Frustrations on the Rising Cost of Doing Business and Predatory Capitalism

A few moments ago, Mrs. Denmarkguy stopped into my office, absolutely livid.

The source of her ire: Evidently some PDF conversion package she uses (graphic design and book publishing) in connection with creating content for Kindles has somehow been "discontinued" for use with MS Word... EXCEPT if you buy the "premium version" for the cost of $14.95/month.

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Which — by the way — we will charge you for for a YEAR at a time, and IN ADVANCE.

And sure, there are "free" versions of text to PDF converters out there, but they either insist on putting their ads/logo somewhere, or they have an upper limit of 50 or 100 pages.

So now Mrs. Denmarkguy is on the phone to her friend at Microsoft, seeing if she can scrounge up some kind of workaround. She also knows a few people who develop themes of Wordpress, so that's another possible.

Still, there's the frustration of having to chase down all this stuff...

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Meanwhile, My Own...

The whole thing reminds me of my own experience with eBay's recent implementation of "eBay Payments."

In their infinite wisdom, eBay decided to "divorce" PayPal as their primary payment gateway and instead implement their own payment system. Sure, buyers can still pay with PayPal, but eBay handles all the financial transactions now, and sellers (such as myself) no longer get PayPal payments.

Hailed as a "simplification" for both buyers and "sellers" it actually amounts to "So Much Bullshit."

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First, there's the piece of weird incongruence that eBay still makes it difficult to pay their monthly fees with something other than PayPal.

This means that now money from our sales are no longer funneled to our PayPal accounts, but to our bank accounts, so now I have to wait for the money to get to my bank account, then turn around and transfer it to PayPal, so eBay can draft PayPal (whom they just "divorced," remember?) for fees.

The logic behind that escapes me... EXCEPT for what I call "greed logic," namely that this circuitous clusterfuck will invariable cause people to be late, and then they can be assessed late charges.

"Come Trade With Us! We Designed Our System to Trip You Up!"

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"Black Box" Accounting...

But the other part of the whole "eBay Payments" debacle is what I call the "Black Box Accounting effect."

Previously, there was at least a "path of accountability" in that eBay had to present an invoice in order to draft PayPal for seller fees. So we knew how much that was, because it was neatly listed out.

Now? Not so much.

eBay collects "some amount" from a buyer, then "something happens" and a "net amount" shows up in my bank account once a week. eBay collects... well, some of its fees (but not all), the actual cost of shipping (as opposed to the billed cost), sales taxes, PST, GST, VAT or whatever is appropriate around the globe... and it's suddenly an incredibly convoluted process to actually track down "what costs what" for the purposes of business accounting and recordkeeping.

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Welcome to Complexification!

It's not that I think they are actually cheating, just that they make it that much harder for sellers to determine "how am I actually DOING?"

However, I am actually somewhat of a numbers geek, so diving down into the underbelly of the beast it seems that the net effect of "eBay Payments" (which was supposed to "save" sellers, right?) is that the overall percentage that I am giving up in fees and attendant selling costs has gone from about 14% of sales to about 17% of sales.

Not to mention that this "simplification" carries an increased hassle factor, attached to PayPal and bookkeeping.

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Predatory Capitalism?

So what's really happening, here? Well, ultimately it seems to be part of the greater "creeping elegance" strategy implemented by companies who roll out a clutch of "convenience services" that — in reality — only benefit very large customers, typically at the expense of smaller customers.

Mrs. Denmarkguy's PDF dilemma is of little consequence to an organization that buys a blanket license for 500 computers. They end up paying something like $3.99 per machine, per year. It mostly screws individual operators like her.

eBay Payments is actually a pretty decent deal for someone who runs a multi-million dollar sales operation with them, handling hundreds of thousands of transactions. Such a user would find it simpler and very likely save money. Alas, an individual seller like myself gets screwed.

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Who Made You What You Are?

The irony, of course, is that eBay was built by millions of individual sellers, and grew into a very successful company for whom things only started "going sideways" when they became a public corporation with shareholders that were more important to please than their actual users.

eBay actually used to be a very cool place in the early years... a giant online garage sale and fleamarket mostly inhabited by individual collectors trading with other collectors of the most esoteric things imaginable. The huge corporate sellers didn't arrive till after eBay went public.

The same holds true for Etsy, which was once a superb online marketplace for handmade goods from Artists and Craftspeople around the world. After they went public, the product mix has skewed more and more towards mass produced cheap crap from China. Again, Etsy only exists because of individual artisans.

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Capitalism, Games Without Referees and Predatory CRAPitalism

I don't much share my opinion about capitalism and unregulated free markets.

I am all for a high degree of freedom, BUT I have always felt that you have to have referees on the field... otherwise you end up with (as we often have now) a metaphorical "football game" in which people bring bazookas onto the field to blow away their opponents rather than play the actual game based on skill and practice.

And I shall leave it at that.

Now — as a bit of an afterthought — you might be tempted to ask why I don't just sell from my own website, or some free-standing "co-op."

Simple answer: Because they lack visibility, users and volume. Trust me, I have used alternatives... and I will definitely admit that the hassle factors and frustrations were cut by 95%! The problem?

No Sales!

It doesn't matter how good your alternative is, if nobody cares and nobody uses it! Getting to sell hassle free and fee free doesn't matter if your sales and exposure are close to zero.

Thanks for reading, and have a great last few days of your week!

How about YOU? Have you had any frustrations with situations where you felt "squeezed" because you were a small user/customer? How did you respond? Grin and bear it, or find alternatives? Comments, feedback and other interaction is invited and welcomed! Because — after all — SOCIAL content is about interacting, right? Leave a comment — share your experiences — be part of the conversation!

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Created at 20211014 22:00 PDT

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The whole financial system is designed from top to bottom to extract as much money as possible from people while providing as little value as possible in exchange for it

And yet, this is how we're supposed to continue to operate as a species for all of the rest of time...?

Damn we're fools

Greed logic, I like that, it's a good label

Good effort with cutting through the smoke and mirrors regarding the eBay payments bullshit... I don't have those chops

Sounds like that company has well and truly crossed the line and become a force for evil in the world. I didn't realise Etsy had gone the same way. Thanks for the heads up

Public corporations ruin everything

There could be some open source software that does what Mrs. Denmark needs. Maybe not

Batch conversion of .docx to .pdf...?

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The thing about eBay is that it was a super cool idea at one time. A true peer-to=peer marketplace that was like a cross between an online garage sale and a collectibles expo marketplace. Sadly, most of that is gone... but they manage to make themselves a cultural icon of sorts, reaching that point where people say things like "Oh, I can eBay that!" when they make a "find" at a flea market.

My wife has solved her woes for the time being, by getting a set of registration codes from a friend at Microsoft... but we're still going to keep open to alternatives.

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The same will happen to crypto.

Posted Using LeoFinance Beta

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I remember having a conversation with someone 3-4 years back about "crypto being made illegal."

I submitted that it will never happen; instead crypto will be usurped by traditional business. We'll end up with "American Airlines Coin" and "Bank of America Coin" and "Walmart Coin" and the unsuspecting public will think they are taking part in something new and game changing while being completely in the dark about cryptos decentralized ideals and roots.

It'll be "business as usual," only with a different coat of paint.

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Yeah every business will try to have their own coin for sure. Some will be worth buying to just dump later. Play them at their own game.

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I think it will only be a matter of time before we see it... whether they will have any real value remains to be seen...

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Have you had any frustrations with situations where you felt "squeezed" because you were a small user/customer? How did you respond? Grin and bear it, or find alternatives?

If it's in my interest I will play the game but I would be conscious of why its in my interest and keep an eye out for alternatives.

With the Cryptoverse we are on a journey that offers freedom and independence in many ways but there is a cost to freedom.

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It would be nice if someone were to develop and implement a peer-to-peer marketplace as part of the Hive ecosystem so we could all trade goods and services with each other without ever having to "exit to fiat."

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I may have a solution for your wife, at least. I think LibreOffice may have helpful built-in conversion software to save as different file types. It's free and open-source.

Unfortunately, our economic system is much more corporate fascism than free market. Big business has all the legal power, and banks determine how we may use our earnings. The government regulates everything to our detriment while eroding our wealth through inflation. It's irredeemable.

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Thanks for the suggestion re: LibreOffice. For the moment, she has managed to get access keys from someone at Microsoft, but I sent her the information, anyway. I like that there's an online version, as well.

Don't even get me started on corporate fascism! Organizations like eBay manage invent themselves as pseudo-monopolies, which lays the groundwork for their being able to pretty much "dictate terms" because none of the more freedom-based alternatives are able to get enough traction to be viable for most users.

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And real freedom like the Silk Road gets people imprisoned for double life sentences because they operated an unapproved website.

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It’s annoying how this type of stuff happens. These companies think they can just do whatever they want. Largely they can but when the end users say enough is enough, they change or go out of business. It’s a lot of work but maybe see if you can get in touch with other retailers on there and band together to petition them to improve their shit.

Have you tried Mercari? We have good success on there, though I don’t know if the fees are higher than places like eBay.

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The thing about eBay is that they have succeeded in creating themselves as a "pseudo-monopoly" in their particular business space. So they can get away with it because people don't really have many viable alternatives.

My wife uses primarily Poshmark and has occasionally used Mercari with mixed success, but her gig is clothing and home accessories; mine is stamps and paper collectibles which is a very weak (to non-existent) category on Mercari, sadly.

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Ah, yeah so that's challenging indeed. I'm glad you have your markets for that type of stuff but it's annoying how many monopolies have been created despite such principle (on paper, of course) rallying against monopolies.

When we have our stuff on Mercari I have it set up so that any time something sells they send me a text. I don't know if it could be set up that it could text you if someone offers you on something but maybe it's worth at least posting and seeing if things sell.

I do know that Poshmark is definitely a big clothing one so it's a gamble to try other markets.

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Oh, my... This is a welcoming sign to online bureaucracy. I had no idea stuff like that was happening. But hey I live in a socialist county so there's not much one can do around here. So, they sites are basically becoming that they shouldn't be. I guess it all goes from fighting monsters, you end up becoming one. And I understand you with the whole hassle in customer volume and visibility of products. There's no other way unless another site launches that has the same visibility that eBay has and then again, it might end up coming to the same results after a while.

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Well, I grew up in Denmark which is a social democracy, and there are definite rules and limitations on what is permissible in business to get sales. Some of the practices we see here in the US go way beyond reasonable efforts to drum up sales.

Greed almost always seems to be what causes the ultimate demise of organizations, but sadly that demise doesn't tend to happen until a lot of people have lost a lot in the process.

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When profits are the goal, people are just a means to achieve it. It is a pattern that repeats itself over and over in too many places around the world.

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