Barter Question and Answer
My experience with bartering is pretty poor. Kids used to sell and trade pokemon cards at school and I had no clue what fair value was so I just stayed out. My experience at identifying unfilled spots in the market and attempting to fill them is much more developed. I’m not saying I’m great at it, but I do have some experience spotting gaps and I have a couple of products that have features other people don’t have in very niche markets. Marketing it is harder, the customers who use my apps love them but getting further penetration is not my strong point. So I’m going to delve a little into the process I go through to spot gaps and adapt that to a crisis situation then have a Q&A session with Emmanuel.
So when I’m deciphering what people want the most crucial thing is to get into their daily lives as much as possible. Get them to explain everything they do, take notes, and on every note think through would I do it this way. If you just think about products you can make in a SHTF crisis it’s not a bad start but you’re going to run up against a wall pretty quickly I’d imagine. The closer you get to individual details of a person’s daily life the more surprising things you find. You might discover that person X is the one person who has some product that isn’t being used to it’s full potential and by bringing a few people together you all have more in the long run. It could be that you have a huge library of SHTF knowledge on your tablet but it takes finding somebody specific to turn one of the ideas into something useful. Survival is very much a team game, it’s been said by pretty much every person who has been in a real crisis over and over again. You’re never going to stock everything you need for a long term crisis, short term weather disaster sure, but a long term crisis your team/friends are critical. Do not tell everybody you are a prepper, you want to pretend to be in exactly the same disaster as they are, but be there helping them out if needed because if you have a few dynamic people on your side you can do a lot more together.
As an example of getting involved in somebody’s day to day routine, one of the apps I got all the ideas for by walking around the company’s office talking to them and taking photos of the scraps of paper they used. I put them all together and I said, this piece of paper here is your trade secret essentially, this is what enables you to function somewhat efficiently. All this other stuff we are talking about is either only true sometimes or if we digitized it we would only save little bits of time here and there. We digitized that piece of paper and it’s workflow structure and that’s the part they love the most and it saves hours a week. My point here is they didn’t even know that’s what they really wanted, they never came to me and said this is what we do now this is how it should work. Most of the things they told me were very fuzzy and I had to throw a lot of what they said out as the thought processes they thought they went through were only part of the bigger picture. I’d imagine the same is true in a crisis, only the products and goals are completely different. I know for a fact a lot of people are burning wood without a mini wood gasifier in Venezuela at the moment and wasting precious resources. Unfortunately Emmanuel doesn’t have the skills to turn one out from tin cans at the moment.
Over to Emmanuel Q&A on Bartering
- Have you had to barter goods?
- Yes, I had to exchange things that I need personally. The things that I need. Or what one does not have.
- What is more important currently, bartering or money?
- If you have money you can survive right now here. On the other hand, if you do not have money but you know how to manage friendships and needs, it would be good to keep both. But of both, I would say money.
- A person who survived the Bosnian crisis recommended stockpiling lighters to trade because they are small but useful. What’s your thoughts on bartering lighters. How useful are they to people? Are they in short supply? Apart from food what would you stockpile if you’d known this was coming?
- In reality, this is seen in a context very different from the one lived here. If a crisis of this kind were to come, what would accumulate would be food, drinking water, would try to look for candles, lighters, firewood, portable chargers and radios.
(Note from Harry: Emmanuel had his original portable charger stolen (you should probably hide your preps!), but they have been one of the most useful preps for him due to the electricity crisis. Being able to keep your stuff and potentially your neighbors small devices/flashlights topped off helps keep some semblance of modern life within reach. Especially with how useful phones and tablets can be today.)
- What sorts of things are people making and selling in the market?
- Here they try to innovate with everything. They created homemade ground corn flour, small bags of oil or rice for those who do not have the money to buy the kilo. They make bags of old bills since these do not work at this time at all in general. In spite of everything I could say with certainty that the Venezuelan has been creative creating things with materials that can be obtained at home. Or that they are not too expensive to make important objects to survive.
- What skills do you regret not learning that would have helped you make things to barter?
- Negotiation skills are important for barter if we go in a technical way to analyze what is done. But I regret not having learned skills that were given me an advantage before, since I could offer my services without capital investment to people with money. And this turn it into food or something that I need. (Note from Harry: Not totally on topic here, but I think the take away point here is if you don’t buy and sell things in second hand markets now it’s going to be much harder to make a move into those markets if you have to quickly.)
- Is anybody growing any food where you are on balconies etc or is it too likely to get stolen?
- That is true, it depends on how the person is with the others. But if you are a mean and conceited person at least in the locality where I live, it is customary to treat them badly or to steal them (I do not do it obviously, they only bother me). On the other hand, if you are good with everyone, you already keep safe the place where sowed. I am not sure that he will be robbed, although there are people with evil who would.
- It seems like pigeons are still plentiful and food is the most valuable resource. What do you think could trade for a gutted and cleaned pigeon at market?
- The truth is nobody would eat that here. No one is used to hearing that a pigeon can be eaten. They would even make a face and treat me as crazy. Other people who lived their lives rurally if they would change some vegetables or money for that. But it is very unlikely since I live in an area that is an urban area.
- Same question again, but if it was cooked, especially considering many of the butchers now only sell off and fat offcuts?
- I think more people would be interested in some way or another in trying that food that they never imagined in their lives to try. I do not think they would change some food or something like that. But they would pay.
- Some of your neighbors are armed. How did they afford a gun and ammunition? How do they keep their ammunition stocked?
- Their weapons keep them hidden or with people they trust or in their own homes. Their ammunition is a mystery where they store them. They only use the weapons in a moment of defense.
(Note From Harry: Definitely off topic here, probably translated badly, I followed up his answer with him and he said he actually doesn’t how they got hold of them. He thought criminals from before the crisis were probably selling them to buy food. I’m not sure that is accurate, however I would expect anything up to $1000 to be needed to buy one post SHTF because of the low penetration.)
- Does anybody practice with their gun regularly? If not, how are they sure they will shoot straight or is it more to deterrent?
- Actually, where I live, it is forbidden to use the weapon without a sense of defense. Possibly they have their gun and they do not know how to shoot. But most of them I have the feeling that it does. I do not know if they practice somewhere.
- Are there arbitrage opportunities between markets? Say I buy something in one market for x COP (Colombian Pesos), could I then barter that good for something that actually cost more in another market?
- Actually, yes. It depends on the utility that other people see the product. Many Venezuelans have seized the habit of working in one way or another buying products in Colombia and selling them a little more expensive here in the city. It is a good business, although there is a lot of competition there is always demand for everyone.
(Note From Harry: I specifically asked this question because I know that generally in any capitalist market there are pricing inefficiencies that allow an observant person to trade between two markets. At the very least you want to be selling/bartering wherever you can get the highest price so it’s worth looking out for these inefficiencies. Normally when somebody shares these inefficiencies they disappear very quickly so don’t tell everybody.)