The Internet is Facilitating Barter Like Never Before

CNNMoney.com reports on a new web site that helps to encourage and expand barter trading:

Swaptree is now creeping out of superstealth mode with a new take on e-commerce. Its high-tech bartering system lets consumers get the goods they want without paying a dime.

Swaptree isn’t the first to try online bartering — Peerflix, Bookins, and La La help people trade movies, books, and CDs, respectively, while SwapThing lets users combine goods, cash, and services.

But it is, significantly, the first site to pull off direct trades between more than two people… Swaptree can engineer three- and even four-way trades among users who want different things.…

For instance, one person sends a book to a second person, who sends a CD to a third, who sends a DVD to a fourth, who then sends the first person a videogame.

…Trades will be limited initially to books, CDs, DVDs, and videogames, though [Greg] Boesel says he’s open to adding other categories. Items will be valued equally, on the premise that they’re all worth about the same to people who have already read, viewed, or otherwise consumed them.

…To start a swap, users enter the UPC codes of the titles they want to trade and create a list of those they might want. Swaptree’s engine will constantly look for matches and present users with potential swaps. A nifty plug-in on Amazon.com, eBay, and nine other sites can notify users if the book or CD they’re seeking is available on Swaptree. When users find a swap they like, they can initiate trades: Within two days, all parties get e-mail instructions on where to send their stuff.

How does cashless Swaptree make money? Unlike eBay, Peerflix, and others, it won’t charge fees. Instead, it’s planning to survive solely by selling ads.

The more transactions are removed from the cash economy, the less they are taxed. If you trade a book with someone instead of buying one new, that much less profit is made by bookseller, publisher and author, and that much less profit is available to be taxed.

Also, being able to obtain things through barter or trade rather than through purchase makes it easier for people to live more frugal lives, which also can reduce the need to generate as much income and income tax.

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