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Yerdle’s Critics Miss the Point

| Tuesday February 25th, 2014 | 13 Comments

yerdle_city

In case you’re not familiar, yerdle is an online marketplace in which people can give away things they no longer want, or lend things out they don’t use very often.  It’s a classic sharing economy concept with big potential to make more efficient use of goods that would otherwise be thrown away.

Salon’s Andrew Leonard wrote a fairly scathing review of yerdle’s new credit system on the grounds that it dishonestly suggests the service is free. He further implies that yerdle is yet another PT-Barnum-style huckster start-up tech company claiming to offer something for nothing with a secret future business plan that will somehow screw people.

On the first point, Leonard is correct.  Yerdle’s new credit system requires users to give away things and do other tasks in order to earn credits which can then be exchanged for goods.  There’s talk of being able to buy credits with cash in the future.  For all intents and purposes this means you can’t get anything “for free” on yerdle anymore – you have to do something, whether it be give away products of your own or some other action. The point is, there’s a cost even if it isn’t expressed in dollars.  So, yerdle might indeed want to reconsider their use of the word “free.”  But the notion that yerdle has much in common with a bait and switch tech company is unfair.Yerdle’s mission is to combat unnecessary consumption by making use of idle goods – those old products that fill closets and garages around America. It’s easy enough to let storage spaces clutter, and offering goods to friends and family is time-consuming and inefficient at best. For folks seeking a second life for goods beyond Craigslist’s free stuff section, the curb, or a trip to Goodwill – yerdle provides a community of people committed to generosity and reuse. That’s what yerdle is banking on by introducing the credit system.  The credit system is designed to encourage gifting and to keep the system full of high quality goods.

As for Leonard’s assessment that it represents a nefarious motive, forcing people to earn credits was not a part of yerdle’s original game plan. My understanding is the adaptation came as an adjustment to the inherent challenge in building a critical mass of both goods and people looking to post things for free online. Craigslist has the market cornered and still remains a quick and convenient way to get rid of unwanted swag (at least in San Francisco).

However, if yerdle can scale the “free stuff” model to a national audience then there’s a chance it can do something that Craigslist can’t: Let Jimmy in Kansas City have access to that ugly lamp you’ve been trying to get rid of in San Francisco.  If Jimmy is willing to pay for the shipping and if some credits are enough incentive to convince you to package it up and carry the thing down to the post office, then we’ve got a real win-win-win.

The third win, of course, is for the shipping company who stands to gain some extra business. If yerdle continues to scale, tapping into the shipping fees people are happy to pay could provide revenue for a company with a business model based on free giveaways. That’s income that is only earned from folks who opt not to pick up items locally – which is more of a “fremium” model (to use Chris Anderson’s parlance) and seems like a reasonable option to me. It also preserves a model for local exchanges that can work on non-monetary credits.  If it works, then maybe credits won’t be needed at some point in the future and a truly free exchange will be possible.

So yes, at this point it’s a stretch to say yerdle is truly offering “something for nothing” but it’s also wrong to lump them in the same boat as a spammy application that sucks people in only to hold them hostage for money later – especially since the stated mission of the company has the potential to do profound good.

Leonard’s article is titled “How the Facebook Economy is Costing us Big.”  He should have chosen a different example.  Yerdle is not a part of the “Facebook economy,” it’s part of the sharing economy - something altogether different which is definitely not costing us unless you’re a disposable swag merchant. Rather, the sharing economy is very much reinventing things in ways that will be beneficial for people, planet, and profit.


▼▼▼      13 Comments     ▼▼▼

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  • BerkeleyYerdler

    Spot on. yerdle understands that in order to actually compete with the marketplace giants, customer experience must be paramount. Relying on altruism and generosity alone would relegate them to the fringe. With the credit system, the fantastic app, and the option to ship, they make it easy and fun to choose a slightly-used item on yerdle over a new item from a store.

  • Leon Kaye

    Exactly on point. I’m a FreeCycle fan, but one problem is that there are too many people asking for stuff–my favorites are the ones who are asking for laptops, even golf clubs. None of these sites can grow if you only have people wanting things, so you need to offer some way of an incentive to motivate people to contribute goods as well. The article, and obnoxious title, of the Salon article distort what yerdle is trying to achieve.

  • http://www.twitter.com/sharkyl Sharky

    I discovered this article when looking up the link to the Salon article. I had similar thoughts at the same time, and actually submitted a detailed rebuttal to Salon (you can read the rebuttal, and my subsequent exchange with Andrew Leonard, who wrote the article, here: sfy.co/abS6

    While we have much in common, I disagree with this statement: “For all intents and purposes this means you can’t get anything “for free” on yerdle anymore”. For this statement to be true you have to apply such a level of semantic reasoning to “free” that it is essentially rendered meaningless. For example you could argue air is not free because you have to do something (breathe) to use it.

    Free is defined as “without cost or payment”. Yerdle does not require you to pay anything to participate in it’s marketplace, and it costs you nothing to do so. You get 250 credits upon signup which are sufficient to acquire the vast majority of items listed on the site (which currently list for an average 70 credits). You can acquire more credits simply by giving away items that are worthless to you. Getting something for nothing more than signing up, or getting things you do value in exchange for giving away things you do not value without having to cough up hard earned cash or do perform anything more than a minute or two of labor would meet most people’s criteria for “free”.

    With that being said, I obviously agree with the thrust of your post, and commend you for writing it.

  • Mishi

    I’d warn against anyone using Yerdle. If you have a problem (ie: you win an auction, pay for shipping and your credits are transferred but the seller NEVER send your item), Yerdle does NOT respond to your inquiry or resolve the issue.

    Another HUGE flaw of Yerdle, is that they do NOT allow you to ship your items at the post office. If you do, they will not process the shipping cost your winner paid, instead keeping the money for themselves. Yerdle will only allow you to ship through UPS, using their special prepaid shipping slips that never cover the cost of shipping, forcing you to pay out of pocket for the next size up and then Yerdle pockets the amount over you must pay for the next package size up. You lose money every time.

    Yerdle is a SCAM.

    • Piyush

      Both these points are absolutely FALSE, given my experience both as a giver and a receiver over the past 2 weeks (it may have been that way earlier, I am not sure).

      On the second point, you can drop off packages at USPS or FedEx. Both accept it without a hitch. I was pleasantly surprised that this worked !

      On the first point, Yerdle did get involved when I was late in shipping (I shipped over the weekend). They resolved it most gracefully with both the parties.

      I am surprised at the number of critics for such a wonderful service. Maybe they bemoan not being the first with such a genius idea.

    • caryniam

      This is completely FALSE.
      First, yerdle does respond to support issues. At some points, they have been slow to respond (because they are a start-up with small staff), but more recently the response rates have been very quick.

      Second, yerdle subsidizes shipping; that’s how you can get something shipped for only $2-4. They also send you the shipping labels prepaid to use and drop off (it was Fed Ex, not UPS, maybe that was your problem, but have recently switched to UPS), so this idea that you had to pay more for shipping means that you did not understand how the system works (and for that I am sorry), but not that they were pocketing money or scamming you. The giver needs to pay absolutely nothing through yerdle.

  • bettepage

    Use Freecycle, run by volunteers. [https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/SFFN/info ]

    It’s free and people come to get the stuff. It also aims to cut down on pollution by being local to your city so you’re not wasting gas and money to drive or ship.

    Also, the yerdle sign up process demanded that I give them access to all my contacts. Why would you need that, yerdle? Just goes to show that this ‘start-up” is a front for some other money-making business down the road, utilizing the contacts they have scraped from you, of course.

    This credit thing was tried during the dot com boom and crashed, too. There is little new value for users.

    • caryniam

      yerdle is not a front. You are just wrong.

    • bleef@mailinator.com

      Freecycle is full of scummy bottomfeeders. Trolls who grab whatever they can for free to then sell on craigslist. The last time i tried to list something the moderator emailed me trying to snag it before she approved the listing. Scumbags.

      • crashtx1

        I’ve had good luck with freecycle. It sounds like all of these systems have bottom feeders hanging around looking to take advantage. Pretty sad.

  • yerdle sucks

    Yerdle knowing creates a forum for bullies and participates in harassment.

    While there are a few good people and you start out having a lot of fun if you actively continue to use the site for its intended purpose you quickly see fraudulent activity.

    At a moments notice your items credits and money can be stolen from you by Yerdle. They have stolen hundreds in valuable items from me and continue to allow their members to harass and stalk me online.

    Why would members harass you? Because I posted hundreds of items people loved and won and received. I earned tens of thousands in credits some of which i used to bid on items i wanted. Shock!

    I quickly got on their radar by giving alot and winning a little that was a threat to the older members. Older members lie in wait for new unsuspecting members. New members enjoy giving new or like new items they don’t need or want. They aren’t aware yet of credit values. Being a novice you can end up giving a high value item for next to nothing in credits. A new member who only wins one item often just never gets the item and does check to see why. This is perfect for older members so they can steal items for few or no credits. Now if someone is aware they can set a fair value for their “free” items and old members no longer can come and snipe items up for 1-5 credits. Credits they earned by giving away dirty old junk and pieces of string, moldy expired goods or nick nacks in turn for new members iPhones or high end electronics.

    Suddenly some one was actually giving generously and getting items they wanted. They hated that.

    These older Yerdle members and some staff, will come to new members with long sob stories about why they should reduce the credits and give the item to them instead. They will harass and bully new members into shipping for little or no credit. Or they would flat out ask you to just ship it for no credit at all. They would guilt new members into feeling obligated to ship them. Told members would explain why they cant give better items to earn credits for the things they want. Either they’d ask for extra items for free if they won something else for a few credits or some would just ask without bidding credits at all. They have no intention of giving items to earn credits to get other items they want.

    Later once they begged for those items to be shipped right away so someone won’t have time to think better of it and change your mind, they will take those same items and repost them for higher credits as their own. Items I posted with original content were flat out plagiarized and reposted under these older members names to attempt to lure members to there own items and appear to be my id.

    Once some of my best items were posted bullying and trolling went on for weeks. Meanwhile I continued to ship items that I wanted to give, in return for other items from legitimate members. Yerdles Facebook pro page was a place Created for these members to police members, plan, scheme and figure out new ways to steal credits. They flagged competing bids, they flagged down items, they contacted other members to tell them not to bid. They lied to other members saying the item wasn’t really available or that it was on reserve to stop bidders from winning.

    Yerdle was aware of the activity by their pro members and their own staff also participated. They did not discourage the activity, They did not take necessary steps to block it. They violated their own policies and allowed it to continue.

    Yerdle creates a forum for these bullies to flag harass and steal items. They continue to actively steal from me by telling people who haven’t shipped items that should have been shipped already to not ship them and keep the credit while they keep my shipping money. These were items i won weeks ago that by their own policy should have already shipped within seven days of my buying shipping. They knew these items never shipped but were unresponsive when requests were made to be refunded. Real tangible items often were not shipped. Broken, damaged unusable items, even empty packages were shipped.

    My new and like new items continue to go to their members as they were already shipped out before they voided all the credits I earned on the site.

    They attempt to hide behind a constantly edited legal contract while knowingly participating in fraud. They allowed or created fake listings for high credits for items that would never ship, in order to steal credits back, they knowingly blocked won legitimate items from legitimate givers. They created an environment of mistrust and anger as they reversed completed auctions. They are currently active in blocking items from being shipped out.

    They knowingly allow new members to be robbed from, knowingly are commiting fraud by using their own unlimited self created credits to bid on members items and or flagging off competing members bids. They give items themselves which they never ship and don’t refund nor respond to for weeks

    Be aware these self proclaimed “monsters” are not interested in the greater good. They pretend its not amount money while altering rules on shipping. Complaining that light items like a pen should not be combine shipped in the same box with other light items. They should all be shipped and shipping paid on each item. If you do ship together they still want shipping fees on each item won no matter how small. They are revealing that they are about the money not sharing and giving.

    Their default shipping on the iphone ap is set on a higher cost of shipping than most people need. So most people unknowing are paying inflated shipping.

    Greed envy and jealousy have taken over this company. They invade your privacy by exploiting your name your social circle and pin point your exact location. They store your device info and have full access to your phone. The app stalls and slows the normal use of your device. Reviews on iTunes are blocked you can not post one star reviews.

    It is very likely that they are participating in other fraudulent activities like keeping members better items for themselves or selling them. They constantly alter the agreement to attempt to steal more money and items from new members under the guise of being a friendly helpful community to trade items.

    • Kat

      How do you know who is or isn’t a leg member? I’m trying to resolve a problem and am feeling very blocked in doing so. What should I be looking for/ what should make me suspicious/ should I not ship something if I feel like the “winner” is fraudulent?

      • Jennifer Rodriguez

        Kat, I recommend you do not ask this bitter person and go straight to yerdle and ask them…