We're broke, and if we're not broke we're afraid of becoming broke, so whereas a year ago we might have spoiled ourselves with the new cute handmade handbag for spring, now we're thinking more about toilet paper. But as soon as we don't buy the handbag, the person making and selling handbags suddenly has no money to buy the earrings she wanted from another artist, who can't buy the skirt, who can't buy the journal, who can't buy the soap, and on and on. So now that soap is sitting in its maker's house, the journal, the skirt, the earrings, and the handbag all staring back at their creators who have nothing to do but wonder if perhaps garbage collection wouldn't have been a better life path.
Most of the time when we buy things, we use money. Credit, cash, whatever, it's all the promise of numbers that can get us stuff. Let's go back to my Etsy fish swimsuit seller from previous econ ramblings. When someone buys a fish swimsuit, the artist can do anything she wants with the money: put it in the bank, stuff it under her mattress, use it to buy food and toilet paper, or spend it on the felted boogers she's been eying from another Etsy shop. The trouble with our current economic situation is that we're all so short on actual money, when somebody finally buys a fish swimsuit, there's little choice but to spend said money on food and toilet paper. We can understand and want to support our fellow artists, but at the end of the day, felted boogers are murder on the digestive system.
So what can we possibly do? Especially if we still have tons of inventory collecting dust on our shelves while we fill our "favorites" and wishlists with things we'd love but just don't have the money to afford?
The felted booger maker might have an aquarium full of embarrassingly naked fish. She couldn't have justified sending precious rare dollars, but a two green mediums and a yellow extra-large she'd already made that they wouldn't accept as currency at the grocery store? Oh, happy day!
So how do you go about trading?
- If you want something you can't afford/justify in money, approach the seller about a trade. A very simple polite convo with "Hi, I love your ____ and wondered if you'd be interested in trading for anything in my shop. I also have several children of varying ages and genders and a time-share in Guam..." The worst that can happen is they say no and you're in the same position as you were before you started. Assuming no one reports you for the whole child slavery thing...
- Cruise the forums. Just searching for the word "trade" in the forums brings up a few gazillion threads from people looking to do just that. They'll often say what sorts of things they want, like clothing, gifts, bath products, stationery, sex toys, etc.
- Etsy Traders. It's a big long list of trade-friendly shops, run by the Trade-A-Holics team. Some say what they want, some say what they have, some just have a link. It can be a bit daunting, but it's also the most comprehensive list I know.
- The Etsian Trades message board doesn't get much activity, but it's another place to scope. Before stupid people squashed the soul of EtsyTools, they had started an amazing trade list with keywords so you could see what people had and wanted. I'm hoping someone will fill those shoes again, but it's a big job.
- If anybody reading this knows of any other fabulous sites, please please please leave in the comments.
- Chatrooms. Statistically, this is your worst bet since you're at the mercy of whatever random people happen to be online at the same time as you, but you never know. Just please don't go into a room blasting all caps "LOOKING FOR TRADE!!!!!" It's poor web etiquette. Sometimes people even set up specific trading rooms, but as long as you're polite, you can go into just about any room and ask, especially if you find a particular shop you like. "Would LOVE to trade for that ----->" while you put the coveted listing card up for the room to see is always a good way to go.
"That's why people use currency instead of just a trade-based economy," you say? True, but like I said earlier, we're all out of currency and all we have left are our many, many things that can't be used to pay bills but aren't making us happy, either. So let's get them moving around and making some happy again.
Now who wants to trade for something I can send to my almost 20-year-old brother at college and my friend who's totally reading this for her birthday?