By Ann Belser Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Ross warehouse for the Green Apple Barter Network looks more like a pawn shop than a store.
Jewelry, watches, stainless steel appliances, needle point chairs, bicycles, sports equipment and Pirates T-shirts share space with foosball tables and an arcade-style video trivia game.
It is all merchandise that is available for barter. The foosball table can be traded for golf gear that can be traded for advertising that can be traded for flowers that can be used to buy a plasma TV.
As the economy increases pressure on businesses, and companies are forced to liquidate or get rid of merchandise, bartering is an attractive option. It also is a good way for company owners to network.
“The reason a company joins is they’re going to get new business,” Jeff Buchbinder, a broker for Green Apple, said as he was showing tile to Jim Weaver, the owner of Captain Clothing Co., which does custom embroidery and screen printing on clothing.
Mr. Weaver was able to provide door prizes for his company’s holiday party through Green Apple, which is based in Station Square. He even found the caterer and paid for it with his Green Apple Points.
He was looking at tile because he is contemplating a renovation of his office, which would include a new employee kitchen. He said he goes to the warehouse periodically just to see what’s available.
Trust-Franklin Press Co. was planning its 100th anniversary bash when it turned to Green Apple. Gary Friedman, the company’s owner and president, said the catering, a jazz trio and balloons all came from the Green Apple network. He also buys some of the paper for his business through the program and he had his air conditioning repaired through the barter network.
Green Apple works through a credit card system. If someone with a Green Apple credit card buys goods or services, those are offset against what they can sell to someone else with the card.
Green Apple charges retail prices, so there is no price break when using the Green Apple credit card.
The company also has a string of brokers who spend their days on the phone trying to hook up potential trades. Last week the Green Apple brokers had $2 million worth of John Deere commercial equipment they were looking to unload.
Roberta Weissburg of Roberta Weissburg Leathers has been a member of the barter network since 1997 and has used it to buy advertising, carpet cleaning and the car she drives. She even uses her card to pay for hotel rooms, dining and vacations.
The local barter network also has trade deals with networks in other parts of the country.
Justin Krane, the director of marketing for Green Apple, said there were 1,400 companies locally that are members of the barter service. Some local colleges, such as Washington and Jefferson and La Roche, accept barter points as tuition payments.
Green Apple charges a 6 percent commission for its services, reports sales to the Internal Revenue Service and collects sales tax.
Any purchases on a Green Apple card can be recorded as business expenses since they are paid for with the goods or services of the purchaser. Any personal use of the card should be reported as income.
Mitch Zychowski, who publishes the Enjoy Coupon Book, had a load of the books at the Green Apple Warehouse. He was there to find prizes for his golf outing on Sept. 28 at the Quicksilver Golf Course in Midway. The outing benefits an orphanage in Costa Rica.
Mr. Weaver, who owns the custom clothing company, said he was reluctant to get into the barter trade at first. Mr. Buchbinder said he had to work hard to persuade Mr. Weaver to just try the barter service for a month or so.
“We had to show Jeff [Buchbinder] the door three times,” Mr. Weaver said. “He finally convinced me to try it. I’ve been having fun with it ever since.”
Ann Belser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1699.