Once I traded a bottle of vodka to a geek for a vacation day.
We were in the midst of our second water disaster in five days, and I knew we would need to support sneakernet (where documents were dumped to USB drives and run to local printers) the next day, so I needed all hands. He wasn’t leaving town, and I was perfectly within my rights to simply revoke the day, but I didn’t–I said, “Can I trade you a bottle of vodka for your vacation day tomorrow?” Two weeks after he gave up that day, I showed up with a bottle of Grey Goose, and handed it to him.
Did my company reimburse me for the vodka? No. Did the vodka’s cost in any way resemble the cost to him for the day? No. Neither of those was the point.
The point was to recognize that I was asking him to sacrifice his personal benefit for the good of the company. I knew that he would lose the vacation day, since it was December and he couldn’t carry any over. He knew that I definitely needed his help. The vodka was a tangible recognition that he was doing something explicitly to his cost and for my benefit.
Overall, it was likely more of a “thank you” gift than an overt trade, but it is the most explicit example I have of a small way to make a geek feel appreciated when he goes above and beyond.