The Internet is an incredible lubricator and margin compression resulting from immediate and widespread information dissemination is destroying industries on a level never before experienced. Examples include the newspaper business which has seen classified ad revenue jump to Monster and Craigslist. And in display advertising, newspapers are losing business to search engine and other online ad locations.
Once, pawn shops were a primary place for thieves to take stolen products but the criminals soon realized auctions are the best way to get the maximum price for goods. And eBay's auctions are the world's largest, meaning they will likely get a thief - or any seller, the best price for goods.
Recently, a British man went to eBay after learning $10,000 worth of his appliances were missing. He quickly found the exact same products near his house after a short search. He asked the person listing the products if he could see them for measuring purposes and behold, they were his!
This reminds us that any tool which can be used for good can also be used for bad and as the Internet continues to lubricate business models, eroding margins and helping consumers get better prices, it is also a place where criminals will continue to exploit.
And this means that to protect ourselves as a society and reduce the value of stolen items it is likely time to have an independent company or agency come up with unique product identifiers for all products and link them to consumers after a purchase. The goal being of course to get notified if one of your possessions is being offered for sale somewhere online - and even offline at pawn shops.
One of the ways global governments can reduce the cost of doing business is to spearhead such an effort. If they do so the following benefits will be realized:
- Less crime
- Less police needed
- Less violence
- Lower security costs which means savings get passed on
- More secure neighborhoods
- Higher standard of living
Thankfully we are at a point where GPS and RFID devices can be easily and inexpensively integrated into lots of products making them very difficult to steal and resell.
Perhaps a company or group of them will come out with a new set of standards which will allow us to track our belongings more accurately.
I would imagine a couple of the ones who should be involved include Amazon as they sell just about everything. eBay too as they really sell just about everything and Google who will obviously want us to use their search engine to track and find all of our products.
So for now, Web lubrication is really working to the advantage of the thieves. Hopefully soon we can turn the tables and put the power of technology in the hands of retailers, consumers and law enforcement and send more thieves to jail.