Be Quick Or Be Rich

I was browsing some classifieds and was noticing that some items wouldn’t sell quickly, so the poster would post a reply stating the price was dropped.  And sometimes this would go on for a few replies.  It made me think about the multitude of ways we humans have devised for transactional commerce.

Every single thing has a value, but that value is different for every single potential consumer.  That is a simple concept that can be overwhelming to consider if you dwell on it.  The consideration on the other side of the counter is that everything has a cost, so how long can you sustain the cost?

This could be a whole post on the nuances of what constitutes a sellers costs and how that can factor into how much or how little they charge for items.  But the real thing I was thinking of was a memory a couple decades ago of a travel auction site that appeared to be a perpetual source of frustration.  I’ve forgotten the name of the site and can’t be bothered to research it right now.

The idea of the site is they would put up vacation packages for really cheap, then let people bid them up.  The twist on the auction was that the listings were for multiple tickets and they could be bid up independently.  I just did a quick search for what this type of auction is called and amazingly, I can’t find it.  I know I had found it once in the past.  So here’s the concept.  The company lists a package with 30 tickets starting at $50/ticket.  The first 30 bidders are in at $50.  Then the bid price rises to $60.  The next bidders start knocking out the previous bidders at $50 and now are in line to win at $60.  The price rises again and the bumping continues until no one wants to pay the current bid price.

Here’s the memorable part for me.  When you bid, you can add a comment to your bid that shows up in the leading bids screen.  Without fail, every one of the early bidders who got in early and cheap is using their comment to plead for other people to wait for the next auction to be listed, so they won’t get bumped.  And without fail, they get bumped.  It’s a perfect example of human behavior, especially when it comes to money and privilege.  Being early doesn’t matter when you have the money to make the line disappear.  Those with the money to make things happen for them don’t particularly care about the ones whose only chance of success is early opportunity.

I used the site one time, and I do remember a small sense of “fuck off, whiner” when I outbid one of the earlier people.  But after that one win, I never really got back into it.  Maybe there were too many people outbidding me, or it just got too popular and expensive.  Maybe I was harboring suspicions there were shills driving up the prices.  Whatever it was, the site faded from memory, but the idea stuck with me.

“If we work together we can all win.”  Completely untrue.  You mean, if we work together and you let me win, then you can win next time.  There’s no guarantees on that future and everyone knows it.  What a wondrous world we live in.

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