Although the Greeks invented the first money more than 2,800 years ago, the concept of bartering has never really gone out of fashion, especially in times of financial crisis and difficulty.
While exchanges once took place in public places, now the internet has become the trading ground.
Andrés García and Jezabel López, friends and neighbours from Vélez-Málaga, set up the public Facebook group 'Trueque Vélez y comarca' (Barter Vélez and area) just three months ago.
The page quickly became more successful than the pair expected. It currently has over 21,400 members, with 81,000 items on offer and 2,500 successful swaps completed.
The strapline the neighbours came up with to promote the bartering page was 'We'll empty your storeroom and fill up your larder'.
"We all have wardrobes full of clothes we don't wear, garages and storage spaces jammed with objects that we no longer use. Trying to sell items is difficult, even more so now with the way things are," explained García, who works as an administrative agent.
Between 2015 and 2019 he worked for Vélez-Málaga town hall and was responsible for the removal of furniture and other household items from the roadside. "It's an idea that I've been mooting since then, because I saw for myself the huge amount of things that people throw out that are still worth something and in good condition," he said.
However, it was the initiative of his friend Jezabel that finally pushed Andrés to do something about it.
Difficult times ahead
"A cousin of mine created [a barter page] in my hometown, Villa del Río in Cordoba, several years ago and it works really well, so I knew the response would be good. What we've achieved so far is nothing compared with what is yet to come," added López, who works as a medium.
"Unfortunately, things are going to get really quite bad with the Covid-19 crisis, which is why I think we need to help people to survive whatever comes their way," said López, who believes it's "very important" to educate people and share what we have. "Put yourself in other people's shoes," she added.
López has done around ten exchanges in the last few months, mainly of toys and games for tools and food. "If I have dresses in my wardrobe that I no longer wear or toys that the grandchildren don't use, what's better than to swap them for something I need?"
Andrés García pointed out that the success of their page is leading to other towns and villages across Spain "copying" their idea. They are getting messages from people who want to learn about their rules and basic principles. "We're proud of the fact that people are following us and want to set up their own groups. We're not earning any money from it and it's not our intention to do so," he said.
The issue of money is made very clear on the page. Exchanging items for money is banned. "We have a team of researchers, people who check the messages and as soon as someone offers money for something, they are blocked," García pointed out.
Exchanges of animals and alcoholic drinks are also banned, as are products that are harmful to health. "So far all the participants are respecting the rules and we haven't had any problems," García explained.
When a member posts a photograph of what they want to exchange, the bidding starts until somebody offers another item they are interested in. The administrators ask for a photo of the actual swap to be published on the page to show complete transparency.
María Asunción Espejo, 33, who lives in Vélez-Málaga and is an active member of the group, has completed 30 swaps. She has mainly exchanged clothes and household items for cleaning products, olive oil, tins of tuna, eggs and fruit and vegetables.
"Luckily both me and my husband have jobs, but we think it's a really original way to get rid of things that we don't need that are taking up space in the house," she said.