Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Daily Deals, formerly DailyDeal USA: Meet A Spider

: The subject of this article is unrelated to, a Phoenix-based site that reminds one of Groupon.

Sometimes you see a pattern of behavior, and it lets you safely infer that certain unstated things are going on.
I have noticed a dealer selling a healthy number of textbooks, and at the same time having a low feedback count.
Normally large inventory counts come with commensurately large sales, especially in the textbook marketplace. When the kids are buying textbooks, they’re buying by the truckload.
There are a few explanations that are plausible. One is that this dealer is engaging in what is colloquially known as ‘spidering’.
Spidering is a polite term for finding an item on one online marketplace, let’s say, and then cross-listing that item as your own on another online marketplace, such as
When you spider, you use an app to find listings for a given item on one site and then note the price. Your app then marks up that item and places it for sale on the other.
I can’t say where they’re spidering from, but I believe DailyDeal USA is spidering for at least some of their listings.
One tell-tale of this behavior is feedback for lost books. The USPS’ rate of losing properly packaged books is well under 1 in 1000. If buyers are relating in feedback that the book is being lost by the post office, you’re probably looking at a spider. Note that I didn’t say “a buyer” in that last sentence, I said buyers in the plural. If you can find a ‘seller said book lost in mail’ on the first page, that’s highly suggestive. If you can find two, that’s very suggestive.

Let's look, shall we?
1 out of 5:"Never received item purchased. Seller replied after sending second email and said item was lost in mail. I do not believe that it was lost, but did receive money back."
Date: September 5, 2011     Rated by Buyer: Rachael H.

Hmmm. A second lost item on the first page of feedback:
2 out of 5:"Ordered on July 30th, estimated time I would receive product was August 22nd. Its September 4th today still no book!! As a student this lag in delivery time is VERY inconvenient. "
Date: September 4, 2011     Rated by Buyer: Sunnie Ayers

Interestingly, despite having USA in the name, they shipped from Germany:

5 out of 5:"The outside box was pretty battered but the contents were is perfect shape. The shipment came from Germany so some battering was to be expected. Came earlier than expected as well."
Date: September 3, 2011     Rated by Buyer: John Rogalsky

Another spider-sign is customers opening a package and discovering an invoice in the package with a lower purchase price on it than what they paid. This occurs when the spider orders a book from a lower-priced seller for shipment to a customer who has paid a higher price. 
In your example below, the spider charged $66.75 and paid $47.02. 
1 out of 5:"I was charged $65.75 for this order however when the book arrived the invoice indicated that the total order came to $47.02. When I confronted the seller with this, I was told "...the wrong invoice..." came with the order. Do you believe this???"
Date: September 2, 2011     Rated by Buyer: Richard Bond

On Amazon, you wind up getting paid 85% of the selling minus about $1.35 or so. 
So, in this case, our spider got $54.53 and then had to spend $47.02 to get the product for his customer.
I'll tell you what, if you told me my job was to order books online and that you'd pay me $7.51 each time I checked out, you'd have an employee for life! Not a bad deal from the spider's perspective.
In a few instances, they're accused of having cancelled an order and then having re-listed the same item again.
What people don't realize, of course, is that they didn't own the item to begin with; they sold the item to you, then the guy they tried to spider FROM was out of stock, so they cancelled on you. Their spider app doesn't know about the history of a given title, so it goes ahead and slaps it back up there the next time it runs.
Two feedback suggestive of this:
1 out of 5:"Seller cancelled order and sold for higher $.BEWARE!Seller canceled order per own convenience. Seller stated my book had been sold and said that the ones listed on the site were higher quality then the one I ordered. However the book ordered was Used-Like New and the other one they were selling was Used-Old. 1day later post my cancel, a book Used-Like New was posted for HIGHER $"
Date: August 30, 2011     Rated by Buyer: Christian G.

1 out of 5:"Had ordered the book they cancelled saying it was out of stock. Looked the book up again they (DailyDeal USA) had put the book back up for more money. Will never do business with DailyDeal USA."
Date: August 29, 2011     Rated by Buyer: Caleb Fisher

As I scroll down their feedback, I come to yet another 'lost in mail'. That pretty much cinches it, these folks are spiders:
1 out of 5:"I didn't receive my order and when I contacted the seller they responded that it must have been "lost in the mail". No tracking number was ever created and I suspect that my order never shipped. "
Date: August 25, 2011     Rated by Buyer: Ellyn P.

1 out of 5:"I ordered package on July 13, received an email informing me of its shipment July 18. August 4 I contacted Daily Deals to find out where my package was and was told to contact them if it wasn't there by the 19th. My package never arrived, I was told a refund would be posted and six days later, after contacting them again, was told that they didn't post it and I am still waiting. Bad Experience!"
Date: August 25, 2011     Rated by Buyer: Johnathon B.

Notice two of these, on the same day no less!
As an aside, on some forums this type of seller is referred to as a drop-shipper. 
While it's common usage online, the term more properly refers to a wholesale provider that fills orders placed by a retailer for direct-to-consumer shipment.
When applied to the online marketplace in transactions like this, DailyDeal USA isn't the drop-shipper; rather, all of the other sellers they order from are drop-shippers. 
Here's the final nail in the coffin:
4.7 stars over the past 12 months (669 ratings)See more information about this seller.
Showing 1 - 24 of 429,302 Results

Notice that they have 669 ratings with an inventory of 429,302 different products.
If you carried a physical inventory that large with sales that poor, you couldn't afford the rent.
And, their feedback:
DailyDeal USA 
Feedback Rating:
4.7 stars over the past 12 months (670 ratings)

Feedback30 days90 days365 daysLifetime

In and of itself, I don't think that spidering would make you a bad bookseller.
However, it seems that one thing frequently leads to another.
In this case, spidering results in unhappy customers, and 12% negative feedback. There's no excuse for that.

Bad Bookseller, DailyDeal USA! No Cookie!

[The cookie you're not getting today is for my favorite Sesame Street character, after The Count.]