The App Economy is the Jerk Economy

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  1. Avatar Veronica Dire
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    says:

    Well, I expect the captcha’s will get better, and restaurants will probably do what the ticket sellers do, which is to require ID. Maybe they’ll even require call-back numbers. Which is all rather a nuisance and sucks for everyone, but such is clearly needed.

    Regarding “disruption,” well, it seems out of proportion to call this stuff by that name. Compared to Amazon? The iPhone? These cheesedicks and their silly apps are not disruption. They’re just bottom feeders doing as they do.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Veronica Dire
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      Many open table reservations do require call back numbers, some are starting to require credit cards and will charge for not used reservations or reservations that are not cancelled by a certain time but usually only for parties over 4 people.

      I agree that “disruption” has become too much of a catchphrase but it also seems to be a koan and mantra that bottom feeders are latching onto but the most of Tech 2.0 seems like it is bottom feeders to me. I don’t get why one needs a laundry service app in San Francisco when you can probably walk a black to an actual laundry/dry clearner.Report

      • Avatar Veronica Dire in reply to Saul Degraw
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        Well, nothing seems questionable about a laundry app, in the sense you either want to use it or you do not. (Although I’m still waiting for Google Dishes.)

        (Hey! Why else did they buy a robot company?!)

        That said, I’m kinda isolated from it all out here in the hinterlands of Cambridge. Although I got a taste when I was out there a few weeks back. There is a kind of — I dunno — weird insularity. It’s hard to explain.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw
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        @veronica-dire

        As a non-techie in SF, I can vouch for the insularity. You are either heavily involved with tech or not at all involved with tech in SF. They do seem to only hang out with each other because it is the best way to network, code, disrupt, find venture capital, etc. Girlfriends are allowed to be non-techie but no one else.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Saul Degraw
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        I tell you, it’s hell finding a gardener who can hack C++Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Saul Degraw
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        Most of the places I reserved via Open Table called me 24 hrs before my reservation to confirm…Might be seeing more of that in the future then…Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Saul Degraw
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        I’m not familiar with OpenTable, but I assume it’s free?

        If I understand what’s happening here, the thing for OpenTable to do would be to start charging, and split the take with the restaurants. Presumably they already have the trust of the restaurants (and are already providing the customer service of helping people get/find a reservation), and this would make RestaurantHop (which is using OpenTable) superfluous/unprofitable.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to Saul Degraw
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        @glyph — That would work, but it still sucks for patrons you now have to pay more for the same service.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to Saul Degraw
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        @saul-degraw — Does this mean I couldn’t talk to you if I lived out there?

        Like, I wonder if I’m allowed to talk to you now? Does my employer know? What if my “handler” finds out?

        I think I need to log out.

        —–

        But seriously, it is not like that out here. I suspect it’s just, tech is smaller here, hardly enough to be an entire “scene,” and there are a ton of other scenes here that are cool.

        That said, I see hints of it, like the two dudebros on the subway platform last week discussing their “startup” and their “app.” Yeesh.

        And after all, we produced Paul-fishing-Graham. Granted, he didn’t stay out here. But still.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to Saul Degraw
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        @mike-schilling — Most gardeners are more the Ruby type.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Saul Degraw
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        @glyph Yeah, that seems like the wisest solution. Probably better yet, they could just require a nominal deposit on the reservation that either acts as a credit towards your meal or covers the fee that OpenTable usually charges the restaurants and is non-refundable unless the reservation is cancelled X hours in advance.

        Another option would be to ban users who reach a certain number of no-shows, although this would be way too easy for people to work around.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Saul Degraw
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        @veronica-d

        That would work, but it still sucks for patrons you now have to pay more for the same service.

        Again, not familiar with OpenTable, but I have tried to make reservations via direct phone call for a large party at popular restaurants on busy nights, and it is a hassle (“Can you seat 8 at 8? What? Sorry, it’s noisy…oh, too bad…but you can do 6, at 9:30? Let me call another place to see if I can get in there, and I might call you back if not”).

        Assuming OpenTable can show me all my available options at once, and let me quickly grab the one that best suits me, that’s something I’d pay five bucks for, rather than spend an hour on the phone with 3 different establishments.

        Presumably the restaurants would also rather not pay someone full wage to answer long, annoying phone calls from hungry Glyphs, trying to make complicated reservations – better to let a program handle it.

        It *can* be a time-saving service worth money, and RH may have just showed OT that.Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to Saul Degraw
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        They’re going to have to require credit cards and charge people for no-show’s (unless canceled in advance).

        This leads to a theory of mine, that in any and all new online systems, ‘spam’ has got to be a concern from the beginning (where junk reservations are spam, and junk reservations for resale are a particularly nasty version of spam).Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Veronica Dire
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      v and Saul,
      Are we actually assuming they’re bothering to do the character recognition, or just using the regular backdoor?Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird
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    See, that’s weird. I see the reservation bot as the more unethical of the two. It’s not like the bot would or *COULD* use the reservation when 6:30 comes up on Friday night.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird
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      Fair point.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird
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      The reservation app seems like the real jerk store best seller to me. It is really screwing over restaurants while giving them nothing. Its a sleazy move.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to greginak
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        It is really screwing over restaurants while giving them nothing.

        Maybe, unless the following things are true:

        1.) RestaurantHop is in fact cancelling unsold reservations in plenty of time for the table to not go unused, by a direct reservation or walk-in.

        2.) If people are significantly less likely to no-show for a reservation that they paid for via RH, than for a free one they made directly (if this is true, then RH could arguably be helping restaurants).Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to greginak
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        @glyph

        1. Even before restaurant hop, there was a huge problem of techies or parties making multiple reservations and not cancelling. Alice would make a res at one place, Ted another, Sally another, etc. Decisions would be made later but no one would bother to cancel. I doubt Res Hop cares once they pass off on a reservation and they are probably willing to keep them until the last minute in the hope of money.

        2. Maybe but I doubt it at 5 dollars.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to greginak
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        there was a huge problem of techies or parties making multiple reservations and not cancelling.

        RH claims they cancel unsold reservations 4-6 hours in advance (of course they may be lying, and/or 4-6 hours may be insufficient to re-fill the table). So on that front, they may be doing better than individuals?

        Always cancel (or update) your unneeded reservations, people!Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to greginak
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        Glyph,
        I would expect that you’d need at least a couple of days to fill reservations.
        Of course, I’d also expect that you’d pay more if you continue to do this to restaurants.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to greginak
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        @saul-degraw

        “Even before restaurant hop, there was a huge problem of techies or parties making multiple reservations and not cancelling. Alice would make a res at one place, Ted another, Sally another, etc.”

        Why do you assume Alice, Ted, and Sally are techies? Seems you are scapegoating an industry for broader shifts in society.

        People have always tried to game the system. Tech just gives them more options. Tech isn’t the problem. People are.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to greginak
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        The reservation app seems like the real jerk store best seller to me

        Oh yeah?… The ocean called….they’re running out of shrimp.Report

    • Avatar Barry in reply to Jaybird
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      The bot is basically jamming the restaurant’s system for resale, and doing so in a way where reservations which aren’t sold can’t be sold by the restaurant.

      It’d be like paying people to stand in line, but when a bunch of them can’t sell their spots, then the people behind them can not move forward.Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to Barry
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        And I imagine that 4-6 hours is a ridiculously short time to resell. It means that people who don’t use that service are reduced to trying to get reservations in the afternoon, for that evening.Report

  3. Avatar Burt Likko
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    You know, it occurs to me that at least the flavor of these kinds of complaints about all of the techies’ behavior is the same flavor that were the complaints made of social behavior of “yuppies” in the 1980s, and (heh) lawyers in the 1990s. Yes, the details of the recipe are different now, but the basic dish is still the same: ’round these parts we use the acronym FYIGM.Report

    • Avatar Veronica Dire in reply to Burt Likko
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      Well, you can read from the owner, and see if you sense a FYIGM kinda attitude:

      http://brianmayer.com/2014/07/how-i-became-the-most-hated-person-in-san-francisco-for-a-day/

      Sounds like a world class douchecanoe to me. I kinda wanna disrupt him in the nuts.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko
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      I will concur in part and dissent in part.

      I am the first to admit that I am rather bougie and upper-middle class in my tastes. I would love a Brownstone in Brooklyn or the chance to live in Marin for Pete’s Sake (but not Peet’s Coffee, don’t like that brew). I like fancy things. That being said, I will not game the system with a bot to make reservations at multiple restaurants for the same time or sell reservations like a scalper.

      The techies do have a general “Masters of the Universe” vibe that was given to Wall Street guys/yuppies in the 1980s and I think it that self-regard that can lead to hard downfalls or doing business actions that strike others as jerk moves.Report

    • Avatar Barry in reply to Burt Likko
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      Burt, one big difference is the scale and volume. For example, the ‘restaurant spammer’ can suck up all reservations for a large number of restaurants for months in advance.

      It’s like the difference between a door-to-door salesperson vs. telemarketers. The latter can bother a much larger group of people.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Barry
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        I can easily imagine a restaurant manager saying “no, you can’t reserve every Friday night, 6-8 in perpetuity.”

        For the app to work, it’ll have to either make few enough reservations to pass sniff tests or collude with restaurants in the first place.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Barry
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        Another big difference is that ticket scalpers had to pay with their own money to get the tickets. This meant that the original ticket vendor got something even if the scalper was unable to sell all the tickets he or she purchased. Since restaurant reservations are for free, a restaurant scalper doesn’t provide anything to the restaurant that lost their own reservation.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to Barry
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        @jaybird — No, the system is a bot that uses fake names. It can do this all day long and it will be hard to distinguish from actual guests.

        Which leads to a tech arms race, with fake IPs and proxies and filters and sophisticated machine learning algorithms trying to spot the fakes.

        It’s spam filtering and it sucks and it will be a burden on both restauranteurs and patrons.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Barry
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        Well, that right there tells me what the difference between the two apps is.

        I might be irritated by the parking app but, at the end of the day, the guy is selling information and splitting the cash with the broker.

        The restaurant app? It involves lying.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Barry
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        It seems like requiring a credit card could be a reasonable way of getting around the “fake names” problem. No need to charge a deposit. There are only so many valid credit card numbers and OpenTable could easily spot duplicates making reservations for the same time slot at multiple restaurants. Pretty much any solution around that would require credit card fraud (for example, requiring your users to put in credit card numbers and then using numbers from the amassed database to make future reservations for others).

        If they find a clever way around it, it’s straightforward to turn that system into a system that dings your credit card for a no-show.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to Barry
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        @troublesome-frog — That might work — might not. Thing is, it is a burden. It changes a convenient, good faith system into a pain in the ass. It hurts restaurants. It hurts patrons. It sucks from end to end.

        This is why we can’t have nice things!Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Barry
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        says:

        v,
        a little imagination, please? not everything needs to be solved with a hammer.

        “here’s the code. Now, please replace the second word’s third letter with the fifth letter in Hotel California.”

        See? Easy. Switch the questions.Report

      • Avatar Veronica Dire in reply to Barry
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        They use mechanical turks who fill out the captcha for porn. Anything a human can solve becomes easy to solve because humans like porn.Report

  4. Avatar trizzlor
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    I’ve heard the argument that finding and exploiting market loopholes is defensible because it’s the way the market innovates. For example, financial algorithms guys figuring out that you can build a server closer to Wall St. and arbitrage incoming orders is an exploit, but it’s one that has forced the major exchanges to be more aware of order processing and even yielded completely new exchanges that openly randomize orders to avoid this very loophole. There was a market inefficiency – like quarters falling off the back of a bank truck – that was exploited and eventually fixed. But in these cases the inefficiency seems to be what we would ordinarily call “good will”, and the exploit doesn’t just pick up the falling quarters but actually makes the whole process less efficient for everyone else. I immediately thought of the “Free Books” sections libraries often have for the poor, and someone going to scoop up all the books and resell them online. Sure, you can legally squeeze some money out of that, but you’ve made the system less efficient not more.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to trizzlor
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      I agree that the market loopholes here are more like gestures of good will and that it gums up the system for everyone else. I suppose that there are always people who do these moves though. The Parking Monkey app founder is based in Italy!Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to trizzlor
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      But in these cases the inefficiency seems to be what we would ordinarily call “good will”, and the exploit doesn’t just pick up the falling quarters but actually makes the whole process less efficient for everyone else.

      Exactly. The ability to make reservations is *convenience* that restaurants offer us. A way to get in line without actually getting in line. People abusing it are just asshats.

      I think restaurants need to start pushing back against this. I have a suggestion:

      They should require that people give a phone number when making the reservation, and possessing that phone is required to get in. (And, obviously, the restaurant would just say ‘Do you want to use the phone number you’re calling from?’, and people would quickly learn to make reservations using their cell phone, just like everyone still orders pizza using the land line because the pizza place has learned how to deliver there.)

      So later, when you show up, you walk up and say ‘We’re here, please call us.’. (1) They do, you answer, and walk in. This could even, with a little bit of coding, presumably even work with something like Open Table, with them handing your phone number over.

      Granted, this requires that someone in your party possess a cell phone, but you could also give customers the option of giving their name and producing ID instead. The point is, the restaurant make them give that info *at the time of the reservation*, and you don’t let them change it without a really good reason. (Or maybe not at all. This isn’t the fricking hospital. If they lose their reservation, it’s not the end of the world.)

      As an additional bonus, this would keep random idiots who make and then don’t cancel reservations from continuing to do so…oh, this phone number has twice reserved tables this month and didn’t show up, so no, we’re not going to let them make a reservation.

      1) Why have them call you instead of you call them? Because the idiots running Reservation Hop would cleverly create a system where the people they sell reservations to would call a proxy number and it would forward their calls with caller-id spoofing. Making the restaurant call requires them buying actual real phone numbers being forwarded to cell phones, and requires rotating through them enough that it would be a major expense.Report

  5. Avatar Kolohe
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    The idea of making profit over public street parking is the business model of the vast majority of food trucks operating today.Report

  6. Avatar Kolohe
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    The bottom line of course is that parking shouldn’t be a public good.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kolohe
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      Rather, it can’t be a public good, so we should stop thinking of it as one.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to James Hanley
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        Do you think cities should sell off metered street parking?Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to James Hanley
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        If the dominate mode of transit is based on private car ownership, doesn’t this create a need for public parking?Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to James Hanley
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        @james-hanley

        How could we think of it? Should there be no on-street parking? The parking lanes should just be another travel lane? If there is parking on the street, how is it handled? Are the spots ‘owned’ by the nearest property owner? Actually, if the city charges property owners for sidewalk maintenance, I could see that working, so property owners could make extra cash for sidewalk repairs.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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        It can’t be a public good because one person’s use diminishes what remains for others to use.

        It’s actually a toll good, like a bridge. Plenty of people can use it, but it’s subject to congestion. And that’s why we should charge appropriate tolls to use it.

        As to who “owns” it, the idea that it’s “public property” is true, but not helpful, unless perhaps we’re talking about free parking where there’s plenty to go around. It’s better to look at it as city owned, with the city being able to dole it out as it pleases.

        But even that doesn’t really tell us how to think, for two reasons.

        1. If I finish a library book with a week to go before it’s due (let’s say Game of Thrones, which is so in demand in my library that I haven’t yet found book IV on the shelf when I’ve gone to look for it*), could I legitimately let my neighbor read it for $5 bucks? I don’t see much difference, and I have a hard time imagining people thinking that’s outrageous.

        2. Maybe, as the app creator says, they’re not actually selling parking spaces, but selling information. That’s the legal argument they’re going to make, it appears, and win or lose, I don’t think it’s evidently false.

        ____________
        *Yes, I could get on a wait list; I just havn’t.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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        @leeesq
        I wasn’t saying there shouldn’t be public parking; just that street parking is not a public good–it’s not freely available to all once it’s provided, so there’s going to be a rationing system, whether it’s by wait times or by price. So thinking of it as a public good distorts our thinking about how available it should be.

        @saul-degraw
        I wasn’t thinking of anything like that, but a city certainly could lease street parking to a private vendor. It’s easier to imagine it if we think of the city owning a parking garage but letting a private vendor operate it. It really wouldn’t be functionally different to lease street parking. Whether that’s a good idea depends on whether the city gets more net return from it than they would from operating it themselves.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to James Hanley
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        @saul-degraw

        Do you think cities should sell off metered street parking?

        After what happened in the City of Chicago, it’s not clear to me that a deal of that nature is politically feasible.

        One of the more fair criticisms of the Chicago deal is that by transferring the rights to a private entity, the issues of parking rates and increases are no longer part of the democratic process. Citizens can vote out the people that approved the deal, but the people they elect in their place are equally powerless to do anything.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley
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        it would seem to take an awful lot of analytics to properly value street parking by price (assume that parking is “priced” by relative walking distance to destination) — and then there’s the obvious “global solution” — a street with no cars parked on it, is one that can handle more traffic. Of course, we’d have to communicate that out to people…

        … probably overthinking this.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to James Hanley
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        If the dominate mode of transit is based on private car ownership, doesn’t this create a need for public parking?

        I was thinking it created the opposite need.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to James Hanley
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        @kim

        It wouldn’t be any different than operating a parking garage. Knowing spaces, rates, number of turns, expenses and taxes can get you to a net income figure pretty quickly. At that point, it boils down to calculating an appropriate rate of return.

        Morgan Stanley had no problem with it when they valued Chicago’s meters.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to James Hanley
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        @james-hanley The more appropriate way of looking at it, I think, is that it’s really nothing different from a sub-lease of a private parking spot, along with a right of renewal, except where the landlord is the city rather than a private owner. I don’t see how there’s something wrong or jerk-ish with subletting a spot in a monthly lot, and I rather doubt anyone would see something being wrong with that. So how is subletting a spot in metered parking materially different?

        The answer is that it’s not.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
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        Mark,

        As an example, if I put my money in the meter, say $3 for an hour, then someone came along and said, “I’ll give you $5 for that parking space,” how would it be wrong for me to agree?Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to James Hanley
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        If you put in quarters for two hours because you don’t want to take any chances, but then it turns out to only take a half-hour, well in my view you have operated in good faith and I have no problem with you turning a bit of a profit because circumstance turned out in your favor. No rules are required.

        Once people are doing it on a widespread basis, the purpose of below-market pricing has been subverted. Then you need to start creating rules to prevent such abuses. Not only can you no longer take advantage of your good luck, but people become generally inconvenienced with each new rule added.

        That’s why it’s important to operate in good faith. That’s why tools that help people operate in bad faith should be looked down upon.

        If I’m the owner of a sports franchise and I specifically price seats cheaply so that more people can afford to go to games (either out of goodwill or to generate more fans to help get a good TV deal), I don’t care if someone has something that comes up at the last minute and sell the ticket for a little more than they bought it for. But if it becomes a widespread phenomenon, it defeats the purpose of the cheap tickets in the first place. So I create rules for the guy whose plans fell through. Suckage.

        Now, one response to this is “Market prices for everything!” and the belief that subverting a bad system is a good thing. But the solution to bad parking policy is to support candidates with good parking policy or convince them that your view is right.

        It’s one thing to subvert a system when it’s morally wrong. It’s another to subvert a system because it depends on good faith and you can profit off bad faith. Never mind whether you consider standard pricing to be bad policy (I’m likely to agree with you on a lot of things), do you think that it’s actually immoral? If so, that’s where we disagree.

        We may also disagree on the distinction between good faith and bad faith. My view there is that a society that can assume good faith is going to be far preferable to one build around preventing or accommodating bad faith.Report

      • Avatar gingergene in reply to James Hanley
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        Question: what if you took the entire loan period to read the book, but offered to loan it to your neighbor if he paid you the overdue fines + $5.00 in order to jump to the front of the line? Would that be ok?Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to James Hanley
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        San Francisco has the most sophisticated parking metering system in the country and really has no excuse for this. They put in networked meters that have occupancy sensors that could dynamically adjust prices based on how many empty spots there were. A simple algorithm adjusts the price until 1 out of every N spaces in a region remains empty. Boom. Problem solved.

        My understanding is that they’re not maintaining the sensors and are going with time-based pricing now, but maintaining the sensors and trying to keep spaces at a certain utilization pattern pretty much solves this whole problem. You can’t ransom off the last space, people don’t overuse the shared resource, people no longer cruise for parking spaces and create congestion, and it encourages parking patterns to distribute away from congested areas and toward underutilized areas. If SF has the equipment to do it and isn’t using it properly, they’re causing their own completely optional problems.Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to James Hanley
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        @james-hanley , so here’s how you work this thing: Mark off all the parking spaces in alternating colors — say five or six different colors. Lease each color to a different company and allow them to set metering rates as they please with the city getting a fixed percentage as their lease payment. Stand back and see what happens. Could be interesting, no?Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to James Hanley
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        @james-hanley

        If I finish a library book with a week to go before it’s due…could I legitimately let my neighbor read it for $5 bucks? I don’t see much difference, and I have a hard time imagining people thinking that’s outrageous.

        I don’t find it outrageous, but there’s something about it that doesn’t seem quite right to me. I wouldn’t ban the practice, and it’s not like you’re getting something for nothing (you’re running the “cost” of risking whether the person you sublet the book to might not return it or might damage it, making you liable for the loss/damage), but it just seems like it goes against the spirit of what public libraries are supposed to be about.

        Again, it’s not the gravest injustice ever. It might not even count as an injustice. But it just doesn’t seem right to me.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Kolohe
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      I would argue we need to encourage more public transport and less driving but my ideal is probably not happening anytime in the future.Report

  7. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    The solution to Monkey Parking is for someone to hack it and build an app that allows its users to show up at the same time as the guy the space was “sold” to (but has no actual claim on, legal or moral.)Report

  8. Avatar James K
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    I am, as you are aware, generally in favour of attempts to improve market efficiency by reducing transaction costs, however these the parking example strikes me a problematic in ways that a service like Uber (for example) is not.

    The issue I have with the parking app is that it is an attempt to sublet something, when there is at least an implicit term in the contract that you do not do this. That fact that Parking Monkey is using public land for private gain makes it worse.

    Overall I think Reservation Hop is less of a problem, but still a problem because it makes booking without there being a good faith effort to turn up. Booking a table that goes unfilled hurts the restaurant.

    But I think both of these innovations can be undermined. If governments didn’t undercharge for parking (something that causes all kinds of social problems) Parking Monkey would be driven out of business. As for Reservation Hop, requiring booking to be phoned in would probably do the job.Report

    • Avatar trizzlor in reply to James K
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      says:

      As for Reservation Hop, requiring booking to be phoned in would probably do the job.

      From what I understand, the service started with the owner calling up restaurants and making reservations under fake names. One option is to check ID for anyone making a reservation once they arrive, though this would mean restaurants turning away customers at the last minute so it probably won’t happen. Another option is to take a non-refundable deposit for reservations, which would basically mean another good-faith agreement turns into a service charge because some valley asshole didn’t really think about the ethics of what he was doing.Report

    • Avatar Damon in reply to James K
      Ignored
      says:

      @james-k

      “when there is at least an implicit term in the contract that you do not do this” Oh really?

      I’ve seen people “reserve” public parking, by putting cones and chairs in “their” space, after they dug out their car from 4 feet of snow. Happens quite a lot. Know what you got if you moved some guy’s stuff and parked there? You got keyed.Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Damon
        Ignored
        says:

        “These are small potatoes as life’s indignities go but it does provide a huge dent into tech’s image to the outside world.”

        the parking one…maybe. maaaaybe. and that’s a big maybe, unless you think folks outside of sf or nyc give a whit about parking inside sf or nyc. it might strike people as fundamentally unfair or simply nonsensical (e.g. “who would pay for free parking?”) but they don’t think of “tech” as “tech” because they don’t live in sf or work in the industry. it’s simply part of the background noise (which is likely candy crush).

        the restaurant one? no way. open table is not that widespread outside of major cities. it’s an abstraction of an abstraction, like uberx or, i dunno, specialty mayonnaise stores.

        this is inside baseball, or inside the actor’s studio, or whatever you’d use instead of baseball.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Damon
        Ignored
        says:

        Damon,
        Man, the folks in Chicago are nice about shit like that, ain’t they?
        Around here, someone gets out the hose, and you don’t use your car for the next month.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Damon
        Ignored
        says:

        @kim
        Word.

        But I dont live Chicago. 🙂Report

      • Avatar gingergene in reply to Damon
        Ignored
        says:

        In some cities (Boston?), you actually have a right to a space you’ve cleared the snow out of for a certain time period.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Damon
        Ignored
        says:

        ginger,
        hmph. wiki says boston is 48 hours. That is surprisingly sane (though probably also leads to non-resident frustration).Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to Damon
        Ignored
        says:

        Even worse, most Boston neighborhoods have pretty limited parking for non-residents. And you get stickers for your neighborhood, which entitles you to nothing elsewhere in the city. So already visitors are kinda screwed, even on a lovely summer day. In winter it is hell.

        My wife and I luck out, as we have an assigned parking spot in a lot — which is a big deal to have — so when guests come, we will often get street parking, with our sticker, and let the guest park in our spot. (We’ve even thought of buying another spot just for guests.)

        Parking in winter is rough. I’m glad I take the train.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Damon
        Ignored
        says:

        @veronica-dire if you’re driving into Boston, it’s safer to park your car in the garage (not Harvard Yard,) and take the T. Particularly if you’re anywhere near Fenway on game day. Driving in Beantown (or crossing the street)? Beware the lobster plate.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers in reply to Damon
        Ignored
        says:

        @veronica-d

        My wife and I

        Are you polyamorous?Report

  9. Avatar Chris
    Ignored
    says:

    the restaurant one? no way. open table is not that widespread outside of major cities. it’s an abstraction of an abstraction, like uberx or, i dunno, specialty mayonnaise stores.?

    Hell, it’s not even widespread in major cities. It’s used here in Austin, but you have to be going to a place that requires reservations. The people I know who do that do so at most once a month, most much less frequently (anniversaries, maybe a birthday).

    To be honest, when it comes to people complaining about restaurant reservation bots, I have to resist my urge to say let them eat expensive cake, if they can get a table.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris
      Ignored
      says:

      when it comes to people complaining about restaurant reservation bots, I have to resist my urge to say let them eat expensive cake, if they can get a table.

      I dunno, I complain about concert ticket scalpers (well, I would, if I were going to shows that were big enough for scalpers to care about) snapping up all the tickets in a computerized fashion 30 seconds after they go on sale, then selling them at enormous markup (this still happens, right? Like I said, I don’t really go to these sorts of shows anymore).

      Why shouldn’t people complain about scalping something that was (nominally) free, so the ‘scalper’ didn’t even have to invest his own money into the scheme (at least ticket scalpers have skin in the game, if they can’t resell the tickets they are stuck with them; and the original ticket sellers got paid by the scalper)?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        Yeah, like I said, I have to resist it. I think it’s a dickish thing to do, though unlike early internet ticket buying, really easy for restaurants and the app to avoid.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        @chris

        I think Will has a good point below about why we should complain and care. Maybe some market inefficiencies need to be allowed for a fundamental sake of fairness.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        Glyph,

        I think I’ve seen some retailers changing the way they sell tickets lately, moving in the direction of demand-based pricing, (rather than stipulative). I”m not sure what it’s technically called, but prices float to reflect demand thereby eliminating the scalper scoopers as well as increasing revenues for the performer and perhaps even the venue.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        Look, I understand that it’s jerky, I think it’s bad, and I hope restaurants do something about it, but dude, we’re talking about reservations at restaurants, restaurants that require reservations. We left fairness long before we got here. This is not about fairness, it’s about convenience. It is inconvenient for you, and for the restaurant, to have to work around some assholes using bots, either by paying them or having to make reservations earlier. (Also, I didn’t think Will was talking about fairness, but I could be wrong.)Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        It’s unfair when the Wal Mart worker can’t eat at Chez le Chic because a bot snatched up the reservations and they can’t afford the $5 to buy one of them.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Glyph
        Ignored
        says:

        I wasn’t talking about fairness, at least in part because I tend to think that fairness is largely subjective.Report

  10. Avatar Citizen
    Ignored
    says:

    The question I have is:
    Do these apps produce tangible wealth, or are they producing cost from an activity that used to be/is free?Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Citizen
      Ignored
      says:

      The activities weren’t entirely free. Waiting time is not free.

      That doesn’t, by itself, mean these apps are a good thing. It just means that driving around looking for parking, or waiting a half hour for a seat in a restaurant, isn’t free.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley

        Some restaurants in SF have switched to no reservations as a way to get around this problem. Arguably making everyone wait is more democratic than letting the app rule.Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Yeah, I tried to weigh personal time and effort, but have trouble quantifying that into/against tangible wealth creation. Maybe it is even trade, but in the end I don’t see how the final price of the product doesn’t increase somewhere.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @saul-degraw
        Arguably making everyone wait is more democratic than letting the app rule.

        Arguably, but so? We’re talking about commerce, not politics. If we’re going to democratize commerce, I want my goddam Ferrari outside my beach house right frickin’ now!

        @citizen
        Value is subjective, so for every person it’s a different tradeoff, and it differs for each individual at different times (am I hungry, do I need to get out of the restaurant by X:00 so I can make the show, etc.). It’s a calculation that can only be made by an individual in the moment.

        That’s not to say I don’t have qualms about the restaurant app. But I suspect that if it becomes problematic for restaurants and their customers, new solutions will be found that better solve the problem the app attempts to fix.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley Isn’t that something the commercial enterprise (the restaurant, parking landlord, ticket-seller) should have any control over? Should their say be limited to the extent that they play whack-a-mole with would-be subverts?

        I hate it when parking is free and unavailable and will vote for parking fees at every opportunity, but it does seem to me that there is or ought to be a degree of community decision-making here. At least when dealing with public provision (curb parking, etc).Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley

        I think you are underestimating the power of optics and good will which is something that even expensive restaurants want. Suppose you had a reservation at a popular and packed restaurant but were cancelled upon when you got there because someone was willing to pay an extra 400 for your table. Most people would find a restaurant doing this to be shockingly bad form.

        People care about appearances of fairness or actual fairness. This is why Floor and Water got a cheer for turning away Steve Jobs a few years ago because they were packed and did not have a table. He was treated like everyone else instead of as a demi-God of the Bay Area. There are two great restaurants that don’t take reservations and are always packed and no one seems to mind the wait and treats it as part of the sport that I can think of.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Sure the business/city should have a say, but should our first response really be, “let’s make another rule”? That someone’s doing something “wrong” is clearly not the underlying problem here, because there’s an underlying problem that the “bad” person is taking advantage of.

        San Francisco has also been experimenting with congestion pricing for parking (a good one for linky Friday), with their target standard being a price that ensures, iirc, one empty parking space per block at all times. That’s a lot better solution than creating yet another rule that the city has to enforce at some expense.

        Human ingenuity is a great problem solver, but “let’s make a rule forbidding X,” often represents a lack of ingenuity, just a default to the most obvious (but not obviously best) solution.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Saul,

        If restaurants benefit from the optics of being democratic, great, they should do that. But that underscores that being “democratic” is just a commercial value in this case, not a value that trumps commerce.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Saul,
        I dunno, when I was in SF, I saw a restauranteur blatantly cancelling people’s “reservations on the waiting list” for being idiots, disrespectful, or just plain “showing up because it’s popular”. Let alone the people who failed to understand that “the waiting list disappears before closing time. please do not go into the restaurant to find the waiting list.”Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley I am looking on SF’s peak priced parking with interest. It’s a solution very much up my alley. However, it’s a value-laden and offers very little in the way of a solution for those that believe that people ought to be able to “pay” for their parking space with dilligence and their own time, instead of with money.

        Likewise, a ticket scalper may be merely a symptom of insufficiently-priced tickets, but raising the prices of tickets is only a solution if you don’t think there is value (commercial or otherwise) in people without much money (but say a fair amount of time, or some luck) being able to attend a sporting or musical event. Scalpers subvert that process. It’s not clear why it should be their decision to make, to make it all about money instead of time or luck or what-have-you, instead of the venue’s.

        (My hesitation with all of this is that a lot of the time I don’t want to vendor to have too much power. See my rooted phone, or DRM.)Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        offers very little in the way of a solution for those that believe that people ought to be able to “pay” for their parking space with dilligence and their own time, instead of with money.

        Fuck ’em. Seriously. There are only a few markets where we think it’s normal for people to pay by wait time instead of money–parking, restaurants, concert tickets–and each of those is demonstrably a failure to match supply and demand efficiently. The grocery store doesn’t let me pay less if I agree to hang around outside for a long time, the pharmacy doesn’t, my mechanic doesn’t, the gas station doesn’t, etc. etc.

        And people cruising for parking spaces slow down other people, who aren’t compensated for having their time spent on someone else’s preference for not spending money.

        And of course free/cheap parking is a de facto subsidy for car owners.

        Seriously, people who believe in free/cheap parking when there’s just simply not enough parking spaces? Fuck ’em.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        James,
        plenty of places have you pay less if you plan more.

        often, parking will have you pay zilch, if you’re willing to walk. In fact, transportation as a whole tends to work this way — paying time for spending less.

        I’m all for folks exploring different markets. That said, it is city owned property, so if the city as a whole wants to do it a particular way (after the new way has been explored), I do support their ability to outlaw such craziness.Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        I understand that for the individual and time, answers will vary, but in the overall economy do such practices end up increasing prices in general?
        In a decade will we pay that price and still be waisting time and effort on the next step of the scheme?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @citizen

        Raising prices? Maybe.

        Raising costs? No.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @james-hanley , your mechanic might not let people pay by waiting, but mine does. If you’re willing to wait for the right month and spend effort to find the coupon, your oil change is 30% off.

        The fact is, almost every good is available cheaper at the cost of some, typically time-and-effort based inconvenience, even if sometimes that means buying from a different vendor.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        @will-truman

        However, it’s a value-laden and offers very little in the way of a solution for those that believe that people ought to be able to “pay” for their parking space with dilligence and their own time, instead of with money.

        One thing about the SF Park system was that they had a ton of data on which places were expensive and which places were cheap. The locations of cheap meters (sometimes really cheap meters) becomes useful information for people who are willing to put in a little extra walking effort to avoid paying a lot for parking. Instead of everybody fighting over the same dozen well-known spaces, it was easy to see where the hidden gems were.

        The other problem with paying for a parking space “with your own time” is that it really means paying for a parking space with congestion while you drive around. That’s a major problem in big cities. Maybe some people are crazy enough to loiter an extra 30 minutes in the car for a good space, but it’s a shame that their fellow drivers have to pay a penalty for that craziness.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley
        Ignored
        says:

        Alan,

        If you mean searching around for deals, sure. But I mean as the normal everyday business operation.Report

  11. Avatar Will Truman
    Ignored
    says:

    The pertinent question to me when it comes to such things is what the effect will be.

    I consider the parking app to be questionable largely because it requires a change that’s contrary to desires of the public that set up the policy that’s being exploited. It’s better to be able to institute policies based on good faith, and people acting in bad faith (as the people here unquestionably are) require policy adjustments that ideally wouldn’t be necessary.

    (I have the same view here when people walk away from underwater mortgages that they can afford. I get called bad names when I voice them, though.)

    The restaurant app is similarly disturbing. If widespread, it would require restaurants to change their policies to make reservations less convenient.

    I understand the economics of scalping and why they represent market inefficiencies and all that. At the same time, it’s a better world when inefficiencies can be allowed to exist to allow access to things on bases other than money. Even if we agree that such things be legal*, but can be lamentable all the same.

    * – Seems to me the “free market” aspect is questionable, though. It depends on the extent to which we should allow vendors to add terms and conditions on sales. It’s kind of a complicated question, though, because the allowing of too many terms and conditions leads to problems of its own, when we’re talking about purchases anyway. Some of these things are more leasy than purchasey, though.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Will Truman
      Ignored
      says:

      Will,
      Finding a quick exploit in the captcha (or using the backdoor) isn’t really “oh, god, we can’t fix this” territory.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kim
        Ignored
        says:

        No, it can be fixed. It’s just that layers of fixing it provide for inconvenience in one form or another. If nothing else, effort has to be made with the whack-a-mole.

        On the other hand, not all exploitations are bad! I am firmly on the side of the exploiters that allowed me to root my phone.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Kim
        Ignored
        says:

        Captchas only work when the value being protected by it is not much more than the cost of paying a m-turkers to solve them for you.

        Seriously – the going rate is somewhere in the realm of 50c to $2 per 1000 captchas solved. Assuming you can’t get software to do it cheaper…Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to Kim
        Ignored
        says:

        This is why so many companies are doing the “give me your cell number and I’ll text you a code number” thing. Which is annoying as fuck.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Kim
        Ignored
        says:

        It’s annoying when the thing they’re trying to protect is *their* scarce resource.

        It’s really nice when the thing they’re trying to protect is *your* scarce resource, but basically free for them – I have this feature turned on with my email provider; I really wish any of my banks would rise to the level of account protection that Gmail or facebook do.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Kim
        Ignored
        says:

        v,
        yup, totally annoying.
        df,
        some of us don’t have cell phones at all times.Report

    • Avatar Citizen in reply to Will Truman
      Ignored
      says:

      I’m not considering written policy or written law as much as the unwritten. If I have a personal mandate to oppose rent seeking, do these apps tread that path? My first inclination is they do and should be avoided.Report

    • Avatar veronica d in reply to Will Truman
      Ignored
      says:

      Right. In this case the restaurants (by all accounts) want reservations to be 1) free and 2) first-come-first-serve. Likewise for municipal parking. (Although I guess there is usually some fee.) The free market folks can chant market, market, market all they want. But do not forget the nature of civic choice. The restauranteurs get to decide their business model, and this reservation app dude is selling a thing that is not his.

      (Arguably using false names in this way is fraud. As is bypassing a captcha — is that illegal? Maybe it should be.)

      Likewise, the civic authorities get to decide how parking works. And if their decisions are bad and a free market model would work better, then convince them, or convince voters.

      Like, democracy and all of that.Report

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        Veronica,
        I don’t think we see anything but fleeting glimpses of what true free markets are. Some very poor civic choices have made extraordinary costs of things that used to be free.

        “civic authorities get to decide how parking works”
        I typically frown at that thought process.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        @veronica-d Arguably using false names in this way is fraud.

        You know, this was my initial thought too.

        Then I remembered my username.

        Story time – when I was in college, my parents came to visit & take me & my girlfriend out for dinner and the four of us Glyphs were sitting outside waiting for a table at a restaurant. Long wait, and I was hungry. (I was ALWAYS hungry).

        As we were waiting, the hostess called out over the speaker “Jones, party of four….Jones, party of four….”

        On the third or fourth repetition, when it became clear the Joneses were in somebody’s trunk (and hungry…that’s a double-whammy), I walked in and said to the hostess “Excuse me…did you just page ‘Jones, party of four’?”, guessing she’d assume from my question that we were the four Joneses they were looking for.

        Which she did, and led us straight to a table.

        Now, what I did wasn’t great (I didn’t exactly *LIE*, but I sure led her to infer the wrong info from my question) but who did I *hurt*?

        We got in faster; the people ahead of us had to wait the same time they would have anyway had the Joneses stuck around (a four-top is a four-top, regardless of the names); and the people behind us still got the benefit bump in speed of the Jones’ no-show (since when “Glyph, party of four” shortly doesn’t show, they get moved up a position).Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        “who did I *hurt*? ”

        Franklin, party of four, who’d been waiting forty-five minutes and were next in line after Jones.

        Social order only exists when everyone agrees to maintain it. As soon as people start operating under FYIGM or FYWIGIM (Whatever I Grab Is Mine) then things fall apart.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        Franklin, party of four, who’d been waiting forty-five minutes and were next in line after Jones.

        But they were no *worse* off than if the Joneses had stuck around. And they were never made aware of any other situation.

        They failed to receive the unexpected benefit of the Joneses’ no-show, certainly.

        But they suffered no loss.

        (Which is not to say they wouldn’t’a kicked my ass, if they’d somehow found out).

        (I never pulled this stunt again. It was a very specific confluence of factors). 🙂Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        Jim,
        hot damn, you’re cynical. Ain’t never met a CEO who felt he was bound by the rules of us “lesser beings” — have you?Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        @glyph — There is a thing called “opportunity cost.” You definitely cost the Franklins something.

        On names, a lot of trans folks are still “legally” their old name. That said, this seems different and I bet a law could be crafted to distinguish them.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        Using a *made up* name, as in, a totally invented one, is not what would be fraud here. In most places, as I understand, you’re allowed to use pseudonyms as long as you don’t intend to defraud. If I order a pizza under a made up name, and I go and pick it up under that name, I have not defrauded anyone, and it’s entirely legal.

        The fraud here would be, in theory, ‘Person X booked this, person Y showed up *claiming to be person X*, with person X’s permission’. It doesn’t really matter if Person X used their real name or not, the ‘fraud’ would be Person Y pretending to be a real, specific person that they are not.

        That said, I’m not actually sure that is fraud. You’d have to prove that reservations actually had some value, and that the restaurant was harmed in some way by that specific wrong person using them. (As opposed to being harmed by this idiotic system in general.) It would be hard to prove harm to the restaurant by claiming ‘This guy showed up and bought a meal instead of that other guy, who never actually intended to show up’.

        At best, the restaurant might have some sort of claim against Person X, but failure to keep an appointment is *not* something businesses can bill you for unless they *explicitly* tell you that at the time of making the appointment, IIRC. (And a reservation isn’t, strictly speaking, an appointment in that sense anyway. The person just promised to show up, they didn’t promise to *buy anything*, so the restaurant can hardly bill them even if they don’t show up.)Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        “But they were no *worse* off than if the Joneses had stuck around.”

        Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        @veronica-dire – yeah, I know what opportunity cost is, but I’m not convinced that this cost doesn’t straddle a line between ‘opportunity’ and ‘sunk’ (the Franklins already signed up to wait behind the Joneses – and it’s the Joneses who bailed on their ‘contract’; the Franklins did nothing and remain oblivious to the whole thing).

        Consider:

        Apple is releasing the iGeegaw tomorrow. You and I both want one, but you get to the long line at the Apple Store in time to take the #33 spot in a line of 99 people.

        I, being a lazy bum, am at #67.

        After 5 hours, your feet are hurting and you realize how ridiculous this all is, so you decide ‘fish it, I got other things to do” – but before you bail, you call your friend Glyph and offer him your spot in line, which he happily accepts, moving up to #33.

        (Of course, neither of us ever even considered me just joining you, as that would push the bottom two-thirds of the line back: a clear jerk move. This is simply a 1:1 line member replacement, you donating the relative advantaged spot you accrued by spending your time, to me; my past line experience tells me the people around us will likely understand and accept this).

        The top 2/3s of the line experienced no status change at all, in relative wait time or potential iGeegaw availability, from our transaction. (Which is why they’ll accept it). The bottom 1/3 (the poor saps who need the help the most) experienced a relative improvement in their situation; by you bailing, they move up by 1.

        You either benefited (by bailing and doing something more fun) and/or lost (by not getting an iGeegaw on day 1), but either way, that was your choice to bail.

        Obviously, I clearly benefitted, a lot.

        Now, this doesn’t map totally, since the Joneses didn’t knowingly offer me their spot (and, in my situation, nobody but me was aware of the ‘transaction’; also, if you and I hadn’t done the iGeegaw shuffle, the bottom 2/3 of the line would have benefited, instead of only the bottom 1/3); but other than that, this seems like one of those things that sit on that boundary that so vexes liberals and libertarians/conservatives, namely: when does “failure to help” become “harm”?

        (And again, I only did this once, a long time ago and wouldn’t do it again; in part because long before I could explain all the above, my teeth might be on the sidewalk).Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        This the “salami slicing embezzlement scam” theory of line waiting in which you steal the benefit of one step forward in line from N people and turn it into a benefit of N steps forward in line for yourself. Comparing it to the case in which the person didn’t leave the line at all is kind of a red herring. The person *did* leave the line, so the only possible outcomes were “I benefit N spaces” or “N people benefit 1 space.” The morality of it seems to rest entirely on the idea that those N people won’t really be able to tell the difference and that N jumps for you is a lot better than 1 “barely noticeable” jump for N people.

        Maybe the rule should be that when a person leaves the line, the people behind him draw lots to decide who gets to take the space. Then everybody still gets the expected value of “one jump” every time somebody leaves, but one person still gets to enjoy the multi-jump jackpot.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        @glyph — We can rationalize anything.

        @davidtc — Yeah, the name thing would be hard to make stick, but I still think it is a form of fraud. The captcha thing is a little more cut-n-dry. After all, “humans only, no bots” states a clear intent and license for use.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        @glyph
        This is simply a 1:1 line member replacement, you donating the relative advantaged spot you accrued by spending your time, to me; my past line experience tells me the people around us will likely understand and accept this

        This is because the etiquette of lines is somewhat vague and confusing.

        People in lines accept the idea of *swapping people out*. You are one entity, taking up one spot, you’re just taking shifts. It’s the same way that if you’re waiting for a table at a restaurant, other people in your party can show up late and get in the same point in line as you…because you’re *waiting for the same table*.

        However, if you actually explained what was going on, that you and the other person hadn’t, from the start, planned to get a single thing, but instead you were in line for that thing, and you’re giving up, but you want him to take your spot, the people behind you would be somewhat less accepting of it. (And possibly wouldn’t even be able to explain why they were upset, so would grudgingly let you do it.)

        Whether or not there’s actually any *moral* difference between those two actions I have no idea, but there is a slight etiquette difference.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        @veronica-d @troublesome-frog – huh. I have seen “placeholding” behavior many times in long lines for movies and concerts; and of course, every Black Friday, there’s some news piece on people camping outside the Best Buy in shifts, so either they or their buddy can get into the store early, and nobody seems to get upset, as long as SOMEONE took the time and waited for that space (not necessarily the person who finally uses it). “Cutting” is generally called when someone “adds” a new spot in the extant line, not swaps one out.

        I’m trying to figure out why it seems so different here.

        I think it’s A.) the automation/bots (or more broadly, the scale) and B.) profit as (primary) motive with maybe some C.) what do we consider acceptable “proxies” in these situations?

        If a kid called a busy restaurant and claimed to be his dad and made reservations for Valentine’s Day, so that his dad & mom could get a guaranteed spot at the restaurant, nobody would worry that it wasn’t the dad who made the reservation / originally waited on the phone.

        If the place doesn’t take reservations, so the kid waited in line while his folks waited in the car, then they swapped when he got up close, no one would care.

        Even if the dad gave the kid five bucks to do the waiting.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        On “holding in line,” if it’s your friend I think most people let it slide. Just kinda one of those unwritten rules.

        On the reservations, imagine this:

        I get on the subway and lay upon the seats little slips of paper. On the slips of paper is a word: “Reserved.” Then as passengers board, I inform them that I control those seats and to sit in them they need to pay me. I engage in bidding.

        Yay me!

        No doubt the free market folks will point out how there is a market for freaking everything, and thus I am entirely in the right. I have uncovered a market need.

        (Before you get angry, read on.)

        Next day, flush from my subway earnings, I show up at your place of business (let us imagine you sell shoes) and place a bar across the door. Then as your customers arrive, I inform them that I control the door and entry will be five bucks. Some pay. Some do not. Those who do not, they leave.

        Again, I have uncovered a market.

        I. AM. AWESOME!

        Okay, so these examples are absurd. And I know you free market folks do not mean to support this stuff. Look, I get it. But the parking lot squatting and reservation scalping is kinda the same thing.

        They are selling something that is not theirs to sell.

        Now, it might be the case that the market folks are right on the broad point. For example, I could be convinced that a bidding system (or whatever) could ease much congestion in cities. Sure. Makes sense. And myself, I wouldn’t mind. I can afford it.

        But It will be a tough sell, since it goes against many civic assumptions. Also it will create another area where rich folks win and poor folks lose.

        (There is a strange, hard to quantify value in equalization, at least sometimes in some places. For example, on the subway were are all the same, the working class black lady, the homeless fellow, the investment banker, and me, the software slinging transie gal. A seat is first come first serve. If it is crowded, we rub shoulders. Just the way it is.)

        (You know, once or twice I’ve given up my seat to some dude who looks like he worked hard today. Which is always funny, since I can tell they’re not sure how to react. On the one hand, a seat! On the other hand, a queer.)

        Anyway…

        It might be correct that a market for parking would improve things. But city leaders, and voters!, might still not want it. And surely they are who gets to choose.

        Likewise for reservations. If there is a market, and owners want to exploit it, then good for them. Use their service or not. But if they want to keep reservations free, first come first serve, then that too is their right. It’s their restaurant, their service, their seats.

        You cannot sell what is not yours.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        If I’m seemingly defending the guy, it’s a weak sort of ‘devil’s advocate’ defense.

        I’m more interested in poking around the edges to see where the lines get drawn (and as DavidTC pointed out, which ones are moral, and which ones are etiquette).

        It also got me thinking about our innate sense of ‘fairness’ and how sometimes something just strikes us as unfair, even if we can’t really explain why. And we often trust this sense (and as you say, rationalize to it).

        But given the ways in which our other innate cognitive biases can lead us astray (or, as another example, our sense of “yuck”/revulsion/contamination when it comes to morality, which often has no rational basis whatsoever), it’s not clear to me that our innate sense of ‘fairness’ is always a much more reliable indicator of the best thing to do (it may be just another flawed old heuristic which sometimes gets it right, and sometimes deceives us).

        Anyway, thanks for humoring me. I think I’m going to take some Benadryl and go to bed early; I’m sick and depressed, because getting sick today means that I am missing a really old friend visiting in town and a concert that I was REALLY looking forward to tonight. At least they are going to be able to use my ticket.

        If I’m recovered by Saturday, we’ll probably go dancing at a club I think you’d dig.Report

      • Avatar Veronica Dire in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        @glyph — Get some sleep. Hope you feel better.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        “They are selling something that is not theirs to sell.”

        NO. In the case the parking space, he is not selling the parking space. He is selling the information that a space is about to open and it’s location.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        I get on the subway and lay upon the seats little slips of paper. On the slips of paper is a word: “Reserved.” Then as passengers board, I inform them that I control those seats and to sit in them they need to pay me. I engage in bidding.

        While that obviously doesn’t work (As you have no ability to stop people from ignoring your slips of paper), I feel like pointing out that people actually *are* paid to stand in lines for reporters to get into congressional committees. Seating at those things is strictly ‘Line up and get in one at a time, and you can swap out with someone else in line’. It’s actually a law. (Well, technically, a rule of Congress.)

        So many hours beforehand, media interns and people getting paid min wage stand (Or, actually, sit, reading books and playing on laptops) in line, and wait there, and two minutes before the meeting start, swap out with the reporter who actually wants in.

        How this is more useful than just *auctioning* the seat to the highest bidder is never addressed, especially since this results in absurd inefficiency for badly-judged meetings where some people are there six hours in advance or whenever, and yet others can show up only fifteen minutes early and still get in. So it actually is almost a silent auction, just with, uh, people’s time. (I shouldn’t complain too much, Congress actually managed to create jobs!)

        It might be correct that a market for parking would improve things. But city leaders, and voters!, might still not want it. And surely they are who gets to choose.

        I’m failing to see how they actually *can* choose.

        Cities are leasing out spaces, at below market value, via to the next random person that drives by. And that is, in actual fact, what is happening…these idiotic parking app just make sure that a certain person is the next up to drive by.

        They have to change *some* part of that if they don’t want the system to operate like that. (As I have suggested, they should probably stop leasing parking at way way below market value.)

        There’s not really any other solution. Unlike the reservation thing, people are literally transferring possession of something…they’re just telling others right before they stop using a piece of public infrastructure, so the person they want can start using it.

        Someone in this conversation made a library analog of leasing the excess amount of a library checkout to someone, but that’s not what’s happening here. Instead, your friend comes with you to the library and watches you hand in the book, and the second it’s checked back in he snatches it off the reshelving cart. (And library holds don’t exist.)

        Likewise for reservations. If there is a market, and owners want to exploit it, then good for them. Use their service or not. But if they want to keep reservations free, first come first serve, then that too is their right. It’s their restaurant, their service, their seats.

        I don’t think ‘first come first serve’ means what you think it does. Reservations are currently going to the first people who sign up….who promptly resell them.

        What you want is an inability to resell reservations. And restaurants can do that, and in fact it would be pretty easy. They’d just have to start confirming ID in some way.

        You cannot sell what is not yours.

        Almost anything you *possess*, you can *transfer possession* of for a fee, even if you don’t own the thing…*unless* the person who actually does own the thing figures out some way to stop that. Technology has just made it much easier for certain things that used to be hard to find a ‘buyer’ for to be found.

        Again, I’m not making any sort of moral suggestions here. I’m just saying that technology has now rendered some things possible that people never thought of before, and some of those things are not really things the owners want happening, so they should figure out how to stop them (which is not that hard) instead of complaining about them.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        @davidtc — People chose how their city will control parking according to the democratic process. As I said above, if you think that higher pricing, or flex-pricing or whatever, is better, sell the idea to voters.

        For the restaurants, if I go to get a reservations and (of course) there are none because they were all bought by squatters, who now want to resell them to me, I have not gained. Reservations are indeed first-come-first-serve, except perhaps a few set aside for the big hotels or corporate stuff. But those occur with the cooperation of the restaurant owner, not some turd-cicle who bought them all up. He is indeed reselling what is not his.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        If I’m seemingly defending the guy, it’s a weak sort of ‘devil’s advocate’ defense.

        Man, there’s nothing I hate more than a weak devil’s advocate defense. It just lacks a commitment, ya know? To anything useful, anyway.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        People chose how their city will control parking according to the democratic process

        Well, they elect “representatives” (even tho parking may never have been a campaign issue to begin with) to “represent” their interests on parking. But I’d hardly say that constitutes democratic determination of parking policy.

        Except maybe formally.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        @stillwater

        “Well, they elect “representatives” (even tho parking may never have been a campaign issue to begin with) to “represent” their interests on parking. But I’d hardly say that constitutes democratic determination of parking policy. ”

        That or pretty much anything else, in my opinion, but what of “democracy”? Oh, only when it gets me what I wanted. Otherwise, it’s a failure of democracy.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        @veronica-d – I was thinking about this some more this morning and it seems to me that the real thing that gets our collective (no pun intended) goat is a variant on my “A.) Automation/bots (or more broadly, scale)”

        In my placeholding example, nobody really cares if we hold a single place for a friend (even on the subway). But your ‘grabbing every subway seat’ example goes too far.

        Or if the ResturantHop kid, as a starving college student, had made a single reservation for two at Chez la Chic a year ahead of time, then a week before Valentine’s Day sold it on CraigsList for $1000 to some rich couple. This isn’t a “friend” he “held” for, and he still made a handsome profit, but personally, I’d kind of applaud his ingenuity. He got what he wanted, the rich couple did too, and one rich couple who wanted to eat at Chez la Chic had to eat somewhere else. Big deal.

        Basically, it goes down to our intuitions about scarcity. We don’t care (much) if someone exploits scarcity on a small scale, because they have made the resource in question only a teensy bit more scarce for everyone else.

        We care a bit more if someone exploits scarcity on a larger scale, but assuming they did not intentionally *create* the scarcity, we still don’t really fault them (usually, depending on the resource and situation). If I have the last 300 iGeegaws in existence and sell them at huge markup, well, that’s supply/demand.

        But we care when people intentionally *create or exacerbate* scarcity. Which is what it seems like RH is doing when it snaps up a bunch of reservations under fake names (and then exploits that scarcity that it helped engender).

        We wouldn’t really fault someone for sitting on a diamond (or a small pile of them) to sell them to the highest bidder.

        But DeBeers kinda sucks for cornering the market, creating artificial scarcity, and then exploiting that artificial scarcity.

        Or how we don’t really care much about a 1:1 line swap, or people waiting in shifts; and maybe, even a single non-human placeholder (say, a cone or a chair) for a single line spot is OK; but if I sent an army of Roombas to occupy the first 50 spaces in the Apple Store line so I can buy the first 50 iGeegaws, people will sense that I have artificially exacerbated the scarcity of the desired item and beat me to death with Roombas.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        @glyph — Exactly. This is just like the person in the office who grabs all the candy out of the dish. It’s a candy jar. It gets filled once a week. Some candy is more popular.

        SO YOU FUCKING SHARE LIKE YOU GOT TAUGHT IN KINDERGARDEN.

        cough cough

        The person who hordes the candy is a douche-pimple. Plain and simple.

        @stillwater — File under “democracy is terrible, ’cept for all the others.”Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to veronica d
        Ignored
        says:

        “In the case the parking space, he is not selling the parking space. He is selling the information that a space is about to open and it’s location.”

        Except that people bid for the space, and he doesn’t leave until the person who bid highest for the space shows up. The guy selling his space could, theoretically, sit there all day until someone pays him to leave.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman
      Ignored
      says:

      @will-truman

      “I understand the economics of scalping and why they represent market inefficiencies and all that. At the same time, it’s a better world when inefficiencies can be allowed to exist to allow access to things on bases other than money. Even if we agree that such things be legal*, but can be lamentable all the same.”

      Now you sound like a liberal 🙂Report

  12. Avatar Kim
    Ignored
    says:

    First World Problems.
    And you’re only complaining about them because they’re upfront about making a profit.

    Plenty of “fancy” restaurants don’t do reservations, anyway. I think it’s a stylistic choice.Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Kim
      Ignored
      says:

      “you’re only complaining about them because they’re upfront about making a profit.”

      We’re complaining about them because they’re exploiting society’s goodwill in a way that will result in a more-restrictive, less-trustful society. And they (and you) claiming that the only reason we’re upset is envy.Report

  13. Avatar zic
    Ignored
    says:

    My sweetie’s off at the Future Music Lab, teaching classical musicians how to make and use musical apps. So this sort of cracked me up.

    Just to broaden our perspective of what’s ‘hot,’ (not ‘new,’ this is one of last year’s students, and my sweetie had nothing to do with this production,) this could easily be the soundtrack in the climax of the next blockbuster:

    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDv7ngcRHgSTkGUq2IPeLWQReport

  14. Avatar aaron david
    Ignored
    says:

    One thought about the parking issue, is how much congestion and smog does this remove? If the old model caused people to drive around the block in continuous search for a spot, increasing congestion, adding to the environmental problems, greater wear and tear on roads, etc. than this is a good thing.
    Could we use it to increase handicap spots in times of need?
    If we are not looking at what it can do to help people, than we aren’t looking at it correctly. I can see many way’s that this could benefit people in ways the old, rigid parking system of city’s was bad. SF shouldn’t be fighting this sort of thing, but working with it to make the city better.Report

    • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to aaron david
      Ignored
      says:

      The issue is, why not just raise the price of meters so that the city claims the extra revenue rather than giving it away to an app developer? I totally agree, we should raise parking meter rates enough that there are always a few spaces open to discourage block-circling and such. Unfortunately, maintaining rates high enough has proven to be politically challenging.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Dan Miller
        Ignored
        says:

        If there was a decent way we could actually gauge demand, and display meter pricing accordingly… I doubt most concert-goers would object to $20 on street parking (or people going to yom tov services).

        What people object to — other than the whole “it’s how much???” is that the pricing doesn’t vary with the demand.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Dan Miller
        Ignored
        says:

        I think a lot of the political problem is that people aren’t sure there will be cheap parking *anywhere*.

        I might pay for expensive parking in front of where I want to go, or I might settle for cheaper parking elsewhere. I’d rather walk half a mile than circle a block for 30 minutes.

        What I wouldn’t put up with is if all parking within two miles of where I’m going is expensive.

        OTOH, I don’t live, and have never loved, in a big city. So I don’t really know.

        Although, oddly, I live in a very small town that has almost exactly the same problem with a lack of parking due to the cost being too low. In this case, the costs are free, as we have almost no paid parking. (The only paid parking is a parking deck operate by the college, and that’s not in a good location, and it’s not at all obvious you can park there and just pay if you’re not a student.)

        Interesting, we seem to have no real *political* objection to metered parking, at least not on the town square, the only objection seems to be the practical problem that paying for officers to monitor the meters might end up costing the city more money than it would take in. (The city doesn’t even have its own police force.)Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Dan Miller
        Ignored
        says:

        David,
        would you put up with a 3 mile trip (each way) on a bus? See, part of the whole problem here is that folks wouldn’t be aware of where the price was cheapest — “follow this vector for cheapest pricing at smallest distance” — “follow this other vector for better pricing without chance of your car being stolen”

        This shouldn’t be a scheme used to generate more money — but I can certainly see when the Regatta is in town, most places in the Golden Triangle being skyhigh in terms of pricing. Of course, if the parking bothers you that much, you could always just not go.

        What irritates me about metered parking is the inability to put money on the meter if you aren’t standing right there. I’m in a restaurant, and my mom’s talking so I’m not eating. I want to extend the meter — I need to get up, go out, etc etc. PITAReport

      • Avatar Citizen in reply to Dan Miller
        Ignored
        says:

        Toll sidewalks, the new public transportation.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Dan Miller
        Ignored
        says:

        would you put up with a 3 mile trip (each way) on a bus?

        I live in Georgia, and hence have no experience with functioning public transit. Asking me how much I would like to ride a bus is like asking me how much I’d like to ride a zeppelin.

        See, part of the whole problem here is that folks wouldn’t be aware of where the price was cheapest

        Heh, our city just put up ‘Free Parking’ signs directing people to the various parking lots in town for exactly the reason. (Although, annoyingly, they didn’t put up a ‘paid parking’ sign pointing at the college’s parking deck.)

        I would suggest some sort of system like gas station prices. Just put up a little display with the price on it on the ends of a street, right below the sign saying ‘Metered parking’.

        Or come up with some sort of standard symbols for it, like a bar of lights, where each lit up light is another fifty cents an hour?

        Of course, that doesn’t help people find *cheaper* parking, but once you have a standard, you could start putting it on signs that show *nearby* parking prices:

        Parking Costs:
        This street, three bars
        (arrow pointing up) X Street, two bars
        (arrow pointing sideways) Y Street, four bars
        (arrow pointing sideways) Public lot, one bar.

        What irritates me about metered parking is the inability to put money on the meter if you aren’t standing right there.

        I rather dislike the way that’s done to start with. I understand it *had* to work that way, originally, but at this point in time, I’m failing to see why we can’t just use credit card swipes(1) and you get charged for exactly the time you used. (Plus a base fee.)

        1) Or you swipe your driver’s license, or a card linked to it that you get for free from the city, and pay once a month.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Dan Miller
        Ignored
        says:

        Oh, and, duh, the sign should also have distances on it.Report

      • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Dan Miller
        Ignored
        says:

        Smartphone apps, smart meters, sensors, and the like are doing a lot to solve these problems. Here’s a good article about their experience in San Francisco.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Dan Miller
        Ignored
        says:

        TroublesomeFrog, up above, says SF has the tech in place to create On Demand pricing for parking. Couple that to Smartphone apps showing free spots with current pricing, and functionality that lets you swipe a card, & lets you know when the cost for the current meter is going up, and you will be able to get a more accurate picture of the pricing.Report

    • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to aaron david
      Ignored
      says:

      The SF Park dynamic pricing model appears to substantially reduce cruising for spaces. That’s a big win in a highly congested city.Report

  15. Avatar DavidTC
    Ignored
    says:

    All the problems here, both reservations and parking, (along with ticket scalping) appear to be to due the entity originally distributing the items massively undervaluing them. (Restaurants don’t even *charge* for reservations.) So a third party has leaped in to collect them from that the original seller and redistribute them.

    As the cost of being the middle-man in situations like this goes down thanks to technology, expect to see more and more of this spring up.

    There are two ways to stop this:
    1) Make the original item unable to be resold, like a restaurant checking IDs, or, like I suggested above, checking cell phones. (Cell phones numbers work really well as a sorta ‘generic’ ID that’s less intrusive than demanding driver’s licenses. ‘Can you receive a call on the number you gave earlier? Okay, we’ll assume you’re the same guy.’)
    2) Have the *original* entity do the demand pricing, like what probably needs to happen with parking. (And what really should have happened with ticket prices *decades* ago.)Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to DavidTC
      Ignored
      says:

      Restaurants are actively charging negative money for a reservation.
      Consider: if you don’t have the reservation, and the restaurant is at all busy, they sit you at the bar. And you buy drinks.

      Now, the restaurant may be doing this because “reservations fit their mindset” (aka Fancy Places Have Reservations). Or they might like the quasi-guaranteed sale (helps with planning).Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to DavidTC
      Ignored
      says:

      “All the problems here, both reservations and parking, (along with ticket scalping) appear to be to due the entity originally distributing the items massively undervaluing them.”

      The issue is that the “good” in question is a thing that only exists because of physical limitations and public restrictions on land use. Restaurants cannot (usually) be built to hold a thousand people; there is an upper limit on the size of sports stadiums; there are only so many parking spaces you can have in a city.

      I’m sure that the restaurant would happily expand its dining room (or open another location) but they’re prevented from doing that by building codes, land availability, etcetera. And so someone who sets up a reservation intending to sell it is exploiting the inherent limitation on the restaurant’s ability to provide seating. There’s not a “good” being sold here. Not all exchanges of money indicate that a market ought to exist.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        “This is not a Japanese Restaurant”
        sure they would, kiddo.
        You don’t know dick about the restaurant business, do you?Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        There’s not a “good” being sold here.

        There *is* a good there, it’s just a good that the ‘creator’ did not really intend to be a good. (People aren’t paying money for *nothing*.)

        If a tree in my front yard starts dropping leaves made of gold, and I do nothing about it, people are going to start standing out on the sidewalk with nets to catch them as they blow out of my yard, and eventually they will start selling off their sidewalk spaces. It’s just how the free market works.

        The only reason this wasn’t happening before now is that it was too complicated to exchange these things. And now technology has changed that.

        We *already knew* what happened when a limited amount of goods were naively sold at below their market value. Like I said, this is essentially the same thing as ticket scalping.

        Not all exchanges of money indicate that a market ought to exist.

        I was making no moral judgement either way. I was just saying that if the creator of the ‘good’ doesn’t want this external market to exist, they basically have two options: 1) Forbid said market by blocking resell, which seems a logical solution for the people giving out these ‘goods’ for free, like reservations, or 2) Operate the market themselves instead of having their current naive pricing, which works well for people currently selling things. (Or 3, get an infinite supply of the things, but that is not actually possible.)

        Those are the options. Companies need to be aware of them and pick one.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        “If a tree in my front yard starts dropping leaves made of gold, and I do nothing about it, people are going to start standing out on the sidewalk with nets to catch them as they blow out of my yard…”

        But gold has obvious value, so this doesn’t work.

        It’s more like if the city planted trees on the sidewalk median in front of your house, and for some reason those leaves became valuable (as decorations or souvenirs or whatever), and so someone came along and stripped bare every branch within ten feet of the ground (as high as they could reach with a ladder) because they could sell the leaves for a dollar each. This leaves you with a group of startlingly ugly things in front of your house, but hey, the trees were public property, they underpriced the tree leaves, nothing we can do because free market right?

        “Or 3, get an infinite supply of the things, but that is not actually possible”

        Oh hey that’s what I said.

        “Operate the market themselves instead of having their current naive pricing, which works well for people currently selling things.”

        The reason that parking is free (or “underpriced”) is not naivete; it’s being done on purpose to get customers into the downtown area, to spend money in local shops and restaurants, and thereby bring in more revenue through taxation than simply charging more for parking. The concept of a loss-leader is well established and is neither a market failure nor foolishness.

        Now, the loss-leader *does* only work if people actually buy other stuff. If people are exploiting the loss-leader strategy (say, they buy your cheap TV but don’t buy anything else, because they want to sell the TV on eBay) then maybe that strategy isn’t working as well as you hoped it would, but the response is “that’s not working”, not “free market lulz”Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jim Heffman
        Ignored
        says:

        It’s more like if the city planted trees on the sidewalk median in front of your house, and for some reason those leaves became valuable (as decorations or souvenirs or whatever), and so someone came along and stripped bare every branch within ten feet of the ground (as high as they could reach with a ladder) because they could sell the leaves for a dollar each. This leaves you with a group of startlingly ugly things in front of your house, but hey, the trees were public property, they underpriced the tree leaves, nothing we can do because free market right?

        At what point did I say ‘nothing we can do because free market’? I rather explicitly *gave solutions*.

        Oh hey that’s what I said.

        I know. You seem to be in some different universe where we’re disagreeing, whereas what’s actually happening is I’m saying true things (and deliberately not weighing in on the morality of those things) and you agree with the facts but think the people doing those things are asses.

        For the record, I completely agree those people are asses. The free market, at times, can be operated by asses. Which is why I’m trying to come up with solutions so they can no longer do those things. (If I thought such behavior wasn’t assholish I would hardly be trying to stop it.)

        The reason that parking is free (or “underpriced”) is not naivete; it’s being done on purpose to get customers into the downtown area, to spend money in local shops and restaurants, and thereby bring in more revenue through taxation than simply charging more for parking. The concept of a loss-leader is well established and is neither a market failure nor foolishness.

        …now you think I’m saying it’s a market *failure*? Huh?

        I am stating the facts of the free market works: If you offer people scarce and underpriced goods, and those people can connect with other people who want those goods, a secondary market will be created unless the distributor does something to stop it.

        It’s why when Walmart sells underpriced TVs on black Friday, it limits them one to a customer. It would, indeed, be foolish to let a single customer walk out with the entire stock.

        And it is also foolish to continue letting seat resellers reserve seats at restaurants. It is *understandable* restaurants have been slow to catch on, as that’s never been a market before. But now it is, so restaurants need to react. The simple solution I suggested was to make them non-transferable, which they can do many different ways, and would cause almost no hassle for real customers making reservations. (In fact, if they were clever, it could actually be touted as a benefit…if you give the restaurant your credit card number in advance, they can simply bill you for the meal and you don’t need to manually pay at the end. People might like this, maybe.)

        As for parking, the *city* isn’t actually losing out on revenue there, so would hardly care how the parking spaces get transferred. If anything, this sort of rigmarole ensures that the spaces are *more* filled than normal. The problem people seem to be having with that is that it violates their concept of ‘fairness’.

        However, those people are dopes. Distributing parking spaces by ‘Who is most willing to spend the time circling the block’ is also pretty unfair, and rather wasteful on top of that. You want to distribute spaces fairly, distribute them by cost. If you want to give be ‘fair’ and make sure the poor can afford parking, give the poor a discount card. (Be aware, however, that other people will pay them for that card.)Report

  16. Avatar Brandon Berg
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    says:

    I agree that this is rent-seeking, and bad*, but it’s also a fairly predictable consequence of the anti-market bias that leads the city to underprice parking and restaurant owners to underprice their food. If you leave money on the table, someone’s going to pick it up.

    *Well, maybe. It leads to more efficient allocation of scarce goods, but those efficiency gains are likely outweighed by the cost of rent-seeking.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Brandon Berg
      Ignored
      says:

      Our parking system and restaurant reservation system has nothing to do with anti-market biases. Restaurants have free reservations because it was a good way to ensure relatively full seating a for decades. It was a pro-market choice. Parking tends to be free or under-charged because that’s what people want.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Brandon Berg
      Ignored
      says:

      …anti-market bias?

      The reason that restaurants ‘underprice their food’ is that they, uh, don’t. At certain times of day, their food is in high demand, and at other times, it isn’t.

      In some sort of magical ideal market, as the demand changes, they could change their prices, except for the small problem that *that way leads to madness*. No business wants to change their prices multiple times a day. No customer wants to deal with that.

      It is not an ‘anti-market bias’ that customers will not put up with some sort of hypothetical infinitely-adjusting supply and demand price-changing. They simply won’t put up with it because it’s annoying as hell. At *best* they will put up with changes specified in advance as per-day or per-hour, and then if it’s a fairly simple change. (I.e., matinee tickets cost less than night tickets, there’s a special lunch menu, etc.)

      And hence sometimes the food is ‘undervalued’ and sometimes it’s ‘overvalued’. It’s the same way that Walmart sells umbrellas for the same price if it’s raining or not.

      Only in your head is the manager not saying ‘Let’s annoy all the customers with constant price changes so we exactly hit the supply/demand sweet spot’ an ‘anti-market bias’. Things that annoy customers are, believe it or not, bad for business.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to DavidTC
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        says:

        It should also be noted that food is rarely where most restaurants earn their profits. The real profit center for most restaurants is booze. Its been this way since restaurants first appeared in late 18th century Paris. One of the side effects of Prohibition was that many restaurants and night clubs had to close down because they lost their main source of profit. Apparently world-class cuisine in elegant settings is not enough to make a restaurant a profit. You need to sell booze to make money in the restaurant trade for the most part.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to DavidTC
        Ignored
        says:

        Customers are also willing to deal with varying prices for certain types of food like lobsters, catch of the day fish, or really good pieces of red meat. Many restaurants do vary the price of certain items on the menu based on the market but only for food that is considered more special than other food.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DavidTC
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        says:

        @leeesq
        Customers are also willing to deal with varying prices for certain types of food like lobsters, catch of the day fish, or really good pieces of red meat. Many restaurants do vary the price of certain items on the menu based on the market but only for food that is considered more special than other food.

        Well, that’s something a little different. That’s customers understand that prices vary if the supply varies. Customers are a bit more willing to accept an increase in price due to an increase in supply price than a price change based on increased demand.

        The former is just ‘If the price of their fish goes up two dollars, of course they have to charge me two dollars more. That just makes sense.’. Whereas the latter, raising prices based on increased demand, is more often seen as ‘price gouging’. (Of course, this is a rather simplified view of the market. But the point is how customers are thinking of it.)

        Which is also why instead of ‘increasing price during more demand’, instead it’s almost always phrased as ‘decreasing price during lower demand’. I.e., there’s not a surcharge for seeing a movie at night, there’s a discount for seeing one in the afternoon.Report

  17. Avatar LeeEsq
    Ignored
    says:

    I’m wondering if restaurant scalping could be prosecuted under the various laws regarding larceny. The seats in the restaurant are basically the property of the restaurant to be distributed as they see fit. By using a bot to reserve reservations and than sell them, the scalpers are ostensibly selling property that is not their own. Thats usually considered theft of some sort under the law. With a moderate amount of effort, a prosecutor could probably bring charges against restaurant scalpers and get a jury to convict them.Report

    • Avatar veronica d in reply to LeeEsq
      Ignored
      says:

      Oh god yes please.Report

    • Avatar veronica d in reply to LeeEsq
      Ignored
      says:

      Of course, this will mean that only scummy trolls in Russia and Nigera and China and so on will be able to do this. And they will.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to LeeEsq
      Ignored
      says:

      They are not selling property that is not theirs.

      They are (supposedly) selling *permission* they’ve been gifted.

      There’s no legal theory under which that would be larceny. If I tell someone to come by later to look at my cat hair collection, and instead they tell someone else to show, and that someone else does show up at my door asking to come in, no one has stolen anything.

      Of course, just like me, the restaurant doesn’t have to *uphold* the permission they’ve been granted if they want to claim the permission was non-transferable, but, OTOH, it doesn’t have to uphold it anyway. A reservation is not a contract, it’s a gift from the restaurant to the reserver. Even if the actual person that made the reservation showed up, they can refuse to seat them.

      OTOH, there is a legal theory under which such a thing could be *fraud*, considering they’re passing themselves as someone else. Sadly, there appears to be no actual harm done to the restaurant.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to DavidTC
        Ignored
        says:

        At least in New York you can steal non-physical goods. Theft of services is part of the larceny statutes. If you consider reservations a service offered by the restaurant, restaurant scalpers are potentially guilty of stealing that service. I haven’t studies what constitutes theft of services since law school so I might be a little rusty.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to DavidTC
        Ignored
        says:

        No harm done to the restaurant? A booked up restaurant turns away customers due to reservations and then those reservations turn out to be no-shows. The restaurant is out customers and table use. Inevitably the restaurants are forced to either stop doing reservations or demand credit card or other information to validate reservations. The customers in general are then inconvenienced and disadvantaged. Value is destroyed, reservation processes are made more complicated. Good will is being taken via something damn near fraud to profit a third party to the detriment of both the restaurant and its customers. Looks like plenty of harm to me.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to DavidTC
        Ignored
        says:

        @leeesq
        At least in New York you can steal non-physical goods. Theft of services is part of the larceny statutes. If you consider reservations a service offered by the restaurant, restaurant scalpers are potentially guilty of stealing that service. I haven’t studies what constitutes theft of services since law school so I might be a little rusty.

        It’s not theft *if the owners give it to you*.

        If a reservation was truly a service (It’s not), than people who have received that service have the right to pass it along (Or at least to attempt to pass it along) to other people.

        However, even that’s not what’s going on. What a reservation actually is is an unenforceable statement that the restaurant will treat you in a certain way in the future. Which people also have a right to attempt to ‘transfer’, if they want. And the restaurant has the right to ignore that ‘transfer’.

        Seriously, this ‘theft’ premise’ is completely insane. If I tell someone I’ll help paint their house for free, and I show up and they instead want me to help paint someone else’s house instead because that someone paid them fifty dollars to ‘buy my help’, no, *they have not committed theft* against me. The entire idea is absurd. (Of course, they certainly aren’t getting that house painted by me.)

        @north
        No harm done to the restaurant? A booked up restaurant turns away customers due to reservations and then those reservations turn out to be no-shows.

        You are confused what was under discussion. The *system* itself was not what we were talking about.

        It was the fact something can, legally, be fraud if you pretend to be someone else.

        So the people committing hypothetical ‘fraud’ under fake names here are the people who *show up under someone else’s name*. However, as they *bought a meal*, and the ‘original person’ was actually a *bot* operated by a corporation that had no intention to buy a meal, the restaurant is, indisputably, better off that they showed up instead of the ‘correct’ person. So the restaurant can hardly try to get the customer arrested for fraud. Although they should, of course, *not serve him*, because he actually doesn’t have a reservation.

        You want to show the *booking system app company* is committing fraud, you’re going to have to prove that yourself. I was just pointing out the customers *that show up* are not committing fraud against the restaurant.Report

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