Cheesecakes and pastas. Computers and cars.
What do they have in common? They’re items that Chicago restaurant owner Richard Wohn procured through trade instead of cash transactions. Many of the items in the dining room of the Fireside Inn, the North Side eatery he’s owned for 22 years, have been obtained the same way.
Barter has been a long-time component in Wohn’s business strategy, he tells our partner station WBEZ. Amid economic turmoil, the practice has been gaining in popularity. From its small-scale roots, industry insiders estimate the barter business was worth $8.4 billion in 2004. Given the proliferation of free classifieds and barter services that have emerged since then – and more dubiously, of cash-strapped wallets – they believe the barter economy has only grown.
Much like daily-deal websites like Groupon, businesses like Wohn’s are using barter as a way to move excess inventory. In his case, he tells WBEZ, empty tables. He estimates he gains five extra tables of business per night based on barter.
He’s procured soup warmers, vacations for his staff, a char-broiler, an eight-burner, ice cream coolers, stainless-steel walls and more via barter.
“I’m getting my teeth done,” he said. “I’ve got a time-share in Vail. On trade. And my snowboard. And the jacket I wear. My dog gets shampooed on trade. And her boarding is on trade when I go to Vail.”
Wohn’s all-in approach might be too encompassing for some, but for consumers who have seen new limits in spending power throughout a choppy economy, barter is one emerging option.