Battered by Economic Crisis, Greeks Turn to Barter Networks
By RACHEL DONADIO
VOLOS, Greece — The first time he bought eggs, milk and jam at an outdoor market using not euros but an informal barter currency, Theodoros Mavridis, an unemployed electrician, was thrilled.
“I felt liberated, I felt free for the first time,” Mr. Mavridis said in a recent interview at a cafe in this port city in central Greece. “I instinctively reached into my pocket, but there was no need to.”
Mr. Mavridis is a co-founder of a growing network here in Volos that uses a so-called Local Alternative Unit, or TEM in Greek, to exchange goods and services — language classes, baby-sitting, computer support, home-cooked meals — and to receive discounts at some local businesses.
Part alternative currency, part barter system, part open-air market, the Volos network has grown exponentially in the past year, from 50 to 400 members.
It is one of several such groups cropping up around the country, as Greeks squeezed by large wage cuts, tax increases and growing fears about whether they will continue to use the euro have looked for creative ways to cope with a radically changing economic landscape.