Tuesday 22 October 2013

The EBay Strategy

As is well-known in certain circles, the way eBay (and other) peddlers of fake antiquities get away with it is simple. If the buyer does not find out they've been sold a dud, the seller gets positive feedback. If the buyer realises they've been tricked into purchasing a dud they can do two things. One is to give the seller negative feedback in revenge and then he's stuck with a worthless bauble for which he paid of lot of money on his hands... or they can take advatage of the dealer's gererous offer ("if for any reason you are dissatisfied, send it back and you'll get your money back no questions asked" [There's a lot of that no-questions in this market]). The hapless buyer gives the dodgy stuff back, recovers his cash, but never gets to post that negative feedback. Prospective buyers then see a dealer has 99.99% positive feedback, so trust all is OK and shell out their cash. And so it goes round in circles, the dealer's profits relying on their being far more ignorant oiks buying stuff than people who know what the real thing actually looks like.

Apparently, the same system could work with selling metal detectors. One senior metal detectorist candidly reveals (October 12, 2013) a method by which a metal detector manufacturer could ensure they get only positive reviews for a product:
I was given an [...name of detector..] following my severe beach testing of it during which I made it jump through hoops of fire over a number of weeks. [...name of metal detecting manufacturing firm and one of its sales reps] initially said that at the end of the test period I could keep it provided I allowed [said firm] to use my name to back it. He got two words, and the second one was “off”. After a little horse-trading the deal ironed out thus: I’d test the machine for [said firm] but if it [did badly] during testing I’d tell them they’d a real turkey on their hands, but with an escape clause for me that they’d take my name out of the equation. BUT, if was any good and met the criteria they advertised it would meet, and I liked it, they’d let me keep it and I’d let them use my name in any advertising associated with it. The deal was done. 
If this is what really is going on, it is obviously the same strategy as on eBay - the slate is wiped clean in return for no negative feedback. If the machine fails to test well, no review is written or published, only favourable reports are published, from a guy who furthermore stands to get a freebie metal detector "with a price tag of £595 in the UK ($890.00 or thereabouts Stateside)" for saying it is good. "Conflict of Interest" do I hear you say? Another example of the degree of "truthiness" in artefact hunting.

There is another implication. If, as presented above, the firm is using this bloke's name (in other words gaining capital from his reputation), it would  mean the firm willingly associates themselves with what this man stands for. If he was doing something which the firm would consider is reflecting badly on the company which willingly closely associates itself with such an individual, then obviously they would ask somebody else to endorse their product. This is why I asked a certain metal detector producer whether they endorse the anti-preservationist and anti-archaeological  agenda of the people they use to "back" their products. So far no reply.

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