Apparently the story wasn’t over yet …
So, just as I felt that my calls to Gumtree to see reason over allowing ad posters like myself to accept cryptocurrency were falling on deaf ears, I received a response from yet another customer ‘assistant’ seeking to clarify Gumtree’s position, with the usual poor grammar and rather dodgy sentence construction:
Nothing like a hastily assembled and obviously unchecked email to make a very long standing customer (10 years plus) like myself feel special is there? I particularly liked the “so we that extra precautions” line — that has class all of its own.
There were so many points to make here, I didn’t even know where to start at first, but let’s go through logically.
First, that’s a very different point of view from the previous emails, personal and automatic, that I received confirming that ‘crypt o-currencies’ (isn’t he an Irish blockchain specialist?) were not permitted. So, it appears they are, actually, as long as they are not the only means of payment. Well, ok, but surely this is not a difficult message to convey to front line personnel? Did I really need my ad removing twice and all the overhead at Gumtree’s end to finally get that one nailed down? Do you think the representatives at Gumtree may even, one day, be able to spell ‘cryptocurrency?’
Second, the line about fraud gave me an instant feeling of deja vu from the distant past where I had faced this issue before with a new technology. I have a blog story about this which has more detail, but let me give you the basics:
In 1991, when I got my first giant, mobile phone, it was quite a thing. Very few people had one, but people had heard of them and had already come to the wrong conclusions as we, being people, often do when something new is on the block. The main thrust of this was that mobile phones were only used by city traders or criminals. But mostly, it was criminals. Of course, this was completely untrue, especially as in those days ‘pay as you go’ options were not available, and long term contracts with proven home addresses and ID were required. Nevertheless, the view was prevalent.
This was demonstrated to me very clearly when I went to place an ad for a bike I was selling on the one platform that had a real monopoly at the time — Exchange & Mart. In these pre-internet, pre Ebay times, the only way you could sell something was to list it in a specialist newspaper which came out once a week. You’d scan the listings (manually of course, there was no search function) and phone the number of the person selling the item to make a deal.
The way you would do this was to phone in, read the ad — word by word — to the operator, and then give your phone number to be published. It was a simple, if not time consuming, process. On this particular occasion, I decided to give my mobile number as it was more convenient.
The operator, though, was having none of it, citing the line “we won’t accept mobile numbers because they are always linked to fraud”. Wow. That hurt. I distinctly remember the operator’s tone changing as she talked down to me in a way to let me know she had called me out.
There was no way round it, the ad could not be placed unless I gave my home number, which would almost certainly go unanswered. I conceded in the end through lack of choice, and, of course, the phone DID go unanswered at the crucial time, meaning the sale dragged on for weeks.
But how uncanny is that? The corporate party line, the uncaring approach, the “go away and stop bothering me, you criminal” attitudes are identical, just separated by quarter of a century and technologies.
And, just as I was convinced in 1991 that mobile technology would be adopted globally, I am just as convinced that cryptocurrency will go the same way.
I wanted to put this to Gumtree and asked again for an interview or a statement from the press office, but I have still had no response. As before, if I hear any more I’ll keep you updated.
In the meantime my ad, which was first taken down by Gumtree, then reinstated by me by removing all payment terms except cash (definitely no fraud on cash transactions is there?) and then taken down again by me as I had sold the item, was then reinstated by Gumtree yet again resulting in inquiries again on a sold item before I managed to get in and take it down again. Jeez, that was hard work wasn’t it?
But perhaps I am a little harsh on Gumtree. In my experience, most companies — of any size — have no idea what they’re going to do with this ‘Bitcoin thing’ or even have taken the time to ensure their employees actually understand what it is.
As always, the organisations that do so will be the ones that have the competitive advantage when mainstream adoption comes, but I rather suspect the reality is that in the end adoption will happen far faster than companies will change, resulting in a new generation of Exchange & Marts, Yellow Pages or MySpaces wondering what the hell happened.
If only there were people who were willing to go in and talk to these companies and help them with information and preparation. Know anyone? ;-)