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The UK turns to a new culture of barter: ‘I’ll swap you a loo roll for a bottle of pop’

New culture of barter as people trade on local goodwill

As Britain lives under coronavirus lockdown, people up and down the country are turning to friends and neighbours for help and support in a way that hasn’t been seen for decades.

According to a UK based health and safety software company, a culture of barter has broken out in the UK as neighbour looks after neighbour.

Protecting.co.uk has heard dozens of tales of people all over the UK swapping their surplus goods for something they need.

“It turns out that far from being in literal isolation, we’re discovering the kindness of our friends and neighbours,” says spokesperson Mark Hall.

“And if you’re one of those terrible people with all the loo roll, now is the time to make amends and start giving it away.”

‘Got a cup of sugar?’

Protecting.co.uk reached out to clients and contacts and found that the enforced government lockdown because of Covid-19 has rekindled community spirit between friends and neighbours.

The only big difference from those halcyon days of knocking on your neighbour’s door for a cup of sugar is that there’s a technological angle.

“Instead, we’re sending a WhatsApp next door to see if they’ve got a spare pint of milk, and in return they get a couple of cup-a-soups from the back of your cupboard.”

Among the many stories of small-scale kindness breaking out across the country include:

Mike, Leeds: “My mate works in a bakery, and is swapping bread for a bottle of pop. We’ve got toast again!”
Mary, Southampton: “My dad was one of those people who panic-bought toilet paper. He swapped six rolls for a box of Weetabix off his neighbour. Everybody’s happy, and his neighbour is very relieved.”
Mr G Nichols, Liverpool: “I dropped a WhatsApp to the people opposite, now we have butter and they have liquid soap to wash their hands. Loving it.”
It’s not just goods, it’s services too:

Val, Birmingham: “My boy is using his daily exercise to go food shopping for the old lady two doors down. In return, she made us cake! So proud of him.”
Protecting.co.uk’s Mark Hall says this is exactly the kind of community spirit that’s been missing for years. “The sad thing is that it takes a national emergency for us to realise there’s a world outside our own little bubbles.

“But clapping for NHS workers and pulling together for friends and neighbours proves that deep down the nation still has the right kind of spirit.”

Don’t forget your social distance

Now that we’re talking to our neighbours again, Protecting.co.uk reminds us that it should still be done from a distance of at least six feet (two metres) to prevent the accidental spreading of germs.

“Don’t forget your social distancing!” says Mark, “We have to defeat this virus, and that meets cutting out as much unnecessary contact with other people as possible, especially if you’re I a vulnerable group.”

That means we need a few guidelines for our new bartering culture:

Arrange the swap over social media, text, or over the phone – not face-to-face.
There’s no need to shake on the deal. On no account should you spit-and-shake.
Arrange for the goods to be left somewhere safe, like the doorstep or an out-building.
Be like a naughty schoolboy – ring the doorbell and run away!
Congratulate each other over Facebook, and post the results of your sweet, sweet deal on Instagram.
The big question is whether this is new community spirit is going to last after the lockdown finishes, says Protecting’s Mark Hall.

“We’re seeing the emergence of a new, kinder Britain which is going the extra mile to help out friends, neighbours and strangers alike.

“The really sad thing would be if we all reverted back to our old selves once this emergency is over. We’ve emerged from our cocoons, and it would be a shame to go back there.

“Now, has anybody got half a dozen eggs I can cadge? I have baby wipes.”