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Looking For An Even Trade?

A barter exchange may be just the answer, what you should know before joining

Perhaps the best place to locate barter exchanges operating in your area is in the Yellow Pages, under "Barter & Trade Exchanges." 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 5,000 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. This doesn't happen often, but it may pay 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.

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