Thursday, June 22, 2006

Buyer Beware: Yard sales

It happens. We collect junk we don't want or don't need in our inventory and the stuff we can transfer, we figure hey, we'll sell it at a yard sale! And from a newbie or overall consumer mind set the Yardsale concept is one that invokes the idea of bargans, cheap goods, and possible deals.

And while all of this is well and good, the problem is that in Secondlife, a yardsale isn't always a yardsale, and a yardsale isn't always a deal. And as innocent as it may sound on the initial outset, Yardsales can be quickly overwhelming. What seems like a good deal, may, infact, be a total ripoff.

The forums have been abuzz with the dangers and shady nature of yardsales for some time. I myself don't generally go to yard sales, as I tend to prefer to go to the source of an item, namely a designer I know and trust. Failing that, I tend to make things myself. But yardsales can be a source of discontinued items, items from designers long gone from secondlife, or nifty tidbits from designers in world you never knew about. Also, if you are on a severely limited budget, you can find some cheap stuff. HOWEVER, that being said, its still a major case of "Buyer beware".

Since I decided to write this article, I decided to go on a bit of a yardsale shopping spree, armed with the knowlege of a year plus in secondlife and no stranger to its many features or the dangers of being ripped off. I pulled up the find menu and looked up events. As usual, there was a nice plethora of yardsales being listed. I picked the first one and popped into it.

I was swiftly overwhelmed with a veritable junkyard in the sky.. and some guy landing on my head. Moving along, I proceeded to browse the offerings.

At this particular yardsale there was no host despite being listed as an event, but it was quite busy. There were many boxes of freebees ( they said free hair, free shirts, free eyes, etc over them) that were there for 1L. I disagree with calling 'freebees' freebees if you charge ANYTHING for them, but I also know its common practice to charge 1L for a box for the effort of boxing them up and hosting them. Okay, so fair deal. I even lent another fellow shopper a dollar to get one of these boxes. One thing to note would be to check the box's contents BEFORE you pay for it. I then started examining all the boxes. Hmm. Some of the freebees were listed for 10L. I found an object that was originally Linden made for 50L. Hmm. I'm pretty sure that those Linden objects were free from info/telehubs at one point. My ripoff sense is tingling. At this particular yardsale there was a rather cool looking motorcycle for 300L, so I decide to check up on the designer. I got the name and looked the resident up. Said he had a shop in his Picks in his profile. So, like any good, red blooded consumer, I decided to do a price comparison. I teleported to his shop to find... It wasn't there!

Well crud. This means one of two things. Either the designer is no longer selling in SL and this motorcycle could be a collectors item, or the guy moved and failed to update his profile. Hmm. Well it looks like if I want the bike, the yardsale would be a good place to get it since the store no longer exists. But if I hadn't checked, I wouldn't have known. A good shopper is a smart shopper! Do your homework before you pay your money!

Okay after this point I started visiting some other yard sales. Discovered this first yard sale had several listings. Annoying to be always popping back at the same yardsale. Finally I manged to get to another one, where I appeared in the air, fell for several feet and landed on a shack. I looked around, a bit confused. In the distance a short ways was an obvious retail store. But someone said their was a yard sale here! I look around some more and then I realize.. the STORE is the yardsale. Okay, what gives?

So I truck over to the shop in question and check it out. Yep. They are a store. Yep, this is a retail establishment. But they have a section with a bunch of feebees in boxes on a blanket. Hmm. this smells a bit fishy. The freebees in this case are actual freebees. They cost nothing, 0L for the box. But of course, the source is infinate and I suspect this was a ploy to get yardsalers into the retail establishment. Although, despite my being duped, I found a SWEET electric chair. But I didn't buy it on the principle of being duped to a store with false advertising. Bad business people! Don't dupe your customers.

Next yardsale I visit is on a private island. I appear in the middle of a beachlike paradise. I look around. No yardsale. Notice a direction marker in the distance. Truck over. Once again, I've been duped. Its looks kind of like ikea, but on a beach and super disorganized. But its obviously, once again, a retail senario. I'm sensing a theme here.

I pop by a fourth one. This one appears to actually be a yardsale. The items are not retail, and they are obviously from different designers. Some are freebees, some aren't. Most are very reasonably priced. I find some clothing by a designer I've never heard of, but his clothes are pretty cool. I decide to check his store before I buy the clothing. When I arrive, I find his store. He's got some cool stuff, but none of the clothing I saw previously. Looks like he doesn't sell it anymore. So there was a potentially good deal there. I also saw he had some freebees for 1L and helped myself to samples.

So there you have it in a nutshell, so lets review what we learned.

1) Yardsales may have deals, but they also have ripoffs.
To avoid the ripoffs, make sure you check who the original creator was. You can do this by using the 'rating' trick. Right click on the item to bring up the pie menu. Select More..., from the More.. menu select Rate. From the Rate menu select 'Creator'. This will tell you who the creator is. You can then use the Find to look up that individual.

2) Do not pay more than 1L for a pack of freebees.
Freebees are called 'free' for a reason. Namely, you shouldn't have to pay for them. 1L$ is considered acceptable, but IMO, they should be called 'cheapies' not 'freebees'. Another thing to note is that anything created by a Linden, is *usually* free and you shouldn't pay for it. Go to info hubs, you can probably pick it or something like it up for nothing.

3) If you find something you like, you should comparison shop.
After you discover a cool item, landmark the yardsale, find out who the designer was, and go pay the designer's store a visit. Check for the same item and compare the price of the original designer to the yardsale. You might be surprised to learn that the original designer is often cheaper, and then you have the guaruntee of the original creator for the product. If you buy it at a yardsale the original creator owes you nothing if its broken, out of date, or missing something.
If a designer is no longer in game, or not selling that item any more, you can either message them ( if they are still in game) or you can assume the item at the yardsale is a deal. However, always check to make sure that the item wasn't released as freebee from the designer if possible and the person is reselling it.

4) The 'yardsale' is often a marketting ploy from the find menu. While the merchant may offer some freebees or deals, it is not really a yardsale at all. Be aware of this. Also, people can't seem to landmark their yardsales well, and sometimes you have to hunt a bit to find it.

As to what LL could do to help with this problem, well, I think there are a few things.

1) Improve the events listing so that the times cycle off as the event is completed. This prevents several alts from listing the same yard sale for several hours in a row. I also feel Yardsales should have their own category.

2) The ability to more easily view the original creator, as opposed to just the owner in the hover text. This would quickly and easily allow new people to identify actual yardsale items.

3) Better policing/control of the events listing.

Please share your yardsale experiences and tips with this post.


At 12:34 PM, June 25, 2006, Blogger Prokofy Neva said...

Myst, I have to say that I disagree with just about everything you're saying about yard sales. You're taking the hortatory, net-nanny approach, making up rules you'd like to impose in an aggressive manner, on what should be a FREE MARKET. It's one thing to warn people of scams, to tell them not to pay more than $1 for a freebie, to not buy Linden items, etc. But you're going WAY overboard here. And you're not realizing that if everyone has to go through a yard sale clicking and checking and trying to find makers and stores, the whole point of a yard sale is lost -- it is supposed to be a jumble of bargains, that you can get before someone else does by being determined. They're also supposed to be FUN, not grim exercises in defending the rights of oldbies for evermore to control the economy -- which is what you are doing.

1. Aesthetics -- leave them at the door please. You don't like clutter, junk in the sky, jumbles of junk? Then don't come. People enjoy this kind of setting and don't want the art police savaging their fun.

2. Creator-control even of freebies. Leave that at the door, too, please. It's one thing to discourage resale of something accidently left on transfer, or something stolen through illegal copying. But if a creator -- including a Linden!!! -- has left their item on free and transfer, IT BELONGS IN THE FREE MARKET, LEAVE IT ALONE.

If someone values a Linden tent once available at the telehubs (which are now defunct, along with their boards of freebies), and is willing to pay $50 -- let them. I paid $100 once for that tent when I saw it -- if it existed for free, well, what, I'm supposed to scour 2500 servers in serve of a copyable version??? The world is big, the freebies can't all be found, and providing a "freebie" just in time for someone valuing it is part of a FREE MARKET. Leave it ALONE.

3. Hosts and event rules. These are unfair, and we don't need to be overzealous about them. They were instituted out of oldbies' desier to control the economy at their boutique stores. BTW, they're the biggest offenders when it comes to providing these free loss leaders that merely lead you into spending more at their stores. Well, that's ok, though. Too bad! It's how a free market works! These rules were particularly hustled by FlipperPA Peregrine of who loathes yard sales with a passion because it deprives him and his existing customers of commissions and sales -- it's all part of a bid for control. Don't cave into it. If it's on transfer, it can get any price that the market can bear.

Yard sales are declared "illegal" by Flipper and even Jesse Linden (by contrast with Torley) which they aren't, as such. To be sure, they need to have a host and be in duration in time, not repeated or left all day. But just because something looks like "retail store" and not "yard sale" to you doesn't mean a damn thing. Stores are ALLOWED to have sales, and can post them in the commercial part of the list. Ideally, those in business should lobby to have the commercial category in the list available for events of duration that don't require hosts, but require a listing fee or something like that.

We need to help the newbie econonmy, not think of a thousand ways to curb, control, intimidate, and discourage -- which is what all these rules you're concocting are doing.

In a world where accounts are now available to be made without any identity, in a world that is increasingly being opened, it's insane to be closing the economy except to a precious few in their guilds with their apprentices.

The most important thing a yardsaler should do is check the contents. I know I've bought things and put them out to resell them without at first noticing they were empty boxes, and that the thing I wanted to sell was still in my inventory. I always check now to make sure I don't get ripped off or inadvertently rip off another. That's about the only rule I can think of that is legitimate to be disseminating about yard sales.

At 12:37 PM, June 25, 2006, Blogger Prokofy Neva said...

1) Improve the events listing so that the times cycle off as the event is completed. This prevents several alts from listing the same yard sale for several hours in a row. I also feel Yardsales should have their own category.

This is already a feature of the events list, and a hugely annoying one, in fact. Sometimes I see an interesting event, and wish to check it out, like a prefab creator's opening house or something, but then it cycles off as it ends, and I can't find it anymore as the Lindens put it in the memory hole -- they do this precisely under pressure from those who hate "clutter" on the list and wish to have the events list constantly controlled and culled.

All that happens is that people like Boliver Oddfellow brag that they bend the rules by posting lots of repeated notices for different acts in their musical shows by using different accounts or friends to post or different parcels. We're limited to 5 a day, and that should be plenty. He's proud of going around the rules, even though he hangs with the set that wishes to control and savage the events list to get rid of yardsales that "hurt the eye" and "don't seem aesthetic" like live music in Dublin seems aesthetic.

At 9:59 PM, June 25, 2006, Blogger Myst Panther said...

Your right, it is a free market.
I never said it shouldn't be.

That being said, its every consumer for themselves.

I'm not interested in your agenda, or Flippers agenda or anyone elses. I'm interested in education and advice to the consumer. The newbies, midbies, and oldbies alike. Anyone who likes to shop, who enjoys a bargain hunt, wants to know how to ensure they get the best deal.

I described my experience trawling yardsales for a night. Thats my experience. Argue all you like, but what I wrote was factual. You can't argue, because thats what happened. Period. Its based on my opinion and my methods when I shop. You can argue with me until your fingers fall off, but it doesn't change my experience.

Yardsales should be fun, but the fun comes from the love of bargain hunting. If people don't know how to find out if they are actually getting a bargain, its a lot harder to feel good about their purchases. I just provided a suggestion of ways to do so. No one HAS to listen to me, and I'm forcing no yardsale owner to do anything.

My own opinions flavor my blog. I believe in honest selling. I don't care if its a yardsale, store, boutique, classified, or custom work. A store sale should be defined as a store sale. A yardsale should be a yardsale. I don't like to see misleading advertising. Its misrepresentation, and its wrong. I won't stand for it, and I don't think other people should have to stand for it.

As for creator control of freebees, I figure if you give away something with full permissions, its out there. Its going to go where ever. However, if I'm going to be spending L$ and I can either buy something from a yardsale for 10$ or i can go to a store and get it free, I'm going to go get it free. Period. Thats how bargain hunting works. Best price wins. Free trumps all. With newbies now having NO stipident and NO money to start with, this mindset is going to become more pervailent. Its hard to be poor, and you want to get the most bang for your buck.

You might pay for convinience, other people might too, but I don't.

Just as you pontificate about a free market, I'm going to uphold my position consumer shopping savvy. If you can get it cheaper somewhere else, do it. If you can't, then buy it. If you don't want to go to the effort then pay your money and take your chances. Newbies really don't have a lot of money to take chances with. I just want people to be aware that yardsales are not always what they appear to be.

As for the hosting rules being unfair, I hate to break it to ya, but life isn't fair. The rules are the rules. Period. If it says something is supposed to be hosted, then I, as a customer, expect it to be hosted if listed on the events calendar. When it isn't, I'm disappointed. You can scream all you like, but I'm still an angry customer. If the yardsale isn't hosted, it should be listed in the classifieds, which is exactly what they are for. Unhosted, long term, re-listable sales of stuff.

I'm not in anyway squeltching the 'newbie economy' I said there WERE deals and collectors items at yardsales. I never said not to go to them. I said to be careful. Everything I said was advice. I'm not making anyone do or follow anything. Its unfortunately newbies that are most likely to be RIPPED OFF in these situations. If nothing else, I'm giving yardsalers the task of being more responsible for their 'events' and giving newbies the tools to avoid being ripped off by the unscrupulous.

At 10:50 PM, June 25, 2006, Blogger Jakkal Dingo said...

I disagree with you, Prokofy. It's part of a Free Market to warn people of potentially bad deals. Myst has only done this much. In addition, it's also part of a Free Market to comparison shop. People pay extra if they don't feel like doing this (The general outcome of yard sales vs looking up the creator of items).

Your #1 makes you out to be a hypocrite.

#2 proves you're unwillingness to accept that people who care to spend less will seek out bargains and that is their right. And it's Myst's right to tell them they can do this. Got something to hide?

At 9:01 PM, June 28, 2006, Blogger Merlyn Bailly said...

Prok, you're the original net-nanny, and you were banned from the forums for being an asshole, and you're still a self-important asshole (believe me, you're nowhere near as important in SL as you think you are). Myst is performing a service here for the rest of SL (and most particularly, for newbies). Most "yardsales" are bogus. They are listed as "events" when they are retail, commercial sales planned solely to get "dwell" traffic to a retail site, usually a secondhand vendor, none of whose GOOD inventory is discounted at all. They are exactly what he called them, FALSE ADVERTISING.


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