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Name: Rex Stetson
Occupation: Masked Avenger Type
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 Other Blogs of Interest
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Thursday, March 25, 2004

Rex gets Payoff $ from Evil CD Companies!

Tired of the high price of CDs? Do you still even buy CDs? I sure don't. I bought two CDs in the past year, both as gifts. I might have bought two the year before, but I wouldn't bet my life on it. And I just got a check for $13.86 from the CD companies.

About a year ago, I heard about a settlement for a class action suit aginst those evil, price fixing CD companies. All you had to do to get a piece of the settlement pie was to have purchased "one or more CDs during the period January 1, 1995, through December 22, 2000". Or at least be willing to SAY you did.

I can't prove that I did or didn't, but I just assume that I must have bought at least one, over the course of that 7 year period. I was an early adopter of Mp3's. I'm sure if I went through my cd collection as such, I would find one dating from that period.

I hate these antitrust witchhunts. Nobody made me buy those overpriced CDs ( assuming I bought one- I must have...). It's not like the CD companies were taking out the price of a CD out of each paycheck of mine whether I listened to one or not, and then giving me an opportunity to get a small at the end of the year if I fill out a bunch of paperwork.

I also am not a fan of those trial attorneys who go after big businesses with deep pockets to get huge fees for themselves, and tiny little awards for their plaintiffs.

But I hate the Music industry even more. So much overpriced crap, limited choices, ancient distribution system. They add nothing to their product once it's recorded by the artist/producer. They hoard their catalogues. they reject technology that would cut their overhead to almost nothing and give the public what they want...Would it kill them to just put their whole catalogs on an industry-owned version of Itunes? Burn custom CD's with the songs people like- maximize choice and utility by shifting the cd production costs to the consumer?

That stupid, backward, insulting, and (happily) DYING industry that offers so little and asks so much- deserves what it gets.

But the interesting part of the whole deal is this, from the website:

Anyway, About a year ago, I signed up for this thing, and told all my friends to sign up also. I mean hey, free money, right? And it's always fun to kick a shitty industry when they're down.

The number of claims filed will determine the actual amount of the individual refund but will not exceed $20.00 per claimant. If the number of claims filed would result in refunds of less than $5.00 per claimant, there will be no cash distribution to individual consumers. Rather, the cash portion of the Settlement shall be distributed to not-for-profit, charitable, governmental or public entities to be used for music-related purposes or programs for the benefit of consumers who purchased Music Products.


So essentially, there is a Prisoner's Dilemma here. If enough greedy or mean-spirited folk like me try to cash in against the settlement money, then the rewards drop to below $5, and nobody gets anything. It all goes to charity or whatever.

Due to how many episodes of "Friend or Foe" I've seen, I have developed a dark, cynical view of human neuroeconomics. No way this award would be over $5, I thought- The settlement and website to sign up was posted everywhere on the net, and on all the TV news networks. I thought for sure that enough people would sign up ( it took about a minute- essentially no effort) that the rewards would quickly drop from the $20 maximum down past the $5 minimum. A feeding frenzy as everyone piled on to get a slice of the pie. Thinner and thinner and thinner they would get until they reached that critical threshold.


But for some strange reason, this didn't happen. Maybe I am not smart enough about math to figure out why. Am I misunderstanding the "Prisoner's Dilemma" similarity? Is there some sort of Nash Equilibrium here I'm unaware of? Or is this a tragedy of the commons scenario?

Was it bad exposure of the settlement website? It seemed pretty well publicized to me...

Was the prospect of a free $20 check for essentially zero effort not enticing enough? Doubtful.

Was the percieved likelihood of the award being in the $20-$5 range too low for anyone to put forth that miniscule effort?

Why did it work out so well? Who knows?

But the award amount- miraculously- was a relatively substantial chunk of the $20 maximum ( about 69%) at $13.86, which suits me just fine. It still isn't quite enough for a whole CD, though it's very close. But why give it back to them? Nah, instead I think I'll go buy some blank CDs with it.



Posted by Rex @ 2:46 PM

Monday, March 22, 2004

eBay Vigilantism

The web world has been compared to the Wild West of the late 19th Century: largely unregulated, with outlaws and con artists looking to prey upon the innocent folks. Much like in the old west, the good people of one online community have recognized the value of vigilantism in keeping the streets safe for decent folks.

Posted by Rex @ 12:43 PM

REX STETSON: ARMCHAIR VIGILANTE character name and distinctive likeness thereof: TM & © 2003 Armchair Vigilantism, Inc. All Rights Reserved.