Marketplace issues: not so much eroding trust as completely undermining it

Well, it seems news over the correction in one aspect of the ongoing SL Marketplace listing enhancements debacle (itself merely one part of the overall Marketplace debacle) was premature.

No sooner had the Commerce Team announced they were refunding people for the mess-up over payments, that automatic debiting for enhancements resumed, with the same level of confusion as to what is actually going on, and people unable to determine exactly what they have or have not been charged for. How this came to pass is unclear, although I do tend to agree with Darrius Gothly’s assessment of the situation, vis:

When your staff went through and refunded everyone, you should have AT THAT TIME tested to be sure your code modifications would not immediately undo everything just done. But did you? Nope. As a result it went through and lickety-split re-billed everyone .. not only for what they’d just been refunded but additional charges too. Pardon me but .. WTH?!? By dint of your lack of attention you have just completely undone everything your staff did .. by hand .. at great expense to your employer. You have WASTED a very large amount of money. Wasted because you could not or did not want to bother testing your changes. 

It is perhaps bad enough that people have seen refunds enter their accounts only to evaporate once more. But it would also appear that people are again getting charged for enhancements they cannot cancel due to WEB-2974 (an issue now some two years old, and resolution of which was “on hold” as of July 2012).

This state of play is, frankly, ridiculous. While mistakes can and do happen, what has been going on within the Marketplace and on the part of the Commerce Team long ago reached a point of farce. Even the simplest of tasks appears to be beyond their capabilities (or the capabilities of the software they manage). Remember the change to the sales notification e-mail address I mentioned as being rolled-out on September 26th as a part of my last general SLMP update? Guess what was rolled back just 48 hours later, only to be rolled-out once more on October 4th?

One has to question a) the level of competence within those responsible for managing and coding SLMP; and b) the overall condition of the Marketplace code itself, as it seems utterly incomprehensible that even the most basic issues within the system appear to be beyond LL’s grasp to fix.

In his comment on the matter of listing enhancements, Darrius concludes:

Communication from your team to us is a major issue. I’ve no doubt why this is the case. Most people have a very difficult time going to others with the need to say “We’re sorry, we screwed up.” With the number of times you must begin a blog post in that manner, it’s no wonder you don’t post very much at all. So here’s an idea … stop being lazy, stop short-cutting things and rushing changes into production, stop screwing up .. and STOP having to begin every post with an apology.

While I agree with his point of view, I’d go a step further.

It doesn’t matter as to whether or not these issues are only affecting a “small number” of merchants (as the Commerce Team have repeatedly stated); it also doesn’t matter as to whether LL regard L$ as “real money” or “tokens”.

What matters is that the company actively encourages people to get involved in their platform’s commerce engine, and to invest time and money in it – and they promote the Marketplace as a major means for people to do so. People have taken LL at their word, and for many of those affected by all the Marketplace screw-ups over the years, it very much is the case that real money is involved, and real stress and real upset.

As such, it is time for someone within Linden Lab to recognise this, take responsibility and step forward with a sincere apology for the manner in which the entire litany of mistakes, errors and mishaps going back as far as at least 2010 has been handled. They then need to go on to ensure issues are managed in such a way that people are kept properly informed on progress, and that issues are not exacerbated by what appears to be either flaws in internal processes – or carelessness.

Simply saying people are busy “crunching numbers” doesn’t really cut it any more.

As it is, a decent projection as to when LL will “have a fix” for Marketplace problems, would appear to be, “Around the 12th of Never”.

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7 thoughts on “Marketplace issues: not so much eroding trust as completely undermining it

  1. The idea that $L are “game tokens” is a legal fiction. I understand why LL has to take that position — if they did not, they could be accused of creating their own currency, which is illegal in the Real World. But LL must not make the mistake of believing their own legal mumbo-jumbo. In a real, everyday sense, $L IS a working micro-currency. People make a living out of accumulating these so-called “tokens”. They respond to manipulations, mistakes, and thefts in exactly the same way they would respond to their bank overcharging their account or losing money from it.

    I am so very glad I never made the mistake of purchasing any Marketplace “enhancements” for my lone little freebie listing.

    When the Marketplace was the independently-developed and run SLExchange, we never had these problems with it…and when LL bought out SLExchange and started trying to integrate it into their own website, a lot of us predicted that this was exactly the sort of thing we could expect.

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  2. I speak for many when I say we are long past the point where a sincere apology has much value at all. We have heard it too many times. It might help a bit if we understood what exactly the problem is — if there is a good reason for this ongoing disaster* we might then be a little more patient — but honestly, few of us have any patience left. We don’t care anymore why things do not get fixed.

    This has been going on for years now, and some of us saw from DAY ONE, and every step of the way thereafter, that the commerce team 1) had only the flimsiest grasp of what they were doing and 2) no inclination to listen to those who did. Sassy Romano and Darrius Gothly are just two who have spelled out exactly what needed to happen, what change to make, or what precautions should be taken to prevent disaster, and have been ignored — if there was a good reason to not take the advice to, say, test a change before releasing it, why not share that with merchants?

    * My guess is that well-meaning people were given a set of tasks which either were impossible for them to do with their skill set, or impossible for anyone to do with any skill set.

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  3. I can only sympathise, sounds like a mess. Regarding L$: Linden labs have created a currency, whether they call it one or not. Btw my company is developing, together with two other companies listed on the SL stock exchange, a business- consumer relations platform. It will be launched early 2013, perhaps of interest:)

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  4. I know that understanding LL from this side of the looking glass is difficult, but it appears that Rod (like Philip) is a better dreamer than a manager. At some point a manager has to walk onto the chessboard and say to those who are incompetent “Off with their heads!”. The mere knowledge of that possibility usually makes it unnecessary, we seem to have stepped beyond the belief in the possibility.

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  5. Sadly, it doesn’t matter how much or how bad the LL Commerce Team screws up. It doesn’t matter how many ways and time Rodvik is tapped on the shoulder or screamed at or begged to finally wake up and do his job as CEO of the company and overhaul / clean up the ongling Gong Show within the LL Commerce Team. He has proven that he simply doesnt understand or doesn’t care how bad this team is.

    If their actions are causing the LL ecommerce system to basically steal RL$ because of their negligence and/or the the unacceptable design of the Marketplace system which has been clearly pointed out to them many times… I have to think that Rodvik believes that LL’s TOS and Lawyers would protect them in court if the Merchants ever challenge LL in court. Rodvik’s gamble might be right or maybe wrong or Rodvik doesn’t believe anyone would dare bring this to court.

    But the sad thing is that a company and CEO would even consider this as a healthy business strategy where they are only safe because of intimidation and “we are too big and our customers are too small to force us to clean up our act”.

    I had hope for Rodvik as a new CEO but as was already mention, it has turned out he is just a tech geek with no business operations strength and simply believes if he ignores the flaming problems within his Commerce Team – hopefully it will go away.

    Pretty Sad.

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  6. The concept of L$ itself erodes trust.

    Call me a heretic but I’d like to see the L$ scrapped. Make it simple. Use only real money & have all the item sellers follow tiered pricing like the App Store. So you either give your item away or you sell it for 99¢, $1.99, $2.99, $3.99 etc. No price increments between allowed. There is a reason Apple does this smart move. It stops price erosion dead. If you aren’t confident to sell an item for 99¢, work on it more to make it good. Good for customers too so they aren’t looking at page after page of hastily built trash. A marketplace where everyone continually races to the bottom to charge 0.4¢ (1 L$) is a worthless joke of so-called “commerce”. The L$ is just an enabler to trick people into working for fractional pennies.

    First things first though (and more on topic)! LL must buck up & hire some real professionals who can actually build a real commerce site. Cheap out & you get cheap results. This is what is wrong with marketplace primarily. If they can’t afford to do this now for whatever reason might as well shutter it now. Cost-cutting kills.

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