BARTER: The Sultans of Swap

Barter supposedly is a primitive form of commercial exchange that became outmoded centuries ago with the appearance of money. But in the U.S., barter is suddenly coming back strong. Beset by shortages of many basic raw materials and finished goods, purchasing agents for the most modern corporations are turning into sultans of swap: they obtain scarce products that their companies need by offering goods that are in equally short supply.

It is a practice that corporate officials do not like to talk about, for an understandable reason. Often a barterer will keep regular customers waiting...

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