Bartering on craigslist: Need advice!
January 13, 2011 6:35 PM   Subscribe

What items are best for bartering? Should I only use craigslist for bartering?

I am new to the world of bartering. What I want to do is start off trading my old smart phone with some other goods (e.g. electronics, computer parts, et cetera). I'm going to have a part-time job next week, so it's not paramount that I make a lot of money very quickly. My idea is to trade products that are slightly above the actual value of my products that I'm putting up for trades, which will take time and patience.

Basically, I'm just asking for tips and advice on bartering and/or books/websites/forums that can otherwise point me in the right direction. If it helps, I know how to repair computers and laptops depending on what's wrong with them. I also have a friend who has his own auto repair shop, so somewhere down along the road, I can buy/sell cars for profit.
posted by RaDeuX to Work & Money (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The best things to barter are things everyone wants.

I frequently barter hand-knit goods (I'm a knitter) and eggs (I have pet chickens). Just about everyone in the world wants either a hand-knit hat or a dozen super-fresh eggs from happy backyard chickens, or both.

The worst thing to get in a barter transaction is something that a very small number of people would find SUPER AWESOME. Unless you yourself are involved in that niche community, you could end up saddled with that niche item for a very long time.

When possible, go for mass appeal over niche appeal. And stick to the things you know best.
posted by ErikaB at 6:50 PM on January 13, 2011

You would almost certainly be better off spending that time looking for more actual employment repairing laptops and whatnot. In my experience, Craigslist buyers almost always try to lowball you.
posted by proj at 6:50 PM on January 13, 2011

Response by poster: @ErikaB Right, so I'm thinking of moving up to Apple products once I get the ball rolling on this bartering thing.

@proj You're absolutely right. In fact, I had a job interview today for valet parking services. Bartering allows for a much more flexible schedule and I have access to the internet almost 24/7 on my phone. It's not a bad thing to work more for more money, right? :]
posted by RaDeuX at 7:00 PM on January 13, 2011

If it's legal to barter home-brew beer (or something more specialised like honey wine or fruit wine) that'd probably be a popular item. You'd want to look into the legalities of it first.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:56 PM on January 13, 2011

Response by poster: @UbuRoivas If it's something that I can't do in my own room, I won't be able to do it. My father says alcohol is poison and won't allow it in the house. I can keep it hidden somewhere in my room if I'm crafty enough though. I have no idea what the process of home-brewing beer is like, but I'll put it under consideration.
posted by RaDeuX at 8:10 PM on January 13, 2011

fyi there are other barter-only sites beyond craigslist ... teh google brings them up. can't recommend any personally; i just know from dealing w/ craigslist that there can be alot of flakiness/drama so you might want to look into other options.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 8:16 PM on January 13, 2011

You aren't going to be able to hide home brewing very well (time consuming and quite a distinct odor) and it's fairly expensive to get into. You'd more want to home brew if it was a hobby you were considering.

I'm not sure if you've ever heard of one red paperclip but it's the story of a guy bartering from a paperclip all the way to a house.
posted by zephyr_words at 8:16 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @zephyr_words Yeah, I found that while going through a bunch of google results. I'm not sure if it will give me any helpful advice or tips on bartering, but I will skim through it when I go to the bookstore this weekend.
posted by RaDeuX at 8:20 PM on January 13, 2011

Be very very careful about dealing in things like alcohol - in my state a guy just got arrested for selling moonshine. Also, remember there are tax implications for all of this stuff.

Bartering usually works best if the item you have to give is easy to transfer again - small, resilient, useful things (cell phone batteries) are better than big, fragile, decorative things, and you should always look for mass appeal, as suggested above.

You may also want to look into a services bartering collective. Some let you do things for points and redeem those points with other members (you fix an accountant's computer, a dentist cleans your teeth.) I haven't kept up with the IRS's take on those, though.
posted by SMPA at 8:28 PM on January 13, 2011

Besides the red paper clip guy, there was the teen who eventually swapped a cellphone into a Porsche Boxster.

That said, you could find items to swap by checking the free category of Craigslist, the free category of Craigslist for a neighboring town, or judicious use of Freecycle. Give them a quick clean up and a better description and you might get a bite.
posted by codswallop at 8:38 PM on January 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

OK, nix the home brew idea - you can't possibly keep it hidden. You need a ~25 Litre fermenter (about the size of a very large kitchen trash can), but more than that, it's the crates of bottles that would take up heaps of space.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:45 PM on January 13, 2011

Response by poster: @codswallop That kid with the Porsche is why I'm interested in bartering to begin with. I probably don't have the skills to be able to barter up to a beat-up Porsche, but I'm willing to give bartering a shot.
posted by RaDeuX at 8:55 PM on January 13, 2011

I don't see any reason to bother with the barter aspect of this. If the best thing to barter is something everyone wants, that thing is cash. Bartering just clouds judgment about whether it's a good deal or not, and people tend to assume the worst in that case. That's in addition to the fact that you're gonna have to wait for someone who has what you want, and wants what you have. The red paperclip story is an outlier, since they weren't after a paperclip, his trading partners wanted media exposure.

Beyond barter vs cash settlement, the other tip is to go big ticket. Anything worth repairing and reselling needs to be expensive enough to justify your time spent fixing and promoting the improved product. Or if you spend your time just running arbitrage, there's still a lot of work to be done and you're basically a gadget mule.
posted by pwnguin at 9:01 PM on January 13, 2011

Response by poster: @pwnguin So with my skills with being able to repair computers/laptops, perhaps fixing up Macbooks may yield some amount of income? I suppose it would depend on what's broken. At this point, I'm starting to understand that just running arbitrage will yield insignificant results.
posted by RaDeuX at 9:27 PM on January 13, 2011

I had a coworker who used to buy ipods and iphones with broken screens and repair them for a profit. You'll need access to refurbished parts though, and you'll need to have a handle on what's fixable and what's not. It probably wouldn't hurt to have a few clients lined up, ie friends who are willing to buy something you fixed. And that's the basic business model of everything: buy low, add value, sell high.
posted by pwnguin at 9:43 PM on January 13, 2011

Response by poster: @pwnguin I was actually looking at a website with a lot of details on how to replace said screens on iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and MacBook Pros. I guess I'll do that for profit instead of bartering!
posted by RaDeuX at 10:09 PM on January 13, 2011

There's lots of people that want a cheap computer, and lots of people that want to get rid of old computers without recycling them. The ones that want cheap computers generally don't know how to fix them up. So, offer to take enough old computers, printers, monitors, etc. off of people basically giving them away to have a sufficient inventory to swap parts and build enough decent working computers to sell at a reasonable price to those who need them.

As for buying and selling cars. There's tons out there that are advertised as-is. i.e. the owner doesn't want the hassle of dealing with the safety inspection and/or emissions testing. Often all it takes is a couple hundred to get it to pass. Re-advertised safetied and E-tested can definitely open-up some profit margin, especially with a friend mechanic.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 4:06 AM on January 14, 2011

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