9.01.2006

Pihranna Shopping

One of the problems with going on vacation is that the magazines pile up. The Economist is a weekly, so I had four of them waiting for me when I got back. It normally takes me a week to read one, so I've just today worked my way down to the July 1 issue. There's an incredible Internet story in the business section. You probably have to have a subscription to access it, so I'll summarize.

In China, somebody got the idea to do collective shopping. So a bunch of ordinary folk organized themselves via blogs and chat rooms to do the following. They pick a day and time, then decend on a store (imagine Best Buy) as a mob. Then a representative negotiates with the management for a discount. They'll all shop there if successful, otherwise they'll go somewhere else. According to the article, they can get up to 30% off!

It reminds me of the old collective buying clubs, where you get things at wholesale but must pay a fee to cover administration. This cuts out the middleman. A very cool idea, and I wonder where else you could apply it. College admissions, anyone? Banking? Depending on the size of the mob and their discipline, anything is possible. This, my friends, is the ANTI-WALMART. A consumer version of mass-distribution. WalMart negotiates wholesale prices from manufacturers by the volume of their sales. This reduces the profit margin of the producers. If the same could be done using volume purchases, it reduces the profit margin of the retailers. What an absolutely brilliant idea!

Of course, the bug in the sauce is that people by nature are not very disciplined. I can't really see Americans doing this. It would interfere too much with soccer practice or something. This is not a criticism, just an observation that there is a cost in time and energy to create this kind of organization. And it would be inconvenient--an anathema to us living in the land of the no free time. But long-term purchases, like cars, college tuition, refrigerators, and the like could possibly be organized in such a way, even here. So what are you waiting for--this is a million-dollar website idea. No kidding. Somebody needs to do the organizing, right? And they could sell little ads and favor one retailer over another with the right persuasion. Sounds like a gold mine to me. How about pihrannashopping.com? Maybe that's too long. How about mobbers.com? Neither of these seems to be taken. Just toss me a quarter or two when you hit your first billion, okay?

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