Posts tagged Craigslist

The War on the Informal Sector (cont’d)

WASHINGTON — If you’re planning a garage sale or organizing a church bazaar, you’d best beware: You could be breaking a new federal law. As part of a campaign called Resale Roundup, the federal government is cracking down on the secondhand sales of dangerous and defective products.

The initiative, which targets toys and other products for children, enforces a new provision that makes it a crime to resell anything that’s been recalled by its manufacturer.

Those who resell recalled children’s products are not only breaking the law, they are putting children’s lives at risk, said Inez Tenenbaum, the recently confirmed chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The crackdown affects sellers ranging from major thrift-store operators such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army to everyday Americans cleaning out their attics for yard sales, church bazaars or — increasingly — digital hawking on eBay, Craigslist and other Web sites.

Secondhand sellers now must keep abreast of recalls for thousands of products, some of them stretching back more than a decade, to stay within the bounds of the law.

. . . Scott Wolfson, a spokesman for the agency, said it wouldn’t be dispatching bureaucratic storm troopers into private homes to see whether people were selling recalled products from their garages, yards or churches.

We’re not looking to come across as being heavy-handed, he said. We want to make sure that everybody knows what the rules of engagement are to help spur greater compliance, so that enforcement becomes less of an issue. But we’re still going to enforce.

— James Rosen, McClatchy (2009-08-20): Seller, beware: Feds cracking down on garage sales

Like most invasive government regulations, the rules of engagement for this particular war hurts all of its targets — that is, they ratchet up fixed costs for all resellers, hurting them directly and also hurting their ability to provide a cheaper alternative to their main competitors (in this case, mainly big discount retailers like Wal-Mart). But within the resale market, it hurts some players more than others:

Staffers for the federal agency are fanning out across the country to conduct training seminars on the regulations at dozens of thrift shops.

Even before this law, we had good mechanisms in place for pulling recalled products, said Jim Gibbons, the chief executive of Goodwill. The law just kicks it up a notch, so Goodwills around the country will continue to improve our process.

Goodwill uses $2 billion in annual sales at its 2,300 thrift shops nationwide to pay for its job-training and employment placement programs.

— James Rosen, McClatchy (2009-08-20): Seller, beware: Feds cracking down on garage sales

Those of us who want to resell old toys but don’t have $2,000,000,000 in annual sales to dip into for regulatory compliance and who don’t get training seminars from the United States federal government may have a harder time kicking it up a notch. As usual, regulation props up big established incumbents and hurts grassroots, ad hoc, or just plain small-time players; state corporatism artificially enforces consumerism by burning out reuse markets, and props up the strip mall by burning out the bazaar.

See also:

Constitutive means (or: community-building bullshit)

(Link thanks to Anil Dash 2006-02-03.)

Here’s Tim Redmond, of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, on why he’s cheesed off about the ever-expanding Craigslist:

A little background. Mr. Newmark, whom everyone calls Craig, has created a system of online advertising that has pretty much wiped out traditional daily newspaper classified ads in many of the 115 US markets where he now operates. He’s also hurt the alternative press, although the damage to the dailies is deeper. Some say Craig has single-handedly destroyed thousands of newspaper jobs.

Frankly, that’s a little silly: The guy figured out how to do something that the newspapers weren’t doing, and they were way too late in responding, and he got their money, and that’s how capitalism works.

But Craig still annoys me, and here’s why:

Over and over in his brief speech, he talked about building community. He acted as if Craigslist was some sort of nonprofit with lofty goals and he a humble servant of the people who wants only to help improve human communications.

The problem with that is simple: When Craig comes to town (and he’s coming to just about every town in the nation soon), the existing community institutions — say, the locally owned weekly newspaper — have a very hard time competing. In many ways, he’s like a Wal-Mart — yeah, landlords get cheaper real estate ads, and consumers find some bargains, but the money all goes out of town. And he puts nothing back into the community: He doesn’t, for example, hire reporters or serve as a community watchdog.

Here’s the question I asked him:

How, exactly, does a San Francisco outfit moving into, say, Burlington, Vt. and threatening to eviscerate the local alternative newspaper, help build community? If he’s such an altruist, why does he have to keep expanding like a typical predatory chain? We all get the need for online ads and community sites now; why not let the folks in Burlington (or wherever) build their own? Why not (gasp) help them, instead of using his clout to hurt them?

— Tim Redmond, San Francisco Bay Guardian (2006-02-01): Editor’s Notes

So, to keep the score straight, let’s keep in mind that helping people to find a job in town, or helping people who have something to sell get in touch with other people in their town willing to buy it, doesn’t count as putting anything back into the community. Also, be sure to remember that getting the word out about shows, fundraisers, parties, or other events going on in town doesn’t count as building community, and neither does helping people to meet other people in town with common interests, jobs, hobbies, or passions. Real community, after all, is defined by its ability to keep professional editorialists like Tim Redmond employed, and by whether or not they print and distribute an alternative newsweekly tabloid, like the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

Next week: where will we find jobs for all the candle-makers?