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Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Little Group Grope

No, no, this is STILL Not That Sort of Blog!  Lately, I have been running into people who complain to me about getting charged money by their groups.  Some of them have been charged quite a lot of money, and others only a few $L, but all of them are pretty hot under the collar at these unexpected and "unfair" charges.

So, let's talk about the ways that groups can cost you money.

First, there is the out-and-out scam.  A group promises you some terrific benefit...free gifts, absorbing roleplay, or whatever.  There is a hefty fee to join, let's say $L2,000.  You pay the money, and shortly thereafter find yourself ejected from the group, and none of the group officers will give you the time of day.  After a short time, the group itself is no longer to be found, as the scammers disband it.

This is rare, but if it happens to you, you can submit an Abuse Report.  Enough complaints, and the scammers will find themselves banned from SL.  But good luck getting your money back, there is not much chance of that.

Second, there is the store group that charges an enrollment fee.  This may be anywhere from $L200 to $L2500 or more, depending on how upscale the store is, how pricey its products are, and what benefits they offer to group members.  If you are a regular customer of a store, even a hefty enrollment fee can be a bargain, as you accumulate savings through group gifts and group-only discounts.

But sometimes these enrollment fees catch shoppers unawares.  They are so used to store groups that are free to join they simply click "Yes" when the "You are about to pay Morea Decosta $L 500 to join a group.  Pay/Cancel?" confirmation message flashes up.  The sudden "KA-CHING" of the money leaving their account is the first clue they have that something unexpected is going on.

Store owners have store groups for a reason, and it isn't just to give away freebies.  The group provides a targeted pool of people to whom they can send advertising about new products and events, and KNOW that the recipients are probably going to be interested.  Store owners are not happy with the people who pop in, join the group, get the freebie, leave the group, and pop out!  Thus, we are seeing more and more store owners, especially the big, popular stores, charging an enrollment fee for their groups.  They want to keep you as a group member and send you ads!  (I am not being holier than thou...I've done the join/grab/leave dance too!)

Be aware of this!  In the group window, right next to the JOIN button, is some text that tells you whether the group is free, or if it charges an enrollment fee.  If you forget to look for this, you get the confirmation message I mentioned earlier.  So if you hear "KA-CHING" unexpectedly, you have only yourself to blame!  (And again, I'm not being holier than thou.  I've been tripped by this one, too!)

The third way groups can cost you money is through group liabilities.  If a group owns land, and that land is shown in search, the group pays a weekly fee to LL for the service.  By default, when a group is created, all group roles have the "share group dividends and liabilities" feature enabled.  Many group founders don't know this and neglect to disable it...or they figure that $L50 a week spread over a few hundred group members won't ever be noticed.  But if you are on a Basic account and never buy any $L, you might look at your account and find that you now have a balance of -2L, and you can't even get freebies until you pay the arrears.

Check your Transaction Log on your Dashboard page periodically to see if any groups are slowly nickel and diming you!

If this happens to you, you have several choices.  You can simply leave the group.  Or you can contact the group owner and complain that you don't think it's fair for the rank and file membership to pay for the search listing of their store, or club.  Some owners will correct this, if you draw their attention to it politely.  Others may take offense.  You may find that you HAVE left the group, involuntarily!  A third possibility is to just keep quiet.  If the group owner decides to close up shop and sell their land, all the group members will get an equal share of the sale -- the "share group dividends" side of the coin.  Then it's the owner's turn to feel unfairly treated! "Hey, I sold my land for $L50,000, and only got $L200 of it!"

For lots more about groups, how they work and how to manage them, see this link:  http://community.secondlife.com/t5/English-Knowledge-Base/Creating-managing-moderating-and-disbanding-groups/ta-p/700111

ps - Maybe this IS That Sort of Blog.  After all, we just talked about several people getting screwed.  See you all Next Time!

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