What kind of scam is this? Is it for money or something much worse? Should I be worried for my safety? I had the same experience today. Got an email from Elena Chesterfield offering a job to take care of her mom. It sounded odd so I looked the name up on the internet and sure enough it is a scam!! It's so sad to know that people go out of their way to scam others. There's no doubt in my mind that you are being scammed but it is a great lesson to learn from and advise others that this can happen to anyone. I would block the number at that point and just be cautious from here on out. I prefer to do all communication through the site until the person hiring decided to call me rarely text for an interview.
I never give out my personal information. If they need anything that care. This is a scam. My new wife had the same thing happen to her. She ended up getting a fraudulent check that she was sent by her bank to let law enforcement know. She was advised to let care. Be careful and even if a "cashier's check" is recieved do not cash it! My girl put it in her account, bur didn't spend it or send money back. Instead went to her bank and they found it was a fraud and the trust did not exist.
Very pitiful. Has anyone gotten any messages from a husband and wife, Alexander Alex and Helen Frye looking for someone to babysit their 4 year old, Julia? Our email correspondance has been eerily similar to other email scammers, but this one is using an insane amount of detail, which makes me very skeptical as to whether they are or aren't scammers. Just wondering if anyone has gotten any messages from those people specifically, or from anyone who claims to be a "professional tourist". Thank you! Almost without fail if someone texts you offering you a job especially one you did not apply for or says they are researching for their friend and says they are moving to your area.
It is a scam. I almost got scammed from lady who said is moving from Australia and wanted me to buy groceries. She said to take care her mother in law. Tiffany Darrow. Smelled like a scam when she said to send me a huge check to buy groceries. I asked her for her address in the USA when she moves but after that none response. Sorry for the late reply, I am Mrs. Am relocating to your area i work for the. Am hard of hearing and i communicate through sign languages and i can read lips, I have a tight schedule in the office and i will be relocating to the United States for a 3 Months course, Please note i will be getting a promotion after the course so i need to perform excellently well, this is where you will come in and help me watch over my little angel Megan, shes lovely and she laughs a lot, she gets along with people well and she likes making friends, lots of them.
I have instructed my office to check with conducive hotels around your cross-street, when i have the reservation details on my desk i will furnish you with the booking information so you would know where we shall be staying. Hence you shall babysit Megan either at my rented suite or at your residence provided her comfort is guaranteed. Megan is only 7 years old and I want the best care for her while we arrive. I would schedule you to care for her during weekdays only i.
Moreover my superior is willing to have your first month child care service charge processed prior my arrival with Megan and Sundry materials, toys and many other things Megan will be needing. So please fill up the Questionnaire below for immediate processing of your Check with will contain your first week payment and the remaining funds will be used for Megan materials:.
I got the same text message on my 2nd day joining, only for pet sitting same woman only with a golden, and she even emailed me fake photos of her and her dog "Wesley". This concerns me very much, and have since unchecked my phone number being visible on my profile. Apparently only those seeking jobs are screened, not those seeking to fill positions Care needs to crack down on these people or they will lose members. I won't upgrade until such time.
That is certainly a scam. Never give out that information and usually I would report them if they ask for that information. Sittercity has a lot of people who do it just to scam people and the website will usually pick up on it and terminate their account. My advice is to not be so gullible.
Why on earth would anyone pay for something up front thinking they will get reimbursed from someone you never met. People who are so easy to hand out their personal information. Is the exact reason why these people are still around. Stop falling for it and they will go away!!! I never "fell for it". I immediately responded asking if they could contact me through care.
The only information I "gave" to these scammers was given to them through care. I also just had this happen to me. A woman named Brooke Jackson messaged me looking for someone to help with her dog. She did ask for my resume, which i did not send, for safety reasons. I asked her about this in the e-mail. At this point i was slightly suspicious. She e-mailed me back today with a very long e-mail, that was typed awkwardly, and didn't make much sense. She claimed to be a single mother of 2 boys 3 and 1, and she attended the California school for the deaf.
She talked about her dog cookie, a golden retriever. She said she wanted to get me on her payroll immediately and asked for my name, address, and phone number. She also asked for some details about myself, and pictures of myself. I knew right away that this was a scam, and did some research to see if this was a common scam, and discovered that it seems very common!
I reported her, and blocked her on care. Do not continue contact with someone if you have a similar experience! This is exactly what happened to me but I was stupid enough to actually send my picture and address although not my complete address and now I don't know what to do. I'm very scared. I just had the same thing happen.
I got a response within the first hour of putting up my job description. I would just be cleaning her house and running errands for her. That has happened to me too, and yes, it is a scam. I recommend completely cutting ties with them and responses for your own financial and personal safety. I almost fell for it as well.
They will send a fake check on a piece of paper that looks like the real thing. But we caught it before I put it in the bank thankfully. I have received six texts since signing up a couple of months ago. Many of the texts are very similar, if not the same, as what you all have received. Yes this is a scam! I just had this same exact thing happen to me, same story and all. They claim they are relocating to the area and their end result is to get your information then they will send you a fake check to deposit into your account. I've had this happen twice already in a week so be aware!
Got a long-winded scam email today. There's a lot of things to look for. If they offer large sums of money in advance in the very first communication especially , and if it looks too good to be true - it probably is. I always reply asking them to contact me though the care. Not one has done so. Do not provide any personal information. There are websites and phone numbers you can call to see if it is a current scam. Absolutely do not give her any information. It throws all kinds of red flags up for me.
I am very careful to watch for people like these. Unfortunately, we have these people to deal with. Yes, I do believe it is a scam to get your personal information. I'm having a similar issue. I have my phone number listed in my general information and I keep getting text messages from various different phone numbers. It definitely seems like spam. Unfortunately, I have reported some of the people scamming users on Care.
Same scams. Very disappointed - I actually deactivated my prior Care. Some of the same people are also posting ads constantly for the same jobs and when you respond, they never respond back. In the case of one who did respond, she immediately was hostile in her response and not very nice. I am reputable professional caregiver and an actual licensed nurse not a self-annointed home care aid, or CNA so there should be people willing to have a nurse with a license in good standing working for them The check was for Dont cash it.
I have had a situation recently with a woman contacting me saying her name is "Ellen Ethan" and her, her husband, and baby will be relocating to my area. She asked if I can babysit her baby and help with the smooth transition of her family moving to my area. After a few more emails she asked if I can deposit a check and send it to a destination. I thought it was a weird offer and looked up the house that she said she was moving into.
I found out that the home has not been on the market since and no one has bought it. Be careful of scams. Scam going to unsubscribe. Both my daughter and I are getting similar texts asking for money for a wheelchair etc. Strange, Ive been getting the same thing. People moving into my city, email address links that wont work Trust your gut and move on. There is always another job. The headaches associated with being scammed will last a lot longer.
I have had this happen to me before. The first time, I received a text message from some lady claiming that her sister needed a babysitter for her child and left an email address. When I emailed the "sister," she said that she was relocating to my city from Puerto Rico with her husband and son and needed a babysitter for her young son.
She even specified a specific street that is not far from where I live. As a broke college student who had no idea that these types of scams existed, that seemed like an offer I could not resist. She then told me that she was going to pay me in advance to secure my employment and have her "financial clerk" send me a check. Here is where it got weird.
She wanted to send me more money than was needed so that I can forward the rest of the money to her "grocer" who was going to send groceries to the house for me to put away. I just figured that she was busy with the move and didn't have time to do it herself. I provided her with my name and address which I realized a bit later was a very dumb decision.
I was completely shocked at the large amount and tried to email her several times about it. My email bounced every time. I also tried to contact the number that texted me, but I was informed that the number was not in service. I had no idea what to do with that check, so it sat in my drawer. The day after all this, I received a text from some other lady claiming that her boss needed a babysitter from her son and provided an email address as well. It had almost the exact same script as the other message with some details changed.
I was extremely skeptical at this point and knew that something was up, so I emailed that other person to test my hypothesis. When I received a reply that was almost exactly the same as the first lady's reply with some details changed, I had confirmation that something was definitely off. I destroyed the check from the first lady and reported all of this to care. Within the next 2 weeks, I received more texts from more people that were claiming to help loved ones get childcare with that same script. I reported all the numbers. What I don't understand is that all of these people claimed to have gotten my number from care.
Not long after this whole ordeal, I realized all the red flags. Who in their right mind would agree to let some random stranger watch their child without meeting them first, let alone pay them in advance?
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How hard is it to just write 2 checks? Why do you need me to arrange all the stuff in your house? Why does your "financial clerk" live somewhere that is nowhere near where you claim to be relocating from or where you claim to be relocating to? I haven't gotten any texts or emails in years, but if I do, I will call my phone company to find out how these people are getting my number. It happened to me few days ago this was the email , this person is no longer in the website and he wanted me to email him through gmail, people be aware!!
Hello How is your day going? Thanks for your response, I am glad to read from you. I am a Father 3, Chris, Emmanuel and Sharon, they are 6 yrs, 3yrs and 8 month respectively. I attended Chicago School for the Deaf where I achieved my highest qualification. I have my own business Self Employed. I am 39 and I am hard of hearing. I work based on the development and counseling of the deaf people in the community, I am moving to your area in few weeks with my adorable dog and I really need a honest and responsible care for my pet.
Chester he is cute and adorable he is very friendly and playful. Going for walks Chester is very favorite activity. Chester is house trained and crate trained It depends on what your schedule looks like and also i will like you to know the hours are flexible but I do like to be sure if you are available the first month. I want to inform you that I have a seminar I will be attending to as soon as I arrive and will be having an interview section with you immediately I arrive with my Dog.
Also I will like to include your pay to our payroll for the period just to have you booked down and secure for my Pet. I will be needing the following information below to issue out the check to you and I need your direct mobile number so I can text you in case I need to pass an urgent information:. I have made some arrangements with the dog utility suppliers, so as soon as you get the payment, you will deduct your first week pay and have the rest sent to the dog utility suppliers as soon as the check clears, I hope my Dog will have the best of time while is in your care and I hope you will treat him right just like yours.
Get back to me as I have a lot of issue to put in place prior to my arrival. I tried to submit my question but I was not able to. I have a sittercity account and found it strange that my reference received a text from a family saying that they saw my profile on care.
Fast forward to me having a conversation via email. After filling out the information I received a email saying that they assure me that my information is documented to his family confidentia alone. I do appreciate your enthusiasm regarding the Babysitting Position. I'm very protective of my child because she's the only one even though we will be having an additional one to the family very soon.
I'm Michael Lewis Allison's Husband. My wife asked me to email you on her behalf. We are in the process of coming to states for 6 months before making our decision to stay there next year. My wife is 4 months pregnant and due to her condition,I will prefer she does not stress much but rest during our time in United States. It 's okay if you prefer to be a live-in or live-out nanny,I can drop her at your home everyday and will greatly appreciate if you will be delighted to accept this offer as we would be arriving soon. We sincerely need someone who can help us to taking care of Daniella,while am off to work.
According to your reference,You seems to be a very good babysitter. Originally,We are from Vienna,Austria but has been living here for almost a decade. Morever,I will be making arrangements in renting an apartment close to you but it depends on your location,I will be needing your services,You seems to be a very hard working lady from the little I read about you which also portrays your love for little children and this has convinced me a lot that my Daughter is going to be in a safe hands.
I wouldn't want to lose you to someone else. We need a babysitter because my wife is heavily pregnant and the doctor asked her not to stress herself due to her present condition because she previously had a miscarriage,Daniella is just 3 years,She's healthy and loving,she has no allergy and does not have schedule for anything such as nap,she loves to recite poems and she likes listening to stories. Lastly,You will be helping us in purchasing groceries for our home complex before or on the day of our arrival. If you are able to meet up to our expectation with your services.
We have a financier that is based in United States who will be handling the payment and other expenses. He will be taking care of your payment and the groceries fee too. I will instruct him to pay for the first week before our arrival so as to secure your service. If this employment opportunity is acceptable to you, kindly get back to me with the required information below for confirmation and further proceedings of the payment to take place. If this employment opportunity is acceptable to you my financier would be needing the following Information to prepare and mail out the paycheck:.
Full name: Contact Address: Box Apt: City, Zip Code: Home phone number: Cell phone number: Available hours: Active Email Address:. We would be arriving on the 15th of February but you will be paid henceforth,I will have several small assignments for you to complete prior to our arrival, such as checking our new apartment for necessary supplies, purchasing what may be needed before our arrival, Necessary toiletries and cleaning supplies etc which i will provide you with a list.
All we ask from you is honesty and sincerity and I'm sure you will enjoy the time you will spend with my daughter. Please do get in touch immediately so as to start making arrangements while I await your urgent response for this employment offer along with the requested details. Ok so I now realize the job I was so happy about possibly getting is in fact a scam most likely because it has the same verbage of moving from out of town etc.
I sent a resume that has my address phone number etc. I will not accept a check or money outside of care. Can they do something with your address, phone number and email to scam you or only if you take the bad check and send them money which I would never do? I got nothing but these from care. Just got another and they aren't even suppose to contact you directly like that. You are supposed to check you're messages on ca re. I'm turning this one in and deleting my name off tb for sought.
They tell you they are moving into the area and need you to set up groiceri e's. House, but s tiff, they send u thi s check with money for you and shopping. If you cash the check it's fraudulent and the bank can hold you responsible. I got on and took it to the bank the cops, they either can't find em. The hackers and theive d a nd breeches have gotten do bad you have to watch your back ever yweherre. I got called from my bank that my card was used 3 t ones, they fro Dr the ca4d unroll I called, but now they send another card to me.
I also ran it through my dad and it seemed sketchy to him. How are you , I hope you are doing wonderfully well today. I just realized my wife has given out the Baby sitting position already and i feel so bad keeping your hopes high on working for my family. If you can work as an errands and taking care of my mail. I want to believe and hope i am dealing with an honest and very diligent person because you seems serious and reliable from the message you sent to me and you have demonstrated your willingness to start work.
I am in need of a Distributor who will serve as a Personal Assistant who i can instructs. I will need you to take charge of my mail pick ups and drop off's as well as errand running during your spare time. This job is flexible so you can do it wherever you are as long as there is a post office in the area.
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All errands will be in your city so it is not a must you have a car, but if you do it might be a plus. All expenses and taxes will be covered by me. You will be doing this for a week with an option of a possibility of making this a long term if I'm satisfied with your performances. If you accept this offer please reply with the following details: Current Occupation and Available hours: I will be needing your service immediately, so once the information above is received, I will give you further explanation on what to need to do to give a better services.
Kindly get back to me if you will accept my offer. Thank you. I was just scammed today!
This couple acted as if they were moving from Arizona to a house near me. They said they were dead and dumb and could only communicate through text and email. They had a four year old daughter that needed "special toys" and they would need to send me a check and I would use 2, of it to to put into a toy seller account. And I could keep the rest as my first paycheck. They just found a place but wouldn't be there until the 9th and the toys need to be there before they move or their daughter would freak out or something.
Weren't very consistent with texts and tried to avoid answering important questions. When they did answer they made me feel bad for even questioning them. They called me family and that they loved me And that their family would really appreciate it if I did this check thing for them! They always ask for you to email them or give them your email address. They also always have weird numbers from out of state. I would definitely pass on this. Once I caught on to it , I start letting them know that I know it is a scam and that I would report them and then I would never hear anything back. Here's my recent scam incident: Your prompt email just after my sister contacted you shows you are a punctual person.
Its a good thing my sister found this text platform to help reach out to you otherwise I am not sure how I would have been able to get in touch with a sitter not talk to of employing one. Anyways My name is Angelina Morgan. I be will relocating to your neighborhood from Puerto Rico. Well at least I hope its in close proximity to where you reside. I am coming down there to manage the health of the CEO of a private company. Hence why I need someone that will help in sitting my 4 year old Lhasa Apso dog.
Hours and days are none specific and that would depend on your availability and flexibility. Should you have other jobs I am willing to still accommodate your time schedule. My dog is so important to me, He was a gift from my late father. His name is Gloss and has a very soft temper. Kindly make known to me the days you would be available and time and we would work it out.
I am looking at 8 hrs a week. Its pretty much up to you. If you believe you are good fit for this position and you will prove yourself to be a reliable and good person, I will give you the job. Regards, Angelina Morgan. This is the one I got, had a weird feeling about it right away. First he texted me saying that he had a pet sitting job for me, and to email him for more detail. Curious, I did, and I got this:.
My name is Stephen pascal and my wife's name is Melissa, I needed someone to look after my pets and I believe I can trust your judgment on that. We are relocating from Canada to your neighborhood and i am currently working with a Realtor on the apartment we tend to secure I need someone to work 3 days per week for 4 hours per day, someone that is mature whether young or old, loves pets, reliable, attentive, honest and punctual. You will be taking care of 2 Dogs, Misty a yr old Australian Terrier and Razor a 4 years old German Shepard for any three days of your choosing excluding Sundays and will have to take them on a walk at least once a week, give them a bath, brush their hair and make them comfortable while we are away.
I can handle the feeding but the rest i wont be able to do, so you can work for us as long as you want. I plan on getting 2 fishes on the other hand; one is a Fancy Goldfish, while the other is an Auratus Cichlid, we've never had fishes but i wish to have the very best care for them. I trust you can do this for us. Bonus will be paid if there are any overtime In addition to this and if we are able to reach an agreement, we would be needing you to help us get some pets supplies and some items for the house prior to our arrival so we don't have to start running around when we return home so I am going to need your trust on that as well.
If you believe you are fit for this position in as much you will prove yourself to be a reliable and good person, I will instruct my financial clerk to issue a payment that will cover your first week pay and as well as fund to get the supplies for us prior to our arrival so as to secure your service in advance and to show our commitment on our part. If you are willing to work for us then I would be needing your information as requested below.
Upon receipt of the details, I will ask my financier to look into it and verify the address and once that is done we can proceed further with payment arrangement and additional details;. No way they know the difference between a goldfish and cichlid, and don't know they can't live together. Also, weekly walks? Daily baths? Most real dog owners know that walks should be daily, baths should be monthly.
Dogs will get dry skin otherwise. Go to Care. Join Login. Find care Apply to jobs. For families seeking care. Complete guides. The Complete Guide to Child Care. The Complete Guide to Nannies. The Complete Guide to Nanny Shares.
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The care you need. The jobs you'll love. User in Pottsboro, TX May 2, Technology Child care Strengthening family relationships. User in Portsmouth, VA May 9, But how do they scam you? What do they do? Yolanda in Houston, TX Sept. Leave a comment Create a free account with Care. Hi Sarah, Way to be vigilant!
Good luck in the rest of your job search! User in Pottsboro, TX April 21, Frank in Bethany, CT May 1, If you know someone you don't like, create a fake care. User in Hampton, GA May 18, User in Gardner, MA Aug. Matthew in Brighton, MA Oct. Hey Sarah, Nice catch! A link What caregivers need to know about online scams. User in Pittsburgh, PA May 1, User May 7, User in Mokena, IL Oct. Yes, its a scam.
Anytime they say "Im moving to your area" its a scam. I received many of those. User in Covington, KY May 6, Same there. Thank you for your help, I am new on Care. User May 28, User in Highland, CA Aug. User in Mcloud, OK Aug. Stephan in Brooklyn, NY Aug. Pamela in Inverness, FL Dec. User in Philadelphia, PA Feb. User in Chattanooga, TN Aug. User in Solon, OH Sept. Too many scams and no jobs on here! User in Waco, TX Oct. I felt like it was a little strange so I looked up "nanny scams" and I found this " 1. The Nanny Job Some scammers post jobs for nannies and babysitters, targeting the young and inexperienced.
Zamora in Houston, TX Aug. Alexis in Romeoville, IL May 5, Brooke in Lockport, NY July 4, User in Olivehurst, CA May 26, User in Chicago, IL May 5, I had this happen to me. Sent a check and it was fake. Most of the time. User in Carrboro, NC May 12, User in Hyattsville, MD Oct. I've been getting the same scam messages on my phone too. What if the blade could be made of a thin metal strip? Rather than spending time maintaining the blades, men could simply discard them when they became dull. A few years of metallurgy experimentation later, the disposable-blade safety razor was born.
But it didn't take off immediately. In its first year, , Gillette sold a total of 51 razors and blades. Over the next two decades, he tried every marketing gimmick he could think of. He put his own face on the package, making him both legendary and, some people believed, fictional. He sold millions of razors to the Army at a steep discount, hoping the habits soldiers developed at war would carry over to peacetime.
He sold razors in bulk to banks so they could give them away with new deposits "shave and save" campaigns. Razors were bundled with everything from Wrigley's gum to packets of coffee, tea, spices, and marshmallows. The freebies helped to sell those products, but the tactic helped Gillette even more. By giving away the razors, which were useless by themselves, he was creating demand for disposable blades. A few billion blades later, this business model is now the foundation of entire industries: Give away the cell phone, sell the monthly plan; make the videogame console cheap and sell expensive games; install fancy coffeemakers in offices at no charge so you can sell managers expensive coffee sachets.
Thanks to Gillette, the idea that you can make money by giving something away is no longer radical. But until recently, practically everything "free" was really just the result of what economists would call a cross-subsidy: You'd get one thing free if you bought another, or you'd get a product free only if you paid for a service.
Over the past decade, however, a different sort of free has emerged. The new model is based not on cross-subsidies — the shifting of costs from one product to another — but on the fact that the cost of products themselves is falling fast. It's as if the price of steel had dropped so close to zero that King Gillette could give away both razor and blade, and make his money on something else entirely. Shaving cream? You know this freaky land of free as the Web. A decade and a half into the great online experiment, the last debates over free versus pay online are ending.
The remaining fee-based parts, new owner Rupert Murdoch announced, will be "really special Information also wants to be expensive That tension will not go away. Scenario 1: Low-cost digital distribution will make the summer blockbuster free. Theaters will make their money from concessions — and by selling the premium moviegoing experience at a high price. Once a marketing gimmick, free has emerged as a full-fledged economy. Offering free music proved successful for Radiohead, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, and a swarm of other bands on MySpace that grasped the audience-building merits of zero.
The fastest-growing parts of the gaming industry are ad-supported casual games online and free-to-try massively multiplayer online games. The rise of "freeconomics" is being driven by the underlying technologies that power the Web. Just as Moore's law dictates that a unit of processing power halves in price every 18 months, the price of bandwidth and storage is dropping even faster.
Which is to say, the trend lines that determine the cost of doing business online all point the same way: But tell that to the poor CIO who just shelled out six figures to buy another rack of servers. Technology sure doesn't feel free when you're buying it by the gross. Yet if you look at it from the other side of the fat pipe, the economics change. That expensive bank of hard drives fixed costs can serve tens of thousands of users marginal costs.
The Web is all about scale, finding ways to attract the most users for centralized resources, spreading those costs over larger and larger audiences as the technology gets more and more capable. It's not about the cost of the equipment in the racks at the data center; it's about what that equipment can do. And every year, like some sort of magic clockwork, it does more and more for less and less, bringing the marginal costs of technology in the units that we individuals consume closer to zero.
As much as we complain about how expensive things are getting, we're surrounded by forces that are making them cheaper. Forty years ago, the principal nutritional problem in America was hunger; now it's obesity, for which we have the Green Revolution to thank. Forty years ago, charity was dominated by clothing drives for the poor. Now you can get a T-shirt for less than the price of a cup of coffee, thanks to China and global sourcing. So too for toys, gadgets, and commodities of every sort.
Even cocaine has pretty much never been cheaper globalization works in mysterious ways. Digital technology benefits from these dynamics and from something else even more powerful: We're still just beginning to exploit atomic-scale effects in revolutionary new materials — semiconductors processing power , ferromagnetic compounds storage , and fiber optics bandwidth.
In the arc of history, all three substances are still new, and we have a lot to learn about them. We are just a few decades into the discovery of a new world. What does this mean for the notion of free? Well, just take one example. Last year, Yahoo announced that Yahoo Mail, its free webmail service, would provide unlimited storage.
Just in case that wasn't totally clear, that's "unlimited" as in "infinite. And the stunning thing is that nobody was surprised; many had assumed infinite free storage was already the case. For good reason: It's now clear that practically everything Web technology touches starts down the path to gratis, at least as far as we consumers are concerned. Storage now joins bandwidth YouTube: Basic economics tells us that in a competitive market, price falls to the marginal cost. There's never been a more competitive market than the Internet, and every day the marginal cost of digital information comes closer to nothing.
One of the old jokes from the late-'90s bubble was that there are only two numbers on the Internet: The first, at least as it applied to stock market valuations, proved false. But the second is alive and well. The Web has become the land of the free. The result is that we now have not one but two trends driving the spread of free business models across the economy.
The first is the extension of King Gillette's cross-subsidy to more and more industries. Technology is giving companies greater flexibility in how broadly they can define their markets, allowing them more freedom to give away products or services to one set of customers while selling to another set. Ryanair, for instance, has disrupted its industry by defining itself more as a full-service travel agency than a seller of airline seats see "How Can Air Travel Be Free? The second trend is simply that anything that touches digital networks quickly feels the effect of falling costs.
There's nothing new about technology's deflationary force, but what is new is the speed at which industries of all sorts are becoming digital businesses and thus able to exploit those economics. When Google turned advertising into a software application, a classic services business formerly based on human economics things get more expensive each year switched to software economics things get cheaper. So, too, for everything from banking to gambling. The moment a company's primary expenses become things based in silicon, free becomes not just an option but the inevitable destination.
Forty years ago, Caltech professor Carver Mead identified the corollary to Moore's law of ever-increasing computing power. Every 18 months, Mead observed, the price of a transistor would halve. And so it did, going from tens of dollars in the s to approximately 0. This, Mead realized, meant that we should start to "waste" transistors. Scenario 2: Ads on the subway? That's so 20th century. By sponsoring the whole line and making trips free, the local merchants association brings grateful commuters to neighborhood shops. Waste is a dirty word, and that was especially true in the IT world of the s.
An entire generation of computer professionals had been taught that their job was to dole out expensive computer resources sparingly. In the glass-walled facilities of the mainframe era, these systems operators exercised their power by choosing whose programs should be allowed to run on the costly computing machines. Their role was to conserve transistors, and they not only decided what was worthy but also encouraged programmers to make the most economical use of their computer time.
As a result, early developers devoted as much code as possible to running their core algorithms efficiently and gave little thought to user interface. This was the era of the command line, and the only conceivable reason someone might have wanted to use a computer at home was to organize recipe files. In fact, the world's first personal computer, a stylish kitchen appliance offered by Honeywell in , came with integrated counter space. And here was Mead, telling programmers to embrace waste. They scratched their heads — how do you waste computer power?
Rather than conserve transistors for core processing functions, he developed a computer concept — the Dynabook — that would frivolously deploy silicon to do silly things: The purpose of this profligate eye candy? Ease of use for regular folks, including children.
Kay's work on the graphical user interface became the inspiration for the Xerox Alto, and then the Apple Macintosh, which changed the world by opening computing to the rest of us. We, in turn, found no shortage of things to do with it; tellingly, organizing recipes was not high on the list. Of course, computers were not free then, and they are not free today.
But what Mead and Kay understood was that the transistors in them — the atomic units of computation — would become so numerous that on an individual basis, they'd be close enough to costless that they might as well be free. That meant software writers, liberated from worrying about scarce computational resources like memory and CPU cycles, could become more and more ambitious, focusing on higher-order functions such as user interfaces and new markets such as entertainment. And that meant software of broader appeal, which brought in more users, who in turn found even more uses for computers.
Thanks to that wasteful throwing of transistors against the wall, the world was changed. What's interesting is that transistors or storage, or bandwidth don't have to be completely free to invoke this effect. At a certain point, they're cheap enough to be safely disregarded. The Greek philosopher Zeno wrestled with this concept in a slightly different context. In Zeno's dichotomy paradox, you run toward a wall. As you run, you halve the distance to the wall, then halve it again, and so on. But if you continue to subdivide space forever, how can you ever actually reach the wall?
The answer is that you can't: Once you're within a few nanometers, atomic repulsion forces become too strong for you to get any closer. In economics, the parallel is this: If the unitary cost of technology "per megabyte" or "per megabit per second" or "per thousand floating-point operations per second" is halving every 18 months, when does it come close enough to zero to say that you've arrived and can safely round down to nothing?
The answer: What Mead understood is that a psychological switch should flip as things head toward zero. Even though they may never become entirely free, as the price drops there is great advantage to be had in treating them as if they were free.
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Not too cheap to meter , as Atomic Energy Commission chief Lewis Strauss said in a different context, but too cheap to matter. Indeed, the history of technological innovation has been marked by people spotting such price and performance trends and getting ahead of them. From the consumer's perspective, though, there is a huge difference between cheap and free. Give a product away and it can go viral. Charge a single cent for it and you're in an entirely different business, one of clawing and scratching for every customer. The psychology of "free" is powerful indeed, as any marketer will tell you.
This difference between cheap and free is what venture capitalist Josh Kopelman calls the "penny gap. In many cases, that's the difference between a great market and none at all. The huge psychological gap between "almost zero" and "zero" is why micropayments failed. It's why Google doesn't show up on your credit card.