Trading services in Minnesota

My colleagues Mike Caputo and Julia Schrenkler did a nice job Tuesday reporting on the growing use of business barter in this economy and nurturing a discussion.

One of our Public Insight Network sources, Allison Schmitt of St. Paul, also wanted us to know about a local person-to-person service exchange program called Hour Dollars that’s based in St. Paul and been around for 10-plus years.

She told us she’d had her kitchen cabinets installed for free in exchange for yard work, kitchen help, computer tutoring and other services. She writes:

I got involved with Hour Dollars about nine or 10 years ago after seeing an article for it in the East Side Review. I attended an orientation, at which I got acquainted with the coordinator at the time as well as a few other members. I also attended a member picnic and “showcase” events where I met other members. This made it easier to contact other members for services – but yes, it is still a little awkward to call and ask help of someone you’ve never met!

Participation was completely free until about four or five years ago, when the board instituted an optional membership fee. (I think it was $12, not $20, upon further reflection.) The fee provided funding for mailing out the Hour Dollars newsletter and member directory. The board has since upgraded the website to provide these materials online, as well.

One of the things I like best about Hour Dollars is its egalitarian nature. All services are traded on an equal basis. One hour of lawn mowing is equivalent to one hour of legal advice, for example.

Allison adds that she’s not affiliated with the management or ownership of Hour Dollars, just happy with her experience.

If anyone else has tried barter or service exchange this way, post below or click here and share a story.

And not to throw a damper on the idea but, remember, there are tax implications!

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