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  • RAMLETS FAQ

    1. All about RAMLETS
    2. What is a LETS system?
    3. Is LETS a new system?
    4. What goods and services are available through the system?
    5. What can I offer?
    6. How do I find what I need, and how do others find me?
    7. Do I need to find a direct exchange?
    8. But do I still need cash?
    9. How much is One "Ram" worth?
    10. Who sets the prices and quality standards?
    11. What if my account balance is negative?
    12. What about the potential for abuse?
    13. What about tax?
    14. Why do we need LETS systems?
    15. Who can join Ramsgate LETS?
    16. Are there social and trading events?

    1. All about RAMLETS

      RAMLETS (Ramsgate Local Exchange Trading System) is a community-based barter system. RAMLETS members pool their skills and resources to form a local network, which allows them to trade goods and services without using money. Instead of using pounds and pence, RAMLETS has its own 'currency' called 'Rams' .RAMLETS was started in 2014 and is one of over 450 similar systems around the country. There are similar systems throughout the world, and RAMLETS has contacts with some of them.

      Anyone can become a member of RAMLETS because we all have something to offer whether it is a skill such as decorating or chiropody, or a service such as shopping or giving people a lift. Local organisations such as schools and churches, and businesses can join as well as individuals. A list of all the goods and services offered by members is published in a Directory which is updated and distributed to members on request, and always available via the internet. It covers cookery, gardening, hire of equipment, childcare, building and decorating and much more.The directory is also available on the web, but personal contact details are only shown to members.

      You earn Rams by providing a service, and spend them on something you want from the Directory. For example, you may earn credit by gardening or cooking for someone, and spend it later on reflexology or carpentry offered by other RAMLETS members. In other words, you do not have to find a straight swap. Being a member of RAMLETS is a way of getting things done when you may not have the cash to pay for them, and of helping out other people. It is also a way of keeping in touch with your local community.

      Trading

      To trade, each member registers his or her services or goods onto the system via email, post or telephone message. Payment is made via the website or by sending an email detailing the transaction to accounts@RAMLETS.org.uk and also to the payee.
      The RAMLETS office acts as a bank by processing the payments and updating members' accounts. Balances are always available via the RAMLETS website, and a transaction history can be seen on a password protected web page.
      RAMLETS' success depends on the trust and openness of its members: all accounts are available for inspection on request.
      You can trade by contacting the person offering the service you require (members' telephone numbers and email addresses are published in the Directory and on a restricted site on the web). A ramlets.org.uk email address can be provided to redirect to a members email if required.
      Market Days and Socials give members a chance to meet and to trade.
      You may accept or decline an invitation to trade. A chaperone can be used when trading with an unknown member.
      If you are in doubt about a person's ability to do a job, or his/her intention to pay, you can make enquiries about them at the RAMLETS office, just as you would for a cash transaction. A copy of the Trading Regulations is available at the RAMLETS office and on the web site.
      Note that you should request confirmation of qualifications and insurance where applicable, for example when undertaking health related services.
      Trading with other LETS schemes is sometimes possible—contact admin@RAMLETS.org.uk for details.

      Pricing

      It is up to you to negotiate a price. As a rough guide, one Ram is equivalent to 6 minutes of someone's time (i.e. 10 Rams per hour). However, members can negotiate a price for each transaction.
      You may choose to charge part in Rams and part in sterling. For example, if your service involves buying materials you may prefer to charge sterling for the materials and Rams for the labour. Only the Rams part of the transaction is recorded by the RAMLETS office.

      Debit and Credit

      RAMLETS is a non-profit making organisation so no interest is charged on debit amounts, and credits have no value unless they are used.
      RAMLETS is a closed system (i.e. only members can use it) and there must always be some members with a commitment to pay (i.e. in 'debt') for trading to take place.
      Having a commitment to pay is a great incentive for members to start trading. Members do not have to be in credit to trade. A debit balance merely signifies a commitment to trade. At any one time half of the members will have a negative balance. Members with a large positive or negative balance will be requested to address the issue.
      Bad debts are rare because RAMLETS is based on trust between members and trading would be unaffected if there were a bad debt.
      If RAMLETS were to close, any negative balance would be shared between members, who would only lose time, not money. It may be possible to use the credits in another LETS system

      Tax

      Most transactions are classed as 'social favours' which means they are non-taxable but if a member trades in Rams as a regular business, the Rams earnings are taxable in sterling.
      The member may request that a proportion of his/her transactions be paid for in sterling to cover tax and VAT. Benefits should not be affected provided that claimants are not trading more than 16 hours a week and are available for work.

      RAMLETS is an independent non-profit making voluntary association.

      RAMLETS is affiliated to LETSLINK UK, which co-ordinates LETS systems nationally.

      RAMLETS
      4 Clifton Lawn
      Ramsgate
      Kent
      CT11 9PB

      Email: info@RAMLETS.org.uk
      Web: www.RAMLETS.org.uk
      Twitter: @Ramsgatelets
      Facebook: ramsgatelets

      Phone: 077 9324 1819

    2. What is a LETS system?

      LETS stands for Local Exchange Trading System. It gives people and businesses the opportunity to exchange goods and services without using traditional cash. In practice, a LETS system is based on a Directory of "Wants and Offers". Members can contact each other by telephone or at monthly "Talk and Trade" meetings. Transactions are paid for by LETS cheques or by using the online system, and the transactions and balances on each account are recorded by the LETS Accountant. LETS works as a closed system ... when all balances are combined, they add up to zero.

    3. Is LETS a new system?

      No. Over the years, many communities around the world have started local currency systems. The first British LETS system was started in Norwich in 1985. Since 1991, there has been an exponential increase in the number of LETS in Britain. There are currently over 450, with new ones starting up all the time.

    4. What goods and services are available through the system?

      The variety of goods and services offered is limited only by the types of people and organisations that join. The more people who participate, the more rewarding the system will be, and the more the system provides basic necessities, the faster it grows. LETS allows people to realise the abundance around them, and to meet their daily needs with little or no cash. Participation by community businesses, as well as individuals, is encouraged.

    5. What can I offer?

      Most people have the same initial reaction : "I don't have anything to offer that anyone would want." One of the many purposes of LETS is to help participants to recognise that they have things to offer, and that they can be a valuable resource to the community. Just a few examples are : baking, making or repairing clothes, child care or babysitting, helping someone to lay out a garden or prepare a CV, growing organic produce, offering your car or van for lifts or moving furniture ... the list is limited only by your imagination.

    6. How do I find what I need, and how do others find me?

      You provide details of the items or services you are offering, and those you need, and these are entered into a Directory. You are able to change or add to your entries at any time. The Directory is visible to members on the RAMLETS website (www.ramsgatelets.org.uk). Every month or so, the directory is printed and sent out to all members who request it. Offers and wants are organised under subject headings such as "Domestic and Family", "Repairs and Maintenance" etc. It is also useful to indicate your level of expertise - A means Amateur, E = Experienced/Expert, Q=Qualified, S= Semi Skilled

    7. Do I need to find a direct exchange?

      No. The purpose of a LETS system account is to say, allow you to build a shed for one person, and buy a sweater from another. Direct exchanges are fine if you can set them up, in which case you won't need to record them on the LETS system.

    8. But do I still need cash?

      The LETS system is flexible enough to allow you to receive all or only a portion of your payment in LETS credits. For example, a car repair may cost you £15 cash for parts, plus £20 worth of "Rams" - that's the RAMLETS unit of exchange.

    9. How much is one Ram worth?

      LETS systems are of two types : either the unit of local currency is based on the unit of national currency, or it is deemed to be equivalent to some of a person's time. The RAMLETS system hovers between each type, with some members emphasising the time involved in a service, with others remaining wedded to a sterling equivalent. 10 rams for an hour of someone's time is the most common standard within RAMLETS.

    10. Who sets the prices and quality standards?

      It's just the same as a traditional economic system. Prices are set by the buyer and seller, according to prevailing circumstances. The LETS system merely passes on information, and maintains a record of account balances.

    11. What if my account balance is negative?

      In a LETS system, spending actually creates wealth, which can then be spent by others, regardless of your current account balance. A negative balance means that you have a commitment to make a contribution in the future. Money is a scarce resource : if one person spends more than they can afford to repay, someone else has to lose. The LETS currency is different : it is created at will by members going into commitment with one another. Similarly, by earning credit, you don't deprive anyone else.

    12. What about the potential for abuse?

      If someone leaves LETS when they have a high commitment, the people to whom they have made payments to still have those Rams in their accounts. No individual loses. It can be said that the community as a whole loses, but as it's only a small proportion of the system's total turnover, it's unlikely to affect members' trading. In practice, it usually works out that people leaving LETS with minus balances tend to roughly equal those leaving with plus balances.

    13. What about tax?

      The same rules apply whether you trade in Sterling or LETS (local currency) : the relevant factor is not the type of currency in which you are paid, but whether the transactions are regular and of a business nature. Most LETS transactions do not fall into this category, but if yours are, you are responsible for keeping accounts and paying tax on your trading profits in the normal way. You cannot avoid tax liability simply by avoiding the use of sterling. Although tax must be paid in Sterling, you can claim expenses incurred in Rams against your total profits.

    14. Why do we need LETS systems?

      A LETS system is based on true wealth - the availability and exchange of goods and services - whereas money has become an abstract concept. The World Bank estimates that money transactions on a world-wide scale are up to 20 times greater than necessary for financing world trade.

      The LETS system is immune from both local and international recessions, interest on debts, thefts and money shortages. The world money system may collapse, and unemployment may rise, but the LETS credit units would still be valid, because it is 100% guaranteed by work and good, and only functions if people co-operate in direct exchanges. Its main strength is that it cannot be used for the purpose of speculation or one-sided enrichment.

      LETS fills a gap in the market left by an economic system which is always searching for the cheapest production location in the process destroying the local autonomous production system. In every village, every city, and every region there are people with abilities and resources which are not used in the established economic system. Yet there is demand for such abilities and resources.

      Because LETS systems do not charge interest on negative (or positive) account balances, they offer the potential to support new business ventures, allowing people to draw on local resources instead of having to rely on bank loans. Over-production and over-consumption are driven by the need for high capital returns among businesses who are repaying interest on loans. LETS systems are non-profit-making organisations, which are owned and run by their members solely for the purposes of trade and mutual benefit.

      Experience shows that people who are often excluded from the normal economic system turn out to bring unusual talents when they join LETS. Contributing their services to the community enables them to reclaim their sense of purpose, self-esteem and belonging. And others who need these services can afford them when they need them. The vision, then, is one where quality of life for all members of the community is significantly improved.

    15. Who can join RAMLETS?

      Anyone can join RAMLETS, whether you are one person with some skills or time to offer, a member of a family with various skills between you, or a business. You can also offer goods for sale - like that old sewing machine that's just gathering dust in the loft, maybe. Or you can hire out items that you use infrequently - like a ladder, drill or cement mixer, for instance. Whatever you have - skills, goods or simply time - you can convert it into RAMs, to spend on something you need.

    16. Are there social and trading events?
    There are social and trading events, usually once a month. These are advertised on the Upcoming Events part of the website, and members are emailed with details about a week before the event, together with some notices members have asked to be included in the email.