Portland, OR – Of all the kitschy cultural developments to reassert themselves in modern times, bartering might be one of the most fascinating. Unless, of course, you’re a managing partner in a Portland Chevrolet dealership where the employees don’t understanding the difference between ‘bartering’ and ‘trade in value’.
To use a phrase coined by Rolling Stone magazine, Portland seems to pride itself on being a ‘stronghold of nonconformity’, testing the limits of consumerist open-mindedness in a manner that asserts local loyalty, while discouraging outsiders in the most welcoming of ways. Built around the interests of enthusiast subcultures, Portland is the place to go for everything from marijuana farmers markets to sensory deprivation facilities. And even more interestingly is the epiphany that plenty of products peddled on Portland pathways require no payment.
Well, at least not in the traditional sense, anyway. You see, Portland has long reigned as the unofficial Bartering Capitol of the United States. This links the city intrinsically with a paradigm shift in consumer habits that have overtaken the hipster subsets in most Metropolitan areas. The back-to-basics mentality offers goods in direct exchange for services offered, or the rights to goods as a result of communal participation. The former, for example, might earn someone the services of a skilled tradesman in exchange for fresh baked goods; while the latter might entitle someone to fresh organic vegetables as a result of their own labor within a cooperative garden. Intended as a means of fostering community, it also serves as a continual reminder that money isn’t everything.
But John Stumpton, third-generation owner of Rose City Chevrolet, wants his customers to remember that money is still “kind of something’.
“I wouldn’t consider myself wealth-crazed, or even profit-centric,” explains Stumpton. “But we are still a business, and it’s important that we maintain profits in order to keep our doors open. Unfortunately, these barterers don’t seem to understand that.”
We spoke to Trey D’Amico, who relocated to Portland from Cambridge, MA when he decided that he didn’t need the last three weeks of his Harvard education or a silly diploma to validate him. Now he runs a consignment haberdashery, with an interesting approach.
“Anyone wearing a hat can simply walk in…leave their hat…and take another of their choosing,” explains D’Amico, assuring there are no concerns as to sanity. “All hats are sanitized with hemp-based organic vegan pesticides.” And while we didn’t have the heart to tell Trey D’Amico that pesticides would kill any mites or lice, we were interested in hearing his story about trying to buy a car from Rose City Chevrolet.
“I was interested in procuring myself a bitchin’ Chevy Volt,” he explained, twirling his mustache, “preferably in a sa-weet Green Mist Metallic. Here’s the problem…they start around $34,000. Do I have the money? Sure. That’s not the point, though. For the love of money is the root of all evil…Timothy 6:10. That’s the word of god, son. Not my god, but I’ll listen to any bearded brother up in the sky. So I offered my services to the dealership in exchange for the vehicle.”
Stumpton confirms this, stating, “Yeah. This guy wanted to come work for us in exchange for a $34,000 vehicle. He shows up in a wide-brimmed hat, faded “Hannah Montana” t-shirt, and pegged skinny jeans looking like some sort of an Amish pedophile. He had zero automotive experience. Zero in terms of office skills. Zero management background. And guess what? He had zero chance of getting a job at my dealership.”
But if Trey D’Amico had any applicable skills to contribute, would John Stumpton have accepted the terms of the barter?
“Not a friggin’ chance,” says Stumpton. “Next thing I know every ukulele playing weirdo’s going to be up in my face, trying to buy a brand new plug-in EV with a year’s supply of artisanal cheese crumbles made from sativa-infused titty milk. I’m here to make money, you damn dirty hippies.”
Unfortunately, more and more attempts have been made to barter with Rose City Chevrolet, with even Stumpton’s own employees adapting mindsets where their loyal employment entitles them to even trades on vehicles. While Stumpton seemed resistant to voicing his opinion on the growing trend, he did seem to mutter the words “dagnab socialists” as he walked away.
While it’s hard to side exclusively with either side of this conflict, we can agree with one thing for certain. The faded ‘Hannah Montana’ t-shirt with the wide-brimmed hat really does make Trey D’Amico look like an Amish pedophile.
(Editor’s Note: Moving to Portland? You can get Trey D’Amico’s whole look by visiting his haberdashery. Bartering is welcome…especially if you want to trade him a 2019 Chevy Volt…)