The economic collapse which was the depression of the 1930s forced many people to use barter as a way to survive. With no money, people turned to this ancient form of commerce and traded their services or meager belongings for food, clothing and other necessities.
While the Great Depression may be relegated to history, bartering is not. In fact, it’s thriving in the Hudson Valley, according to Kevin and Karen Brown, the husband and wife founders of the Hudson Barter Exchange based in Elmsford. More than 500 local businesses and professionals are bartering their goods and services through Hudson Barter Exchange. Globally, the International Reciprocal Trade Association (IRTA) estimates the value of goods and services bartered annually at about $14 billion and increasing at 5 to 10 percent per year.
Brown said that bartering can bring a business new customers it would not otherwise have.
“We market to other members of the exchange, find you incremental business, you get paid in trade credit, and you use that trade credit to either offset some of your business expenses or live what we call ‘a better life through barter,’” he told the Business Journal during HBX’s 10thanniversary networking party on Nov. 8 at the Belvedere Estate in Tarrytown.
While bartering helps preserve cash or makes excess production capacity or other unused resources profitable depending on which side of the transaction a business is on, Brown said there’s nothing underground about the bartering.
“Each member receives an IRS form 1099-B at the end of the year which reflects the value of their transactions.” He notes that a barter dollar is equal to the value of a U.S. dollar as far as the IRS is concerned, so there’s no tax advantage.
“There’s no tax disadvantage either, because if you’re spending it on advertising and business supplies and office equipment it’s all deductible against the income,” Brown said.
HBX acts as an administrator that keeps records of trading activity and the barter credits each member has earned or owes. It charges a one-time membership fee and a monthly marketing fee. It also receives a cash commission on the barter sales and purchases.
Karen Brown told the Business Journal that most of HBX’s members are located in Westchester, Rockland and Fairfield counties and New York City. “We belong to a barter exchange so we get goods and services from all across the nation,” she said. It’s estimated there are more than 350 barter exchanges currently operating in the U.S.
Among the items frequently bartered are printing, phone systems, office cleaning, website design, photography, restaurant meals, legal and accounting services, vacations and auto repairs. “When we started the barter exchange, we just wanted to get in friends and family if we could and my brother happens to be a plastic surgeon out in California so we have a plastic surgeon out in California who participates in our barter exchange,” Karen Brown said with a laugh.