Being a reasonably ethical chap I suppose I am continually flabbergasted at some of the activities my fellow human beings will undertake in order to get ahead in life.  In a system where there’s a finite amount of resources, given that human wants are unlimited, it strikes me that unless there’s a social movement towards central equitable resource distribution then eventually some of the people are going to end up with all of the resources, and the rest without resources.  This is very much how the world works, and it is fascinating to see the mechanisms & techniques people employ in the pursuit of more crumbs of the pie.

The thing which has caused my gast to be flabbered on this particular occasion is a website which my boss Paul somehow got in touch with during the course of trying to sell his car.  My understanding of events was that he listed the car in the motor trader magazine, and was contacted shortly afterwards by a representative from this website.

The premise is that they offer a service where they have a list of buyers who have expressed interest in a car of the type you’re selling and if you sign up they find a match with these buyers.  Your listing will remain on their register until the vehicle sells (as opposed to regular classified ads where you pay per appearance of a listing).  The service is just shy of £100, and if you’re selling a car for £2000 or more it probably doesn’t sound a huge expense to expedite the selling of your vehicle.

The bit which tugs the danger-will-robinson-chain is a little tricky to find – at the very bottom of the T&Cs in fact:

They have defined the terms of their engagement such that if a person expresses an interest in purchasing a vehicle of the type you have, or a similar type, then they have fulfilled the obligation.  One wonders what the exact definition of “expresses an interest” covers, although it sounds like what they mean is if you list a Ford Escort for sale, and someone searches their database for all the Ford listings they have, then that probably means they’ve expressed an interest in a vehicle of similar type.  Helpfully, the definition doesn’t refer to the location of the buyer: Paul got an email from a guy purportedly in Nebraska asking him to calculate shipping costs and sending him a bill for the total amount – seems a little far fetched to believe that a serious buyer would ship a car from London to the US based on a brief text description and no photo, however under the terms of the agreement it’s certainly a match.

On first glance one could be forgiven for thinking that the company does all sorts of work marketing and trying to find interested buyers for the kind of car you’re listing.  On immediate thought about it however it becomes quite clear that the “marketing” which takes place is that they place your listing in their database, which is then retrieved should someone come to the site and search for it.  Given that Paul was contacted upon listing his car in the auto trader (a print & web company with an enormous readership and household name status) it seems fairly apparent that a potential buyer is far more likely to find his car through the auto trader than through this other site.

If you pay your money and then get wind of the fact the site’s shonky, well no need to worry about that – the T&Cs cover that as well:

So, you’ve got no right to a refund if you find out we’re dodgy or suddenly figure out how this scam works – and any right you would have had you now don’t have because we’ve specifically referred to it as a term of your agreeing to use our service.

I suppose my point is I just think it sucks that someone can set up an arrangement which is a dodgy scam to take money off people who misunderstand the specifics of what they’re getting into, largely by way of the definitions they come up with for the terms.

Then again I don’t suppose that’s any different to how any other business anywhere operates, come to think of it.  If only I’d thought this through before blogging about it with such incredulousness.  Oh well.

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