Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Screw 'em!

Early last week, a young entrepreneur paid 20 people $200 each to wait in line until Friday, when the Sony PlayStation 3 went on sale, so that each of them could make a purchase on his behalf. His goal was to acquire as many PlayStations as possible so that he could resell them, at a profit, on e-Bay. It was his way of getting around the store’s one unit-per-person policy.

On Saturday, the high-tech toys were reported to be selling on e-Bay for as much as $3500. That’s one hell of a markup from the $600 retail price.

Now, some would argue that the entrepreneur’s game plan was just smart business, but I beg to differ; it’s not nearly as much smart business as it is bad ethics. By hoarding 20 machines for himself, he prevented 20 people with more legitimate reasons for owning a machine from buying one. He caused 20 others, who can accurately be described as having an abundance of money and a shortage of patience and good sense, to pay prices far in excess of retail value.

If ticket scalping is illegal, why isn’t profiteering on merchandise illegal, too? The differences between the two are indistinguishable. But, hey! I guess the entrepreneur in question was merely adhering to one of capitalism’s inviolate rules: Buy low, and sell high—no matter whom you screw!

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