Fairview Homestead | Why are we so adverse to bartering?
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Why are we so adverse to bartering?

As a Guest House, I joined an accommodation bartering site called Swop and Stay.  I love their website – the swops work on a point system (you do not have to stay with the establishment that you host) The automated swop process, once you have accepted the swop request, makes the process of gaining or losing points so much easier.

Swapping accommodation with fellow accommodation providers makes so much sense. Not only do we get to stay for free, but we also get to establish network opportunities and we get to learn from each other.

Which brings me to the topic of my blog post – why are we so averse to bartering ? If there is one thing that gets me hot under the collar it is when a prospective guest wants to bargain me down. Is it even fair to lower my price and in that way take the business away from another establishment and forcing them to lower their rates to the point where it is actually costing them to fill their rooms? I’m not exaggerating – I know of one B&B that cut her prices to the point where she was actually subsidizing the guests sleeping over – how crazy is that?)

Yet, I have just exchanged 3 boxes of wine from a well-known wine estate in exchange for a weekend’s accommodation. Sitting down with a glass of excellent Pinotage,  which we would otherwise never have sampled, as it falls into a price range we consider above our limit, I just realized what a clever concept this really is. It’s a win-win situation Being a  strictly a one-glass-girl already half a glass above my limit,  I drew my laptop closer to research this bartering story further. That left Desmond obliged to sample the Pinotage further and his nods of encouragement at my excitement over the bartering system just became more encouraging as the level of the bottle dropped. Understand, this is a man who is cheeky enough to walk down to the corner deli with a bag of homegrown peppadews and come to an agreement to exchange it for our daily bread and milk! According to him, he was just desperate because I was too lazy to bottle his abundant harvest of peppadews, but that’s a story for another day…

The definition for bartering reads: Bartering is a trading system in which you offer products in return for credits to purchase other products and services in your barter group. An  American girl innocently required:  “i’m doing a travel project for school and i need to know if you have to barter in South Africa? ” (At least she had the good sense to use capital letters for South Africa…)

To this naive question she received two rather indignant replies: “NO, we do not barter! South Africa has a very well developed economic system, while the country was very socialist during Apartheid, the country is now far more free market. We have our own currency, the Rand. We also have one of the best banking systems in the world.”

“We aren’t a group of uneducated idiots who live in huts and hunt lions… We actually have a currency, its called the Rand.” And then from someone calling himself Bob Mugabe: “I do not barter. I take.” Well, it’s certainly true that we have a well developed financial system here in South Africa and we rarely barter, but perhaps we should not be so quick to turn up our noses at the time-honored tradition of bartering. I have come to the conclusion that a good barter system must have the following:

  • Businesses with products and services you will want to spend your credits with.
  • A fully automated computer system.
  • A clear policy – you do not want to find out later that you have to pay a 20% commission on top of your membership fee.
  • An active Facebook Page or Networking events where you can make contacts and promote your business.
  • A benefit often overlooked, is that of establishing a network relationship with another establishment that you feel that you share a customer profile with.

I’m sold on the idea of bartering! But not on bargaining my rates down. I have recently been asked to quote for a one-night booking for the 1st of January – giving my ‘best price’. Why would I give a discounted rate for a one-night booking on a public holiday when I have to pay double time to my staff -surely that should make no sense even to the person requesting a ‘best price’?

In the winter it actually costs me more to run my guest house – the rooms need heaters, electric blankets, and the linen have to be tumble dried- so why should I lower my rates in the off-season?

Bargain, no. Barter, YES!

Copyright ©       Philda Benkenstein    All Rights Reserved

Philda Benkenstein

I write from the heart, the way I speak and, as my mother tongue is Afrikaans, my grammar is not always perfect. I am constantly intrigued by the number of guests who mentions that they read my blog posts - I would love to hear from you if you enjoyed a particular post.