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Local businesses love food. Sometimes, they like it more than money...within reason.

Try this: next time you're planning on making an appearance at your favorite bar or club, bring along some cookies. Maybe you even made some yourself, which goes even further with discerning local workers. Regardless of the cookies' provenance, dropping them down in front of your favorite bartender is guaranteed to raise your standing in the bar, at least for the short term.

It doesn't have to be cookies. Brownies, caramel corn, Red Vines, pickled eggs, pizza; all these things will grease the wheels of commerce in your favor.

When I used to work at the now-defunct Pizza Fusion in Hillcrest, we would take the occasional pie over to the after-work bar next door. Judging by the praise that came from the bartenders, it was as if we'd paid off their mortgages. A little bit goes a long way.

Really, try it and see how much more quickly the next "on the house" round comes along.

The best part is, this works for any kind of local small business you might be in the habit of patronizing. Bringing beer or chocolate to the bike shop, for instance, is a great way to catapult yourself to favored customer status. Maybe don't try this at the Trek Superstore, but a local small business is a different matter!

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If you pick the right bike shop, they may have a nice espresso machine and treat you to coffee while you wait on service.

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In the past, I've traded a carnitas burrito for a set of vintage shifters and tipped for a tune-up with a couple of fish tacos. The exchange rate there is extremely favorable.

This is a versatile practice. Your hair stylist, auto mechanic, dry cleaner, and the guy at the music store who fixes your guitar all have one thing in common — they'll give you 50 dollars' worth of free stuff in the future in return for 5 dollars' worth of treats today.

Cash is still king, however, so don't get too carried away. Beers and tacos won't pay the rent or keep the lights on. This isn't just a quick way to get something for free. The reality of the tightly knit communities in which we live and operate is that a little bit of friendliness goes a long way toward fostering better relationships in the future. Food is the realest of the real, as far as material goods are concerned, and exchanging food can make the tenuous bond between worker and customer a much more meaningful thing. At the end of the day, we don't go out for nothing beyond satisfying basic needs. We want to interact with other people. Deepening that interaction, at a relatively small cost, benefits everybody.

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