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No Money Down: Give-and-Take Sites and Bartering Exchanges


This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.

Whoever said you cannot get something for nothing has not searched the Internet lately. An increasing number of Web sites offer users a chance to give things away and get things for free. The goal is to keep useful things from being thrown away. This helps people and keeps waste out of the environment.

Laura Gernell of Marmet, West Virginia, got a bicycle through The Freecycle Network last year
Laura Gernell of Marmet, West Virginia, got a bicycle through The Freecycle Network last year
The largest give-and-take Web site is Freecycle.org. Deron Beal started Freecycle as a non-profit organization in two thousand three. The site says it has more than five and a half million members in more than seventy-five countries. Joining is free. And all the goods offered on the site are free without any conditions.

Each group is supervised by a small number of moderators. They enforce the rules.  For example, members can only make a request for something once a week. And everything on the site must be for all ages.

We spoke to a moderator in the Washington, D.C. area.  She told us that there were about one hundred members in her local group when she joined in two thousand three.  Now there are more than fourteen thousand members. In addition to Freecycle, there are many similar Web sites such as reuseitnetwork.org and freesharing.org.

Other Web sites let users exchange goods and services, or barter. In this ancient form of trade, no money changes hands.

At first, bartering took place as an exchange between two people. But modern bartering is more complex and is commonly done between businesses. It uses a third party -- a trade exchange company -- to help carry out the barter deal. Trade exchanges permit users to trade goods or services for credits.  Businesses can trade these credits for other goods or services. Trade exchange companies usually make money from fees paid by members and by receiving a percentage of the value of barter deals. Bartering helps companies save money, move unused products and connect with new buyers.

Two main trade groups serve the barter exchange industry. They are the National Association of Trade Exchanges and the International Reciprocal Trade Association.  Both have separate systems of credits that make bartering easier. It is estimated that more than four hundred fifty thousand businesses use bartering in some form.

And that's the VOA Special English Economics Report, written by Mario Ritter. I'm Steve Ember.

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