This article explores the logic underlying alternative marketing exchange systems in community and the conditions under which each operates. Through ethnographic work in a town impacted by a tornado, we observe how a local exchange system morphs and evolves to reveal the functions, mechanisms, and meanings of two different yet complementary exchange systems: a commercial marketing exchange system and an ad hoc marketing exchange system. While these systems operate for unique purposes, they often meet consumer needs through the exact same consumption offerings. This results in confusion or tension for people who may participate in an ad hoc system while operating under assumptions of a commercial system. Thus, by extending exchange theory to the community level, we expose the logic, nature, and operation of these competing systems, and offer the marketing field theoretical and practical bases from which to transcend prevailing stereotypes about marketing and its role in society.
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