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Scalpers vs. Shopping Services vs. Flippers is there really a difference?

Sep 9, 2009

    1. Since I'm already being controversial I might as well go whole hog and finally make the debate thread I've been curious about for a long time. I don't think there is a debate or discussion like this though it does touch on some other previous threads.

      Please read this post fully.

      A few caveats:

      I do not think scalpers==good

      I do not think flippers==good

      I do not think shopping services==bad

      However I do think our general communities public attitudes towards scalpers and flippers (scorn) and towards services (gratitude) are fascinating and something to be discussed and debated.

      Please no personal attacks! I know this is a very controversial subject and people get very upset regarding the topics at hand.

      For this discussion I want to define the terms first:

      A scalper for this debate is someone who specifically buys a doll or item with the sole intention of reselling said doll for a profit to a non-close friend/stranger, usually via an auction service so their connection to the community is unknown.

      A shopping service for this debate is specifically a non-close friend/stranger who charges a fee higher than the actual cost of the item to purchase something for you. Someone running a group order who charges their PayPal fees or bank transfer fees is not a shopping service.

      A flipper for this debate is specifically someone who buys a Limited Edition doll or item and immediately upon receiving it raises the price to sell it because of "market value" or "recouping their cost" or "bonding issues" or whatever nebulous wording they choose to use to explain the price increase on the doll they have not even had a week.

      A while ago I was eating dinner with friends and I mentioned how Y!J was full of the Tokyo Disney Yos. One of my companions expressed disgust at so many being for sale. I remarked that the majority were selling for close to original price. She then complained how those "scalpers" had taken places away from people who "wanted" to go to the event. I found this all a bit hypocritical since the person in question had taken commissions for said dolls and had charged as a commission fee more money than the dolls were currently selling for on Y!J and one could just as easily argue that she had taken the spot of someone who "wanted" the dolls. It got me thinking about our attitudes as a community.

      Some questions to think about (you don't need to answer these, they're more just a starting off point)

      Are shopping services considered positive because we know they are part of the community?

      If we know a scalper is part of the community does it change our feelings towards them?

      Is there really a difference between flipping and scalping?

      Is flipping better than scalping since the flipper is more obviously a member of the community?

      Does it matter that a scalper is selling to a buyer they may or may not know, while a shopping service is buying for a specific buyer?

      What is an acceptable "fee" or commission for a shopping service?

      Is a shopping service's time worth more than that of a scalper?

      Should points me taken into account when a Volks Japan shopping service sets its commission fee? (For those curious I believe it is something like for every taxed 1000 yen spent at Volks a person receives 1 point, every 15 points==1500 yen back, in essence it is about 5% back on all taxed purchases. I don't think any of the Korean companies offer such a generous point system and it does actually add up. If you are a FCS ordering system and you buy say 10 SD-13 boys over 3 months I think you're getting like a 9000 yen discount.)

      Do you personally feel one of the above categories is morally superior to the other and why?

      Do you personally feel one of the above categories is superior to the other and why?

      If a scalped doll is selling for less than a shopping service charged, does said service still have the moral high ground?

      Is someone who is taking away a chance for an item from someone at Japanese event different from someone taking away a chance for something you the respondent is able to apply for yourself?

      Can a service cross the line into scalping, and if so when/how?

      Please feel free to just use these as a starting point. I look forward to people's thoughts. :)
    2. I'm not really knowledgeable enough to give answers to all your questions that would be worth reading, but I think the vital difference between a shopping service and the other two which makes the former 'morally' superior, is that the shopping service allows a person to buy something they couldn't normally buy. It expands a person's options by letting someone who lives in the wrong place or is the wrong nationality purchase an item at a (hopefully) reasonable fee, whereas the other options remove a slot from a limited pool of such and then offer it back at a higher price, not offering anything that wasn't already there, but somehow making a profit on it.
    3. But a scalper could be offering the exact same doll in question. If I commission a shopping service to attend a Tenshi no Sato event in Japan how is it different than a scalper buying the same doll from the same event and offering it on Y!J other than the service has a specific buyer in mind and the scalper does not?

      Both expand the options of a person who is not capable of buying that doll because of that location.

      Both also take a spot away from who is attending that particular event.
    4. I like shopping services because I simply cannot fly all over the world buying dolls, not to mention the language problem, and I expect to pay a reasonable fee for using their services. As for scalpers and flippers, they make money because the doll community buys their dolls. Until people stop buying their dolls, it will continue and all the debate and moralizing in the world won't make them stop.
    5. Yes, but how is a service different from a scalper? The scalper is also going to the event and buying a doll you could not otherwise obtain. What if their price is LOWER than a service?

      Is the only difference to you the name? Is it the fact that service already has an intended buyer?

      This is not about stopping scalpers or moralizing, I want to get to the crux of why we view the two so differently when sometimes they do the exact same things and sometimes the scalpers are the ones with the lower prices.

      I bought a fullset Tokyo Disney Yo SD Ryo on Y!J from a "scalper"

      With bidding service fees I paid $500

      If I had commissioned a service to try to get me one from the event I would have paid $650.
    6. I fell right into your trap, didn't I? :sweat

      In your example there is no practical difference, except that in certain circumstances (an event where people stand in line for a numerically limited item) the scalper is the surer option.

      Morally there is also no difference that I can see. I suppose in the end it depends whether you want to deal with someone based on their pattern of behaviour (in which case the shopping service would be better) or whether you just want the dollie that you want (in which case you'd be insane not to go with the scalper). I think that morally, we are judging these two by everything except the situations in which they intersect, and so it is a matter of whether your love of the doll or other item you could get supercedes your desire to adhere to a moral standard that applies in situations other than the one you find yourself in.

      I am reminded of a friend of mine who prefers to buy fair-trade coffee. This coffee costs more, but it promises to pay a fair wage to the people growing the coffee beans, so even though he spends more money (and thus can afford less coffee), he gets the warm fuzzy feeling of doing something that helps others. To him it is worthwhile, to someone else it would not be. In the situation you are wondering about, where good and evil overlap, it is purely a matter of your own personal feelings and whether you would rather have a doll or a feeling of moral superiority.

      Personally, I am right now extremely glad that I haven't fallen for any event-limited dolls so I can blissfully ignore these questions. ;) Sorry the be so confuddlesome.
    7. On a practical level, there is no difference, except for cost. If you want a limited doll, and you can't get it from the company because of where you live, truly, those are your three options. The "moral" difference within the ABJD community, I think, is just perception. Shopping services are perceived as "helping" the community, whereas scalpers and flippers are perceived as "taking advantage" of the community. In a way, this is true. If a shopping service takes a limited slot, that slot is going to a confirmed doll owner at a pre-set confirmed price. A scalper or flipper is simply taking that slot to re-sell the item, to an unknown potential doll owner, for an unknown potential price. (Which answers one of your questions; I don't define a difference between "scalping" and "flipping", regardless of their relationship to the community.)

      Either way, the flipper / scalper are creating a new barrier to an individual's acquisition of a doll, (unknown higher price, having to win a Y!J auction, limiting quantities by buying multiples), while a shopping service is eliminating barriers, (language barrier, shipping issues, etc). You could certainly argue that the flipper / scalpers are eliminating the same barriers as the shopping service, which is very likely true. The difference is that the flipper / scalper is (potentially) putting up different barriers in place. It is interesting that sometimes a shopping service charges more than a flipper / scalper. I would think that, in general, the shopping services would charge less, since their fee is based on the work they have to do (as well as the guaranteed item sale), whereas a flipper / scalper will charge the highest amount that they think that they can get.

      IMO, the real problem with flippers / scalpers comes when they have an "insider" position. In other words, when they are able to get an item, or multiples of an item, before anyone else can, including the shopping service, or, when they are guaranteed items that other people are not. I don't know how common this is in the ABJD world, but there are a lot of issues with this in other hobbies / communities. I mean, you can even look at the way ticketing for concerts works in the US! Ticketmaster represents some of the worst scalping you can get.

      In that case, the flippers / scalpers are in a morally repugnant position, and one that is detrimental to the community. Essentially, it would allow them to purchase without risk, and resell at the lowest margin they want, (to cut out shopping services, who still have to wait for an item or charge their fees), and make a substantial profit. Again, I don't know how often that occurs in the ABJD community.

      Ultimately, it's up to the individual to decide how they want to do things. Personally, were I to buy a LE or something that requires that kind of effort, I would buy through a shopping service, even if it might mean a higher fee. Reasons being that it would 1.) guarantee me the best chance at an item, 2.) I would know the price beforehand, and 3.) if I went with a scalper, I'd need a bidding service / translator anyways.

      And here's another question in regards to flipping / scalping: How about when people order an item from a company during an event, and then resell the "free gift" items afterwards? Are there any "moral" issues there?
    8. I've never bought any "event" dolls. I have only bought standard dolls using Crescent or Rinkya because the seller did not sell outside Japan. I think people should just do whatever makes them happy. As I understand it, event dolls are sold by lottery and everyone there, including anyone who plans to sell the doll later, has an equal chance to buy it. When the doll reaches the secondary market, it will sell for the amount the market will bear. I think it's arguing semantics and the terms "scalper", "flipper", and "buying service" are highly subjective and sometimes interchangeable, depending on who is using them and what they interpret them to mean. It's difficult to determine a person's motive for re-selling dolls unless it's one of the regular sellers on ebay or YJ, so if the doll seemed to be a reasonable price and I wanted it badly enough, I would probably buy it.
    9. Here's the difference, in my opinion: A Scalper deliberately prevents the End User from buying a certain product, by buying it him/herself. The Scalper then sells the product, as a much higher price, to the same End User that would have been able to buy it at retail if the Scalper had never existed in the first place. The Scalper is a parasite, and if he/she helps anyone besides him/herself, it's merely by coincidence.

      On the other hand, a Shopping Service is contracted by the End User to buy a product that the End User would not otherwise be able to obtain. In this circumstance, the End User would gladly buy the product him/herself, but it's just not possible.

      In short, a scalper is an unnecessary middle man, and a shopping service is a necessary middle man.

      This is not to say that no one should ever buy from scalpers. Unfortunately, there are more scalpers than shopping services, and if not for scalpers, many people on this board wouldn't be able to get some of the dolls they have.

      A flipper may or may not be a scalper. If they're buying dolls they know they don't want in the hopes of making a profit, then yes, they're a scalper. Flippers are the reason there are so many more scalpers than shopping services.

      Technically, a shopping service can not be a scalper, thought is is definitely possible for a shopping service to charge outrageous or unfair amounts of money. I have seen some shopping services do some very unethical things, but it's not technically scalping.
    10. I agree with you rkold. Price really determines the difference between the 3 groups in question. I feel that as hobbyists we should pass on our dolls because we did not bond with them, not because we won the lottery and found in that an opportunity to profit from other fellow hobbyists. In regards to shopping services (which I have used), I feel that there is indeed a price to be paid to them, for going about getting your doll. One cannot expect someone to do all the work for you for free. However, among a community of fellow hobbyist, I would expect reasonable prices from service shoppers. In particularly if they advertise in a forum community like DoA, where they benefit from the forum's interface to make money.

      I feel that if someone really wants to make a lot of money from LE dolls, he/she should open their own website and go from there. I personally frown upon those who use DoA to make as much money as possible from fellow hobbyist.

      This remark in not an attack in anyone in the forum, as I dont see any "flipper" in DoA these days.


    11. What if the scalper assumes that there is a market beyond those who can attend the event in question and takes the chance on getting the item in order to offer an opportunity to someone outside the area at a reasonable markup, whereas the shopping service contracts with several different people to attend the event in question in their stead, and in the event they win the item ends up picking a customer at random to receive it and tells the rest they didn't get lucky? I know someone who operates as a shopping service for a similar hobby who has made quite a lot of money doing so (which of course was all spent on that hobby), so profitability isn't much of a determining factor.

      The problem here seems to be that we are putting people or companies we don't even know into arbitrary categories. There are not hundreds of scalpers and/or shopping services to make it necessary to have general guidelines. I think that in such a circumstance there is nothing wrong with considering each individually and saying 'This is a shopping service, but is also a meanie-head' or 'This guy is a scalper, but his heart is in the right place'. Most moral conundrums in the end are about compromises, since there are too many specific instances to judge on a case-by-case basis, but here there is a fairly small pool of cases, and they probably have past history that can be checked out to form an individual opinion of them.

      :x Take that, rkold! Your morally ambiguous situations cannot stand against the blissful might of moral relativism applied to a limited population!
    12. I hadn't previously heard of a "Flipper", but by the sounds of it,
      Flippers& Scalpers are basically the same thing.

      Anyone can buy an LE Doll, and the day after it arrives, put it up for sale, due to "Bonding Issues".
      You only have to look in the MP to see how many LE Dolls/Parts(heads/hands/hooves,etc) are up for sale, due to "Bonding Issues".

      If I couldn't get a certain doll, because it was only issued to Korea/Japan, I would use a Shopping Service.
      Shopping Services are (to me) doing you a paid-for-favour. Yes you might pay 10% more than the retail price of the doll, but a scalper/flipper will buy the doll with intention
      of putting a high mark-up on it(say 30%), and making a large profit.
      The 10% extra for the shopping service is their fee because they're helping you out.
      The scalper/flipper on the otherhand, is making 30% because they know someone will pay it.

      I've seen one person who has tried to sell a Soom Onyx with nothing extra for about $2000-3000!
      More fool the person who pays that much :|

      I'd rather use a shopping service than buy the LE from the 2nd Hand Market, because I'm
      paying them to get the doll for me, and I wouldn't expect them
      to spend their time trying to get it for me - So I wouldnt' begrudge paying them 5-10%, for their time & service.
      But if you can find the LE cheaper on the 2nd Hand Market, rather than using a shopping service, good for you!
    13. Lol: This cracks me up. First, had you been in the hobby for a little longer you would know most of the players involved. Secondly, rkold is debating the differences between the 3 groups in question. Please read rkold argument and you will see the sometimes scalpers offer prices that are more reasonable than shopping price. What you know about other hobbies hardly applies here, as we are very different than most other hobbies. To consider each person individually would be to point fingers, which is not really the intent of this debate.

      Yes, the larger the profit the seller obtains from fellow hobbyists, the larger a scalper he/she become.

      To you: :x


    14. Your entire argument seems to settle upon an appeal-to-post-count, which in lieu of any refutation of the my position just simply does not make a lick of sense. Saying that 'sometimes scalpers offer prices that are more reasonable than shopping price' mimics so clearly my own similar point that either you failed to read it or you are just bashful about cheering for me. As for the sentiment that considering an individual's merits before choosing to do business with them is somehow beside the point, I would be grateful if you would inform me of definitions of these three groups of persons which make them morally distinguishable, since the current definitions (which despite the 'very different' nature of other hobbies, applies to all of the hobbies of which I am aware) distinguish only between specific actions without considering the context which defines their moral or immoral nature.

      Is everyone a scalper by nature who sells a previously-purchased doll? If not, what is the cut-off point at which someone becomes a scalper, and if so is there any use in distinguishing between scalpers (those who sell pre-owned dolls) and non-scalpers (those who do not)? If you believe there is no point before which one is not a scalper, then do you distinguish between good-scalpers and bad-scalpers? In that case this debate is about those two distinctions and there is merely a definitional problem standing between the two of us. If not, your ideological principles would become uneccessarily restrictive and would separate you from the majority of people who have considered this question, so you would have to take into account that you are representing a small minority view-point that would likely not participate fully in any hobby activity.

      I hope I do not seem to be judgemental of you, I simply want you to expand your stated opinion to the point where someone like me can understand it and consider it in its own right, rather than relying on my own preconceptions and arbitrary gauge of your character in deciding what exactly you are saying and whether or not it is agreeable.

    15. Well yes, that is part of the reason I wanted this topic to give us a chance to discuss this.

      I think comparing a shopping service to Fair Trade Coffee is a bit disingenuous. Fair Trade Coffee involves: paying a fair price to workers who created the product and often involves using growing techniques that do not degrade the land.

      Whether you buy something in person, through a scalper, through a flipper or through a service, the workers who actually produce this doll are getting paid the same amount. This is about which middle person (if any) you are picking to give money to. These middle people could be using the money to fund their doll collection or pay their bills or to buy beer, but it is not the same as helping to keep workers and their environment from being exploited.

      So if a scalpers only sold dolls on auction at BIN prices would it make a difference to you since then it would be a set price. Perhaps if Y!J scalpers didn't have the issue of the language barrier with us here on DoA more than would be happy to offer themselves as services?

      Limited Edition dolls are not like ticket sales Since most services specialize in Volks, for Volks events, one is allowed one entry per member and the winners are picked by random lottery and then MUST attend the event to the receive the dolls (and yes Volks checks a government issue ID for this). For an in person Dolpa once MUST have a guidebook which is then stamped and the person is allowed to draw a lottery # giving them a space in line. A scalper, a flipper, a service or just an ordinary person who wants a doll is welcome to buy as many guides as they want to increase their chances of drawing at least one good number, but the playing field for events is relatively level.

      I'm not sure where there cutting out risk part comes from. ^^;;

      If I planned to scalp a SD Michele from the After Event this week end: my options would be either: put in via lottery and to then wait until I know I've won one so I can then scalp him via Y!J. Travel to a Volks store, wait in line from around 6:00 am to draw a lottery #, if I had a good lottery # then buy the doll to scalp on Y!J.

      If I wanted to flip SD Michele, I would have had to put in for him already via VolksUSA or an authorized dealer here in the US and would need to pay for at least 1/3 to ALL of his price now. I would not be able to sell this doll until I received him in November and had already paid his full price.

      There is a shopping service I will not name here that is taking commissions to put in for a AE doll. They ask for a non-refundable commission of 4500 yen per doll whether they get a doll for you or not

      Which of those 3 is the one who is not taking any risk or losing any money or time?

      For anyone who is curious about what precisely flipping entails. Please look in the Den of Angels marketplace as soon as people start receiving their VolksUSA lottery dolls or Soom MDs. The people who regularly put their dolls up for sale within days of receiving them for suddenly 30-50% more than they paid for said doll are flippers.

      As for re-selling free gifts, I think there is already a debate or discussion on that in another thread XD;

      So does this mean you wouldn't buy a doll from someone who regularly sells them on Y!J because they seem to just be constantly selling them?

      If it is just semantics why is it you see so much vitriol against scalping and flipping and not shopping services?
    16. How is the scalper an unnecessary middle man? If I live in the US and can not afford to go to Japan to attend a Sato event (let alone the issue of not having VS membership) or some other event in Japan those people who pick to sell dolls on Y!J are possibly my only option to get this doll or should I be forced to compete to commission one of the few services attending this event.

      What if I live in Japan some place like Tanabe in Wakayama-ken and I wanted a Tokyo Disney Yo, am I excluded from even getting one unless I somehow know a Japanese service since it is incredibly expensive and far to get to Tokyo?

      And again what about the case when the scalper is NOT selling the end product at a higher price to the end user. When I got my Yo SD Yuki in 2007 there were plenty of "scalped" Yo SD Yukis selling for original price on Y!J.

      For ANY limited doll a service or a scalper or a flipper is taking a chance away from someone else who wanted that doll. Just because that chance is being taken away from some nameless and faceless foreign collector who drew a crappy number does not take away that person lost out because someone who can not attend that event for whatever reason is going to pay what they can to get the doll.

      There are fewer services because there are only so many people with a good enough command of English and ways to accept payment from out of Japan or Korea to set up a service. :P

      Flippers and Scalpers are not the same thing.

      I could attend AE this week and if I was lucky buy a SD Michele. If I put him on Y!J at a starting price of 10,000 yen and then let the market decide his value I am still a scalper. I still took the chance away from someone else at that event and I still just bought him to hopefully resell at a profit. Whether I get that profit is up to the market. Many of the Y!J scalpers start their dolls at original price so my example is not that far fetched.

      As a flipper as soon as I get my Michele in November I am going to tack on 30-50% more onto his price no matter what.

      Personally, I think scalpers can be necessary and are not necessarily evil. Personally, I think shopping services can be useful but I also never forget that they are a business that wants to make money. They are not altruists.
      Personally, I have no respect for flippers.
    17. I apologize, as it was not my intent to imply that shopping services have the morally unimpeachable nature of an institution that is devoted to doing what is morally right regardless of its economic viability. Instead, I was trying to say that some people are willing to pay more money in order to receive the emotional benefit of having done the right thing, rather than pick the option that is the cheapest for them without thinking beyond the price.

      I think this sums it up quite well. These are profitable businesses that are looking to make money, so we cannot fault them for achieving that aim. Instead, we have to hold our own moral values foremost and ask ourselves if it is more important to have the doll we want, or to have the moral strictures we have chosen to live by survive intact.
    18. I don't define "flipping" and "scalping" the same way as you have - scalping is flipping's evil twin. Both of your definitions could be either flipping or scalping, depending on the nature of the limited item - both are largely unneccessary middlemen.

      If it's a time-limited item, rather than a number-limited item, flipping it doesn't take away from the availability for people who intend to buy it to keep, so to me, regardless of what they sell it for later (if the market won't take it, they can't sell it), there's no foul, if there was enough supply for the demand during the availability period.

      If it's a number-limited thing, and you're taking the opportunity to buy it away from someone else who wanted it, unless you've been previously contacted by the intended owner and are acting as a shopping service for them, with no intention to do anything but resell it, that falls firmly within the realm of "scalping" to me, unethical and just plain nasty. (If you are Ticketmaster, I'd go even further and call your evil empire a "criminal enterprise", but...)

      So, having "bonding issues" a week after you got a numbers-limited doll and making a decent profit off it is going to get you labelled a "scalper" in my mind, regardless of what your original intentions are. Doing the same thing for, say, a Soom MD, will probably make me think you're very difficult to please and/or flaky, but sitting on the same Soom for a couple months and waiting for the WTB threads to pile up...that'll just make me think you're good at business.

    19. My issue, which is why I made this thread and which you mentioned in the first part of your response is, that somehow this belief that it is emotionally beneficial to support a shopping service.

      I'm not saying they are not useful, but I don't really see why it should make one feel like a better person.

      Why is it more beneficial to support a service and laud them for their greatness for being a business that makes money off of us because companies pick to have events we can not attend?

      I'm not saying I don't use them myself, but I also don't think they deserve our eternal gratitude and if a service is charging more to purchase an item on commission than I would pay from a Y!J scalper I certainly have no qualms about supporting that Y!J scalper.

      What if the commission service is charging a much larger fee, what if, like in the case of the Disney Yos, the commission service was charging you a 25%+ mark-up?

      A scalper isn't necessarily making ANY profit. All a scalper is, is someone who buys a doll they do not wish to own for themselves and puts the doll on auction with the intention of making a profit. The market and other owners control whether they make that profit. Plenty of times they do not through. (A flipper on the other hand always sells at a profit, just like a service always makes a profit.)
    20. We must also never forget, so are doll companies. Period. They are businesses regardless of how they feel about the products they are selling. They are around to make money, some more than others, and that is that. If they were not making a profit they would not exists.

      I understand the frustration with scalpers and flippers, and heck even shopping services, but doll companies are in it to make money as well. One can even go so far to say that scalpers and flippers charging a higher prices actually help companies by making people want to buy their limiteds at a lower price. I am not saying doll companies are the same as scalper and flippers, but they are still businesses and not altruists.