Kingsbridge LETS (Devon) are very privileged to be hosting perhaps the world’s most enthusiastic LETS supporter ever. He’s travelling a long way to meet us – all the way from “down under”.
So lets show our appreciation by coming to his inspirational talk in our droves! Invite a friend if you wish but do please come and welcome this amazing friend of LETS.
“Round the World on LETS” – Talk by James Taris
at Harbour House, Kingsbridge 7.30 to 9.30pm
LETS Changed My Life
by James Taris
Once you’ve grasped the LETS philosophy, then trading in LETS points becomes an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
My LETS philosophy is, “Don’t think of LETS points as pounds. Think of them as favours”.
LETS, or Local Exchange Trading Systems, are local community trading groups where members exchange their goods and services with each other in a spirit of harmony and a genuine desire to help each other.
The LETS group’s function is to act as a bookkeeper for the members’ transactions, keeping record of these ‘favours’ (also called ‘beans’, ‘auras’, ‘shells’, ‘talents’, thank yous’, etc.) and putting the members’ accounts into debit or credit accordingly. An account which is in credit identifies a member who has given more favours than he’s received. An account which is in debit identifies a member who has received more favours than he’s given. As there is no interest paid to accounts in credit, and no interest charged to accounts in debit, neither situation is a problem, and both are necessary in order to make transactions happen.
I’ve been involved with LETS since 1994, and once I understood and accepted the principle of give-and-take with my fellow LETS group members, I quickly noticed a sharp rise in the quality of my lifestyle.
Having a limited income meant that I could only afford to pay for the essentials in my life: rent, gas, electricity, phone, petrol, food, clothes, and so on. Everything else became a luxury, which I either did without, or chose to do myself.
But that all changed with LETS, because I found that I could at last enjoy some of these luxuries by offering a range of goods and services through my LETS group. Very soon I was mowing lawns, removing rubbish and painting rooms. Later on I was also designing business cards, brochures and newsletters. And I even traded tiny picture frames, small bookcases and kitchenware.
In return I received massages, piano tuition and restaurant meals. Computer support, computer software and web design services. Greeting cards, teddy bears and bonsai plants. All of these goods and services would’ve been reluctantly by-passed if I had to pay cash for them. Thankfully, LETS made them all possible.
However, problems can emerge when members allow their accounts to go into debit rapidly. Often LETS groups place a maximum debit limit on their members’ accounts to keep this in check, and encourage them to take appropriate steps to reduce their debit level as soon as possible. This can be achieved in several ways: by increasing the number of goods and services they are offering; by volunteering to supply goods and services promoted in the Wanted section of the LETS newsletter; by promoting themselves as Keen Traders in the LETS newsletter; by bringing goods to trade at the monthly Trading Day Markets; by accepting requests to trade whenever asked.
But trading isn’t the only way that members benefit. That’s only part of what LETS is all about. Just as important is the role it plays in developing the skills of its members.
When I asked to be involved with producing the newsletter for my LETS group, I didn’t even know that Publishing software existed, let alone how to use it. LETS gave me the opportunity to learn those skills whereas I would never have been given the same opportunity in the cash economy. And eventually that experience improved my skills to such a high level that I began to earn cash outside the LETS system. Because of LETS, I’d managed to build my skills adequately enough to become a professional Desktop Publisher.
In October 2001, I took my involvement with LETS to a much higher level. I founded the web site www.LETS-Linkup.com which is an international LETS directory. And it’s since grown to 80 pages featuring over 1,500 LETS and Community Currency groups from 39 countries on every continent in the world. It also has links to over 100 web sites which have information on LETS, the money system or community currencies.
This was purely a labour of love, and little did I know that it would be the catalyst I needed to undertake one of the greatest international exchange ventures ever attempted through LETS. My book, ‘Travelling the World With Funny Money’ (link from www.JamesTaris.com), is a collection of my travel experiences in 2002 through 8 countries (England, Spain, France, Germany, Holland, Norway, South Africa and Japan) trading my speaking services in exchange for accommodation, meals, local transport and computer use.
My involvement and interaction with these LETS groups differed with every country I visited.
In Bristol (England) I got my hands dirty helping a LETS member renovate his house. In exchange I was given the use of a bicycle for the week I was there. In order to process my transactions, a temporary account was opened and all transactions put through it. After all entries were made, the final balance on my account was zero and my account was closed. So all members involved in my transactions were properly rewarded.
In Erlangen (Germany) I spent a couple of days with Gunter Koch, founder of Goldring. He had developed a unique trading system which even rewarded members who didn’t, or couldn’t, trade with other members (non-producers) . and he paid them all a monthly amount in real gold! I offered my services as an editor for his Goldring presentation (English translation) and was given a 5gm gold ingot in exchange.
In Amsterdam (Holland) I met with representatives from all 120 LETS groups in the country. Their largest group, Noppes, had 950 members! And we exchanged ideas on how to attract food suppliers, or supplies, into their LETS groups.
In Cape Town (South Africa) I was involved with launching LETS into the country. No groups existed there at that time, but within 5 days several people had taken steps to making LETS groups in Cape Town a reality. The focus being very much on establishing LETS groups in the poor black populated areas of the city.
In Fukuoka (Japan) I met with City Council representatives and Mr. Idemitsu, director of IDEX Petroleum, one of the 10 largest companies on Kyushu Island, to discuss ways of introducing a community currency system into their city. I also met with struggling LETS groups around the island, and in Kagoshima, I gave an ‘Introduction To LETS’ presentation to 2,000 locals at their annual Harvest Day Festival.
But it’s the ‘LETS family’ factor that made such a massive venture possible. My objective was to travel the world sharing my LETS philosophy and highlighting the benefits of trading through LETS. I’m passionate about LETS and my belief in the system is unwavering.
My LETS hosts around the world knew that I was genuine about my desire to help them, my LETS family circle, and they responded willingly with my travel requirements. When it came to speaking about LETS, I would speak with anyone at any time. I didn’t hold back my services and I found my hosts didn’t hold back theirs. We traded with a community spirit, so it was harmonious, unlike the cash economy which is purely profit motivated.
So just to summarise.
- LETS points should be thought of as favours, not dollars.
- LETS trading should be performed with a community spirit, rather than being profit motivated.
- LETS is the perfect way to improve your lifestyle by providing luxury goods and services.
- LETS groups can help members reduce large debit balances.
- LETS offers members opportunities to learn, improve or perfect skills.
- LETS can be used internationally if you’re genuine about helping LETS members, and accept visiting places where you’re invited, rather than places you specifically want to go.
(James Taris is a self-confessed LETSaholic. He’s the founder of www.LETS-Linkup.com the largest LETS Directory on the internet – you can register as a LETS-Linkup.com member – top right-hand corner of LETS-Linkup homepage (it’s FREE). And James is also the author of ‘Travelling The World With Funny Money’ which can be read FREE off the internet – link to it from www.JamesTaris.com. He has recently returned from a LETS Tour through the North and South Islands of New Zealand, where he also featured as a key speaker at the 2003 National LETS Conference held in Invercargill. All correspondence is welcomed. Contact him by email on firstname.lastname@example.org )
If you’ve any queries, contact Michael Loxton, coordinator for Kingsbridge LETS, on 01548 854028.