Retail Chains Ask Congress To Regulate Online Auction Sites

from the competition-is-evil dept

We’ve seen so many industries freak out as the market changed around them thanks to the internet, that it really shouldn’t be surprising when those “old school” players pull out the bag of sneaky tricks. However, in the case of retail stores, the tricks seem especially bad. Specifically, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, a lobbying group that represent the biggest retail chains in the US is asking Congress to start regulating what can be sold on online auction sites. The sneaky part is in how this is positioned. Since just complaining about the competition isn’t likely to win over many politicians, these retail stores are claiming that online auction sites are creating a huge crime wave, as organized groups of individuals rob stores and sell off the results online. Of course, if that were the case, rather than blaming the internet, why not focus on better theft prevention techniques?

However, the really sneaky part of this push to get Congress involved is that the reasoning isn’t even accurate. I’m sure there may be some groups of shoplifters out there who have been going around stealing goods out of stores and reselling them on eBay, but the details suggest it’s barely a blip on the radar. A study by the National Retail Federation (who also represents large retailers) found that most store theft comes from employees or vendors. Only 1/3 comes from shoplifting. Stores themselves are partly to blame, as they’ve cut back on prosecuting shoplifters. And, most importantly, retail theft appears to be dropping rather consistently over the past few years.

So, basically, retailers get to push for the idea that they need to ban online auctions from selling certain products — when it turns out what they really want is to get rid of the competition. There’s no real evidence of an epidemic of thefts due to online auctions, and even if there were, the problem should be dealt with via the retailers’ own loss management efforts.

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Comments on “Retail Chains Ask Congress To Regulate Online Auction Sites”

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Formerly Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Scylla and Charybdis

Umm this is talking about physical property not intellectual property, better theft prevention in this case is usually in the form of security guards and cameras. Or those little stands that detect if the product you are carrying out the door has been paid for. Not making the purchased product less valuable (DRM) there are differences here, please try to keep up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Scylla and Charybdis

DRM is very different to physical theft prevention. Off the top of my head, DRM only has to be broken once for infinite copying to be possible, whereas physical security has to be beaten for each theft; DRM for non-interactive media is an intractable problem; DRM is generally only detrimental to legitimate consumers rather than infringers. There are probably plenty other differences too.

anonymous coward says:

Buggy whips

I’m sure that the buggy whip manufacturers fought tooth and nail to prevent the horseless carriage from gaining a foothold. They ultimately lost. As with every paradigm shift, you have to adapt, or you’ll go under. The RIAA hasn’t yet learned this, nor have the retailers. But, they will have to change.

Bob says:

Re: Buggy whips

Funny story: The buggy whip manufacturing business did change and keep up with the times. They bought a company called Coachmen and the same process they used for making buggy whips and seats turned into a sub contractor for Chevrolet. General Motors eventually bought them. The actual whip was stiffened and used as the steering wheel for many early models.

Jason says:

Re: Re: Buggy whips

Unfortunately, the buggy service itself began shipping their buggies by rail and so helped to build the industry that replaced them.

On an upnote, the original bank that started the buggy service was able to later cash in on the railroad themselves.

That is, until the big war came and the government seized control of the operation. But they’d learned their lesson at least and shifted gears once again to focus more on commercial finance.

Octothorpe (profile) says:

RE: Stolen stuff on online auctions

I can’t speak for the rest of internet users, but I have noticed that most of the items (around 66%) I have purchased through online auction sites are stolen (I researched them after receiving the item). One was stolen during shipping, the rest who knows, maybe robbery (from a house), maybe shoplifting, maybe some other for of theft. The point stands though that there is far too much stolen merchandise offered through online auction sites.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: RE: Stolen stuff on online auctions

I can’t speak for the rest of internet users, but I have noticed that most of the items (around 66%) I have purchased through online auction sites are stolen (I researched them after receiving the item).

And being someone who is concerned enough about such things to do that kind of investigating, I imagine you promptly report the stolen property to the police and returned it to its rightful owners. And by following the money trail, the police should have been able to easily track the crooks down and arrest them. You did turn them in, didn’t you?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: RE: Stolen stuff on online auctions

Wouldn’t it be better if dumb crooks sold stolen goods on auction sites? Talk about leaving a paper trail right to your door. This is right up there with banning dipsticks from posting films of themselves committing crimes. Why make it harder for the police and prosecution?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: RE: Stolen stuff on online auctions

Actually I do several things, first report it to the site, second report it to the my financial institution, and third, report it to the appropriate authorities and take their recommended actions.

And so, what did the authorities do and what happened to the crooks?

Anonymous Coward says:


So, Octothorpe, by shopping at place where you know (to a 2/3 chance) that you are buying stolen merchandise, why do you keep shopping there? In fact aren’t you the reason people continue to steal? They know you will buy the stolen products because you want it cheaper than you would pay at retail.
In fact, why do you shop on auction sites?
and by the way, just how DO you check to see whether the items are stolen?

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