Perhaps the best place to locate barter exchanges operating in your area is in the Yellow Pages, under "Barter & Trade Exchanges." According to Bastarache, you should always do some careful research before joining a barter exchange--your reputation, as well as the cost of your membership fee and trade credits, is on the line. Visit the exchange office to check out the people who are running the organization, their membership directory and their computer system.
Some questions to ask before joining an exchange include:
- How large is the exchange membership network? Barter clubs range from several hundred to more than five thousand members, and many smaller exchanges network via computer databases with other clubs nationwide. The larger the exchange network, the more services you'll have to choose from.
- What is the focus of the exchange? Particularly when considering small exchanges, find out what service categories--travel, entertainment, business supplies, professional services--they deal in. Remember, you have to be able to spend the trade credits you accumulate within the exchange.
- How long has the exchange been operating? The worst-case scenario is that you have several thousand dollars of credit in your account and the exchange goes bankrupt. According to White, this doesn't happen often, but it pays to join a reputable club that's been in business for at least five years.
- Does the exchange have good references? To get a feel for what you're getting into, talk to a handful of clients who have been members of the exchange for four or five years.
The small amount of time and effort it takes to investigate a barter network is a fair trade for the services you'll receive, not to mention the marketing muscle you'll gain by exposing your products and services to a whole new audience.
Jennifer Haupt is a freelance writer in Bellevue, Washington.