Bartering Makes a Surprise Comeback

Upon entering Mark Enix's store, it appears to be just a recently remodeled retail outlet. But for every tile laid, wall painted, and wire grounded, there's a customer story. Enix didn't spend one dime renovating his store. Fountain City Jewelers, in Knoxville, Tenn., was remodeled through bartering. As credit tightens and consumers weigh every price point, some retail jewelers are turning to barter to get through cash-poor times. Barter takes many forms, from old-fashioned one-to-one swaps to exchanging goods and services on large networks where online transactions build up barter points. Even social networking Web sites such as Facebook and Twitter have become vehicles for bartering (see Sidebar). Retail jewelers use barter points primarily to cover promotional costs, especially printing, but some use the networks to provide perks, and even medical benefits, to employees. A membe

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