Barter Bay

The Origins of Barter Bay

The modest barter store

An antique store.

In a small dinghy alley, there sits a store that deals in an unusual business. Interesting and unique items are cramped side by side with modern products in this tight space. A beautiful antique lamp stands in a corner, complemented by a well-kept gramophone. At the other end, iPhones, laptops and other electronic devices are displayed in a glass cabinet.

A white-haired man nods at a customer over the phone. “Yes, he’s interested to trade. Would Wednesday at 7pm work for you?” he says.

The old man’s name is Joe. He owns the store, which facilitates bartering. Customers put their items in the shop, and tell him what they want in return. When he receives an item that matches what they want, he calls up both customers and sets up the trade. He has known most of his customers for a long time.

There is a lot of work to be done – categorizing the items, keeping them clean, and negotiating with customers. It is back-breaking work for the old man, and at the same time, he also has to worry about how to get the word out.

I chanced upon Joe’s store during a trip to China, and was intrigued by it. I chatted with Joe, and he told me that it was difficult for him. The shop is not on a main road, so it doesn’t get much exposure. It is hard for new customers to discover it.

However, I was really impressed by the concept – swapping items with people to get something more useful to them. At the same time, it also reduces the number of items being dumped and sent to landfills. It’s a win-win situation for both parties and for the environment.

Growing landfill volumes is a worldwide problem. We should not discard things that are still in working condition!

Using the web as a platform for bartering

I got the idea for Barter Bay from my chat with Joe. What if people could list their unused items over the internet? Then others can see it no matter where they are. Someone will have a use for it, and be willing to give up something in return. They can directly contact each other over a chat, and set up a suitable time and place to meet at their convenience. Instead of throwing things into the bin, the items can get a second lease on life with a new owner. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure – that is the idea behind Barter Bay, our trading platform for modern-day bartering.


By Tony Liu, founder of Barter Bay.

Images from Pixabay




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