Photo by Bailey Tennery.

Trade the small stuff for better stuff


Inspired by a Canadian man’s idea, HSU students have begun to trade their items of low value. No money is involved, it’s simply a game of trades.

Humboldt State senior Adam Hayes entered a professor’s office looking to trade a cheese grater for something better.

“The professor was not having it,” Hayes said.

“If I could trade you that printer, I would,” the professor said. “But it’s school property.”

“I’ll take that printer from you,” Hayes said.

“No,” the professor said.

Canadian blogger Kyle MacDonald inspired Hayes to start bartering. MacDonald made 14 trades in 2005 during a period of unemployment. He ended up trading a role in a movie for a two-story farmhouse in Saskatchewan, Canada.

“It’d be nice to have a place where I don’t have to pay rent,” Hayes said. “I’m paying homage to the original idea the gentleman had, but Humboldt style.”

According to ABC, MacDonald’s inspiration came from a game called Bigger, Better. The basic rule of the game is to start with a small object, then ask people if they’d be willing to trade. The goal is to get a “bigger and better” object than the one with which you started.

Hayes started with a paper clip to a cheese grater, then a cheese grater to a CPR manual.

“I traded the cheese grater for a CPR manual, because it has the power to save lives,” Hayes said.

Hayes eventually traded a CPR manual for a decorated rock. Then, he traded a decorated rock for a cardboard virtual reality headset.

“I spend a lot more time on Craigslist than I’d like to,” Hayes said.

Hayes uses Craigslist to find fellow barters. He found an owner of a diesel fuel tank on Craigslist and traded his cardboard virtual reality headset for it.

“It is 12 feet by four feet, [and] I live in an apartment,” Hayes said. “I called a buddy of mine that has a backyard and asked if I could store it in his backyard. He agreed if I bought him a pizza.”

Hayes is studying communications and minoring in entrepreneurship and psychology. He hopes to get an all-terrain vehicle, motorbike or electric scooter for the diesel fuel tank.

“That fuel tank is for growers, I’m not going to lie,” Hayes said. “I know my market. I’m going to go to local dispensaries, ask around and see if anyone wants to trade for it.”

HSU student Jake Peil joined the bartering game. Peil started when he found a paperclip on the ground in his house.

“I traded my roommate for a pen,” Peil said. “Later, my roommate realized the paperclip I traded him was his, but now I have a pen. I tried to encourage my roommate that he can trade the paper clip for something else.”

Business major Albert Bernales started with a paper clip and kept trading to get bigger and better things.

“I go up to people, ask if they want to trade,” Bernales said. “Sometimes I’ll tell them about the story, like what I traded to get this item.”

Bernales traded a paperclip for a chewed-up pencil. Then, he traded the pencil for an empty box [and] a mechanical pencil. He then traded that for an orange pen, and the orange pen for a hair tie.

“I am never disappointed with the stuff I get,” Bernales said. “I’m always satisfied with empty boxes or anything.”

Bernales went from a hair tie to a sticker, a sticker to a pin, a pin to a flashcard and a flashcard to an empty gum box. Then, he traded the empty gum box for a red pen to a metal water bottle.

“You don’t get scared to talk to anyone,” Bernales said. “I’m not intimidated to talk to really important people or people below me. Everybody is just a friend.”

Bernales approached freshman Victoria Ramirez on Feb. 2 to trade his metal bottle in the library.

“It was strange at first, unexpected [and] off-putting,” Ramirez said. “He’s a stranger. I thought about not responding. He started talking to me. I wasn’t sure if he knew me.”

The idea of the game Bigger, Better grew on Ramirez.

“It’s a cool way to get to know people and to create connections,” Ramirez said. “It’s different. Simple, yet not simple. I’m thinking of starting it.”


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