Need a new lamp or rug, but strapped for cash right now? Maybe there's an oddball tchotchke in your basement or an offbeat idea that you can barter for one.
Blu Dot, the Minneapolis-based furniture company, is inviting fans of its modern pieces to take part in its virtual Swap Meet, which ends at midnight May 29. About 750 swaps have been offered, and about 50 have been accepted so far, according to co-founders John Christakos and Maurice Blanks, who review the quirky submissions and decide which ones are worth an end table or a lamp.
Blu Dot offered a similar swap meet about 10 years ago during the Great Recession.
"We thought, when times are tough, it's fun to offer a different currency to buy our furniture," said Christakos. "When the pandemic started, we thought it would be perfect for this time. We loved the sense of community, positivity and fun."
The barter tradition also hearkens back to Blu Dot's early days, said Blanks, when the fledgling company swapped furniture pieces for things it needed, such as logo design. "We did a lot of swapping when we were cash poor."
Swaps offered so far this year have included historic collectibles, such as Bush/Dukakis cigarette packs from the 1988 election, and offbeat artwork, such as an illustration showing human-size cats lounging on Blu Dot furniture.
Some swapped items would be worth a lot on the open market. One swapper got a sectional sofa in exchange for a six-night stay in a Lake Tahoe home, a getaway that will be given to a Blu Dot employee.
But many offerings are priceless.
"It's not about the monetary value at all," said Christakos. "We value creativity, humor and absurdity. Someone offered to swap ground rights to a beautiful tree in Utah [in exchange for a Blu Dot bench]. "We have visitation rights to the area under the tree. It was so absurd we had to accept."
Another swapper offered to be Blu Dot's pen pal and send a handwritten letter every day for a year, in exchange for a rug.
"We just wanted to see what the guy would write," Christakos said.
Some swaps are experiential. "We accepted a stay in a treehouse in Washington state," Blanks said. "Someone offered to cook for the office."
What will Blu Dot do with some of the odd treasures it's accepting? It's unclear for now.
"We still have some from the initial [swap]," said Christakos. "There's a Harley Davidson [model] made out of 9,000 Popsicle sticks that's still in our office."