. These days money is a little more difficult, its hard to sell. But when youre asking people for something and you have something they want, its easy to trade.
With cash and credit tight and bills always looming, the age-old practice of bartering has increasingly become a viable and even preferable method for individuals and businesses looking to exchange goods and services. Bartering websites have sprung up to serve local and national markets and barter exchanges, which serve businesses, have seen steady growth.
While the most vibrant barter markets are in bigger cities, the trend is starting to take hold in smaller population centers such as the Four Corners. Case in point: a barter website for the region, fourcornersbarter.com, launched last month.
Just about everyone I know has done some type of trading, said Mitch Schneider, creator of site. Now that times are tough, its becoming more and more prevalent.
The alternative market
The tough economic climate has played a major role in the growth of the practice.
The International Reciprocal Trade Association estimated that $12 billion was traded in 2009-2010, up from $8.25 billion in 2004.
Especially in a recession, bartering provides an alternative marketplace for businesses to profit on unused capacity, said Ron Whitney executive director of the association, a nonprofit that regulates and provides standards for trade and barter-service companies.
In this economic climate, many hotels, for example, may be able to fill only 50 percent of their rooms most nights, Whitney said. Barter exchanges may allow them to sell some of those extra rooms in exchange for goods and services they normally would have paid for with cash.
The end result is more occupied rooms and hopefully more cash in the bank, he said.
The bad economy has caused a lot of people to look for new creative solutions, Whitney said. The organized barter and trade industry that has been there for 30 years is actually one of those solutions.
Vacation homes and cars
Craigslist also has barter and trade sections that feature sometimes hundreds of listings each day while other websites like BarterQuest, SwapAce and U-Exchange target bartering specifically. The sites feature various strategies to simplify the process of connecting traders and facilitate their exchanges.
Since the beta version started in 2006, BarterQuest has seen double-digit growth, said Michael Satz, one of the sites founding investors. People use the site to trade everything from computers and cars to life coaching and vacation homes, he said.
Beyond the cash-saving benefits, the practice of trading goods can be attractive because it is a very green endeavor, Satz said.
Youre not constantly buying things with the accompanying costs of manufacturing and distribution, he said. Its a counter to the disposable economy by finding value with things that may not have value for you but have value for somebody else.
Even though it doesnt include a cash transaction, bartering still counts as business and can be taxed, said Internal Revenue Spokesperson Karen Connelly. Just like other transactions, barter activities may result in ordinary business income, capital gains or capital losses, she said.
The stuff culture
For most people, bartering is easier than they think simply because we all have a lot of stuff, Thomas said.
We found out theres always something you have that you would be ready to trade, he said. Its easier than money.
Since he started bartering a year and a half ago, Cortez resident Mark Hadsell said he finds himself constantly trading dirt bikes, three-wheelers and anything else with a motor.
Many times, the trading process just works out easier, he said.
Schneider said that around the Four Corners, the trading of services say, carpenter work for financial work is what he sees most often.
The Four Corners Barter website aims to bring all those transactions into one place, like a bulletin board, he said.
Its a way to bring people together, it will help out on both ends, he said.