Piers In A Nutshell

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Piers are an example of a LETS currency, locally distictive to Southend on Sea in Essex, England, a town famous for having the longest pier in the world (even though it keeps burning down [1]). This article, originally taken from the South East Essex LETS website, explains how this local currency works.


‘Piers’ are the currency of South East Essex Local Exchange Trading System, a way of creating a non- interest credit system designed to encourage the development of real community wealth. Members earn and spend piers when they trade with each other, whether it be Tai Chi lessons, gardening, hairdressing, bicycle repairs or baby sitting. Around the country LETS currencies have their own names, and often reflect local distinctiveness- Others include Readies in Reading, Groats in Stirling, Tins in Cornwall, New Berries in Newbury and Locks in Camden. Unlike cash, ‘piers’ have no physical tokens, all transactions are simply recorded via special ‘cheques’ which are sent to the LETS co-ordinator who maintains each members personal account. A balance of all members’ accounts is periodically published in the LETS directory.


Many new LETS members are frequently confused about the worth of a ‘Pier’, or how much they should be charging for the goods or services they are offering. Alot of SEELETS members price their services as ‘negotiable’, but as a rough guideline, 10 piers per hour seems a reasonable baseline figure for most people, although this isn’t a hard and fast rule by any means...


Several LETS systems around the country have linked their currencies to stirling, (eg, 1 LETS credit is worth about £1.00), however in SEELETS we prefer to allow members themselves decide what a ‘pier’ is worth... We see it as being about how much value you yourself place upon the services or goods you offer, and just as importantly, how much you value the work that is done for you by others. If you feel you’ve worked hard and done a high quality job, charge accordingly... Similarly, if the organic vegetables you’ve purchased have obviously been grown with loving care and attention, show your appreciation! We hope that unlike hard cash, a ‘pier’ is less about a cold transaction of ‘things’ and more about interacting on a human and social level. In a way, we feel it’s important that LETS doesn’t simply end up becoming a reflection of the money system; After all, isn’t it conventional economics that got the world into it’s present mess in the first place?


It is quite acceptable to ask for a combination of stirling and LETS currency. For example, you might want to charge cash for materials such as paint, parts, etc, and piers for your labour. Similarly, if you are a business using the LETS system you might want to charge your customers a combination of piers and pounds. This makes LETS completely flexible. For your directory entries you can state, eg, 10 piers per hour + costs, 10 piers per hour + 20p per mile petrol, 75% piers + £’s negotiable or something similar.

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