Sunday, 2 October 2011

Scams and Unfortunate Occurances

With any successful product you will find people looking to use loopholes or ignorance for personal gain. Any project in Second Life has additional concerns, platform specific exploits and eccentricities that make business even more challenging. Many times these “exploits” are performed by accident, often without the knowledge of the player involved. I am writing this to pass on information about some common problems I have noticed in relation to Meeroos in Second Life. Please understand that many of the things mentioned below can happen quite without the intention of the players concerned. Some scams are just that, and the intent of the offender should be clear once the scam is revealed. Other times fault may lay more with Second Life than with the individuals involved. I have found the Meeroos community to be honest in the vast majority of cases. The few reports I have heard of actual intentional scamming are far and few between.

I will try to point out where and how I think some of the issues could be unintentional. Please keep an open mind when contacting an avatar who may have wronged you. There is a very real possibility that the slight was not intended and that they will make it right, if that is within their power. I have had nothing but good experiences contacting other players when things have gone awry.

A big issue is fake food. This is a scam and nothing else. Selling fake food has a couple of scam types: at one time scammers were able to exploit a Second Life permissions bug and build fake food vendors they then placed over real ones at the Meeroos main stores. Once Team Meeroos and Linden Labs insured that could not happen again they,... Shortly after I finished the original draft of this post I came across THIS blog post from the official WW of Meeroos site. The fake food vendor problem has not entirely been solved. It is always in your best interest to check that you are paying Meeroos Resident, and not some variant of that name, when you are using the vendors. If you are concerned about using the inworld options there is still the web. You can buy from the official Meeroos store on the SL Marketplace. Best place to find the URL is on the main page of the WW of Meeroos web site. So, slightly delayed post with an added warning, now back to the original:

The Marketplace scam. In this version an account set up to look like a Malevay Studios employee will contact you directly, in IM, and offer food at a reduced price. They then provide you with a SL Marketplace web address that points to their merchant page with their fake food listed as products. The fake vendor issues have been resolved at the Roo location from what I understand and thus are no longer an issue. The fake Marketplace scam is very easy to avoid by always buying from the official Meeroos SL Marketplace store. If you want to be super sure you are in the right store use the link on the WW of Meeroos website main page. If anyone contacts you inworld offering reduced price food; you can be sure it is a scam. Meeroos food is non-transferable and if Malevay Studios wants to offer a food price reduction they will do it via their store and Marketplace listings, not some rogue back-ally CSR. Not that any such CSRs exist, anyone claiming to be such a person has got to be a con artist.

Fake food is a clear scam, intentionally designed to deceive players into giving up their L$. This next unfortunate issue is less clear. I am not overly interested in the ethics or morality of these issues. I am approaching them from a business aspect as well as that of a fellow player. The case of L$10 Nests is essentially ethical in nature and cannot be avoided. The classic example of a grey area L$10 Nest issue is when a seller forgets to put a price in, or some Second Life error prevents it from being accepted and the Nest is set for sale at L$10 instead of the intended price. Eventually someone will come by and notice the accidental pricing. Quite a few people will buy the under-priced Nest and return it to the seller, I have heard a few accounts. Other times the seller notices before it to sold. Finally there are times where the Nest is purchased and retained. This may well be unethical, but there is something I feel important to point out: It is not theft. Wherever you place the blame for the pricing error, it should always be double, and in Second Life possibly triple, checked. In the end it was priced and set for sale, the purchasing party paid the price and took possession of the Nest. I find it patently unfair to accuse such a person on theft, especially in Group Chat as I have seen an unfortunate number of times. I understand the frustration, but while un-ethical is it not an act of theft. Also remember that prices fluctuate rapidly in the Meeroo marketplace, it is possible that for Meeroos not priced a massive amount over L$10 to legitimately be priced as such. Some vendors even hide surprise super low priced Nests amongst their stock. Often they are set for L$10. So the purchasing party may not even be un-ethical, they may honestly believe that the Nest was set at its intended price.

The second, darker aspect of the L$10 Nest problem might be more accurately referred to as the While-prices-are-changing-swindle. In this case the avatar who ends up with the Nest is intentionally exploiting a Second Life idocyrcrasity: they wait until they know a Nest will have a price set or changed. While the price change is taking place the price of the Nest can temporarily become L$10 or some power of ten (10) less than the intended price, because of typing lag. So an Nest being set for L$9,000 might be scooped up for L$900 by a quick but exploitive buyer. This is a trick often employed at auctions where it is a certainty Nests will be set for sale or repriced at predictable intervals. You have a few options for combating the sneaky Nest russlers: On newer viewers you can un-check the "for sale" box and still change the price. Then you can re-check the "for sale" box when the new value has been entered. If that option is not available you can price Objects in Inventory. I had no idea about this and know there was once a time it was not possible. When I was not looking Linden Labs deceptively added a useful feature without personally telling me, as they never do. It means that you can take the Nest you wish to reprice into your Inventory and price it there. If you want to place it back in the identical location use the "return Object to last location" option from the select pull-down menu on the Nest while it is in Inventory.

Something you do not see much of now, but still happens is the duplicate Nests being sold issue. This is where a player has a duplicated Nest, identical to another one created at almost exactly the same time. I understand this was an issue on Magnum release channel Regions for awhile and may have manifested at a couple of other times as well outside of Magnum SIMs. These Nest pairs are only capable of creating one (1) Meeroo, not two (2). Once they have both been Coaxed one will poof. Now if you, as the breeder, Coax both of them yourself there is no real problem, just surprise. You have not lost anything because there should only have been one (1) Nest. What happens if both Nests are sold, or if one is and the other is Coaxed by the breeder? There is a very real chance the breeder has no idea they are duplicate Nests. The more Meeroos they breed the more likely that is. In either case people will have paid L$ for a Nest that will produce a Meeroo who may poof through the fault of, pretty much: nobody. Malevay Studios can not do much about it, especially if one (1) or both of the Nests are kept in Inventory for most of their lives. If the Nests are in Inventory or a SL Marketplace box they can not communicate with the server, even if they could I am not sure how it would sort out which to delete nor how that would be any fairer than the current method. If you have this happen to you, and it is very very uncommon, it is most likely not intentional and with some understanding it can usually be put right.

The last two issues are really different flavours of the same thing. Because of the immense impact genetics have on Meeroo breeding the genealogy of a Meeroo is closely tied to its perceived value. One way to inflate the price of a Meeroo is to fabricate its family tree and hope someone buys the Meeroo without checking. Always verify the parents and grandparents data on the official website before considering expensive Meeroos. With the information being as complex as it is the seller may have made a legitimate error. When doing multiple listings it is possible to copy and paste the wrong text into a Marketplace listing. The seller should always check each listing for correctness, but sometimes things are missed. Protect yourself as a buyer and have a look at the family tree if lineage is a driving force behind your purchase. The second part of the issue is more of a annoyance, perhaps only to me. It is something that can be confusing and leave people feeling taken advantage of: it is the misuse of the term "Offspring" often abbreviated OS. The OS tag is very useful, offspring Nests are an awesome source of cheaper genes. For me the term offspring, or the tag OS, means that one of the Nests parents had the trait that merits the OS. For example if I see a Loch OS Nest I expect that either the mother or father of that Nest was, in fact, a Loch coat Meeroo. I have personally seen listings on the Marketplace where I had to go back three (3) generations to find the trait indicated. I am not sure it counts as a trick, other people may disagree with me. It is something to keep an eye out for. Always check the lineage on the website to be sure, then you know what you are buying.

All the issues above are rare. I have bought a lot of Nests and have not had any unfixable issues. I can say one hundred percent (100%) that I have never been scammed, nor has my partner scarlett. While it does happen, and my heart goes out to you if you have been a victim, it is not frequent. Simply being aware of the issues can prevent most of them happening to you. When things do go a bit wrong try to contact the seller first, I have always managed to find a solution that way. Most sellers want to help and will try to fix things where and when they can. I had an experience where I bought a Meeroo that was, somehow, set to "sell contents". So I got a bunch of scripts in a folder but no Meeroo. He was still right there in front of me, not belonging to me. At first I thought it must be a trick but once I realized what had happened I realized it was likely a mistake. The breeder was able to transfer me the Meeroo directly once I contacted her and I had a few Highland coats from him before he scooted off to the wild. No harm no foul.

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