Trading, and The Capitalist Lie

On Sunday I listed my too-small road bike for sale on Craigslist, looking to sell it or trade for a bigger, better-fitting one. Within hours I had an email from a guy who wanted to trade his too-big-for-him bike for my smaller one. It looked like a perfect swap!

There was only one problem: I valued my bike at $500 and wasn’t sure that his was of equal (or, I guess, greater) value. After all, I didn’t want to get ripped off!

We decided on a spot to meet and decide if we wanted to swap bikes, and soon I was looking at his bike. It wasn’t a bad bike actually. It was quite nice. He was a nice guy too, and we chatted it up a bit.

What detracted from my being able to fully focus my attention on my new friend whom I had met (and who shared my interest in bikes!) was, of all things, my capitalist conditioning to try and figure out whether or not I was making a trade of equal monetary value. It was quite distracting.

Throughout the whole interaction I was our bikes and pricing them out in my head.

“Okay, aluminum frame. Mine is steel. I lose. He values his frame at $100, though. Mine is totally worth $100. I have a carbon front fork to his aluminum. Win. That fork is worth at least $70, maybe. I have twenty-seven speeds thanks to a Shimano Tiagra system. He has twelve, tops. Hah. Ooh, that’s a nice chainring though. He has better brakes, too. Full RX-100. Ummmmm. Ok but I totally have a better wheelset - that’s at least $70 per wheel. Plus I have good tires. Do I have a carbon seat post? I might. He sure doesn’t. Oh, do I see scuffs on those bars? Oh wait, mine are a bit scuffed too. Crap. Wow, does his seat ever look uncomfortable. Hmmm. I wonder if he’s doing the same thing in his head?”

This went on for close to an hour as we decided to ride our bikes on a nice, leisurely ride along a lake to get a better feel for them. I eventually had to tell myself to cut it out. It was getting too distracting, and besides, I really liked riding this bigger bike. It was really a nice bike.

We eventually completed the swap an hour and a half after we met, and I rode my new, bigger bike home. Had I gotten the better deal? I asked myself. I came to the conclusion that it didn’t matter. Pricing the bikes out in my head, trying to adhere to the capitalist lie of maintaining monetary equilibrium in order to be happy, had only led to confusion and distrust. At the end of the day, I was riding home on a bike that I was happy with and had made a new friend, and that was that. That’s all there ever should have been.


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