mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Scammer? Or savy shopper?

I'm a regular on, where I find many of the deals that I use or sell on eBay. I'm not as hardcore as some of the posters - I don't usually go in for deals that I don't think are going to work out, and I tend to avoid deals that involve pricematches, because I'm not a big fan of confrontation or arguing with people (probably because I spend enough time arguing with people at work - I work in tech support).

But I thought that this article from MSN which talks a lot about Fatwallet, and uses rather slanted language (scammer, hacker, ect.) was rather unfair.

Now I would consider some of the stuff in the article fraud- like the guy who placed Best Buy orders and never picked them up. But stuff like using coupon codes creatively, or registering with multiple email addresses to get multiple coupons, seems fair to me. And while the article is critical of people who use poorly-coded coupon codes that give larger discounts or discounts on items they weren't intended on, I think there it is reasonable to expect website sellers to write and test their coupon codes and software so this stuff doesn't happen. The internet and deal-hunting are not new things, and companies should know by now what happens when a coupon code works on anything - and make sure it doesn't happen. Besides, most of the time companies catch the mistakes and cancel the orders anyway. While I have had a few orders with poorly-designed coupon codes go through (the best being when had a 50% off coupon code that worked on gift certificates - had a friend buy a certificate for 50% off, then used it and the coupon code, and got something like 6 box sets for $25), I've had dozens more get cancelled, and pretty much every too-good-to-be-true deal on FatWallet eventually turns into a bunch of posts saying "my order got cancelled".

Calling the Dell Outlet scripters "hackers" is even stranger. This is something I've never done - I don't have the coding skills or feel like futzing with the software, nor do I want to tie up a bunch of money in dell refurbs. But running software on your computer to buy stuff off a website doesn't strike me as "hacking" but a perfectly good use of technology. The author claims that the software isn't fair because most consumers don't know about it and won't get the deals. Of course, Dell only has so many good refurb deals, so most people won't get them even without the software - and they would have to sit in front of their PC refreshing for hours to get them. When companies have good deals, they usually have limited quantities, and they will go to the people who are willing to work the hardest to get them - which often means camping out in front of the store (ie Black Friday or the recent XBOX 360 madness) or finding creative workarounds.

But most deal hunters are not scammers. They may do things that stores don't want them to do, but when posters on FatWallet suggest things that are clearly fraud, they will ususually get shouted down by people who feel they have crossed the line.


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