I moved 1700 miles by airplane. No truck – van – pod.

My sister once moved from Bellingham, WA to Aspen, CO and the “reputable” moving company she thoroughly checked out called her the day of the move and said “we can’t do it today – we’ll do it tomorrow”. Uh…she had a flight booked that evening. She didn’t even have that much stuff (at least in theory) – I think her only furniture was a queen-size bed w/nice frame and a dresser. Everything else was clothing and personal effects plus some outdoor sports equipment. Hardly a houseload o’ goodies. It cost her $1200. I learned from that lesson…

My New York City furniture

A friend with a pick-up truck is storing my bulkier things (bed, couch, trunk, massage table) and some household goods (dishes, vacuum, etc) in a friend’s garage. When he moves back into his apartment on the upper eastside, he’ll use any of those things he wants to – he threw out all his really crappy stuff and sublet his studio 3 years ago.

Getting to Colorado

I paid an extra $25 for the Classic ticket on Frontier airlines that allows for two 50-lb pieces of luggage (I snuck 5 more lbs in for free). Actually…the ticket was free thanks to a Frontier Airlines gift card from one of my phone fans 🙂

My lease deal

My 8-month Boulder lease at Glen Lake Apartments – which is on the outer edge of central but has everything I need within a 10-min walk (Safeway, Rite Aid, Starbucks, Taco Bell – joke!) – came with $200 off the first month’s rent as a signing bonus. I looked upon that as my craigslist furniture fund. Some of my purchases were awesome and some still SUCK.

My Second-hand Escapades

  • Couch $100 + $20 delivery: Not terribly happy with this. On the mushy-foam side and it’s low – like it should have 4″ feet screwed onto the corners.
  • Queen-size bed $50: I knew when I bought it that it was a mistake but my back and hips hurt so much from one night on the floor, and the friend helping me probably wasn’t good for more than that day. It reeked of curry for weeks and now – 6 weeks after purchase – still has a savory smell. The guy’s ad was a total lie in more ways than I can count. But strangely enough…it’s comfortable.
  • Coffee table $15:  By far my best deal – looks hand-made, inlaid with ceramic and terracotta tiles, very heavy.
  • Canvas chair for my balcony $15: Fantastic bargain! Currently living in the massage room until I get a more suitable one.
  • Two floor lamps $10: They have those CFL bulbs in them (4 total), so the guy was way underpricing. Not crazy about the one in the living room but the one for massage – it’s an “old-fashioned” dimmer one which is sooo perfect.
  • MEXICAN MICROWAVE for $10: My coolest score of the lot! The brand is LG but it was bought while the guy was living in Mexico City. All the pre-sets are for things like frijoles and albondigas. Hey – did you know that salsa verde and salsa roja are SO different that they get their own buttons? I love this thing!
  • 20″ CRT television $30 + $10 bribe to deliver: Only sort-of happy with it. She listed dimensions and I thought it was screensize. No 27-incher for me 😦
  • Green fabric armchair FREE: Thank you neighbor for leaving it in the lobby for whoever wanted it. Soft texture, firm cushion. I like it better than the couch.

Sending out some Dollar Tree love 

Even at Walmart the simple household stuff I bought (like veggie peeler and dishes and shelf liner and bucket) would have cost at least $150 instead of the $42 I laid out. And by the way, I really really like the dishes I got. Only a buck but I’ll miss them!

…and some Rite Aid love!

Sometimes they do deals on household stuff. I desperately needed a box fan and got one for $8….$24.99 minus $3 off $15 purchase coupon, $14 in +Ups and $8 + tax in cash. Got back $5 +Ups. I also wanted a little plastic table for my balcony and got one free – on sale for $7.99 get back $1 +Up and $2 rebate. So I “sacrificed” $4.99 in reward bucks. It’s this sort of thing that makes playing that game so worthwhile 🙂

Great use of returned-gift credit at Amazon

I had $300+ credit built up from returned gifts from my phone customers. So instead of stilettos and miniskirts that I couldn’t dream of fitting into, I have a coffee press, Dirt Devil vacuum, drinking glasses, yoga mat, all-purpose knife, etc. that didn’t cost me a penny.

No love for the US Postal Service

Mom sent me a box of things I forgot and needed but didn’t send it parcel post because she thought it was urgent to send me a shower curtain (I like baths and she knows it!). So it cost twice what it should have – $43 for 16 lbs. I was a little pissed…she won’t take money from me for it but I’m still not happy. Then she put together a flat-rate box of smaller clothes for me…she should have put in something heavy to make it worthwhile.

The Art of the Barter

Me and my bartering…I know. Craigslist for Boulder is pretty sparse but there was a handyman/painter offering his services – just make him an offer. Turns out his wife has scoliosis and could use my services. And so the deal was done – I got my room-separating pole hung(pole was $11.50 from Home Depot plus $4 worth of hanging hardware), and I worked on my first local.

Book & Cookie Swap in Little Italy

This evening, I joined my friend Bluejay for a Book & Cookie Swap at the Mulberry Street branch of the New York Public Library. It was their first time holding such and event, and it’s a shame they didn’t publicize it beyond a flyer on a bulletin board – plenty of people like books, and everyone loves cookies! Apparently it didn’t even make their monthly schedule of events online. I heard about it through Bluejay, who frequents this particular branch, and it’s a good thing we went. There was a whopping total of 7 swappers plus a library staff member, who was actually pretty cool.

The cookies could be homemade or store bought, so I brought a box of chocolate caramel truffle cookies, CVS brand (which I’d had before, and so knew were decent), and three books – a novel by the author of The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, a guide to powerselling on eBay, and The Biggest Loser diet book. No one took the books I’d brought, but I did snag two: a novel by Lee Child and some travel lit by Paul Theroux. I thought the idea was to swap cookies as well as books, but no – we were supposed to eat the cookies at the event. Eh, I’d already overdosed on sugar that day and wasn’t really in the mood…a good thing really, given my Incredible Expanding Waistline.

NYPL toteThe librarian intended the event to be the grown-up equivalent of a summer reading club, so there was swag! Everyone got a pen, and there was a free raffle for 4 items:  2 tickets to the New Museum, $10 gift certificate to a fancy gelato place in the ‘hood, a NY Public Library t-shirt, and a NYPL lion reversible tote bag ($24 price tag on the NYPL website!). I won the tote bag – and everyone knew I’d been kinda hoping to win that, so the losers were especially gracious. Of course, I couldn’t wait to call my-mother-the-high-school-library-lady to taunt her with my new prized possession. At the moment, I’m using the tote with the red side showing.

I really think the Book & Cookie Swap idea is a great one, especially as an alternative to a book club – you do end up talking about books with each other, but without the formality of a sheet of deeply intellectual questions or the pressure to consume a book you might not even like by a certain date. I also think the cookie aspect is fun and cute, but should have been handled differently – meaning, the way I had expected. I’d much rather have walked out of there with a ziploc baggie full of assorted cookies or a few little saran-wrapped parcels than felt pressured to eat cookies at 7pm.

The subject of offloading unwanted books arose at the swap, with most of us remarking that most charities that resell your donated items don’t want books or go through long periods of not accepting them. The librarian mentioned that a charity called Housing Works accepts them and in addition to having a bookshop-cafe nearby, actually sells the bulk of them very successfully on Amazon and Half.com.

I really, really like the idea of swap meets – but is that the right word? Though for some reason it calls to mind “recipes” and “baseball cards”, a quick Google of the term describes the concept as a synonym for ‘flea market’, but that’s not how I mean it. I mean an event where everyone brings something and takes something of similar value.  I know that there are some seriously big clothing swap events here in the city – now that frugality is all the rage, they even get a mention on the evening news!

Have you ever been to a swap meet or something along those lines? How did it work, what did you get?

Back from Florida – Worth Every Penny

Monday afternoon I got back from my trip to the Florida panhandle for a 3-day seminar in Myoskeletal Alignment. Even if I never use the material or just can’t develop a talent for it, it was worth it because ohmygod, I am pain-free. All that Rolfing I had early this year fixed the new acute pain, but not the chronic old pain – I didn’t even think it was possible. However, the last few months I’ve had increasingly persistent daily headaches, and the neck discomfort I was waking up with was getting worse.

To make a short story long, I twittered about registering for this course, and one of the teaching assistants found me and we started “following” each other. I felt a little silly because my Twitter identity is related to this, my hobby, and not my profession. In other words, he gets to read fascinating things like “Delivered 15 boxes of cereal and 15 deodorants to the teen shelter” and “Got $84 worth of stuff at CVS for $1.78”. Anyway, about 2 weeks ago, he sent out a tweet looking for someone local to do some typing in exchange for a 30-minute session with him. I did it, and collected on Sunday morning before class. He got about 15 minutes into it and called over a fellow teaching assistant to take over, because the other guy had moves he didn’t. Well, this bodywork tag team worked what so far appears to be lasting magic.

I honestly did not realize how much discomfort I was in every waking moment. Taking a sip of coffee, opening the microwave door, turning my head, putting on my sneakers…I was constantly expecting pain, bracing against it, moving to avoid it. I could get relief from a chiropractic adjustment, but that only lasts for about 6 hours. I used to get awesome, enduring treatment from my osteopath in Scotland, but not here, and it’s been 9+ years since I’ve had access to him.

My Myoskeletal Alignment treatment was 84 hours ago and is still holding. 84 pain-free hours. Now I’ve got to either find someone local who does this or become a groupie and follow these two pairs of golden hands around the country getting treatment wherever they teach. Because if I’ve learned nothing else from this line of work, I know that 16-year-old problems don’t get solved in 40 minutes. But no matter what, it was worth every penny I spent on course fees, airfare, hotel, etc. just to find this out. Heck, I may even take the course again in November to solidify my knowledge and tweak my technique.

On the business side of all this, I’m trying to line up people with specific problems/joints that I’ve learned to treat so I can practice and get things to the point where I feel comfortable stating that yes, I can fix plantar fasciitis/IT band syndrome/frozen shoulder/neck cricks/etc. I’ve successfully talked my cousin into letting me whale on his hip this Sunday – he’s 38 and in the past 5 years or so has been suffering terribly from pain related to being hit by a car when he was 7. However, I had tentatively lined up a few financially-strapped clients for 30-minute freebies on their major pain centers and no one has replied to my emails in 2 days despite their initial enthusiasm. Just further proof that no one values “free”.

Kicked out of the massage community

Or perhaps a better title would be “I am incapable of communicating with women”. Thank god I’m heterosexual or I’d really be up a creek, but that’s beside the point of these juicy stories…


First I was registered. Then I was rejected for not meeting a prerequisite. Then yesterday afternoon, the instructor (who rolfed me back to health 4 months ago) asked me to be the class demo model as a backdoor solution to my dilemma and his (odd number of participants). We arrive at the school, the owner throws a hissy fit and won’t allow me through the door. I was rejected for rudeness, cloaked in a “stricter admissions policy”.

February-March, I tried to contact the school on a weekly basis via email and voicemail. No one ever replied, no on ever answered the phone or returned my calls. This went on for 6 weeks. At the halfway point, my exasperation started to show, culminating in my last voicemail communication that earned me a fairly useless email reply: “Hi, it’s MMK. Again. My number is still XXX. I’ve been trying to get information about your structural integration course for the past six weeks, and no one responds to my emails or messages. Does your school even exist?”  It was a fair question. Their website hadn’t been updated in a year, but last year’s course started in late spring, so I figured this year’s would too and it was important to get the ball rolling. Now, had I not known the instructor, I would have given up at about the point where I got stroppy because I’d have concluded they were out of business. I also let my frustration show because I thought I was dealing with a lazy administrator. I was – but she was also the owner of the school, and a real prima donna as it turns out. Since she’s not interested in the thousands in fees that I’d be paying, I can only guess that she does her own admin because she’s a control freak rather than a cheapskate. Anyway, the “info@” email address is hers, she’s the one who deals with the phones – and therefore she took my rudeness personally and banned me from the premises. Kinda like the way the Bossy Mommy Brigade did when I used a $2-off-$10 coupon on a $9.99 item.

I did not know all this, but the instructor and the student-assistant who rode in the car with us did. I got an inkling of what was in store from the extreme nervousness of the student, who kept saying “I’m staying out of this, I’m staying out of this”. So I began mental preparations for sucking back my usual response to dealing with an inflated ego and its face-saving expectations and rehearsing an apology with a reasonable shot at sounding sincere. We got to the school, the instructor went in to speak with the owner (with whom he used to be in a 3-way partnership, but he and the other guy quit because she was awful to work with), and I could hear her shouting escalate through the door. The instructor came out and said, “She is only becoming more irrational by the minute, so it looks like you won’t be allowed in.” He then took me to the nearest train station to make my way home.

BLUEJAY (Fellow massage therapist / new friend)

Bluejay was contacted by the owner of a gym/wellness center last week about providing Thai massage services. The owner was looking for a few practitioners with 5+ years’ experience. There are only maybe a dozen of us who meet that criteria in the city, so she gives him my contact info. He tells her about a potential client the next day and says he’ll get back to her when he sorts it out. The following morning, he calls me and arranges to meet at my place for an intro and a 15-minute demonstration of my skills because he understandably can’t send someone to his client’s home without making sure they’re on the up-and-up. I pass muster, he gives me the details, and I realize it’s the same client he had told Bluejay about. I started talking her up as the better option, because it’s just not right that she gave him my name and thereby loses out. The client was described as having a huge apartment full of buddha statues, a fan of authentic Thai massage work, and I have to leave out the additional details that make him a lot like Bluejay at the risk of making him too identifiable to anyone who might know him. I actually said, “Bluejay might be a better match because she sticks closer to the way it’s taught and even includes some of the more traditional meditative and calming techniques.” It would appear that he interpreted that as “she doesn’t do deep work and meditates with the client”, which is definitely not the case – the girl can really put you to the pain! But I swear, I really was trying to talk her up and felt that personality-wise they’d be a better match. Gym Guy didn’t buy it.

How do I know all this? Because she was supposed to interview with him on Friday, but called to cancel because she didn’t want to deal with someone who operated like that. Gym Guy called her to see what was up, explained he felt I was a better match for the client. Since he’d never met her, he was going by my assessment of her style, and I think he told her that. I know all this because he told me about the call on Friday. I had texted her earlier to remind her to register for free M&Ms (a Friday freebie deal), no response but then none was necessary. Then I shot off a quick text about the odd conversation with Gym Guy, expressing my worries about our friendship. It’s been 48 hours, still no word from her.

The truth of the matter is that he decided before we met which one of us he wanted to try out on his client first. After all, he could have met with her even more easily than he met with me on Wednesday – I made him travel to my place, she was willing to go to his gym. I think I have two important things that tipped the balance in my favor:  I actually trained in Thailand, and I live 1.5 miles due north of the client’s apartment – 30 min walk or 8 min subway ride. She has “only” trained here in the States and lives at least 1 connection, probably two from the client’s location, which poses a lot of potential for delays.

In the past 7 days, she has been responsible for $550 of my income, turning a couple of “just made my expenses” weeks into solid earnings. All I did was lend her my massage supplies for an appointment and help her unpack a couple of lousy boxes at her new apartment. She took me to a Memorial Day barbecue, invited me to join her book club, gave me a little bag of fun make-uppy things for the teen shelter. I introduced her to CVSing. I definitely got way more out of our brief friendship than I’ll ever have a chance to give back, and that really bothers me. I’ve been taken advantage of an awful lot in the last 10 years, and I just wouldn’t deliberately visit that feeling on anyone else.


Craigslist has decided to treat the Therapeutic Services board like the Erotic Services board and charge $10 per post, coming down to $5 if we repost the same ad unchanged. This involves an approval process, though after looking at what gets approved as Therapeutic, I’d say it’s a pretty useless one. I haven’t put up an ad since they instituted this fee, waiting to see how it all shakes out. It looks like the posting rate is about 200 ads (2 pages) per day, and if you filter for Manhattan only, it’s about half that. If that doesn’t change too much, then it’s worth putting an ad up 3x a week.


Rolfing:  The instructor said he’d contact me about exchanging bodywork again and teach me a few myofascial techniques (the basis of rolfing). Then he gave me the name of someone in Boston who runs structural integration programs. Less convenient than New Jersey, but way more doable than Colorado. I’ve yet to google it up.

Bluejay:  I can only come up with one way to redress the imbalance, though I hold out little hope that the friendship can be salvaged. I think it would be perceived as an insult if I sent her a check to thank her for the referrals, but…well, you know all those donations I make? I could start collecting a few receipts and have her name put on them, then mail a bundle of $500-$1000 worth. She had mentioned claiming it as a tax deduction when we talked about CVSing for charity, so I can’t imagine she’d throw it out. From one angle, that looks cheap because it costs me nothing. From another angle, it’s face-saving because it’s not cold hard cash (well, it is, but indirectly).

Advertising:  I’ve been putting my ad in the Beauty Services section along with a bunch of shady massage parlors while I figure this out. I actually got a new client that way, much to my surprise. This week I’ll be taking up a client’s offer to do some search engine optimization stuff for my website. And I really should look into how Google advertising works.

This week has been weird in all directions, but I mostly mean that every day, something very out-of-the-ordinary and even bizarre happened. Like the truck driver did his “paid sleepover” thing again. And I took the tramway to Roosevelt Island for the first time and felt like a wet-behind-the-ears tourist. And I met my brother’s new boyfriend, with whom I have an inexplicable number of life experiences in common even though he’s all of 22 years old. And a few of my readers have contacted me about helping Ayten the Working Poor Mom in ways that suit their giving style and their resources (you all rock!!! – I’d mention your names, but most have expressed an interest in some degree of anonymity). And the only reason I’m going to a friend’s Tony Awards party tonight is that he lives near all three drug stores, and it’s Sunday – the day of New Stuff For Free. What can I say, I live in the theater district but I don’t like the theater…

Getting my hair cut on the barter system

I haven’t gotten a haircut since November, and it’s been looking downright ratty since March. I’ve been wearing it back in a clip all day every day, and I was planning to go to a cheap place on my next visit to my mother, where one of the stylists does a better-than-$15 job according to both of my very, very critical sisters.

I previously blogged about letting an almost fully-trained hairdresser-turned-banker cut my hair in exchange for extra time on his massage. His cuts are a bit plain, which doesn’t work all that well for my fine, silky, limp hair. Unlike the last two times he gave me a cut back in 2005-2006, he got very pushy about getting a discount on his massage. The cut is…eh. My hair looks better than it did before he cut it and the discount I gave him was half what I’ve been paying for a cut these past few years – but then as I was getting ready to leave, he said “don’t forget, you owe me 15 minutes on my next session”. If I wanted to pay the amount of the discount plus the value of that 15 minutes, I could have just gone to my regular hairdresser and left with a much better cut.

However, I’m in a phase where I don’t really care much about how I look, so it doesn’t really matter. So, since I only see him 2-3 times a year, I’m counting on him forgetting.

Thursday Update:  My opinion has changed – it’s actually a GREAT cut. Why the change of heart? Because it actually responds better to air-drying than blow-drying, which is how I like it. The only problem is that the front is a bit too short, but that’s my fault, I told him to.

Networking group: At least no one threw a shoe at me

Preface: I am a terrible public speaker, and have been since my first attempt as a sophomore in high school. I tried to knock that on the head in the late 90s by becoming an English language teacher but never made any significant progress.

This morning I attended that business networking breakfast I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, and it went worse than anticipated. I now have way too much in common with our former president…

First, I couldn’t fall asleep last night and even resorted to melatonin and NyQuil around 2:30am. Second, I got a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease while actually speaking. I should have scripted. But the best part, the thing that puts me in the same class as the ex-prez, is that in my attempts to make a beeline for the exit, I was thwarted by the door. I pushed and it didn’t open. I noted the hinges on my side and searched for a handle – none. I actually clawed at a flush pane of glass until I found enough purchase to coax the door open.

Of course, I didn’t manage to make my escape before a pushy knife salesman had a chance to corner me. He wants to barter, but in a way that would still involve me paying for his products. Screw that.

I called my mother on the walk home afterwards to inform her that I hadn’t outgrown my stagefright. She has some not-so-fond memories of be being violently ill the night before class presentations all through high school. Her response: “At least no one threw a shoe at you.”

Have I struck bodywork barter gold?

A few weeks ago, I posted about getting a Rolfing session for my neck/shoulder problem and discovered that this is one market where demand outstrips supply even in this economy. One of the providers I inquired with actually teaches a program in NJ, but I didn’t see him because he wouldn’t answer my “what are your rates” question in an email. I don’t like it when personal service providers (massage therapists, personal trainers, pilates instructors, etc) aren’t up-front about their pricing.

After discovering his affiliation with that training program and seeing that he provided a free session for prospective students (which, honestly, I’m not comfortable taking a $100-$200 freebie from anyone), I contacted him again. He suggested exchanging Thai for Rolfing. This may happen tonight!! He’s located only a 5-minute walk from my apartment, and we’re going to see how my evening work schedule evolves. Needless to say, I’m extremely hopeful that he likes what I do so that this can be repeated because I did have some success from the treatment I had 3 weeks ago. The thing is, it only worked as long as I took ibuprofen all day afterwards, but I could tell it wasn’t just the ibuprofen…when I stopped, the pain increased over the next few days and now ibu barely takes the edge off. I feel like the Rolfing worked and the ibu prolonged/maintained its success. Honest to god, that week after my session was so delighfully pain-free, I want that again! But it’s hard for me to part with another $150 after my worst week of business EVER (yup, that was last week…not entirely unexpected, given the way Valentine’s Day coincided with a holiday weekend).

Bartering for Crack

Tomorrow morning marks the last visit of my all-you-can-crack buffet chiropractic deal, and I’m not re-upping because it’s just not staying in place. I don’t think he’s doing anything wrong, I’m pretty sure it’s me, and I’m now going the neurology/MRI route. Still, I’m going to miss the hell out of my daily 15 minutes of care followed by 5-12 hours of relief from the neck-shoulder discomfort.

So imagine where my mind went, while I was face-down on the table, when he started asking if I’d be interested in working corporate health fairs with him…you know, those office events with blood pressure screening, flu shots, etc. Apparently, the company gets the whole thing for free and people like the chiropractor pay a hefty fee to participate. Since the promise of free massage lures them over for the spinal assessment, he hires a massage therapist to work the fair with him. He asked how much I’d charge for that, and I got him to keep talking about what was involved while my brain started working on the figures. Apparently he’s not happy with the guy he’s been doing this with, and I suspect the reason is that he’s a he – most women are okay with a chair massage from a guy but few men are, and no one objects to a woman working on them. I’d like to say we’re less threatening and more approachable, but my chiropractor is tall, attractive, and quietly exudes warmth.

So tell me how this is not a perfect barter situation!! I wouldn’t want to exchange services directly with him because lines get blurred and I really really REALLY don’t want that – unless he’s gay, then it doesn’t matter (I put those odds at 30%). He suggested a free month of care per health fair, but I feel like I’d be getting too much more out of the deal than he would. I countered with X number of visits per health fair (didn’t sort out the number, but will shoot for 10-15 depending on the length of the fair) so at 1-2x a week, I’d be covered for the months he doesn’t do one of these events. People, I’ve been wracking my brains for the past 3 months trying to figure out how to get weekly chiropractic treatment on an ongoing basis without paying through the nose, and voila!

To put numbers to the value of all this…
Cost of single chiropractic adjustment: $70 (quite reasonable)
Cost of 4 weeks unlimited chiropractic:  $300
….Going 3x a week, that’s $25 per visit (awesome!)
….I go 6x a week, so it’s $12.50 per visit (embarrassingly cheap)
My rate for 2 hours of corporate chair massage:  $170 (average)
2 hours of corporate chair massage for 10 back cracks:  $17 per visit

I am ridiculously excited about this. It directly saves me $900 a year because I usually need intensive treatment 3 months out of 12, and more important is the preventative aspect of a weekly adjustment – fewer headaches! less achiness! Then there’s the potential bonus of networking with the alternative health crowd as well as getting my name out as a local non-spa massage therapist. Too bad the economy is in the crapper, because this is not the time for companies to contemplate a regular on-site massage therapist as a free or subsidized treat for their employees. But even if there is no benefit to my business, this deal is TOTALLY worth it!

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.

This Bridesb*tch is mastering The Barter

My sister, the one who killed her CC debt and got a great deal on her platinum engagement ring, has officially dubbed me and our other sister her “bridesbitches”. She has always wanted to wield power over us, and now she feels justified. So we’re “bitches” in the sense of “you’re my bitch now” rather than “you’re a nasty rodent”.

Anyway, this evening I worked on a long-time client who had ditched his lucrative IT career to move to Hollywood and become a cameraman…and then moved back. He was telling me about a friend’s wedding, and how they asked him to do the photography for their local reception (they got married abroad) as his gift to them. He’d never done event photography before, still photography had only ever been a hobby, but he enjoyed it way more than he thought he would.

I asked him to send me a link to the online snaps of the 100-pic dry-mounted album he put together for them within 4 weeks, and mentioned my sister’s upcoming nuptials. He said he’d be interested and he’d do it just for expenses – probably because it’s in Aspen and he loves mountain biking. I said I’d throw in a few free massages to sweeten the deal…I’m thinking I could use that as a carrot to dangle until he hands over the results (J. Money has me all scared about this, with his awful ongoing frustrations).

After he left, I called Bridezillerina to see where she stood on photography, and she’s quite open to this idea. There’s someone local who will do it for not much more than this guy’s expenses will run, but his pictures are pretty unoriginal. Of course, I have no idea what my client’s will look like, but he once had aspirations to become a Director of Photography in TV/film, so I reckon that’s a good sign.

I’ll share a tip that he mentioned: Don’t print professional photos from Ofoto and similar. There are better online labs that don’t cost much more, and the quality is night-and-day. He did say something about a color palate or guideline that you submit to these places, but that’s where he lost me. It was his offhand comment that “it’s a great sales technique to let people attempt to cheap you out by printing off their photos on their own, because they will quickly realize how worthwhile it is to pay the pro to do it” that caught my interest. [Sorry, peeps, but I didn’t get the name of the good online photo labs.]

So after polling people about their wedding photography expenses and hearing everything from $3K to $12K, I’m salivating over the prospect of arranging this for my sister for a cost of about $900 worth of airfare, hotel and printing/production plus a few hours of massage treatments. I am one awesome Bridesbitch!