Euro? Drachma? Try the TEM.

Greece’s currency has recently been in the spotlight with political pundits everywhere questioning the drachma’s reappearance. But not much has been said about a revitalized system already in place in one Greek town.

Volos, a port city in central Greece, has formed an alternative local currency.  Citizens of Volos found themselves struggling to afford items in euros so they turned to TEM.  TEM stands for topiki enallaktiki monada which translates to alternative local currency.  In effect, it is a highly-organized barter economy. Members sign up online to activate their own TEM account which starts at zero.  For their goods and services, they take payment in TEMs and use TEMs given to them to buy the goods and services of others.

The rules are simple: one TEM unit is equal to one euro. No one may hoard more than 1,200 TEMs and no one may owe more than 300.  This initiative is still based in a currency, but haggling and trading are integral to its survival.

Though it’s reminiscent of an ancient system of bartering, this is no simple reversion.  People can now pay for their purchases via text messages and check their online account at any point to see their TEM balance and the transactions they’ve made.

This currency began functioning in 2010 and has been embraced by nearly 1,000 residents of Volos.  Each Saturday, the TEM-users of Volos gather at a large central market venue and barter away.  Euros are nowhere to be found.  Among the participants are unemployed locals who put their skills to work again as baby-sitters, gardeners, tutors, mechanics, hairdressers, and technicians.  And locals have added incentives for TEM-users.  Some restaurants and cafes, for instance, offer discounted meals for TEM-diners.

The euro is not being forced out by Volosians, but the TEM is undeniably being let in as a means to manage their burdens in this time of strife.