Vendor Bending

Wednesday, February 6, 2008 Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Let's get this straight right away: I don't like vendors. No, not the fine people that sell things - I am talking about those Vending Machines one often encounters in Second Life. Often used by fine people. Why pick on vendors? Nightbird's comment on this post got me thinking about vendors and I couldn't resist.

Why don't I like them? Let's start with the good things:

Vending Machines are very prim-light. In fact, a good vendor may soak up only a single prim, whereas your for-sale object may yank hundreds of prims from your measly parcel limit. That's right, you can't easily place that 4,444 prim Naval Aircraft Carrier for sale without slightly blowing out your prim limit. You could put it inside a vendor and avoid the pain. Or, just put it in a box instead and avoid the vendor entirely.

Sophisticated vending machines might offer networking capability, where they can simultaneously update and contain consistent sets of objects regardless of the locations where your 720 vendors were dumped on the Grid. In addition, some sophisticated vendors might offer reporting capability so you can track your sales. However, I've found satellite stores and mall locations to be extremely ineffective, so I have no reason to employ vendors in distributed locations.

Payments may be split by a vendor into separate payments by multiple owners, where two or more people are to receive income from sales. However, this is often problematic, since a typical situation involves Maker A placing a vendor on Resident B's property. Who makes sure that the vendor's payment-splitting script actually does a fair split? A? or B? Who made the script? Who owns the script? Who can change the script? My enquiries about this scenario suggest that Resident B should simply rent space to Maker A by the week and avoid the problem entirely. So much for payment splitting.

And I think that's about it for the good things. But what about the bad?

Vendors suffer from rez-disease, that terrible affliction that occurs when you try to painfully page through each offering. The rezzing doesn't start until the new texture is exposed, which means you are constantly standing there waiting for the next pic to appear. "It's a bit blurry yet. I think it's a shirt. Yes! No. What does it say? Oh, it's a Moose. But I wanted a shirt! Argh, press the NEXT button... again!" So you give up and move on to avoid the tedium. After all, there are so many other great places to shop! This often happens because people are generally impatient, particularly when the Lag Demons are loose.

You are frequently required to flip through many pages before you (might) find the item you seek. I've seen vendors with 20+ items in them. Does anyone actually expect you to page through all of them? Again, people are impatient and simply go somewhere else where it's easier to shop. Am I being picky? Perhaps, but I've found that if there is a barrier to sales, even a small one, it will deter some portion of customers from proceeding. To be successful you must remove as many barriers as possible.

The manner in which you flip through buttons is usually inconsistent, since there are many species of vendors to choose from. Indeed, some sellers even create their own vendors with totally unique control mechanisms. This leads to the uncomfortable situation where the buttons are marked and placed differently from vendor to vendor. Sure, the vendor "works", but it's just more difficult for customers to figure out how they work. "Do I press the top button or the left one?" If you don't agree with me, consider the case where you are renting an automobile. Do you immediately drive off after getting in? Or do you take a few minutes to familiarize yourself the with alien controls? (especially if it's a Volkswagen.) Why make it difficult for customers at all?

While I mentioned that some vendors are networked and provide sophisticated functions, many vendors are in fact not networked at all and do not provide any such features.

Finally, in-world search scans objects marked as "For Sale" and "Include in Search". This simply doesn't work with vendors since the for-sale objects are hidden inside and don't get indexed by searchbots whizzing by.

Is there a case for using vendors? Certainly - I believe you must use vendors if you happen to be prim-starved. It may be your only option on a 512sm parcel or a 30 prim mall-stall. But don't ever expect a similar level of sales as you might have had if all objects were out on display for all those reasons above.


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