45% is the increase this year in health care-related trades through the bartering exchange ITEX Corp., according to the Associated Press.
"Shamanic Healing or Reiki Healing...will trade for dental work."
—Headline of an ad posted in the barter section of santafe.craigslist.org
Before the term "fiat" became mostly synonymous with the Italian car-manufacturing industry, economists used it to describe the currency that governments create without any kind of material backing. For example, as legal tender, the US dollar is totally fiat.
Fiat money—currency—carries its own costs: cash registers, price-tag guns, employees, bank fees, credit card surcharges, etc.
Whereas back in the good ol' days of barter systems, if you had three sheep worth 20 clams each, you could trade that for 60 clams worth of mead and call it even: Everyone had a bellyful of booze and mutton.
If Craigslist is any indication, Santa Feans are clearly interested in bartering. Last week, trades being offered on the popular online bulletin board included massages for Mac lessons, child care for haircuts, a 1990 Subaru for firearms and Alzheimer's prevention treatments for plumbing.
It's not just Santa Fe. As the economy rolls around in its nadir, bartering is making a comeback—but we're not just talking the free-ballin' hippies at Burning Man or the online board surfers. In the last few months, financial journalists across the country have noted significant upticks in small businesses joining exchange markets, in which goods and services are bought and sold without all the bother of dealing with cash.
One of the most popular is ITEX Corp., a large private bartering square through which 23,000 registered barterers can pick up quality goods without all the extra costs associated with dealing with real money.
Like many ITEX brokers across the country, New Mexico franchisee Keith Powell has seen a bump through the economic downturn. Health care deals have picked up, particularly in chiropractic, eye and dental services. Bartering also has become a popular way to unload surplus, whether it's office furniture or empty hotel rooms.
Statewide, Powell says he has 85 clients, mostly in Albuquerque.
"To work really well in Santa Fe, the city needs a full [ITEX] presence," Powell says. "We've looked at getting a salesperson out there, but there's a proximity issue. You've got to have, for example, restaurants and dry cleaners on board, because someone from Santa Fe is not going to drive to Albuquerque to use that service. But, once you get a cluster going, it expands out."