Great Idea: Website To Let You Share The Cost Of Fad Gadgets

David Pogue thinks the Pleo dinosaur is meh. He’s seen it all before with Aibo, and despite all the “it’s so lifelike!” ad and editorial copy devoted to it, the charm wears off pretty much the same day you buy it: “My surprise, though, was my kids’ reaction. They thought it was really, really cool—for the first half-hour.” He’s proposed a new website idea where you’d sign up for the latest Hot New Thing coming out of CES, Toy Fair, Macworld, etc., then pay an ever-shrinking percentage of the original sales price to own it when your turn came in line.

You’d list an object that you want to own—but for only a short time. Other people sign up, too, so that a chain of purchasing is set up in advance.

You buy the thing at full price. When you’re finished with it, maybe a couple of weeks later, the next guy buys it from you for 85 percent of the original price. Then he sells it to the third guy for 85 percent of that. And so on, until the last guy gets the hand-me-down Pleo for, say, $25. Everybody’s happy, and there’s not a bunch of closeted Pleos all over America.

Think eBay without the uncertainty; the chain of ownership is pre-established, and your little group feels the bond of kinship and shared experience, like a book club.

“Pleo, the (Yawn) Dino-Robot. Next!” [New York Times]


Edit Your Comment

  1. ExVee says:

    It’s an interesting idea, but I can’t be the only person who’d really really hate to be the last (or even low on the list) owner of something. Especially if there’s been five or ten people before me. I know the way average folk treat their goods, and it ain’t pretty. Plus if something has small pieces, I don’t suspect it’d be likely the last dude to take possession would end up with exactly a complete gadget. And what if someone buys it and takes it in a house full of smokers? You can’t undo that crap.

    It’s a good thought, but logistically impractical, I think.

  2. MickeyMoo says:

    Pleo from UGobe – as in “you go be an idiot and pay 349.00 for this POS”

  3. hardisonthefloor says:

    what happens if you really like it and wanna keep it? are you obligated to sell it?

  4. Odwalla says:

    @ExVee: Why would issues like care and handling, small piece inclusion, and exposure to smoke be any more of an issue for this website than for other used item brokerages like eBay, Craig’s List, or the want-ads in your local paper?

  5. EtherealStrife says:

    Bleh I’ll stick with eBay and craigslist.

  6. topgun says:

    I suggest a web site where you can post and sell stupid ideas after you’ve thought about them for awhile.

  7. dgcaste says:

    That would make a pretty cool pet for a kid. I’m tired of cleaning cat poo, and they don’t even want to cuddle.

  8. lemur says:

    @ExVee: Your concern is reasonable but there may be ways to control the risks. When we rent movies or cars or other equipment we are basically getting an item after a whole bunch of other people have already used it. But the customers are not directly dealing with each other. They are dealing with a company who serves as the intermediary and who has an interest in keeping things working smoothly. And before someone points this out: yes, I know about rental cars breaking and DVDs being scratched, etc. That’s a risk. It cannot completely disappear but it can be mitigated.

    Basically, I’d like to see some company try it out before calling it dead.

  9. Jamie Beckland says:

    How is this so much better than eBay or craigslist? At least that way you don’t have to pay/reserve up front for something that you won’t know the condition of until you receive it.

  10. Hambriq says:

    @topgun: Hahah… That was the first time I actually laughed out loud at something in the comments section of Consumerist.

  11. snoop-blog says:

    if its something that i really wanted and i got it for %50 original price, i’m likely to keep it.

  12. theblackdog says:

    @topgun: I thought that’s what the Ron Paul forums were for.

  13. lemur says:

    @WillScarlett: When you order something online you never know the condition of it until you receive it. And usually, you are charged as soon as it ships. It does not matter whether it is eBay, Craigslist or Pogue’s wild idea. I’ve ordered used stuff from the Amazon marketplace which was not in the condition advertised and I’ve ordered item X from eBay and got item Y instead. In all cases, the seller fixed the problem either by refunding me my money (totally or partially depending on the problem) or by taking the item back (at their cost).

    The only thing Pogue has that other systems don’t (as far as I know) is that you know ahead of time who is going to get where in the queue of ownership. When an item is being sold and resold on eBay, that effectively creates a queue of ownership too but you cannot know ahead of time where you will be in the queue. Even after buying the item, you have only limited knowledge of the queue. You know who sold it to you and you probably know that there is a market to resell it but that’s about all you know.

  14. trinidon2k says:

    LOL…that guy got pwned…look at the website in the NYT article and this what you will see: is a concept originally proposed by David Pogue of the New York Times in his article titled “Pleo, the (Yawn) Dino-Robot. Next!.” When I read the post, I registered the domain immediately to head off any of the usual domain squatters from grabbing it and killing the fun.

    In the spirit of the article, I am offering to sell this domain to David Pogue for 85% of what I paid for it at GoDaddy.

    Original Price: $10.19 (domain) + 6.99 (domain privacy) = $17.18
    85% * $17.18 = $14.60

    Contact me: owner [at] wornoffnovelty [dot] com

  15. UpsetPanda says:

    I mean, isn’t this sort of the basics behind FreeCycle, only except that it is giving, not selling?

    I know f there is something that is reusable (DVDs, books) when you are done with them and don’t want them anymore you can offer them back on FreeCycle and they won’t take up space or get thrown out. Like right now I’m offering up books for my local chapter and when that person gets done reading them, I hope they get put back on the website for other people to enjoy as well, because I’m done with them and won’t want to read them again.

  16. Mr. Gunn says:

    Yeah, we’ve already got Ebay, but there’s no oversight. Would be nice if the company guaranteed they’d rebuy it for 90%, resold it or 85%, guaranteed they’d rebuy that one for 40%, resold it for 50%, inspecting it each time so if you didn’t return it in working order they wouldn’t rebuy it and no one would get scammed.

  17. Erasmus Darwin says:

    @lemur: However, with other situations where you’re buying used products, an ethical seller (which can usually be judged by feedback) assumes full responsibility for the condition of the object being as represented when they sell it. Furthermore, savvy buyers can question them and ask for details prior to consummating the deal.

    In this case, all the participants are part of the same chain. Each person is preemptively agreeing to buy and then resell the item before it’s even left the retail store, so they can’t predisclose any imperfections to the next buyer. It just seems like the whole thing could all too easily turn into a finger-pointing mess, especially if participant #2 is the one who lost the robo dino’s food dish, but participant #5 is the first to notice because they bothered to check the accessory list in the manual.

  18. SaraAB87 says:

    With ebay you can go about buying and selling as you please and you don’t have to worry about giving it to the next person, often you can also get back more than what you paid for the item to begin with if its a hot product. I cannot count the items that I have sold on ebay that I have gotten more than what I originally paid for the product. If your passing around a hot product through a chain of people I would think someone would take the item and just resell it on ebay, even if they were banned from the community they still have the money. There are scammers everywhere and this system certainly wouldn’t be immune to it.

  19. @ErasmusDarwin: One way they could manage that would be to have to sign up to be on TIER #2, tier #5, etc. So a person on tier #1 for the product would post that they were done, and anyone on tier #2 could buy it from anyone on tier #1 — so you could look at feedback and see if Sammy the Stellar always sends on products in good condition or Leo the Loser never manages to get all the parts to someone.

    Then you could say, “Hm, I’m $40 interested in this thingie, I’ll sign up on tier 5.” and then you could get e-mail alerts when tier 4 people start listing them on the site.

    In a system like that, the primary differences between e-bay and that are that you’re dealing only with set prices for products that have been used by a specific number of people that you could track back on the site. But choosing who you deal with would give you a lot more power.

    Of course the problem with my system is that you might have only 3 people who sign up to be tier 1 people on product X and 500 who want to be tier 5.

  20. lemur says:

    @ErasmusDarwin: That’s a fair observation. But that’s why I mentioned a rental model earlier. When you rent a car, it is quite possible the previous renter did not take good care of it but that’s the rental company’s job to make sure it is in a good state when you get it. Maybe that kind of model can be applied to tech toys. There are companies out there renting out laptops and I’d have to guess since they are in business that they are making money and that for their customers renting laptops is a better deal than buying.

    I’m not saying that Pogue’s initial suggest is viable “as is” but it may be adapted somehow without just becoming a duplicate of eBay or Craigslist. I’m just not ready to shoot it down right off the bat.

    @SaraAB87: “There are scammers everywhere and this system certainly wouldn’t be immune to it.”

    You are correct.

  21. lemur says:

    @lemur: gah!

    initial suggest-> initial suggestion

  22. EtherealStrife says:

    @lemur: Have you tried craigslist? Generally you see the product before you pay for it, and if the seller or product look shady you can just walk away with no obligation to buy it.
    Between ebay and craigslist all of the bases are covered.

  23. Jamie Beckland says:

    @lemur: I don’t understand what value is added by knowing the chain of ownership anyway. This just seems overly complicated for a problem that really doesn’t exist.

    Methinks Pogue was grasping for a column.