The housing market crash really cut into Darin Ball's bottom line. The owner of Crazy Horse Construction in Clovis specializes in tile work and masonry for pools and fountains. When the demand dried up... so did much of his cash flow. Ball explains, "We've had several examples of people going out of business that owe us money, or people still owe us money and it takes a long time to get payment from them."
Ball found himself facing a new type of economy, where cash was no longer the only currency: "People approach me about trade work. Tools or labor or whatnot. You have to pick and choose your battles on how you want to collect."
The same concept is helping moms like Sara Brown clothe their kids through a clothing swap called "Minor Wear" at New Covenant Community Church in Northeast Fresno. Brown says, "My sons will be growing out of that stuff and as they grow out, i bring things that don't fit them... I pick up new things." Minor Wear - looks like a small store, sorted by size and season. Sometimes people give more than they get or vice versa. But Brown says it's been a budget booster: "I can't tell you how much money, i alone have saved, with four kids. I would say hundreds, to a couple thousand dollars a year."
Bartering is one of the oldest forms of commerce, around since ancient times, before money was ever invented. But finding someone who wanted what you had, and had something you wanted was often a challenge, involving a lot of extra moves along the way. Currency was a short cut, much more efficient so bartering kind of died off. But along came a game changer... the Internet.
Fresno Pacific University economics professor Doctor Nathan Smith says that brought back bartering in a big way: "In the past it was just too hard to find people, the Internet comes along and you can search, network, it's easier to find somebody who has the exact coincidence of wants."
But he also points to another factor - too little money in the economy: " People are just strapped for cash, they're willing to trade, but they have to do it on a barter basis, because they can't spare any cash."
The growing numbers of barterers out there - back that up. www.swap.com boasts nearly 4 million members. The site makes it easy to connect to local events and local swappers.
Barterquest.com is another active site - even featuring big ticket items like real estate and planes.
Postings in the barter section of www.craigslist.org - are updated daily. That's where we found Randy Voigt, owner of Divine Designs Professionals -- offering his skills designing website's and graphics. Voigt explains, "Cash is always better because you're a business, you're trying to make money. But sometimes you get in a circumstance where the people need your services and they're struggling too." Voigt says the challenge is - figuring out an even trade. For example, his website design services start at $500. He's considering an offer for roughly that amount of body work and paint for his Camaro: "It has to be equal and I'm more than fair."