Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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fake fraud as incentive

Make victims speak up more by increasing their chance of reward.
  (+20, -7)(+20, -7)
(+20, -7)
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It often takes courage for a victim to come forward and take action against an attacker. It is dangerous to speak up and stand out. For example, a robber who gets arrested after your tip will likely learn your name in the course of the trial and might take revenge.

I suffered a very minor version of this dilemma recently, when a book I had ordered online never arrived, and my e-mails to the sender were never answered. I could have blackened the sender's reputation using the trust system on the site, but what if they accused me back? Who's to say that my word can be trusted while theirs cannot? Were the few dollars I lost really worth aggravating someone who, for all I knew, both was a thug and knew my address?

To combat this tendency, introduce fake, non-violent evil into the system. Advertise this widely. Make disappointment a much more frequent experience, and openly reward people who complain about being cheated in the fake instances. Not for their courage - it would simply be a kind of lottery. "We will prevent one of hundred books being delivered. If you complain about that, you'll get your order and a $25 gift certificate."

That means that if I feel cheated, there is a large chance that this is just a test, and I'll be much more likely to complain in an attempt to get my reward for calling on the fake cheater. If I end up blackening some *real* cheater's reputation by accident, the cheater has no reason to take revenge; they were exposed by mistake.

Note that once everybody knows that this is being done, it can stop happening.

[I agree with many of the commentators that there are other ways to improve both one's own safety when dealing with other people online (use services that guarantee your money back if you're dissatisfied), and to improve a customer's perceived safety (a responsive and respectful customer service that follows up on complaints, for one).]

jutta, Oct 11 2004

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       I like the idea but it would really suck if you were waiting eagerly for your package to arrive and happened to be the unlucky one in a hundred.   

       True. It would be better for this to happen somewhere where you don't lose by having to wait - maybe where the crime is an event, not an absence. I just couldn't come up with a good non-violent eventful crime.
jutta, Oct 11 2004
  

       Works in the book example, but the 'fake murders' scenario gets a little distressing. :)   

       One way to let yourself off the hook is to use the very 'exposed by mistake' theory you propose:   

       Complain loudly that you don't get a second chance to check the delivery address you supplied (or something similar). The cheater has no reason to take revenge when the fraud is revealed since you assumed they did the right thing and that it was simply 'the system' that failed.   

       HB is definitely the home for ideas where "Fake [thing] protects real [action]."   

       + for a new flavour of this HB theme.
not_only_but_also, Oct 11 2004
  

       This seems to me an interesting twist on the security X-Ray machines that insert fake images of guns and knives to see if operators are awake. In both cases a suitable response is sought to be provoked from a fake event. +
Aristotle, Oct 11 2004
  

       //Were the few dollars I lost really worth aggravating someone who, for all I knew, both was a thug and knew my address?//

I don't know whether the facility is available in the States, but in th UK you can rent a PO Box number, a mail drop in effect, and just collect any deliveries from the Post Office rather than using a home address. Not really worth it for a one-off but if you don't like giving out your home address to complete strangers then it's a good option.

//"We will prevent one of hundred books being delivered. If you complain about that, you'll get your order and a $25 gift certificate."//

I like the intent of the idea but what happens if you don't complain? Does the book get delivered anyway? If so then it undermines the point a bit, doesn't it. If not then that's fraud. Logic trap.
DrBob, Oct 11 2004
  

       I think I'm missing something crucial here, but your reward for being a complainant should be the resolution of your complaint. Some companies offer equitable consideration such as free shipping, a higher quantity without a raise in price, faster shipping at no additional charge, et cetera.
Your word against theirs? The proof is in the VISA receipt. You can prove that you were charged for goods/services not delivered - - they can't prove delivery. Regardless, there are still many mechanisms to prevent fraud and many ways to hold corporations and individuals accountable for poor service. To actually require a reward for demanding a company make good on their contract seems lazy. You get what you ask for.
  

       In a related story, a friend of mine recently purchased a computer (the deal was 'too good to be true!') from a disreputable online firm. He faced similar hopeless feelings. He asked my advice and I told him to go through his credit card company. He had a full refund by the end of the week, courtesy Visa. Because I'm a vile bastard, I also tracked down the owner of the company. Within an hour of my friend discussing the problem with me, I sent my buddy the Owner's personal e-mail address, home address and home phone number (to even the score in terms of 'a thug knowing where you live'. He had the same concern.) Gotta [-] until I understand.
contracts, Oct 11 2004
  

       Looks like you're talking ethics and detective work, I'm talking game theory.
jutta, Oct 12 2004
  

       I like it [jutta], seems to be a very workable approach. Whether the company would accept the damage to their bottom line is another matter. At the moment you getting burnt costs them nothing. Bun nonetheless.
Nontaigne, Oct 12 2004
  

       I'm talking about business, cost vs. benefit, and human nature.
- Such a policy would encourage customer complaints. Customer complaints make a company look bad. Companies don't want complaints.
- A company who will take your money, fail to deliver, and then ignore your correspondence >doesn't care what you think.< They will not reward you for complaining
- Customers don't want bad service. A company implementing such a policy would pledge a certain minimum percentage of patrons would receive substandard service (in addition to regular mistakes.)
The application isn't feasible IMHO.
contracts, Oct 12 2004
  

       Rather than 'fake fraud', I'd prefer 'Widely Accepted Incompetence' - Rather than all the companies remain stiff, uptight, PR beasts that inject some deliberate mistakes in order to spice up the order/delivery process, why not market the human frailty side of the business?   

       "Our business is staffed by people, not machines - So if we err, please call one of our call staff and let us know, we'll be glad to talk to you."   

       We all know that people f*ck up all the time - be they Doctors, Soldiers, Programmers, Bankers, Politicians, Businessmen, Miners, Policemen, Ebay-traders - everyone.   

       If making a mistake was less of a business 'crime' then people might feel less upset about complaining.
zen_tom, Oct 12 2004
  

       Subversively brilliant.   

       //it would really suck if you were waiting eagerly//
Subtle tweaks could help avoid this. For instance, if you pick "next day" shipping, it might automatically drop your order from fake fraud consideration.
krelnik, Oct 12 2004
  

       Ah ha! now I understand why some of my ideas got so many fishes - you were just testing me weren't you Jutta? And to think I never complained about the bakery system mis-applying fish - what would my reward have been?
dobtabulous, Oct 13 2004
  

       I think it would backfire. So much extra noise in the system would get annoying, and I'd stop complaining about any of it.
oxen crossing, Oct 13 2004
  

       That, and some people (more than presently, I imagine) would try to complain even when they get what they paid for.   

       [zen_tom]: how can you market human frailty? Customer service is already a marketing staple.
yabba do yabba dabba, Oct 13 2004
  

       Every decent company I know wants customer complaints (except maybe Apple). They want the opportunity to interact with their customers and makle things right. What they absolutely don't want is customer apathy. In fact, there are gurus who speak of the magic of "creating complaining customers" as a lofty goal.   

       I like this notion and wish I knew a way to try it out on a decent scale and study the outcome.
bristolz, Oct 13 2004
  

       "Thank you for complaining about our, um, service issues. We are more than delighted that you take an interest in our business and for that we are obliged to offer you our company branded cement shoes as our special gift to you. Those who receive this free gift are also ellegable for our late night cruise by the scenic East River."   

       I can see where some companies may take an approach closer to your suggestion rather than this scenario above. +
sartep, Oct 14 2004
  

       They do try to make right when they are in the wrong.
sartep, Oct 14 2004
  

       Not sure but they did horrible damage to themselves by appearing as if they just couldn't be bothered by their end users and even their dealers.
bristolz, Oct 14 2004
  

       [yabba do yabba dabba] How to Market Human Frailty?   

       Well, I don't know, but I know that I'd prefer to go to a business where I know the people, I might even enjoy a drink with them. If they're late with an order, we can discuss it over a Vodka and Cranberry Juice in the local Pub. It's no big deal, sure, we might be a little lax in the efficiency stakes, but the relationship is one between individuals, rather than a customer-business one.   

       Doesn't the word 'customer' sound slightly offensive to anyone else but me? (this is turning into a rant BTW) I hate being a 'customer' I really do, it feels demeaning, and slightly unnatural. I want to be in a business relationship where products are delivered as 'favours' which I of course return in kind, out of gratitude and a sense of friendship. Quite how you achive all this through a single marketing strategy, I don't know, but it would definately be the way forward.   

       It's hard complaining to a business because
a) you know you're going to get one of those call-people who've been 'trained' in 'customer-relations' (read 'trained' as 'indoctrinated', and 'customer-relations' as 'a cynical attempt to palm off the failure to provide quality products and services caused by a mixture of streamlining and cost-cutting, while simultaneously managing the customer backlash by employing a team of specialised people to fend off the majority of complaints with an air of amused superiority and patronising annoyance')
b) companies like to wrap themselves up in vast swathes of unfriendly and impersonal beaurocracy
c) you have no-idea who is going to be on the end of the phone, and as such, no clue as to their interest in your problem or their ability to solve it.
zen_tom, Oct 14 2004
  

       The "invention", if there is one, is a game-theoretical trick that can be applied to systems that match a certain formula. So, the implementation depends on the surrounding system. You reward players who do something that, when done frequently, tips a system's balance towards extreme cooperation.   

       Let's say there's a species of inedible poisonous snake that you want to exterminate, and another species of snake that looks like the poisonous snake, but is perfectly harmless and, in fact, tasty. (An instance of "mimicry.") You want to convince the local predators to go for snakes that look like the poison snake. So, my idea is to import lots and lots of the harmless snakes. Both get eaten. Sometimes, a predator hits something inedible, but the abundance of good food that looks the same makes it worth trying. The overall number of dangerous snakes decreases.
jutta, Oct 14 2004
  

       The overall number of dangerous snakes may have decreased, but very likely the number of total snakes in the area has increased by virtue of the introduced species and its reproduction. And that's just BAD!...because we all know that all snakes are just plain good-for-nothing incarnate evil. I don't like this game.
jurist, Oct 14 2004
  

       On the snake thing - sure, in the short term it would work as you suggest, however, since it is
a) in the poisonous snakes interests to evolve so as to look different to the non-poisonous ones,
b) in the predators interests to distinguish between poisonous and non-poisonous snakes, and
c) in the non-poisonous snakes interests to either
i) look more like poisonous snakes,
ii) evade the predators or
iii) become posionous
the chances are that either
a) all snakes will become poisonous,
b) the predators will be soon able to tell the difference between the Poisonous Ones and the NPOs, and concentrate on eating only the NPOs
c) the NPOs will hide or flee, leaving behind only the PO's.[sorry po]
(The reason why it is unlikely that the NPOs will be able to continue looking like the POs is that the balance of benefit is in favour of all the other options)
Game theory is interesting in the short-term, for systems with set rules, but when the structure of the games and the rules by which they are played is dynamic, strict application of game theory will only ever have temporary results. (As[Jutta] states at the end of her idea)
zen_tom, Oct 14 2004
  

       I neither said that nor believe it. (The line you quote doesn't mean that.)
jutta, Oct 14 2004
  

       //Note that once everybody knows that this is being done, it can stop happening.//   

       Ahhh, I see now! - The fake cheating can stop happening. (i.e. after the predators get a taste, we remove the Non Poisonous Snakes) Phew!
zen_tom, Oct 15 2004
  

       This strategy should also be effective for workplace sexual harrassment - another nonviolent "crime" where the victim does not take action because of feared reprisals.
bungston, Mar 13 2006
  

       yes, I'll just harrass somepeople to make them more likely to complain...   

       The revenge thing: People often don't require a locical reason to seek revenge.
Voice, Apr 08 2008
  

       yes, I'll just harrass somepeople to make them more likely to complain...   

       The revenge thing: People often don't require a logical reason to seek revenge.
Voice, Apr 08 2008
  
      
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