Barter system returns as coronavirus leaves store shelves empty

One seller listed toilet paper that could be traded for gold and silver coins, canned food and firearms

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The barter system has returned in the face of the novel coronavirus.

People are turning to social media platforms like Facebook Marketplace and the Nextdoor app to barter goods and services as store shelves are emptied by panic-buyers.

One North Carolina seller on Facebook Marketplace is trading homemade baguettes for rolls of toilet paper. Others are trading dough so people can bake bread themselves at home.

Facebook Marketplace sourdough trade / FOX Business

A Pennsylvania seller on Facebook Marketplace has 45 rolls of Sam's Club toilet paper for $2 per roll or $90 for the whole package; alternatively, the seller said the rolls could be traded for gold and silver coins, canned food and firearms, though it is illegal to sell and trade firearms on Marketplace.

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Facebook Marketplace toilet paper trade / FOX Business

Others are taking the exchange platforms less seriously. One Maryland seller jokingly posted a listing for toilet paper in exchange for a 2020 Cadillac Escalade.

Facebook Marketplace toilet paper trade / FOX Business

A second person listed a roll of toilet paper for $25,000; another listed a "lightly used" piece of toilet paper for $50; another posted a listing for a bag of leaves — "organic" toilet paper — for $10.

Facebook Marketplace "organic toilet paper" / FOX Business

Users on the Nextdoor app, which is designed for people in specific neighborhoods to communicate with each other, have also noticed an uptick in bartering and simple generosity.

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One Nextdoor user tweeted that when he saw 31 comments on a post from a neighbor asking for sugar in exchange for dog or cat food, he thought he would see some "snarky commenters," but instead he saw "31 comments of people actually trying to get this person sugar, some even willing to trade for cat food!"

Another user said she is trying to trade "five pounds of flour for yeast" and "saw someone trade an entire ham for a pack of Clorox wipes."

"I’m trying to buy eggs off nextdoor," a third user wrote. "Because grocery stores keep running out, it feels very specifically like another sign of how the system has collapsed and everything is chaos."

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Some sellers on both apps were re-selling toilet paper and hand sanitizer they had stockpiled for fair prices.

Items such as sanitization products, hand soaps and toilet paper have been in high demand as Americans prepare for lockdowns. While grocery store chains have enacted purchase limits to ensure access, social media has been awash with photos of empty grocery store shelves.

Even Amazon has experienced a huge surge in demand and decided to temporarily prioritize some product shipments, such as household staples and medical supplies, as novel coronavirus cases grow in the United States.

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