What is a Group Buy?

Discussion in 'Group Buys' started by Mental Nomad, Apr 10, 2017.

  1. Apr 10, 2017 at 3:04 PM
    #1
    Mental Nomad

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    Fair warning: long post.

    I've gotten some emails and PMs asking about the rules/guidelines for a Group Buy... probably because I'm running two of them. There are some posts here debating the subject, but I'm not aware of a formal definition or rules.

    I'm not an authority on this, so none of this should be taken as dogma, but I've decided to share some thoughts - after all, running two of them, maybe someone wants to know my position...

    This isn't a rules post. This is my perception of the spirit of a Group Buy.

    I like to describe it by stealing from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address: "government of the people, by the people, for the people." To me, a Group Buy is kinda like a purchase "of the community, by the community, for the community." Well, OK, it's a purchase "of the chips." We're not selling each other. But you get the idea.... it's not necessarily democratic, and it's definitely voluntary, but that's the essence: whoever are running the buy are also buyers, and they're doing it for the sake of the buy.

    Sometimes it's done to get a product more cheaply (allowing more people to get it, or allowing people to get MOAR). Sometimes it's done to allow getting a product at all (meeting a minimum to order, or to get someone to import who otherwise wouldn't.) It may even be done just because nobody else is doing it (to meet demand no vendor is happening to meet.)

    Which brings up the question: what's are the difference between someone running a Group Buy, and a vendor running a sale?

    First: a vendor needs to make a profit. If they're doing it as a business, the purpose is to make money. A Group Buy does not need to make a profit, because the purpose is allow the community to buy ("for the people").

    Some people are opposed to any profit at all for someone running a Group Buy, beyond "rounding error." Others are OK with them earning a few dollars. But if the income for a Group Buy gets significant (itself a very subjective term), it starts to look like a business, and some people get very angry.

    Secondly: expectations. Since the people runinng Group Buys are volunteers who don't make a profit ("by the people"), the community cuts them a lot of slack - on things like response time to requests, how quickly the orders get packed and shipped... they even get a fair amount of leeway as far as errors, and how to try to make things right when they inevitably go wrong. Participants (buyers) should understand they're always taking some risk when they send in money for a Group Buy - nobody can run a fulfillemnt out of their house as well and as quick as, say, Amazon. But a vendor? We have very different standards of professionalism and customer service for vendors.

    People running a Group Buy try their best, and we hope they do well... while vendors are expected to be competent, prompt, and professional, and will definitely catch heat if they aren't.

    There are some vendor sales which look a lot like a Group Buy - Apache's Majestic chips are a great example. It started out as an interest thread, which helped Apache learn what people really want. Then he took advance orders for chips, at a low "pre-order" price... this allows Apache to raise funds to pay for molds & such, and to order the first batch of chips without having to front all the cash. Now that the original buy is long-since done, the Majestics are a standard item at the Apache online store... people can now buy a sample before a set, and can order from stock for arrival in just days, but the chips cost a little more. I hope they're making good money on the Majestics. It's not public how much profit they made at the pre-order price (if any), but even if there was a profit there, nobody should complain - Apache is a vendor, they made a product available at a stated price, and delivered.

    But some popular ideas don't lend themselves to a vendor sale, such as, say, tribute sets, or sets inspired by fandoms. Why? Imagine if someone wanted to do a Brony Poker set themed on My Little Pony, complete with a "PonyBro Dealer" button, "Glitter Storm" rebuy chips, and "Death Rainbow" bounty chips. Or whatever.

    A vendor probably shouldn't risk it, no matter how much the Bronies wanted the chips... Hasbro is unlikely to issue the rights to use a children's entertainment franchise for gambling paraphenalia. And if a vendor went and just used their art and theme without permission, and spent money to have the chips manufactured, they're all too likely to get legal action from Hasbro that prevents them from selling the chips, at best... or gets them in serious legal trouble, at worst.

    But a Group Buy might be able to get away with it. Why? A Group Buy is "by the community." Hasbro's purpose isn't to beat up their own fandoms. If the Group Buy isn't cannibalizing Hasbro product sales, and it isn't making profits Hasbro would want a piece of, and it isn't giving Hasbro a bad name (which it might have, if they endorsed it), well... even if Hasbro finds out about the Brony Poker chips, they'd probably just ignore the whole thing. It would cost them time and money to interfere with it. Besides, you can bet some Bronies would be buying Hasbro products to use as card protectors, sharing Brony Poker live stack pr0n and the fandom sites, and what-not, all of which is good for the health of Hasbro's fandom community.

    So, looking back at all that crap I just wrote... it captures why I'm running group buys, and it outlines my underlying philosphy for how to run them.

    In my buys, I intend to provide as many of the options that the participants want as possible, within my ability to provide them. (I can't handle a million variations, I can't magically hit order minimums, etc., but my goal is to provide "for the community.")

    I also intend to give credit where credit is due - to all the people invovled in creating a theme, doing the art, donating related services to the project. I'm not trying to claim ownership of something that belongs to others, or that belongs to the community - if I'm invovled in running the buy, it's because I'm part of the community that wants those things and want it to happen.

    And in my buys, I'll make the rules that allow me to run the buy. Sometimes this means accommodations to the art owners or the circumstances. Sometimes I feel forced to limit the options. Sometimes it means not providing dates for weeks and weeks... and sometimes it means posting a hard deadline that doesn't work for everyone. I'll try to be fair and clear about what, where and why, whenever possible, but if I'm ever not clear, please know that I'm being motivated by my own desire to make the buy happen... and because I'm part of the community, it's "by the community, for the community."

    PS: I'm not a Brony, and have nothing against Bronies... but it seemed like a great example of a fandom or a strong brand owned by a big company, which may help describe the situation with my current group buys. And if you've read this far, you deserve some sort of award that I don't have to give.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2017
  2. Apr 10, 2017 at 3:06 PM
    #2
    Mental Nomad

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  3. Apr 10, 2017 at 3:12 PM
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    detroitdad

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    well written sir.
     
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  4. May 22, 2017 at 11:41 PM
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    NiceShot

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    @Mental Nomad Thank you for all the group buy coordination to you and all those who came before you. I'm with you on the non-Brony action, but to each their own.
     
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  5. May 23, 2017 at 2:07 AM
    #5
    Mental Nomad

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    I was trying to use, as an example, something that I don't think anyone had tried to do as a set. Or would. Didn't want to offend anyone.

    No offense intended to any actual Bronies out there. ;)
     
  6. May 23, 2017 at 2:08 AM
    #6
    NiceShot

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    You know what they say, bronies before honies...

    I couldn't help myself...
     
  7. May 23, 2017 at 9:44 PM
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    jazzV3

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    Hey - just wanted to say thank you for the time and effort you put into these group buys for the benefit of all. One might argue that it's a bit selfish to round up a group buy to accomplish a purchase that you personally want to make, with the group buy volume making it possible. They would be the ones who have never actually run a group buy... ;)
     
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  8. Apr 16, 2018 at 3:01 AM
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    ThatVeritas

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    Very informative, well spoken sir.