How to Barter on Craigslist

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We’ve all heard of Craigslist right?  And we all want to save money.  So I ask you, have your heard of or tried bartering on Craigslist?  Did you know that Craigslist has a Barter section?  It’s usually the first heading under the FOR SALE section on Craigslist.  You may find just what you need here.

If you find something of value under the barter section, email the person offering the service/product and let them know what service/product you are offering in return.  If they are agreeable, you have a match.  If you’re trading toothpaste for a tooth brush, you may not need a contract.   However the terms for bartering big ticket items and services, and even some small ones, should be put in writing.  The person you’re bartering with may make it seem like a very small thing.  Don’t budge on this.  Be firm and tell them that it’s as easy as preparing an email message.  Make sure there is a signature line on the email message.  Have him/her send it back saying they agree to the terms.  You do the same. This simple email is date stamped, timed (make sure the clock on your email account is accurate) and will serve as evidence if you ever need to escalate an issue to small claims court.  You both should also print and bring a copy of this email to the location where the exchange will take place.

If you are exchanging a service make sure you live up to your part of the bargain.  Remember if you’ve put everything in writing, you have an obligation to uphold your portion of the deal.  Even if it seems the other person is not living up to their end of the deal, do your part.  I mention this because unforeseen occurrences can befall anyone.  Your barter partner may have had an accident, taken ill or had something occur in his/her family that prevents them from fulfilling their offer of service right away.   Be a bit patient and try to get all the facts before you assume your barter partner is trying to bail on you.

If you are exchanging an item and you don’t know the person, meet in a public place.  You want to make sure there are a lot of people around, in case the person tries to take your item and run.  Believe me, that’s only funny if it happens on TV.  You might also want to bring someone with you.  Ask them to stay in the car however.  You don’t want to scare off a barter partner who may be alone.  Also, if you feel threatened by some person or person(s) your barter partner brings with them.  Let them know.  If no attempt is made to make you feel comfortable.  All bets should be off.  Make sure to put this in the email agreement you prepare at the outset.

Make sure to inspect the item and ask your barter partner to inspect their item as well.  This is where you’ll need the printed version of your email agreement.  Make sure you’ve included a line on the email, for a signature.  You both should sign the agreement of the other person.  If you’re not happy with the condition of the item, then again, all bets are off.  This too should be in the email agreement.  Don’t be afraid to ask to see a drivers license to make sure that the signature is correct and that the person is who they say they are.

Bartering can save tons of money and is especially useful to small business owners.  You can’t be too careful however.  There are lots of people who make their living on scamming others.  So even if your barter partner makes you feel a bit foolish about putting things in writing, be firm.  Make sure you both prepare an email with a signature line.

You can now walk away from the deal feeling truly satisfied.  You’ve not only provided someone with a much needed service, but you’ve gotten something that you needed as well!  This can be a great way to save money on products and services.  You may also be able to get rid of things you don’t want and get something you do need for FREE.  So the next time you visit Craigslist, check out the barter section, you may be pleasantly surprised.


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