Bartering in the Midst of a Crisis


No matter how well you prepare, chances are that you will miss something. Hey, we’re all human, so we’re all prone to make mistakes. If anything, those mistakes are increased when we are preparing for something, without really knowing what we’re preparing for. It’s kind of trying to buy the perfect birthday present for someone, without knowing who you’re buying it for.

But I think it’s safe to say that anything and everything you and I need for our survival is available somewhere, even if we don’t have it in our stockpile. What that means is that we’re probably going to find ourselves trying to get our hands on those things in a post-disaster world.

There will, of course, be a whole host of problems with trying to do that, not the least of which is that in a truly major disaster, chances are that people will stop taking money in trade. So if we are going to want to get our hands on anything, we’ll need to barter something that we have of value, in order to get it. Fortunately, those of us who are preparing will probably be in better shape for bartering than just about anyone else.

Actually, going back to a barter economy is actually rather typical after a disaster, especially if the disaster is accompanied by any sort of financial collapse. People don’t want to take money for the things they need when they aren’t sure that they can get anything for the money.

But bartering in the midst of a crisis can be dangerous. You have to take into consideration the people who you will be bartering with, as well as anyone else who might see the transaction. Many of those people will be hungry and desperate; looking for food and whatever else they can find to take care of their families. Some of them won’t be all that picky about obeying the law to get what they want.

Preparing for Bartering

If you’re going to make bartering part of your long-term survival strategy, you’ll need to make sure that you stockpile supplies just for bartering. You really don’t want to take from your normal stockpile for that. Every item you take out of your family stockpile is one less available for your family. So to protect your family, you really need a separate stockpile just for bartering.

So, what should you stockpile? Pretty much anything that you will need for your own survival. If you’re going to need it, you can be sure that others will need it too; and they won’t have stockpiled supplies to get them through the disaster.

Make sure that you stockpile a variety of different trade good, not just one thing. If all you have is one or two things, there’s always the chance that they won’t be what others need. But by varying your stock, you can increase the chances of having something that will be highly valuable in a post-disaster world.

The other thing you should consider stockpiling are things to feed people’s vices. Interestingly enough, sales of tobacco products and alcohol always increase in difficult times. Clearly, people are looking for a way of either dealing with the stress or escaping from their problems. So they turn to the old standbys. Chances are that people will trade for booze and smokes faster than they will for food.

Some key things to consider stockpiling:

  • Any non-perishable food items
  • Matches and lighters
  • Water purifiers
  • Toilet paper
  • Personal hygiene items
  • First-aid supplies
  • Heirloom seeds
  • Coffee
  • Batteries – especially AA and AAA

Rules for Bartering in a Crisis

As I already mentioned, bartering in the midst of a crisis can be dangerous. There have always been unscrupulous people in the world, and if anything, there will be more of them trying to get what they can in a post-disaster world. People who lived on the edge of the law will most likely cross over to crime, as a means of getting what they need.

So you’ll have to be ready to protect yourself and your trade goods, as well as your family. So, you’ll need to take some special precautions as you try and barter your goods. Remember, these will be desperate people, so they will be likely to do desperate things.

First of all, don’t do your bartering from home, pick a neutral location to work from. You don’t want people to know where you live, or they could gather up some friends and attack your home, in order to take whatever you have. A good location might be the park or plaza in the center of your city. That is one of the most common places for a market to develop in a time of trouble.

As you go and especially as you return home, keep your head on a swivel. Someone may try following you home, with the same idea of attacking you there. You should use deceptive routing, taking the time to check make loops and check your back trail for anyone following you. Stay suspicious of everyone, as you don’t know who might be trying to follow you.

Don’t take all your inventory with you, but rather a couple of each thing. If you stack up merchandise like you’re running a store, you’ll look like a good target for people to go after. Better to take just a few of each thing, so that you look like you’re taking out of your home.

You shouldn’t do your trading on your own either. There’s too much of a risk of people stealing from you while you are doing business. There’s also the possibility of someone trying to hold you up and take everything you have. Your only protection from this is to be in a strong enough party, which is armed strongly enough to protect yourself.

At least one of your guards should be 50 feet away from you or so and not appear to be with you. That way, if you are confronted by gunmen, you’ll have an ace in the hole, behind them. That could be enough to defuse the situation or even to win the battle, should it come to that.

A Final Thought

Extreme care must be taken while bartering. But if you do take care, you stand a chance of making a good profit off of it. Not only will you have the opportunity to get things that you need, but you could also barter for valuables with the idea of making a profit after the disaster is over.

During World War II, there were constant shortages in occupied Europe. The Germans took pretty much everything for themselves, leaving little for the people of the countries they conquered. What was still available was tightly controlled and rationed. So, people living in the cities would load up their suitcase with silver and other valuables and travel to the country to visit family and friends. Once there, they would trade their valuables to farmers for “black market” hams, sausage, cheese, and butter; returning home with their suitcases full of food.

After the war was over and things returned to normal, those farmers were able to sell the things they had accumulated for a handsome profit. This turned many a poor farmer into a wealthy man. Even those who didn’t become wealthy in this trade were able to improve their situation considerably.

Should you decide to barter in the midst of a crisis, you must determine your goals. If it is only to get things you need for your family, that’s fine. But if you want to make a profit after things return to normal, you’ll want a larger stockpile and a good plan for trading it away. You’ll also need a secure place to store the valuables that you receive in trade until the time comes to sell them once again.

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