Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Trade Show

Modern Manners and the professional barter. Why do I roll my eyes at the idea of trade? Was I brought up on the Art of the Deal and too much Trump in the 80s, where things were dollar for dollar and dog eat dog? It's exciting, a job well done and check in hand. I don't really want to give you my cow for that handful of beans. Where's the fun in that? And I usually end up missing my cow and hating the beans. You know?

Trade is having a slithery renaissance of sorts. I feel like it has always been around in my chosen careers (food/bar, events and writing are targets for tab runners) but it's nearly preferred as a means to commerce these days what with all the blather about the rotten economy. But until we're ALL doing the Trade Dance? It's awkward. Or you're not doing it right. Or you don't have anything I want. No offense, but I don't want for anything really. And if I do want something, I'll just go and buy it. With the money you owe me.

I want to like barter. But it never feels good.  I always feels like you just took my car joyriding, ran it out of gas and drank my last bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape circa 1989, and said, hey no worries, I'll make it up to ya! And then six months later you buy me a lite beer and say, "we're square right?"

So let's do this. When you work for me, I'll pay you. When I work for you, you pay me.

Or how about this. We make it work for both of us. Up front. Maybe I have a broken down riding lawn mower that has cost me $400 and STILL doesn't work. And maybe you like broke ass lawn equipment like sexy Luis the treeman, and you actually want the thing. Gonna tow it on outta here. Save me from taking a baseball bat to it. And although it is JUNK to me, it wasn't free. So how to negotiate? Well, Luis has a few things I want. But I try not to trade mowers for that because it makes me feel dirty. So he'll cut down a couple of dead trees and make me three winters worth of firewood. We are even.

Also, when proposing trade like a Pilgrim to an Indian (here's some Whiskey, we'll take Louisiana) consider your history together. If we just met? Don't ask me to donate, exchange, appear, speak, cook, rumble, teach, paint or redo for the "exposure" of it. You don't know if I'm the Princess of Siam, quite frankly and it's insulting. Suggesting to anyone that you'll put them on the map, is just rude. There are a few people who can claim to give you exposure. Oprah, comes to mind. Reality tv for another. But you? Stop it.

Now, if you don't have money, be humble. I really want to do this ________ with you. But I'm strapped. All I have is this (full page ad in the NYTimes,  plane ticket, an audience with Spielberg, gift certificate at the Four Seasons, weekend at my beach house with a man harem) to offer you.  Are you cool with that? This is gracious behavior and allows me to keep my dignity while deciding if I want to make you my newest charity. But if you come at me all 'here's what I'm gonna do for you, I'm gonna let you work for me...and you'll get exposure.' Not. Listening.

The following footnote is my interior rant when presented with these most difficult situations. Mindfully, however, I would never say such a thing...good heavens, no. I just glaze over. And try to remember what my friend Sandy says about meetings gone wrong. Be a Quaker. Deflect. Keep your face pretty.

(So let me get this straight...I've been humpin' it in this business since you were in the 4th grade eating paste and pissing the bed at night and now you gonna give me exposure? I understand that maybe you were too young to have seen me in my pleasure dome moments, but let me give you some free advice small bear. Don't approach the elders like that. You'll. Never. Get. Anywhere. If you're lucky, we'll remember what we were like in our mid 20s (irritating and full of ourselves) but we'll see promise, take pity and let the professional fees slide. And trust me, your payment isn't going to make or break our lives one way or another. We've lost more in the stock market and real estate in the last 3 than you'll see in the next 20, so save your coupons Shaggy. Oh and do not delude yourself into thinking that you are going to save my career by bringing your pile of rag tag goofy over medicated friends around to check me out cuz they're just a bunch of freeloaders who think "networking" means hitting the cheese tray at "art openings". If I was an Ecstasy dealer, I'd want to meet your friends. So in short, if I'm not making any cash on this gig I'd rather lay on the couch at night with the gardener and the dog watching a marathon of Dexter, so I can get ideas on what I'm going to do to the next person who tries to pay with Exposure Bux. So, yea. I'll pass.)