My Bartering Experiences

Another post that started as a comment on someone else’s blog, but it got ridiculously long…so thanks, Miss Money, for helping me get into my writing groove this chilly Monday.

I mentioned last week that I might be arranging my sister’s wedding photography for the guy’s out-of-pocket expenses and a few massages (he’s an existing client). I reckon the chances of it happening are only about 25%, but it works out so well for everyone, especially since he can extend his return date to squeeze in the kind of vacation an avid mountain biker lives for, that I’d love to see it happen. I also mentioned in a past post about ways to get a deal on a good haircut that I had done a partial barter of my massage services with a client who quit beauty school just before graduation because hairdressers don’t make much money (well, that’s changed in the years since, but how was he to know).

Sadly, on craigslist, there are a lot of creepy men looking to barter their “massage skills”, so I no longer openly pursue barter arrangements through that site. Plus, ever since the accountant I swapped services with said “know what would make this massage even better? KISSING!!” and launched himself at me most cartoonishly, I’ve avoided bartering with men I don’t already know.

Here’s a list of barters I’ve attempted, and how they worked out. Please learn from my mistakes as well as successes!

  • Photography for my website – I got way more out of this deal than he did, which still makes me feel bad. He did a great job and was worth a lot more than 2 massages.
  • Handyman – I gave a massage to a guy with a drill to come and hang things (curtains, hooks, candelabra, etc) in my apartment and fix furniture that got roughed-up during the move. I actually ended up making friends with this one, kinda sorry he moved back to Oregon.
  • Air conditioner – it was just a year old, and in 2003 cost about $300-350 new and on sale (10,000 BTU). I got it for $90 + a massage, and he dropped it off. I did not suggest the massage barter, but I let him know what I did for a living so he could come up with the idea on his own.
  • Rodent extermination – I lived in a weird apartment, where I lived on one side of the bathroom and a nice lawyer lived on the other side (separate front doors…long story). One Friday night, she called because she thought her mice were back, then she screamed and ran through the bathroom and lept on my massage table. It was an enormous rat, not a mouse. Building management sucked, we needed an immediate solution, so I called a client who’s an exterminator. He was at my door at 10pm on a Friday within 45 minutes of my frantic call – he laid poison, slithered around her apartment in the dark with a flashlight, and returned for a follow-up in exchange for 2 hours of massage. The “bathroommate” (as I referred to her) paid me for one of the hours.
  • Registered Dietitian – When I hit a large bump in the road to a healthy weight, I got my metabolic rate tested by an RD. While sitting quietly and getting myself to a fully rested state for the test, we discussed my background and she suggested the exchange. It worked out for nearly a year and a half, but then she got super-busy with private patients.
  • Painting – I got two walls of my apartment painted in return for sitting still so the guy could make a clay model of my face. He never collected on his part of the deal though. I still feel a bit bad about that, but I did try several times…then he suddenly moved to Florida 6 weeks later.
  • Broadway show tickets – before I realized that deals with strange men should be avoided, I agreed to barter 2 massages for a pair of show tickets and gave him a massage first. I never got the tickets, and a year later he emailed me with this offer “if you give me a free one-hour massage, I’ll f*ck you”. This was before I’d lost 65 lbs, and like many men, he assumed I was desperate. Sadly, this is not the only such “offer” I’ve gotten.
  • Accountancy – too bad the kissy guy couldn’t keep his hands or lips to himself. He was quite good at what he did, and fixed three years worth of my taxes. The funny thing is, he’s got a really bad back and shouldn’t have messed up a good thing.

Other barter situations I’ve heard of but not participated in…

  • Neighborhood babysitting co-op – every interested newcomer to the street gets 5 tokens, equal to 60 or 90 minutes of babysitting (I forget). By using these tokens as “payment”, it means you don’t need to do an exact swap with the same person and no one can take advantage of the system.
  • Selling off work freebies – I’m pretty sure that’s what creepy massage-for-sex guy was probably doing. He had access to all kinds of perks and freebies (he worked in marketing) and was bartering them for…well, whatever. Just make sure that the person on the other end feels like they’re getting a fantastic deal (it’s a karma thing – you’re getting something for nothing, so it’s best to “overvalue” the other person).
  • AirMiles, Gift Cards, etc – whether it’s from a rewards program or an unwanted gift, they’re your best bet if you’re trying to barter for an item rather than a service.

Wow…didn’t realize until I started writing this how much bartering I’ve actually done. My one piece of advice: if you’re dealing with someone who’s a relative stranger, take measures to minimize the chance of being cheated. When it happens, it SUCKS.


11 Responses

  1. I’m racking my brain cause I have heard recently about a barter type system. You go online and enter in what you want to barter and say what you need. Maybe you barter a massage and person number two doesn’t need a massage but is an accountant and can do person number threes books. You give person number three the massage and have a credit from person number two.

    Confused yet?

  2. OMG that broadway show tickets sounds like a creep! What did you reply?! I hope you had some killer comeback that put him in his place!

  3. I got a bit sarcastic, which I think was lost on him…it went something like “You are truly a prince among men to throw yourself on the sword like that for me. However, I’ll pass.”

  4. OMG you’ve had some crazy experiences, not sure it makes me want to try bartering! Actually I want to barter out Mr M not myself, I don’t think 230 pound men get hit up for sex. Thanks for checking out my blog, she’s just a baby that I’m trying to get it off the ground.

  5. Miss M, that’s because my side of the trade is massage therapy. Since prostitution is illegal, some hookers call their service “sensual massage”. A lot of men don’t even realize there’s any other kind…which is pretty telling.

    Karen, I’ve heard about those barter clubs too. But I understand that they’re a bit ephemeral, so you have to make sure you don’t have too many “credits” in case it dissolves before you get anything back.

  6. I’ve had massage therapy and there’s nothing sensual about it. It hurt like hell! But I guess I got better so I can’t complain. Sounds like an interesting career. I don’t think anyone’s looking for a nerd who designs mass transit so we’ll have to rely on Mr M’s skills to trade. I’ve started checking out sites but didn’t see anything we could use yet.

  7. I like the way you’re so ready to pimp out Mr M to save a few bucks!

    Massage is one of those Mars-Venus things. Anecdotally (but based on 2000 people!), three out of four men cannot distinguish between physical and sexual pleasure. We girls have no such problem making that distinction! I wish they’d invent an opposite-of-Viagra pill, grr.

  8. […] Okay, here’s a goodie by an MT and her bartering experiences. There were some eyeopeners there, for sure. Her whole blog may be of interest to some of you. Read […]

  9. […] say his CPA did an excellent job). I mean, I tried to find an accountant on my own — one was a barter situation that went bad, the other was someone nearby I found on a “find an accountant” website who was just […]

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