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It Has Come to This: Greek Towns Reverting to Barter Economies


"I want to use euro but it's very expensive and I believe trade is better."

The ever-deepening eurozone financial crisis has forced many Greeks to rely on barter-style economies.

"I want to use euro but it's very expensive and I believe trade is better," said Volos resident Artemis Zafiriou of in a recent NBC News report.

The town of Volos is not special. It’s one of the many Greek communities that have been hit hard by the financial crisis and high unemployment, forcing a growing number of individuals to trade goods and service in return for essentials. For instance, Zafiriou and her "partner" "sell "chicken eggs, homemade marmalade, and soap at an open-air market in town,” according to NBC's Yuka Tachibana.

"Looking like a mix between a flea market and a farmers' market, it is packed with colorful stalls displaying fresh produce, home-baked bread, second-hand clothes and jewelry," Tachibana writes.

“Members can also go online and buy or sell services like yoga classes and piano lessons. An alternative currency, known as TEMs in Greek, is used. When members sell their goods or services, either online or at the market, these accrue in their online account and can be used to buy from other members,” the report adds.

"TEM": an alternative currency

When the Volos barter network started in 2010, it had 15 members. But as the eurozone financial crisis became more serious, the network has seen its numbers grow to over 600 active members with approximately 400 more registered in the system.

"People need some way out, some other way to do things. I guess also people need to get to know each other," said network founder Christos Papaioannu. "There is no middleman, everyone exchanges directly -- it makes people happy.”

Schoolteacher Irene Blomy says the barter network provides people in the community some relief from the financial crisis.

"It's very nice, I think I don't have stress," she said. "When you have to buy something in euros you're always in stress. But now I'm OK."

Although the network offers assistance to members of the community, Papaioannou says it’s not intended to replace the euro completely; it’s only meant for momentary relief.

"It's a parallel way, but a way where people decide together how to arrange and deal with things. Everything is transparent, and open. Everything is small scale,” the network’s founder said.

Front page photo source: NBC News

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