National Retailers Refuse To Apologize For Claiming eBay Leads To Crime

from the lies-are-more-fun-than-facts dept

Earlier this week, we noted that the National Retail Federation, a lobbying group made up of a bunch of large traditional retailers, had claimed to Congress that eBay drove people to shoplift by being so addictive that people couldn’t help themselves. According to the NRF, otherwise innocent people, after running out of legitimate things to sell, turned to a life of crime to support that eBay selling high. The whole thing is so preposterous, that the group NetChoice called for an apology from the NRF. The NRF’s response? It stands by its comments:

“The testimony we submitted reflected the sentiments of many retailers that we work with.”

Now there’s a neat little rhetorical trick there. When called on the fact that they were lying in claiming a rash of eBay-induced criminals, the response is to claim that the statements “reflected the sentiments” of the retailers. So, even though those sentiments are based on pure lies, it’s okay, because the statement reflected those sentiments.

In the meantime, it appears that NRF supporters have decided to respond with personal attacks, such as that one, directed at my post. It’s also got some neat rhetorical tricks, such as claiming that what the retailers really meant when they said (and I quote), “When they run out of legitimate merchandise, they begin to steal intermittently, many times for the first time in their life, so they can continue selling online” was organized crime. Yet, that’s clearly not what the NRF statement was claiming. It was talking about individuals who were selling stuff legitimately, until they couldn’t find anything else to sell and began a life of crime.

See? So now that they’ve narrowly defined the issue as “organized crime” (ignoring what the NRF actually said and brushing over the actual stats on shoplifting being on the decline), the NRF supporter claims that these new laws are just “reasonable duties” for online auction sites to combat that issue — never once explaining why online auction sites need to step in and do the work that the retailers themselves are unwilling to do. The retailers themselves admitted that they don’t want their employees to act as police officers — but they apparently have no problem demanding that their online competitors act as their police officers.

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Comments on “National Retailers Refuse To Apologize For Claiming eBay Leads To Crime”

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22 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

I decided to leave a comment on the blog you linked to, however, since all comments must be approved by the author before they can be posted, I thought y’all might like to read my comment, since it probably won’t be approved by the author.

“I’m not entirely sure as to why I’m bothering to attempt to post this. You obviously don’t believe in open and honest discussion about a topic, since you require the author’s approval before posting any coments. Now as for my comments regarding the post, this post seems very much a personal attack on the writer at Techdirt. It doesn’t seem to contain anything relevent, only trying to make him look like an imbecile. I somehow doubt that his article is completely baseless, as most “organized crime” involves significantly more than one person. Are you trying to state that organized groups of of individuals are commiting theft and then auction their items online? Furthermore, how is a site, especially one as large as eBay, supposed to check each and every item that appears on their site? Have you ever auctioned anything? Do you know anything about the process? In what way are the sites supposed to collect this information you speak of? As someone who has sold items on eBay I can tell you that it would be next to impossible for them to do so, and expecting, or attempting to force them, to so is ludicrous. to say the least. “

Good work Mike, I make Techdirt a part of my daily routine.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) says:

Comment on Ms. Daniels' Blog

I posted a comment to her blog clarifying how to click hyperlinks and discover the supposed ghost comment from the NRF site itself. Should the comment show up it will be under the name Neal. Here is the body of my comment submitted to Ms. Daniels’ for approval on her blog.

Ms. Daniels,
I checked out the Techdirt blog and there is a link (ever seen those before…usually blue and underlined) just before the quote which takes you directly to NRF’s site with an article wherein it quotes the NRF Vice President of Loss Prevention Joseph LaRocca as making the statement. Might want to rethink your posts contents demeaning Mr. Masnick. Or you could just not allow my comment to show. We will all know who is the bigger person.

Joseph Wills says:

Two comments into the bit bucket

I posted two comments on that blog. Not surprisingly, neither has showed up yet, since both pointed out the inaccuracies of her blog post. I also reminded her that the quotes were the direct testimony of Mr. La Rocca, and also gave her a link to the pdf of that testimony.

I guess it’s become commonplace these days to simply deny facts, if those facts conflict with your personal world view.

Haywood says:

Might be something to it, but......

If Ebay didn’t exist, they would still shoplift or steal and sell it at flea markets. One of my favorite flea market vendors is doing time right now for receiving stolen goods. He had better prices than Harbor Freight on tools and such, I guess I should have suspected something was amiss. I went there one day and he was gone, the Sheriff had raided his stand & hauled him off to jail.

Mark Murphy (profile) says:

Another cross-posted comment

I figure I’ll post my comment to the cited blog here, in case it does not show up there:

———-

“The least of his claims” is actually the claim of the NRF, from their own press release:

“‘The Internet seems to be contributing to the creation of a brand new type of retail thief – people who have never stolen before but are lured in by the convenience and anonymity of the Internet,’ NRF Vice President for Loss Prevention Joseph LaRocca said.”

As a quick Google search would have told you, the speaker is cited as a “Mr. Langhorst” in the sworn testimony of Steve DelBianco in front of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. And, from the context of Mr. DelBianco’s testimony, it is not clear that Mr. Langhorst was necessarily referring to organized retail crime.

Citing an NRF-funded study as proof of NRF’s claims, as you did in your post, is not exactly good form.

You claim it requires “online marketplaces to collect information that law enforcement can use to prosecute those that fence goods on their websites [sic].” Unfortunately, that is not true — I wish it were.

Instead, it requires online marketplaces to collection information that any Tom, Dick, or Harry can get whenever they want. All they need to do is supply a real or forged “signed report made to or received from a criminal law enforcement agency”. Online marketplaces have no means of validating such reports, since one hopes the police will not discuss pending investigations with arbitrary outsiders.

Beyond that, the bill is largely useless, since few high-volume fences will actually continue using the same identities, particularly once they’re confronted with the need to provide identifying information.

perilisk says:

So, basically, the story: “Large retailers, facing a resurgence in competition from smaller internet-based businesses, are attempting to abuse the law and common sense to create additional expenses for these newcomers which are hoped to be passed on to customers of the smaller businesses, decreasing competition and harming consumers.”

We might not even need antitrust laws if we could just prevent all of government-facilitated anti-competitive efforts.

Anonymous Coward says:

I also left the following comment on the blog, doubt it will see the light of day, since the ‘blogger’ is obviously not going to let anyone with a different opinion than theirs post anything:

To make a link between shoplifting and online auction sites is silly. The vast amount of money used to protect retailers from theft has nothing to do with the fencing of the goods. People will steal from stores regardless of who or where they can sell the goods. Most of the theft is internal anyway, employees walk away with way more than any customer. Lets not forget, cash registers were invented to stop EMPLOYEES from stealing, not customers.

The money spent combating employee and customer theft is hurting retailers, obviously, but I doubt that restricting one fencing route will make any impact on the amount of money they will need to spend.

Why should online auction sites be forced to verify everything anyone puts up for auction, or be legally responsible for their user’s action? This is clearly counter productive, and against the ‘safe harbor’ laws already in place. Are you also in favor of outlawing all pawnshops, street markets, community bulletin boards, newspaper classifieds, and ‘Thrifty Nickel’ publications? Whats next…. outlawing cars because shoplifters used one to dreve away from the stores?

How about this… we hold criminally liable any one who steals, or knowingly buys stolen merchandise. Oh wait, we already have such laws on the books. Duh.

This sounds more like the old brick and mortar stores trying to use congress to put pressure on their online competition, in order to drive them out of business, not actually trying to protect themselves from shoplifting losses.

Anonymous Coward says:

I also left the following comment on the blog, doubt it will see the light of day, since the ‘blogger’ is obviously not going to let anyone with a different opinion than theirs post anything:

To make a link between shoplifting and online auction sites is silly. The vast amount of money used to protect retailers from theft has nothing to do with the fencing of the goods. People will steal from stores regardless of who or where they can sell the goods. Most of the theft is internal anyway, employees walk away with way more than any customer. Lets not forget, cash registers were invented to stop EMPLOYEES from stealing, not customers.

The money spent combating employee and customer theft is hurting retailers, obviously, but I doubt that restricting one fencing route will make any impact on the amount of money they will need to spend.

Why should online auction sites be forced to verify everything anyone puts up for auction, or be legally responsible for their user’s action? This is clearly counter productive, and against the ‘safe harbor’ laws already in place. Are you also in favor of outlawing all pawnshops, street markets, community bulletin boards, newspaper classifieds, and ‘Thrifty Nickel’ publications? Whats next…. outlawing cars because shoplifters used one to dreve away from the stores?

How about this… we hold criminally liable any one who steals, or knowingly buys stolen merchandise. Oh wait, we already have such laws on the books. Duh.

This sounds more like the old brick and mortar stores trying to use congress to put pressure on their online competition, in order to drive them out of business, not actually trying to protect themselves from shoplifting losses.

bob says:

I like where

In the NFR blog article “Shrink has droped to it’s lowest level in 17 years” (hows that for attribution?).
It seems here that the anti theft part of the NFR-SDN has worked so well that Rhianna Daniels (not just some babe, again that attribution) might be thinking of shrink in here market of doom and gloom. Hence the need to get more laws and crap to increase her market.
“So that is what this guy from Techdirt (interesting name)” well at least the site mane got listed.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Whoa

I posted a comment there after reading her post.
There were no comments when I wrote it.
Checking back now there are lots and lots of comments, including mine and several seen above.
Mike I think you greatly increased her traffic.
Perhaps you should get ready for one of those ever popular trademark or copyright lawsuits here. You are harming her business by sending her more traffic.
Shame on you.
=P

Mozelle says:

Shoplifting...

The idea that eBay is so addicting that people resort to shoplifting is absurd! People shoplift for different reasons but I suspect it is done to support a drug habit.

I used to own an apartment complex and observed first hand how tenants would give their merchandise orders to shoplifters who would then go out and shoplift the items for them! Nothing was ever sold on eBay! Shoplifters have their own private buyers!

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