Barter Explained, Poorly

Below is an example of a terrible essay that “explains” an abstract concept by appealing to other abstract concepts. Its terms are vague. It ignores the humanity of readers. It contains not one memorable image or example. Barter is the act of trading your fat cow for a hundred bushels of fresh sweet corn, or the act of cutting your neighbor’s hair in return for his used lawnmower. Engage the senses of your reader. Help her visualize (or even taste, hear, feel) the real-world examples that illustrate the concepts.

Paragraph 1. Bartering is trading services or goods with another person when there is no money involved. This type of exchange was relied upon by early civilizations. There are even cultures within modern society who still rely on this type of exchange. Bartering has been around for a very long time, however, it’s not necessarily something that an economy or society has relied solely on.

Paragraph 2. A barter system is an old method of exchange. This system has been used for centuries and long before money was invented. People exchanged services and goods for other services and goods in return. In ancient times, this system involved people in the same area, however today bartering is global. The value of bartering items can be negotiated with the other party. Bartering doesn’t involve money which is one of the advantages. You can buy items by exchanging an item you have but no longer want or need. Generally, trading in this manner is done through Online auctions and swap markets.

Paragraph 3. The history of bartering dates all the way back to 6000 BC. Introduced by Mesopotamia tribes, bartering was adopted by Phoenicians. Phoenicians bartered goods to those located in various other cities across oceans. Babylonian’s also developed an improved bartering system. Goods were exchanged for food, tea, weapons, and spices. When money was invented, bartering did not end, it become more organized. Due to lack of money, bartering became popular in the 1930s during the Great Depression. It was used to obtain food and various other services. It was done through groups or between people who acted similar to banks. If any items were sold, the owner would receive credit and the buyer’s account would be debited.

Paragraph 4. Just as with most things, there are disadvantages and advantages of bartering. A complication of bartering is determining how trustworthy the person you are trading with is. The other person does not have any proof or certification that they are legitimate, and there is no consumer protection or warranties involved. This means that services and goods you are exchanging may be exchanged for poor or defective items. It may be a good idea to limit exchanges to family and friends in the beginning because good bartering requires skill and experience. At times, it is easy to think the item you desire is worth more than it actually is and underestimate the value of your own item.

Paragraph 5. On the positive side, there are great advantages to bartering. As mentioned earlier, you do not need money to barter. Another advantage is that there is flexibility in bartering. For instance, related products can be traded, or items that are completely different can be traded. Another advantage of bartering is that you do not have to part with material items. Instead, you can offer a service in exchange for an item. With bartering two parties can get something they want or need from each other.


In a Reply below, use two or three sentences to rephrase any of the five paragraphs, using vivid examples and physical objects to illustrate the abstract concepts.

Post your Reply MON FEB 11.


About davidbdale

Inventor of and sole practitioner of 299-word Very Short Novels.
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16 Responses to Barter Explained, Poorly

  1. g903254 says:

    P4. An advantage to bartering is that what can be used to barter is endless, whether it be services, totally unrelated items (such as a stone for a house for example), etc. There are disadvantages to bartering as well. When you are catering there is no quality control or actual base rate of exchange. This is all between two people and what a single stone goes for one person maybe radically different for another. This is a problem that can’t be solved very easily among a bartering system due to a large part everyone just trying to get the most with the least they can spend. Everyone loves saving and making money so if you can convince someone that your cow is worth five times its actual worth then you would find a way to sell your cow for five times its worth. This is an inherent flaw with bartering. The lack of price control and the greed of other human beings makes it very difficult to barter in good faith because you have no clue whether or not you are actually paying market price or you are paying five times the amount.

    • davidbdale says:

      I like your incorporation of cows, G, but I’m not sure what you describe is an inherent problem of bartering (Maybe you don’t think so either.). Whether I’m trading you my cow for dollars or for donuts makes no difference to my ability to convince you that the cow is worth much more than it would be to someone else. What do you think?

      • g903254 says:

        With a system based off currency we can find institutions, whether federal or private, the find the rate of which cows can be sold for. The quality of the cow can be appraised and the “exact” price can be figured out rather than the seller proposing a price based on absolutely nothing. This builds confidence in an economy and the trust between buyer and seller is strengthened as long as there is no outside influence causing interference to the appraising process. This could be done under a bartering system, however taking everything that could be used to barter would be extremely impractical and improbable to keep a system of checks and balances within the economy. A currency system is just far more practical than a bartering system.

        • davidbdale says:

          Entirely true and not disputed, G. What makes the barter system better is that it acknowledges the regional and seasonal differences in valuing many commodities, even services. Every HairCuttery in America may charge $15 for a haircut, but the only barber in Saskatoon can command $50 of anyone willing to pay it. You’re thinking of an economy in which anything can be delivered from anywhere to anywhere, which, except for shipping costs, does in fact equalize prices universally. But, taking a look at those shipping costs, if I have a bicycle you want, and which would cost $60 to ship from the nearest supplier, I can charge you $50 more than the “exact price” of the bike across the commerceverse. Barter is still with us. It just looks different.

  2. doorknob9 says:

    P3. Bartering has a very long history and was first used by Mesopotamia tribes, but later adopted by Phoenicians who bartered goods to those located in different cities all over the world. Goods were exchanged for food, tea, weapons, and spices but when money was invented bartering became much more organized. During the Great Depression people began to bargain item for item.

    • davidbdale says:

      This is a start, Doorknob, but every vague “class noun” is an opportunity to insert a specific commodity.
      Notice in your text: goods / different cities / Goods / food / item for item.
      Goods are hard to picture. So are items. Cows and beans are easy.
      See what I mean?

  3. nina525 says:

    P2: Bartering is simply a method of exchange between a person or party, in which two people or group trade goods and services. Bartering usually only took place within the same area or community, but, has grown to become a global way of networking in exchange for goods and services. The advantage of bartering is that money was not a key factor when it came to trading. Items that were no longer a want or need were traded. Transactions such as, A loaf of bread for butter or doing a favor for a friend or neighbor in return to use an item of theirs such as a vacuum or broom. Bartering is a matter of value over an item or action of providing services.

    • davidbdale says:

      This is a start, Nina, but it would be much more effective if you followed some recognizable people through the evolution of commerce. It’s not hard.
      —When you say, “Bartering usually only took place within the same area or community, but, has grown to become a global way of networking in exchange for goods and services,” there are literally no people in your language.
      —When you say, “A loaf of bread for butter or doing a favor for a friend or neighbor in return to use an item of theirs such as a vacuum or broom,” you have introduced one person but so vaguely that we don’t know whether to visualize a friend or a neighbor.
      Do you see what I’m getting at? The more specifically you can call up images, tangible objects, in your reader’s mind, the more likely she is to respond to your reasoning.

  4. wazoo1234 says:

    p2. The ancient system of bartering is an effective way to exchange goods if you do not have any money to spend. This system works perfect for exchanging a few goods you may have at the market for food from others that are willing to trade. This system is no different than the money system. You are paying for an item based on the money value of your item, for example you would trade a cow for 50 steaks. Not because you want the steaks but because it is equivalent value. obviously prices will vary depending on how much a person is willing to pay for something.

    • davidbdale says:

      Your illustration makes bartering sound very unsatisfying, Wazoo, but it doesn’t fully explain the motives of the participants. Wouldn’t the person who accepted the steaks have to find a second trader who was willing to trade, for example, a used riding lawnmower for 50 steaks? The value of MONEY, by which I mean currency, is that the two traders don’t have to have the right items to make a satisfactory swap. Willing to try again, or do you want to let your first Reply stand?

  5. hazelnutlatte123 says:

    Bartering has been a way of life for an extremely long time, before people could walk into a grocery or retail store and use money to purchase what they need. The system is a way to gain necessary items by trading something with less value to others. When Bartering began, trades were commonly done within the same area, but today people around the world can barter with food, services, items, or animals. The object being traded may have little value to the trader, but immense value to the person who is receiving the object, but this value will vary depending on the people involved. This continues today in the simplest forms, such as giving someone a small gift in return for their recommendation to a job, or trading a personally invaluable wallet for a more valuable bag from a friend. Bartering comes in many forms and is prevalent in anything that involves the act of trade with the absence of money.

  6. pomegranate4800 says:

    P5. Bartering is exchanging goods or services with another person. The good thing about this is that you do not need money to trade. Instead, you can use your goods or service in exchange for the other. For example, I can exchange bread for butter. In history it was mainly used to exchange animals. If one farmer wanted a sheep but had a cow, and he finds another farmer with sheep, he can trade the cow for the sheep. Each party is receiving something that is useful to them and something they want or need.

  7. daphneblake25 says:

    The system of bartering is the act of exchanging goods and services in return for something both people deem has equal value. For example, if a farmer wanted bananas and she had thousands of apples, she would seek to trade with another farmer who had bananas and not apples. Both parties have to need something and be willing to give something as well. This system was essential and relied upon by early civilizations, and while there are even cultures within modern society who still rely on this type of exchange today, the value of bartering has faded like the use of desktop computers.

  8. rowanstudent2 says:

    P2. Bartering is a system in which you trade items in return for another item without using money. Although this way of exchange was used in early civilizations, many cultures today still depend on it. Back then, it usually only involved people who lived in the same area as you, but now it is used everywhere around the world. People could exchange a shoe for a shirt if they wanted to. It would just have to depend on the wants and needs of each party.

  9. nousernamefound1 says:

    P2: The advantages of Bartering continue to increase. The values can be negotiated, which can lead to online auctions and swap markets. This is nothing new for us because this system has been used for years and I don’t see any aging.

    • davidbdale says:

      You missed the point of this Task, Nunf. Your entry is shorter than the original, which is an advantage, but it doesn’t benefit from any of the vivid, tangible, physical illustrations that were prescribed.

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