Recession tales: Bartering exchanges 'lame' for 'hip'

I was helping my second-grader with his homework; he was reluctant to read a the little copy-printed book on bartering, saying, with full eye-rolls, that he'd already read it.

So we read it together, and worked through the questions at the end. Suddenly his eyes lit up. "You and dad barter!" he said.

Exactly. Here in Portland, Ore., I am such a regular user of the barter economy that the book's historical viewpoint (first came bartering, and finally came malls) seems passé.

The grocery co-op where we are member-owners holds an annual holiday barter swap, instead of a bazaar, and we look forward to the seed and start swap in the spring. On Portland's craigslist barter page, hundreds of offerings appear every day, and if it weren't for the constant request to trade something for an iPhone, you'd think it was 1972.

"VHS copies of your favourite horror movies that you replaced on DVD this year for Tokyo Long Scarlet Radishes," reads one ad, also suggesting the trade of an old window for a 10-pound Fielderkraut cabbage.