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Monday, 8 July 2013

WordPress Daily Prompt: Barter System

If the world worked on a barter system, how would you fare? Would you have services to barter? Would you be successful, or would you struggle?

Photographers, artists, poets: show us SKILL.


Market scene in the souks


There are some countries that work on a barter system. Remembering my week’s stay in Marrakesh, Morocco it was a real eye opener. You could buy everything in the souks/market in that town, but there were no prices shown. Mr. Swiss decided to buy a carpet: one of those hand woven Bedouin carpets that are used probably for a sleeping camel to lay on. The carpet looked very nice (we still have it somewhere in the cellar) and so we decided, yes that’s the thing, not heavy and rolled up it would be easy to get through customs. It was then the problems began.

“How much” we asked (Mr. Swiss asked, his French was better than mine).

A price was said by the salesman and so we said yes.

Oh, the disappointment in the eyes of the Moroccan seller. You do not say “yes” you discuss. One of our colleagues informed our mistake and so we continued. Success, after a half hour bartering discussion we paid half of the price. We were proud, although this is all calculated in advance probably. We then searched our strange Moroccan money together to see if it would cover the carpet.

“Non, non pas necessaire” was the answer or something like that – my French is not exactly Charles de Gaulle similar.

And the man led us with pride to his credit card machine, where we comfortably paid with Visa card. They seemed to be prepared for everything in a town in the middle of the Moroccan desert, near the foot of the Atlas Mountains. We were probably just stupid foreigners.

I learnt my lesson; barter was not my thing. There was a bloke that offered Mr. Swiss a camel (for me?), but I think Mr. Swiss decided there would be complications at customs when flying back and after all a camel could not wash, iron or cook. It would also look strange riding a camel to the shops in Switzerland, so we left the camel in his acquainted surroundings.

Bartering is psychological warfare. I just could not imagine bartering for meat or vegetable in the local supermarket. Female voices rising to a crescendo saying no, a pork chop for three Swiss Francs far too expensive, after all is not very lean, a thick edge of fat, and I would not give it to my cat to eat, or something like that. Just next door an enraged lady would throw a cauliflower at the salesman, finding a caterpillar feeding on the stalk. No, she definitely would not pay two Swiss francs for that leguminous failure, although perhaps if he would reduce the price by a franc (the value of a caterpillar?) she might think about it.

Let us go to the electronic department where a customer is unscrewing a vacuum cleaner to see if it was really worth the money he should pay for it: it seems you do look a gift horse in the mouth in the bartering world.

How can you barter for milk or other dairy products in Switzerland. This would never work, the Swiss keep a nice safe control on cow produce. You think the cow is only holy in India? Milk has a fixed price in Switzerland and I am sure the Helvetic government would not be happy about a bartering system.

Just think of all the time necessary for these bartering actions. Mrs. Swiss goes shopping and returns home in the evening, after eight hours of concentrated arguing and discussions, pleased with the result of her dealings.

I am also sure that exchange would not bring anything. No-one has ever bought a story from me, I even published my book of short stories by self-publishing. What else could I exchange? Me and Mr. Swiss are now antiques, not the unique valuable antiques, but the antiques that you find with disappointment are no longer required. I am sure my value would now just be a donkey and not a camel.

Exchange perhaps my felines for something. “Forget it” they say, “We remain, perhaps we could exchange Mr. and Mrs. Human for a few tins of tuna, but that won’t work, we cannot use the tin opener with our paws”.

Bartering is something you have to grow up with, a way of life. In a country where everyone keeps an eye on what you are doing, when you are doing it, and where you make sure that the no-one knows that you are doing it, things get complicated. There was a bloke in the news lately that decided to barter a few secrets in another country for permission to stay in that country. He decided against staying and is still searching for a country, but perhaps he now has a problem as there are no secrets left.

By the way the bit about the camel was invented by me - or was it?

1 comment:

  1. I remember bartering in Morocco, too. I loved it!! However, you are right, it wouldn't work in a country that is already firmly established in Western monetarism. It's something, as you say, you would have to grow up with. Was the bit about the camel invented? Hmmm.....not so sure, as I remember being offered a variety of animals, including camels, cows and donkeys in exchange for my (now ex) wife.

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