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Time for a SL Better Business Bureau?


Chelsea Malibu
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I have been considering for some time a better business bureau for SL but it would have to work slightly different.  The goal would be to highlight customers needs and make a commitment to follow a pledge that you make to your customer base.

It obliviously would not be for everyone and is more a commitment to quality service than anything else.  We would never want to be used to impact any business in a negative way but would only highlight business that go out of their way for their customers.  There was a long post early last year that went over what customers hate the most and this would be the basis for what I want to do. ( see: http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Commerce-Forums-General/New-to-retail-This-is-what-your-customers-hate/m-p/512637/highlight/true#M50056 )

It would require that we get together as a group of merchants and define what we feel are things our customers deserve.  I for one have issue with products that are neither transferable or copy.  I believe a user should have one or the other but for some products, this may not work.  Every merchant would need to agree on something like this before it became part of our platform.

In the end, I think there is a time for us to create a sort of chamber of commerce/better business bureau that monitors itself to maintain credibility.  A shopper that goes to one of our member's stores is assured that that merchant is reliable and conscience.

This group would also act as a voice to Linden Labs on issues we feel need to be addressed.  I think overall, this could be a great benefit to Second Life by creating a user experience movement that benefits everyone.

It would also be supported by a website with information and advertising for shoppers in world.  I would love your feedback on your thoughts and if interested, please let me know so that I can add you to our founders list.  I hope to have this completed by February 10th, just in time for valentines day.

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I think you have a good idea. Not sure what linden has set up (if anything) to help consumers and vendors . But if its going to be a bbb, then customers should have the option to file complaints in which the bbb follows up on w/ the vendor to resolve issues just like they do in RL. Can't really go around negative feedback on various vendors if you want to open a bbb because its based on better business practices and all data (negative and positive) should be available. Don't want to post negative feedback on a vendor? Then that really should be the vendor's problem for not being a seller that meets customer expectations (such as delivering product in a timely manner, putting in place return or replacement policies, ect.) Just my opinion.

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I was a member of the real-life Better Business Bureau for a while, as Fox and Ground Construction Company. (I had an "A" rating, with zero complaints, ever.) I quit after one year because it simply didn't benefit me enough to be worth the cost of the annual dues. The real-life BBB is not well suited to representing micro businesses that have very small incomes, and their referrals were pretty worthless since only a vanishingly small percentage of people who look for a BBB reference are interested in virtual worlds, or would expect a virtual comodity to even be represented by the real-world BBB. They had no tools that would enable them to actually arbitrate a dispute between the anonymous residents of a virtual world.

The real-life BBB has value to real-world merchants because they can bring the force of real-life laws to bear on their member companies, and can arbitrate in a legal manner between a company and their clients if there are disputes.

That's impossible for a resident-operated version of the BBB in SL, where there are no aplicable laws that can be enforced in any way, shape or form by residents on other residents, and where all residents are anonymous to each other. Even if the orginization blacklists "Company A", run by "Avatar B", there is nothing at all to prevent that same person from coming back in minutes with a completely new identity, and pretending they are someone new.

While the intention of forming a BBB-type organization in SL is quite laudable, I am afraid that all that an SL BBB could ever be would be a voluntary group that claims they adhere to certain standards. But there would be no 'teeth' backing it up - no way for the organization to censure members who didn't live up to that promise.

It will not have any credibility for the same reason a "Police" orginization in SL has no credibility - because they have no valid authority and no valid means for enforcing any applicable laws.

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I agree with the ability to report but am thinking this could also lead to abuse and should be handled internally where we would contact that vendor and let them resolve it.  If they don't respond, we would need to remove them from the membership is the direction I am thinking. 

But again, this is what I think we need more than anything, a group of us designing this so that we can make sure all areas are addressed.

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Its so funny of this exact "SL should consider a BBB model" solution idea pops up in the Merchant forums about once a year - only to be dismissed for it unworkable logistics by others in the merchant community.

I heard this idea and was part of this thread discussion way back in 2009.  I remember it mentioned in 2009.  I cannot recall it mentioned in 2010 but I am sure it was mentioned.

The failure of a BBB model is in the logistics.  Who will run this group, committee, organization? 

Will it be a department of LL?  If so, they already basically have a version of BBB when you file a complained or a support ticket with them. How would LL get extra staff to properly run this new department when they are so short staffed now that they cannot properly deal with SL Customer Service and development priorities.  They are rationed staff now... why would LL Execs staff up for a business function like customer service when they dont respect the function now?

Will it be an arm's length organization that LL agrees to be its enforcer?  If so, who will staff thes daily operational roles?  If its fellow Merchants elected to a committee then the biggest issue there is "trust".  Will merchants wanting to be BBB endorsed be blackballed because of personal issues or because of competitive advantage with a committee member?

Will it be outsourced?  We saw how effective that was in 2010 when LL decided to outsource their helpdesk.  Customer Service became the #1 laughing stock operation in LL by all LL customers.

 

Nice ideas folks... but I think this is just theoretical wishful thinking.  A BBB for SL Customers & Businesses will never fly.

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I too have been a member of the BBB and very active with the chamber of commerce in RL.  Even in RL they have no jurisprudential authority and no ability to mandate enforcement other than bringing down your rating.  It's sort of a pass or fail but it does give customers the assurance that this business has been vetted.  We have also discussed an in world court which myself and several attorneys had discusses at SLCC.  Your response would refer more to an in world jurist group that would have to have some processes of enforcement but this should not apply to a BBB.

However, as many of see on this forum, buyers are becoming wary and since SL is a "caveat emptor" economy by Linden Labs own TOS, I truly believe that someone somewhere needs to maintain a system of accountability for our consumers.

Edit: that being said, perhaps the best way to approach this is to just start the website and let those who are interested participate by becoming members.

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This has kind of been done before, in 2006/7 there was the SLBB Second Life Business Bureau, although LL forced them to change their name, I think they chose the Virtual Business Bureau or something similar in the end..

I was a member, I think it cost L$1000 one off payment to join. I hoped it would offer some level of credibility to my business as a lot of merchants signed up and the group seemed to get some results. Their purpose was to try and keep businesses in check and offer consumers somewhere to turn when a business failed them... Mainly due to the fact that LL would generally not get involved in any disputes between residents. I got a sign to stick on the shop wall to show customers I was affiliated with a reputable group and they did help me with a few copyright issues when copybot was first becoming popular. I had no idea about DMCA;s then and I used the SLBB as an "official" front to contact the infringers and successfully persuade them to take the content down.

In the end the group failed though. They had a founder and 7 or 8 board members and they controlled the whole group. Although members were able to submit proposals and supposedly vote on other peoples proposals, this never really happened and it was the few select board members that got to control the group, It felt a bit Clique like.

I also remember there was a bit of nastiness at one point with board members posting private IM's in the public group channels and general arguing and bitching between members and the board. Some peoples feelings got hurt, some people left the group etc etc.

Ultimately I think the group failed to uphold some of the ethics and principles that it was founded upon and ended up failing. Also I think they didn't have any real power as LL were never involved in any way. This group had effectively appointed themselves an authority within SL which is obliviously never going to end well.

I realise this is different to the group you propossed, I just thought I would share a few of the fragmented memories my brain managed to retain from SL's first attempt at a BBB.

 

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Hmmm, yeah, I remember you talking about doing this before. I like the BBB, as long as everything is fair. I'm guessing most of us have seen what is not fair, lol. The court part, I'd really be weiry of. At heart, I'm an anarchist, and the better technology gets, the more informed a consumer can be. Once fully informed, the market will take care of the rest. Since LL removed the Picks from search relevancy, the consumer has had no way to be involved in the process. The BBB is a great way to do this, if handled fairly. As a matter of fact, it would not even need to be exclusive. Eventually having competing rating systems would help the consumer, not hurt, but 1 is good for a start.

If you ask me, I see SL as a massive experiment in the free market. Look how it started really. Some people wanted to sell what they made. Some others wanted to buy it. Back then, almost every1 was a merchant, now it is less. The market had grown. In the early years, the basic system in place had almost invisible market safe guards. The more time consuming the task, the harder it was to cheat. Our basic search could reasonably handle properly ranking businesses. Then the cheating got easier with gadgets, but things trucked along. Then bang, technology fails us,  or however you want to put it. New Search, new policies. The world changed instantly. At least, that is my view.

So, what was the problem. Information fail. Not just in 1 area, but in multiple areas all at the same time. Not cause by a bubble at all. Our numbers even now, should be evidence enough. The solution, new information highways, or the BBB, lol.

Oh, and since i been kind of hard on the lindens this new year, I think our Profiles are another great recent innovation for that information highway. Kudos on that, and I can't wait for more of it.

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Medhue Simoni wrote:

If you ask me, I see SL as a massive experiment in the free market. Look how it started really. Some people wanted to sell what they made. Some others wanted to buy it. Back then, almost every1 was a merchant, now it is less. The market had grown. In the early years, the basic system in place had almost invisible market safe guards. The more time consuming the task, the harder it was to cheat. Our basic search could reasonably handle properly ranking businesses. Then the cheating got easier with gadgets, but things trucked along. Then bang, technology fails us,  or however you want to put it. New Search, new policies. The world changed instantly. At least, that is my view.


You know this is what Stroker has been saying since day 1. This is just a beta that we are paying for.  I do agree on the fairness and this would have to be very democratic.  I would think of this as more a consortium than an association.  A collective of reputable businesses who take their customer serious is really all I could hope for.  A rating system does concern me in that we all know how ratings systems can work but again, a collective body could come up with a good plan to do this I am sure.  We have some very brilliant people here and I know any contributions would be beneficial.

The court idea is actually off topic and I shouldn't have added that idea as it may deter from the original idea that is actually near impossible to execute without a sign off from LL that they would support it which as we all know, wont happen.

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You've got to be kidding.

ummm...hellooooo.

People do business anonymously here.  They create alts to harass.  Hell, they even harass without an alt.

You sure did use your fair share of "we"  and "us" terms there.  Will this be the same group of people who hang out in forum every day and determine what is right or wrong for business?  Based on very little experience and very little business sense and very little income?  And a bunch of chips on shoulders against those who do well?

No way in hell is a group like this, with anonymous names and anonymous backgrounds going to sit around all day and decide how I do business or devise some kind of plan, effort, and group that attempts some kind of control over anyone and how people choose to do business here.

'YOUR" platform?  I've seen your platform.

No way in hell.

You've got to be kidding.

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Good grief....I did not even make it to the last paragraphs!

your last paragraphs:

"This group would also act as a voice to Linden Labs on issues we feel need to be addressed.  I think overall, this could be a great benefit to Second Life by creating a user experience movement that benefits everyone.

It would also be supported by a website with information and advertising for shoppers in world.  I would love your feedback on your thoughts and if interested, please let me know so that I can add you to our founders list.  I hope to have this completed by February 10th, just in time for valentines day."

A voice to Linden Labs?  12 people out of several thousand?  NO.  Absolutely NO.

Issues "we" (YOU) feel need to be addressed?  NO.  Absolutely NO.

"I think overall".....you do not speak for "overall"

supported by a web site?  run by who?  sanctioned by who?

"if interested....."  please let you know?  You are spearheading this?

"add to founders list?"    I'm sorry, but at this point all I can do is to laugh my ass off. 

You've got some nerve, and I cannot believe you are pushing for further control here.

No way. 

 

 

 

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Well, I'm not saying that I think the whole structure is right, but again, I like the idea. I see it being more of a rating agency tho, but also a bridge from customer to merchants. A place for both customers and merchants to bring their concerns. Of course, in my eyes, you never start anything without a way to pay for it, people's time is money. Not that I ever want to be paid for any involvement, but funding allows it to grow also. Maybe, it's funding is marketing on the system, and the rating system is established by the founding group of merchants, but they are not associated with it in anyway.

I should probably expand on this. So, it's basically a search for SL, but strictly for merchandize. The merchants are ranked within the system by the criteria established by the founding merchants. Maybe you have to pay to be included, a small fee. Possibly, we make customer response influencing your rating at a low enough factor to not completely take a decent business down, and any resolution of any conflict can erase the bad influence to the rating. Of course some1 can run this, I really don't care who. Just my thoughts.

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Let's start with the link that you supplied, to this commentary: 

New to retail? This is what your customers hate!

 

02-14-2011 03:31 PM

There seems to be a lot of new talent in Second Life and the quality of the work I’ve been seeing over the past couple of years has really improved over what we had 5 years ago. Great new stores with lots of well designed inventory and some really creative people have made Second Life are great platform for would be designers.

However lately, I have also witnessed some of the biggest disasters in merchandising I have ever seen and while the quality of the content is improving, the quality of the user experience is dying.  In the end, I see great talent with a ton of stupidity behind the retail application.

Let me makes some points:

1.       Selling items in a box that you cannot rez at your store. You can set up auto return it’s a no brainer. When you send you customers home to unpack, you also lose any opportunity for add on sales that match what they bought. Send them home to unpack and you pretty much sent them to another store to accessorize.

2.       Bad inventory layout.  Keep stuff with stuff that is consistent together. Short hair with short hair, shoes with shoes, dresses with dresses, etc.  You would think this too is a no brainer but I cannot believe how many merchants don’t get that.

3.       Make everything mod. No, you don’t have to make your scripts mod but for Christ sake, don’t assume that you are so talented that no one would or could mod your stuff. They own it, let them mod it.  I’m actually putting together a boycott list for no mod products. It’s a rip off and a very arrogant position to take with your customers.

4.       If no copy, let them transfer it. It’s the trade off you have to accept and at no time should any no copy object be set to no transfer as well. This too is not only a major disservice, its ripping off your customers.

5.       Use good models and take the time to show your work correctly. If you make stuff that only looks good in the poses you use in your ads, then you deserve to go out of business and many have.  I can think of two at the moment that will more than likely tank if they don’t fix this. What you see in their photos is not what you get.

6.       Call the items what they are in their name.  When you pull some irrelevant name out of your ass and don’t call it what it is (Shirt, Coffee Table, Hat, etc.) then they can’t find it. If they can’t find it, they can’t wear it and if they can’t wear it, you lose your most valuable marketing tool, word of mouth.

7.       Spell-check your note cards. You may be a brilliant scripter but your note card probably makes you look like an idiot. If you can’t write in the language intended, hire someone or at least find someone who can check your spelling.

8.       If you have a store, put your landing point in the store and don’t turn off teleporting. If someone wants to bring a friend, don’t send them to you store front courtyard. That’s not what you are selling and trust me, no one gives a rats ass about your amazing entrance and if they do, then you have a lot of work ahead to get your products to be more impressive than your lobby.

9. Turn off your lame copy bot protector. They dont work and you got scammed when you bought it. GL Inerecept works from object in your inventory, so don't kill your business with copy bot protectors that add completexity to the purchase and are anoying to the customer.

==============================================

You have witnessed "disasters in merchandising"

This is a fantasy world.  It's for explorers.  It's for creatives.  It's for fun lovers.  It's for people seeking a break from the confines of physical world.  It's for adventure.  It's for socializing.  It's for 100 other things and more.

We are not bound by conformity here. 

Or are we?

You see stupidity?  Is it stupid to wear an evening gown to work here?  Is it stupid to place boxes in a row with no shelves, mid-air, and defy gravity?  Is it stupid to have no roof on the store so that people can fly around?  Is it supid to have a welcome mat that talks? 

Who shall police stupid?  And why?

#1 - I think you are off-base on that.  You haven't considered some complications there.  How many products do you sell and how many do you put into a box?  what are the prim counts on those?

I prefer a different method for "add-on" sales.  I don't care to share it.  Will the BBB be determing what is proper in that aspect?  You supplied this outline.

#2 - Will the BBB be advising on inventory layout?  holy cow.  I think you're off a bit on that, too.  If you want to work on that "add-on" sales concept, then you definitely need to be mixing in some other stuff with displays.  I could go into that, but anyone who has been in brick and mortal retail has experimented with that.

#3 - there's a topic that people will debate for weeks.  Not everyone has the same type product as you, nor the same philosophies on product as you.  You better leave that one well enough alone in your BBB Guideline.

#4 - Same story as #3

#5 - if people don't do it your way....they "deserve to go out of business"   Nope.  Hardly a philosophy that I would feel comfortable hearing from a BBB.

#6 - Luscious Lavender is my top seller.  And yes, I pulled it out of my ass one day, and it reminds me of a stripper's name, and I enjoy having fun with that.  We can have FUN here!   Will the BBB be regulating Fun?

#7 - if something is misspelled or heaven forbid that someone have a typo....we look like an idiot?  Automatic termination from the BBB?

#8 - trust me...I don't give a rat's ass where YOU tell me to put my landing point.  Trust me on that.  Will the BBB monitor our landing points?

#9 - Do people even use those anymore?  What year did you write that?

 

The above type of control is what you seek?  You gave it as an example.

You have no idea what each of our customer styles "hates"....we have all different types of people here, and they come here for all different reasons.  Everyone "hates" something different, at different times of day, in different months.

I did not spell check. or proofread.

Livin' on the Edge.  Cuff me.

 

 

 

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I don't think an official one would be a good idea. Heck even the real life BBB is gathering dust and even requires people to pay to file a consumer report.

What seems to be popular now are those grassroots websites like Angie's List that people can post and rate customer service, product, etc. Nothing to stop you from doing something like that and then you just have to hope people post and use it. But, separate from SL itself. (For one thing you cannot share IMs within SL or the SL forums, so how would someone report something that happened in IM to your BBB?)

Either way it is ripe for being gamed by competitors and such. But there's nothing to stop you from trying it and trying to make ways for it to run smoothly.

I don't really want an elite corps being my voice to LL either to be honest.

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And if I can give some consumer feedback on that blog post/list? (I'm talking to the person who wrote the first bit.)

Did there really need to be cursing in it let alone taking God's name in vain? You are going to offend a lot of people with that, even in this Kardashian age.

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"It would also be supported by a website with information and advertising for shoppers in world.  I would love your feedback on your thoughts and if interested, please let me know so that I can add you to our founders list.  I hope to have this completed by February 10th, just in time for valentines day."

Completed by February 10th?

I am super busy right now, but I will have ANTI campaign against this control process of yours on the web by end of week.

You are way out of line with this.

I've not made much of a fuss about your controlling behavior and missteps here in this forum, but if you are proposing some sort of organization be in place by February 10th that has at it's basis the same type of concepts and commentary as the list that I copied and pasted above....

....and if there are "founders" already in place...would love to know exactly who those are.

I consider this more of a threat to SL business than any glitches, failed tools, search screw-ups, faux pas, you name it.

Dang, I do not have time for this nonsense!

 

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I like the idea. I support your idea that we need to maintain a system of accountability.
But I have doubts as well. Such an organisation will only work when a lot of merchants and customer will recognize the importance of such a consortium.

But we are with such a large number of merchants, that when enough merchants join to have any impact in the total market as a group, it will also make the organisation almost unworkable. Take for example only the aspect of advertising in world. That will be an attractive point for people to join the organisation. But have a look at what happened to a group like FashCon. This was a group for fashion designers to reach a collective audience with promotion of new releases. Respectable and high quality designers joined this group and customers where happy receive notices from FashCon, instead of losing all their group slots to subscribing to all individual user groups from fashion designers. The formula worked very well for a while. But the larger the group became, the more spammy it became. In the end you had to ignore a lot of 10L$ sales and freebie releases to actually find the new releases from the merchants you really want to follow. FashCon became the victim of its own success, it grew too big and the golden formula of collective promotion stopped working.

The latest number I have seen is we are with 45.000 merchants on the grid. Now imagen that 10% is joining the BBB, then you have still 4500 people. And they will try to push you to fill the hole that LL doesn’t want to step into: resident to resident conflicts. Who is going to handle these complaints from shoppers who had a disagreement with a merchant. Who is going to listen to those people who want to warn you that certain merchants do not meet the BBB standards? Who is going to listen to those  merchants who feel they did nothing wrong and stayed very polite while the costumer was trying to get the blood out of their nails?
And what about the complaints from merchants about other merchants? For example the ones that both choose the name AB creations, and neither of them wants to give up on the name. The ones that have shops next to each other on mainland and what started with a little irritation ends in a big conflict where both try to reach that the other is going to move. And so on and so on.    

And then I not even spoke about the work involved in starting up the whole thing, educating what BBB is about, why merchants should join and why buyers should attach importance to whether a retailer is or is not affiliated with BBB.

A complete other point. You see LL is making small steps in trying to protect their tools for scammers. Small steps, like you need to be five days old to sell on the marketplace, you need to have a verified account to be able to upload mesh. And in the new years blog Rod announced “a creators program” for the Realms tools, to prevent abuse.
When I watch this development of protectionism I think one day we might end up with a creators program for other forms of content creation as well.

But for the meanwhile, despite all bears I see on the road, I still like the idea. When something like this will come from the ground I will probalby join, as was it just to experience what it will bring us.

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Really, bringing religion in is offensive in itself.. Kardashian? Sci Fi monster? Sorry Resident Vanderre covered most of my objections rather well. Seems another way to game the system and fool some consumers with a false sense of protection. The BBB thingie is hardly global anyway so shouldn't be too many who fall for it.

I've seen it tried before and crash and burn so go ahead and good luck. Would be fascinating to see the financial reports on it (income, outlay etc).

cheers

 

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Seriously? Competition trying to sabotage merchants is somewhat of a myth. Yes, it happens, but not for long. It takes effort to do these things. Any1 with a brain quickly finds out that their time is better spent making stuff than trying to go after other merchants. Even when it comes to any kind of cheating, for the most part, the effort is way more than the reward. This brings any person that wants to be profitable back to creating instead of spending all this time trying to cheat the system.

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I like the idea, a Merchant Cooperative.

A customer service group could handle day to day operations. Merchant meetings and or group votes could create, or change policy.

Merchants could help by displaying a logo, but the real work takes boots on the SL ground and plenty of them. Advertising, event sponsorships and new merchant recruitment. I could think of 50 things a day that could be done to promote the group.

Most people don't know how to spend money. A lot of good cheer could be created with the amount of monies I've seen thrown at the AD listings. I cannot believe it is the best use of the money. One problem with trying to get to the real masses of Residents is in that the administrators "cost" almost as much as the program. I would drop the hammer on that cookie jar.

no soup 4 u

 

 

 

 

 

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The only people who would be "told" would be the Customers. Merchants would tell Residents that, all the store owners being of freewill, have agreed to provide superior customer service, and that they put that pledge in Writing. A group of Store owners who have agreed to work together and agreed upon some common rules based on common sense for the Common-unity.

 

Business is slow.

Yeah, well..., you kicked that guy when he arrived at the store.

I kick all of my Customer's.  Are you telling me how to run my store?

If I was telling you; would you kick me to?

 

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