The global recession has made bartering hot, but don’t go thinking it’s all a backrub for a plumbing fix. Big money—though no cash—is changing hands through the world’s largest barter service, Bartercard. The worldwide service’s transactions are valued at $2 billion this year, up 20% over last year. That makes it the leader in a global trend that saw 400,000 business make trades worth $10 billion last year.
Bartercard works because commitments are made to its whole membership and not between any two participants, says the CEO. “The restaurant owes $10,000 to the network, not to the printer,” he tells Time. “Many direct-barter transactions don't succeed outside of our network because businesses have to match one another in timing and interest.” And he’s not just the CEO—he’s a client, too. Bartercard pays the rent on its UK headquarters entirely through bartered credits.