LETS is a scheme for local people to exchange skills, goods and services using an alternative currency unit, known in Waltham Forest as ‘Beams’.
Q. How does LETS work?
A. You provide services or goods to members in return for Beams credits to your LETS account. You can use these credits to buy services or goods from other members.
When you provide a service, you agree (preferably in advance) how many Beams to charge. After you have provided the service you log into online WF LETS trading system and debit the buyer’s account; the buyer will receive an email notifying them of the transaction. If you are not comfortable with doing the transaction online, our Admin team can do this for you.
All LETS trades are subject to a 5% levy which is paid into the ‘administrative account’ (admin); this allows some LETS committee members to claim for the time they spend administering this scheme. So for example if you charge someone 20 beams, they will have 20 deducted from their account, you will receive 19 beams, and 1 beam will be paid to admin.
Q. What if I don’t have anything to offer?
A. You do – everyone has something to offer. Can you put up a shelf? sew a pair of curtains? cook a tasty meal? give someone a lift? walk a dog? help with gardening? You could get your hair cut, get organically grown food, learn a language, book a massage and loads more. LETS members often also offer loans of equipment such as ladders, tents and lawn mowers. Still stuck? Click here for a great list of suggestions.
You don’t have to be a professional in the service you’re offering, although if you are you can add the letter ‘P’ next to your entry to let people know.
Q. What is the currency called and what is it worth?
A. Each exchange has its own name for its currency. Waltham Forest LETS scheme currency is ‘Beams’ (Waltham Forest LETS originally started at the Hornbeam centre near the Baker’s Arms – the hornbeam is a local tree). One Beam is roughly equal to one unit of the national currency (£). This is purely to give it reference. LETS scheme currencies are not linked to the national currencies so could deviate over time and are not subject to inflation and do not earn interest.
Q. How can I begin trading without any money in my account?
A. You don’t need anything in your account to begin trading. In fact if you wait until have credit in your account you could be waiting a while, so it’s best to just get going. When you spend at first your account will have a negative balance – this doesn’t matter (unless it gets large and is never reduced). The current ‘overdraft’ limit is 200 Beams.
Q. Is there a minimum age for members?
A. Yes – 18.
Q. Can I claim cash for expenses?
A. You can claim £ cash for expenses (this should be agreed in advance with the buyer). But you are not allowed to claim £ cash for your time – this must be only in Beams.
Q. How much does it cost to be a member?
We ask you to pay a one-off joining fee of £6, or £3 if you are on a low income or unwaged. We will then debit your account by 5 beams each year (usually in June).
Q. What do I get out of this apart from getting jobs done?
A. We’ve found that you get to know a network of people. You may hear about other things going on in Waltham Forest that you may want to get involved in. We run a series of social events each year which could spice up your calendar and help you make new contacts and friends in your community.
Q. Do committee members get paid?
A. No, not in cash. But any member who helps with running LETS (marketing, publicity, organising events, answering correspondence) can claim Beams from the LETS administrative account. In practice only a small proportion of committee time is claimed for.
To cover these LETS management overheads every trade incurs a 5 per cent ‘levy’ paid by the seller which is calculated by the trading system and deducted from the sellers fee (so if someone buys something for 20 beams, the seller will receive 19 beams); and every member is debited 10 beams annually.
Q. Does Waltham Forest LETS give any guarantee as to the value or quality of goods or services offered by its members?
A. No. Members themselves should try to determine the quality or standard of goods or services before agreeing to trade.
Q. What if I’m not happy with the service or goods provided by another member?
A. If you are unable to resolve the matter between yourselves, you can contact the management committee (see ‘Contact’ on the left for details). They will discuss the matter with the members concerned and help to mediate on any disagreements. Please contact us promptly while the matter is still fresh in your minds.
The advisory group in the management committee will investigate the matter and will aim to deal with the complaint within three weeks. They will report back to the committee who will decide on any course of action to be taken. This could be a re-negotiation of charges between the members, removal of an entry from the directory, or in extreme cases the suspension or removal of membership.
If a member feels that the matter has not been resolved satisfactorily they have the right to appeal – this should be within one month of a decision made by the management committee. Any appeal will be heard by the advisory group who will come to a decision within two weeks. The advisory group’s decision is final.
It is worth pointing out that disagreements of this sort are not often encountered.