Reply All: #76 Lost in a Cab
September 28, 2016 9:58 AM - Subscribe

If you lose something in a cab in New York City: Call 311 or go to the Taxi and Limousine Commission website. It's easy if you know already... but if you don't, welcome to Scamville and the nefarious users of Google AdSense.
posted by psoas (4 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
For those wondering why the TLC doesn't do more about this, they probably can't, likely due to a mix of lack of resources, and higher priority issues (like Lyft and Uber for one.)
posted by SansPoint at 10:55 AM on September 28, 2016

This was a good one.
posted by bq at 8:06 PM on September 28, 2016

This is going to sound like victim blaming, but it's honestly a revelation to me that people don't just scroll past search results that have the little "ad" marker on them. I mean, misleading domain names are a pain in the ass, but it's not like Google obfuscates which listings are paid for and which are not.

A related issue came up on a recent episode of Planet Money. Somehow, it's possible to maintain a viable business by purchasing things, at retail price, on Amazon, and offering them for sale with a sizable markup on Ebay. But it still makes no sense to me: if you're on your computer shopping for something, why wouldn't you take 10 seconds to do a search to see if it's cheaper elsewhere?

The Planet Money case is a little different because the way Amazon's drop shipping services work, apparently the original sellers were getting directly screwed by returns and the like, but the consumer behavior is strange to me.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:49 AM on September 29, 2016

it's honestly a revelation to me that people don't just scroll past search results that have the little "ad" marker on them.
A few years ago I would have agreed with you. I like to think of myself as both savvy enough and paranoid enough to avoid such things. Then one evening I was using a shared lab windows pc with lots of finicky old attached hardware. Frustrated at trying to use the default web browser, I quickly went to google, typed in "firefox," and downloaded and installed what I was served from the first thing that looked like search results. It took a minute to fill the machine with malware, and an entire weekend to reinstall everything from scratch and resume what I'd originally been working on. While I had plenty of excuses at the time, I can't in good conscience criticize anyone for falling for such a scam. You only have to be stupid once to get into trouble, and most of us are stupid every so often.

When it comes to ebay arbitrage, I suspect it has a lot to do with people searching for categories rather than specific products. Upon seeing a small-scale product on ebay, it's not at all obvious there would be any other distribution available. Sure, one could search more broadly for every purchase; however, the time spent searching also comes at a cost, and the expected cost has to include the likelihood that the product actually is only available on ebay and the search is entirely wasted. For a $40 cat bed, it's not obviously worth the effort.

The thing I find most surprising is that the re-sellers choose to preserve the original branding for a product nobody's heard of. If they were selling "ripply cat rugs" instead, it would take a lot more effort to figure out there were better ways to purchase them. It's hard to believe it wouldn't be worth someone's time to do a bit of hand tweaking there. (Well, that and the totally goofy return policies. Who the hell returns used rugs covered in cat hair? And why would anyone allow them to do so?)
posted by eotvos at 10:51 PM on September 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

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