Promoted Online trust is broken: buying and selling tech between peers the new way

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Peer-to-peer has become a trend in many series of life.. From ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Bolt to home renting platforms such as Airbnb, many people are drawn to these types of platforms. It is no surprise. People on both sides of the platform benefit profusely from these programs. As a renter on Airbnb you have the autonomy to control your prices, and as users of Uber and Bolt, you benefit from more competitive prices and flexibility than traditional taxis.

Unfortunately, one topic that has constantly been a concern for many in these types of platforms is trust. . Three years ago Uber lost its license to operate in London due to concerns over its safety (Uber stripped of London licence) and many Airbnb users have been shocked by the quality of the abode on first arrival (I Accidentally Uncovered a Nationwide Scam on Airbnb). These flaws are rife amongst all pockets of peer-to-peer marketplaces. Ratings are one mechanism to reduce the risk of these situations from happening, but with a concern of fake reviews and the necessary effort to build trust based on reviews these are not a solution for everyone. With all these issues, it is hard to trust anything online nowadays.

Online trust is broken.

When it comes to pure peer-to-peer marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree to buy and sell products ostensibly this should be a gold mine. As both a buyer and seller you get the best value for your money. But once again many people are put off from utilising these types of platforms due to a lack of fundamental trust: on the buyer, on the seller, on the payment, on the product.... Firstly you have the risk of having to meet up with the person on the other side of the transaction. There is no one refereeing the transaction so you have risks of getting scammed with the product; it could be a fake, broken or even just not turn up. As a seller, you have multiple payment risks and you have the headache of dealing with customer returns.

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To say that current platforms are messy is an understatement.

Before launching vendi we found that close to 90% of people have been scammed or know someone who has been scammed when buying or selling tech products peer-to-peer. New phones, tablets and headphones are expensive. So getting scammed on an item like this is going to sting. Therefore we began tracking all the ways people get scammed on peer-to-peer marketplaces to ensure when we launched vendi, there were no loopholes or room for any scams. Upon collecting data and information to help us build vendi we drew together a quick list to help people pinpoint a scam before completing the transaction.

Being a victim of a scam does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone, even to the most scam-conscious people. If you know people who transact peer-to-peer or who are about to, share this with them. Last but not least, comment. Tell us about your experiences buying or selling peer-to-peer. Are there any things we have missed out that people should be aware of?
  1. If you are having to meet face-to-face to complete the transaction, do this in a safe place with people around and ensure there are CCTV cameras around. If the buyer or seller is pushing to meet in an unconventional place avoid it at all costs. Do not do transactions on the side of a road, ensure you are sitting down so you can do relevant checks on the product. Do not feel rushed to complete the transaction until you feel content.
  2. If either buyer or seller are pushing to use an unconventional payment method - avoid this transaction. Sometimes scammers will ask you to send money for the product you are purchasing through an unorthodox and insecure method. This includes MoneyGram, Western Union and other payment portals. Do not agree to this, as you’re not fully protected as a buyer. Similarly, when paying through PayPal, do not use the Friends & Family setting as you’re also not protected. What the sellers will do is make you pay before the product is with you and then never send you the product.
  3. If the price is too good to be true, be careful! Unless you can trust the seller, extremely low prices are always an indication that something is wrong. The iPhone 11 Pro 256GB is currently being sold by Apple for £1,199 (as of 23rd October 2019). We searched for what a new sealed one would cost on a peer-to-peer marketplace and immediately came across this listing. £645 for a brand new iPhone 11 Pro 256GB is rather fishy. After running checks on the IMEI number (which was shown in the right picture) we found out that the phone was not ‘brand new sealed’ but instead had been activated over three weeks ago. The seller is clearly misinforming the buyer that the product is sealed. There is also the possibility now that the seller has tampered with the original product, or swapped it with a fake which is why they are looking for a quick sale.
  4. Check the product is not blacklisted or under a police surveillance. For example with phones, you can run IMEI history checks on the phone to make sure it hasn’t been previously blacklisted. It is illegal to buy or sell a blacklisted phone! A phone which is blacklisted will mean it won’t be able to connect to a network.
  5. Check for reviews and account creation. If you’re buying a phone on a marketplace with a review system, e.g. eBay, make sure that the seller has a good reputation with previous customers. Another way to check the authenticity of the seller is by checking the date the account was created. If a seller has just created an account within the last few days then it is usually a fake account. Similarly, when buying on Facebook Marketplace, be wary of sellers who have created an account in 2019! Also, sometimes reviews can be faked, so be careful with that too (we’ve found scammers with 300 “5 stars” on eBay or with 1,500 friends on Facebook).
  6. Sign a proof-of-transaction. We always recommend leaving tractability with the transaction. This is key to demonstrate the transaction was made. Write a short receipt/page whereby both buyer and seller sign to confirm that the transaction was done. In this receipt include the payment method (e.g. cash or bank transfer), ID, and IMEI of the phone. This way, there will be a way to prove that this transaction happened in case anything goes wrong. Without tractability, very little can be done.
  7. Do a thorough check on the phone to ensure it is fully functional and check for original parts. There is nothing wrong with refurbished parts, in fact, it is great as it extends the lifetime of a product. Nonetheless, the risks come from sellers that don’t inform buyers of this and have replaced parts with fake or bad quality ones.
  8. Ensure that the product is fully reset and does not contain any personal data of the previous users. As a seller you do not want any personal data getting into the wrong hands. Similarly as a buyer, ensure the seller has logged out of accounts such as iCloud or a Google Account to ensure they can’t track your use on the device after the transaction has taken place.
  9. Ensure that connectivity on your device is fully functional. If you are buying a phone, make sure that phone works with your SIM card. You can check this by inserting your SIM card into the phone you’re purchasing and checking if it can receive calls.
  10. Make sure the product you are buying or selling is not under any kind of financing agreement. As a seller you should check terms of condition under your financing agreement. As a buyer be aware, there are an increasing number of scams where sellers sell a device which is under a contract and then stops paying for the contract. This device is then put under a blacklist registrar and in some cases (i.e. phones) will not be able to fully function.
You can heed to this 10 step guide or you can simply head to the vendi app. We provide an instant layer of trust between the buyer and the seller, no matter how many ratings each have. For users that have not build online trust, vendi is a quick way to do so!

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We do all these checks and more for you, ensuring as a buyer and seller you can transact without the worry of getting scammed.

  • We have a secure payment escrow service.
    • Buyer: your payment is not sent to the seller until the product has been verified
    • Seller: the buyer’s payment is made up front so you don’t have to worry about any fraudulent payments
  • We verify all products running cosmetic, software and serial number checks on them.
  • We verify both sides of the transaction ensuring that neither party is a scammer
  • We handle the logistics of the transaction for your convenience meaning no face-to-face interactions
  • We even offer a 30-day money back option for peace of mind.
  • We have a 24/7 chat on the app in case you have more questions or concerns!
Find the best and safest deals on vendi and join our mission to make peer-to-peer mainstream now!
 

MaryWhitehouse

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Can you tell us how you verify the items and sellers/buyers?
 

dman_15

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And the million dollar question, what are you charging for this service?

The whole point of peer to peer selling is to cut out the middle man.
 

MaryWhitehouse

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Hah missed that bit.
 

maddy

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Don't think that the strapline is a good one, considering the Classifieds rely on "online trust" to work. Perhaps it's worth looking at a different angle to promote the service.
 

MaryWhitehouse

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Escrow has never really been used for online sales here. If I remember correctly in the early days eBay offered it but not here. Wonder what the legalities and safeguards are for a random company effectively operating a client account? If they go bust is the money currently held lost?
 

pablovendi

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Can you tell us how you verify the items and sellers/buyers?
Hi Mary, sure thing. I'm Pablo, one of the Co-Founders of vendi. Thanks for your questions and comments, very interesting. Buyers and sellers are verified on the app via KYC ("Know your customer") by asking for their IDs to match the user profile name with the ID. This helps us identify users correctly. Then, in terms of the product we run fundamentally three main verification steps:

1. When a seller uses the app they take at least 2 pictures, front and back, of the item. We use machine learning powered algorithms to detect the product, brand, colour and certain features of what you sell to check that the item is allowed on the platform and like that also help the seller create the listing.

2. Once the phone is listed the seller also inputs the IMEI number (hidden to users) which allows us to check the phone's history - blacklisted or not -, network status, model to check it with the listing.

3. Once the seller is verified and the item is sold the seller sends us the phone to us (we also have drop off locations currently closed because of the lockdown). The phone is received into our verification network (repair shop specialists) and we check again the IMEI of the phone, cosmetic damage, and they run a 30 point test check to make sure all works as described.

All deliveries are special delivery, tracked and signed to have full knowledge of where the phone is.

Hope this helps. Any more questions or feedback, happy to hear!
 

MaryWhitehouse

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Thanks, so far this seems to make things slow and complex to remove a problem that isn't much of a problem. What pays for all this? And all the postage. Also when I looked on the app there was nothing to identify anything positive or negative about the seller, are we meant to just accept that if they're on the app they're 'ok'? Thanks again
 

pablovendi

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And the million dollar question, what are you charging for this service?

The whole point of peer to peer selling is to cut out the middle man.
Hi Dman, thanks for you question. I'm Pablo, on of the Co-Founders of vendi. Buyers and sellers each pay 3% + £10. The prices as a buyer that you see on the app already include the fee. This helps us cover the costs of our payment gateway and verification of the phones!

It is true, the point of peer-to-peer is to cut the middle man. We consider ourselves as the hybrid security layer providing an augmented peer-to-peer experience. It's like being part of the logistics network, for example, when you send an item with Royal Mail to someone where the logistics person moves the item for you, but with the added value of giving you that verification for peace of mind.

This business model is not made for everyone. For those that want to take the risks themselves meeting with possible strangers and do all the checks then maybe vendi is not the best fit. But there are so many risks and scammers out there that we saw a large amount of users wanted a more secure experience.

Any more questions or feedback is highly appreciated! Thanks again.
 

pablovendi

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Don't think that the strapline is a good one, considering the Classifieds rely on "online trust" to work. Perhaps it's worth looking at a different angle to promote the service.

Hi Maddy, thanks for your comment. Online needs to work with trust indeed. At the end we think that current models where everything is left to an individual has its risks like the ones we mention. Only after many reviews and many transactions people start to trust you somewhat.. and even there some users take advantage. The lack on transparency in the current models allows that to happen.

What other angle were you thinking?

Thanks again!
 

pablovendi

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Escrow has never really been used for online sales here. If I remember correctly in the early days eBay offered it but not here. Wonder what the legalities and safeguards are for a random company effectively operating a client account? If they go bust is the money currently held lost?

Hi Mary, what do you mean by "here"?

In terms of the money, we block the payment to the seller until the item is verified and given to the buyer. If we were to go bust, the money would still be given to the seller or returned to the buyer in case the transaction is cancelled in case the verification fails. In other words, we don't use our buyer's money to cover the seller's phone costs to operate the company. That doesn't go into our accounts.

Thanks!
 

MaryWhitehouse

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Here. The UK
 

pablovendi

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Thanks, so far this seems to make things slow and complex to remove a problem that isn't much of a problem. What pays for all this? And all the postage. Also when I looked on the app there was nothing to identify anything positive or negative about the seller, are we meant to just accept that if they're on the app they're 'ok'? Thanks again
Hi Mary, when the seller and buyer are in the same city this all can be done the same day, sometimes even in a few hours after a transaction is done. If they are in separate cities, it can take a few more days indeed, but at least you are guaranteed that protection / safety.

The postage is covered by the buyer / seller so the pricing will consider that too if a seller sells an item. If you were to pick up or drop off a phone in any of our locations, there is no direct cost for that. The same as any p2p experience (although time, gas or the tube does cost money indirectly). At the moment we are offering free delivery to buyers to help them stay home.

As a buyer you are able to rate the transaction after you get your phone delivered (this is seen in each of the buyer's profiles). In the future we will add the option for the seller's to show their ratings giving by the buyers but since the buyers rate the combined experience = seller's phone + verification + service that is more than just the seller. These ratings are already public on Trust Pilot, App Store, Play Store...

Thanks!
 

maddy

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Hi Maddy, thanks for your comment. Online needs to work with trust indeed. At the end we think that current models where everything is left to an individual has its risks like the ones we mention. Only after many reviews and many transactions people start to trust you somewhat.. and even there some users take advantage. The lack on transparency in the current models allows that to happen.

What other angle were you thinking?

Thanks again!
Hi. I was thinking that the strapline might not be great for these forums as we've a good trust system in place already, so absolute statements like "Online trust is broken" may not be a message that resonates with people who use this forum to buy and sell.

Perhaps tailor the message a little to promote other aspects of the service, use some A/B testing to see what messages work best.
 

pablovendi

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Hi. I was thinking that the strapline might not be great for these forums as we've a good trust system in place already, so absolute statements like "Online trust is broken" may not be a message that resonates with people who use this forum to buy and sell.

Perhaps tailor the message a little to promote other aspects of the service, use some A/B testing to see what messages work best.
Thanks Maddy! Great advice. Yeah will try a few different options :hiya: In this forum indeed it may be a trusted place, which is great, it's what we want. Although in other platforms its a nightmare!
 

Miss Mandy

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I'm still struggling to see how you can claim that peer-to-peer is the way forward then want to put yourselves in the middle. The whole point of peer-to-peer is that it cuts out the middle man and any associated costs that come with that. You're not offering a peer-to-peer service.

I've had a look through your app and as a buyer it doesn't look very enticing to be honest.
There is very little information provided on any of the listings other than some having battery info displayed. Many of them still rely on stock photos pulled from the internet and a photo of a boxed phone. As a buyer how do I know that you're not using the same box photo time and time again?

The app is only showing me 8 listings right now, but last night it was a lot more. Many of them were identical though so either there were duplicates for some reason or you're a platform for dealers.
I did also spot a couple of listings that had the title of one particular device, but the photo was something else and in the info of the listing it stated that the model being sold was a different one. As a buyer that's very off putting particularly as you claim you check everything out from the photos and then having it in hand. You should at least have spotted the photo was a different model.

Anyway they're just my observations and as a result I wouldn't considering using or recommending you. I think you're going down the wrong path, but wish you well anyway.
 

pablovendi

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I'm still struggling to see how you can claim that peer-to-peer is the way forward then want to put yourselves in the middle. The whole point of peer-to-peer is that it cuts out the middle man and any associated costs that come with that. You're not offering a peer-to-peer service.

I've had a look through your app and as a buyer it doesn't look very enticing to be honest.
There is very little information provided on any of the listings other than some having battery info displayed. Many of them still rely on stock photos pulled from the internet and a photo of a boxed phone. As a buyer how do I know that you're not using the same box photo time and time again?

The app is only showing me 8 listings right now, but last night it was a lot more. Many of them were identical though so either there were duplicates for some reason or you're a platform for dealers.
I did also spot a couple of listings that had the title of one particular device, but the photo was something else and in the info of the listing it stated that the model being sold was a different one. As a buyer that's very off putting particularly as you claim you check everything out from the photos and then having it in hand. You should at least have spotted the photo was a different model.

Anyway they're just my observations and as a result I wouldn't considering using or recommending you. I think you're going down the wrong path, but wish you well anyway.
Hi Miss Mandy, thanks for your feedback, always appreciated. With vendi we provide a service in the middle, but it is still peer-to-peer. Think of it like an insurance when your buy a product, so the fact that you have to pay for that service and the use of platform is not uncommon (Uber drivers still pay Uber for each trip, for example).

The listings information is ultimately edited by the sellers and you can ask any questions about the phones by chatting inside the app. We do have re-sellers that use similar listings when they have a 3 or 4 of the same exact phone.

Thanks for the note to improve on adding more details and a better display, this kind of feedback helps us improve the app. We launched a little over a year ago so any feedback helps!!

Enjoy the weekend!
 

TheMadMan

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I think I'll stick to buying/selling on here. There are scams (see the disputed section) but they seem few and far between. At least on here it's moderated with a personal touch and you have the "safety" of peer reviews.

I am a bit confused on why we're advertising something like this in our classifieds section. Seems like the app will be competing with what we do here. Anyway, that's just my own thoughts.
 

pablovendi

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I think I'll stick to buying/selling on here. There are scams (see the disputed section) but they seem few and far between. At least on here it's moderated with a personal touch and you have the "safety" of peer reviews.

I am a bit confused on why we're advertising something like this in our classifieds section. Seems like the app will be competing with what we do here. Anyway, that's just my own thoughts.
Hi TheMadMan, thanks for that, will check it out. Indeed AVForums seems quite a safe place to buy / sell as people are active which is great, it's what we want to have everywhere. It's true that for users that have history and reviews it is easier to trust quickly vs new users that create accounts with no history (a bit like the trust issue you can face on Ebay).

We're checking out different channels and users to see where our security solution / model can work best - maybe these forums are not it! Think that with our app you have people that can buy not only from this forum but all over the UK with guaranteed safety, you have integrated payments, IMEI verification, insurance, and logistics all in one. So more than compete, we see it as offering a service for those that can't build the trust quick enough or want an insurance or an extra check on the device.

We're also keen on hearing from users on what they think about us to build the right product out there.

Thanks!
 

TheMadMan

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Hi TheMadMan, thanks for that, will check it out. Indeed AVForums seems quite a safe place to buy / sell as people are active which is great, it's what we want to have everywhere. It's true that for users that have history and reviews it is easier to trust quickly vs new users that create accounts with no history (a bit like the trust issue you can face on Ebay).

We're checking out different channels and users to see where our security solution / model can work best - maybe these forums are not it! Think that with our app you have people that can buy not only from this forum but all over the UK with guaranteed safety, you have integrated payments, IMEI verification, insurance, and logistics all in one. So more than compete, we see it as offering a service for those that can't build the trust quick enough or want an insurance or an extra check on the device.

We're also keen on hearing from users on what they think about us to build the right product out there.

Thanks!

Thanks for taking the time to reply. For that, I'm going to download the app and check it out 😄👍
 

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