Monday, February 8, 2010

ELMER FUDD, KWEDIT AND THOSE CWAZY KIDDIES

Buy Now, Pay Later (Maybe With Your Allowance) By RANDALL STROSS Published: February 6, 2010 BUSINESSES don’t let 13-year-olds pay for purchases with a promise. At least they didn’t before last week.  

Ah yes. Seems the Wall Street types who invented ways for the ineligible poor to buy half-million dollar homes have a new target in mind. Nine to twelve year-old children. Your and my nine to twelve year-old children. This New York Times article is a jaw-dropper, unless your tired jaw has long since ceased to drop.
 

A new payment option for anyone without a credit card or a debit card, no matter how young, has just become available. It’s initially offered by FooPets and Puzzle Pirates, online game companies that are business partners of Kwedit.com, a start-up based in Mountain View, Calif. . .  

Cute, cuddly and couched in the language of Elmer Fudd, Kwedit is now up and running as a teething device for getting the younger and younger hooked on instant gratification. And not a moment too soon. Parents, struggling with their own credit addiction, were (and are) likely to demand their children stay off the buy-now, pay-later schemes that nearly bankrupted the family.
"Don't do drugs, alcohol or credit cards, sweetie . . . they can ruin your life."
Like neighborhood pushers, the likes of Kwedit are out there lurking. Facebook is complacent in this scheme, as is 7-Eleven and Purina, among others.

 . . . here’s an entirely new payment option: A user can print out a barcode and head to a 7-Eleven store, which will accept cash, scan the code and notify Kwedit that payment has been made . . . systems like these — known in the industry as nurturing games — are built to require regular investments of time and, for fullest enjoyment, money. The games are usually hosted by social networks like Facebook, or can connect to such networks so friends can follow one another’s progress. . .  

Nurturing games, huh? (Nurture: Noun; The properties acquired as a consequence of the way you were treated as a child) Treating your child has just been taken out of your hands, as the wail of 'everybody's doing it, mom' is accompanied by astamping foot, pouting mouth and slammed doors as your child retreats to his or her real peer-group on the pages of Facebook. You can sigh and let it go or have an honest sit-down to discuss issues you never thought you'd face at their age. Kwedit.com (as anti-parenting, insidious and dangerous to your child's future happiness as anything available online) has thus far raised its snarky head to peer into your home. 

 If that strange old bird down the street (the one who gives candy to kids and always seems to hang around the school) worries you, you have just met the sneakier edition of the same template . . . this one in your child's room, grinning and offering a digital pet for it to feed with digital food, paid for with digital money.

 . . . As game purveyors, Kwedit’s current partners sell virtual goods whose marginal cost is virtually zero, so there’s no risk of real financial loss if the promise is not repaid. But by offering Kwedit’s service, the game publishers capitalize on the most frictionless form of sales: buy now, pay later. . .  

Yup. And they sell this trash to the most frictionless buyer, a child.

  . . . at FooPets, users “adopt” lifelike digitally animated pets and then buy virtual goods for them, including food, beds and chew toys. The site’s core demographic is 12- to 14-year-old girls, said Scott Sorochak, a co-founder of FooMojo, which operates the site. The company says that FooPets has one million active members and that it is signing up 20,000 to 25,000 new members daily . . .  

Hmmm. Twenty-five thousand is the population of a pretty good sized town in America. This dude is sucking up a town a day. How large is your town? We Americans annually spend some $18 billion a year, ostensibly to fight a losing war on illegal drugs at one level or another. Meanwhile, Scott Sorochak slips in your child's bedroom door with the 'instant gratification' drug that pretty much brought America to its knees. I guess that proves, if nothing else, we are still a nation of innovators.

 . . . “Kwedit is the first payment system we’ve used that doesn’t require getting a parent involved,” Mr. Sorochak said . . . 

  Actually, he's wrong on that and taking too much kwedit. It's the second such payment system. The original was (and remains) schoolyard extortion.

 . . . Now an eighth grader, on her own, can use a Kwedit Promise to buy a virtual 40-pound bag of Purina Puppy Chow. The chow exists only as a photograph of a Purina package, but FooPets instructs its users that the care and feeding of the digital pets they’ve adopted should be regarded as a serious matter. “Your FooPet is a real creature that lives online,” the company’s Web site says.. . . . . . they feature living digital property — the crops in FarmVille or the fish in Happy Aquarium — that can die without care and feeding. At FooPets, death is averted because, after a short period of neglect, the pet goes to a FooShelter. (And reclaiming it becomes an expensive proposition.) . . .  

"Mommy, my happy-fish is just gonna die, if I don't feed it. Mommmmie!!"

 . . . It’s ontological nonsense, but the money that is paid for the pixels is certainly real. (The big bag of virtual puppy chow costs $3. For parents with deep pockets, a “rustic bungalow” is $333.) . . . 

  I suppose there are no legal problems with all this. Sorochak isn't going to chase your kid for money, because he hasn't lost any. It's all digital until the trip to 7-Eleven and that's all gravy for Scott. The stuff running down your kids face isn't gravy, it's tears. But what the hell, childhood is full of tears.

 . . . But Kwedit is a way to become acquainted with credit early, while still on training wheels . . .  

This scheme will prepare your child for a lifetime of tears, with seven credit cards eventually maxed out and a mortgage three payments delinquent. Preparation is what parenting is all about.  

Oh, and by the way, if you look for Scott a few years down the road, don't be surprised if he's sold out to a conglomerate and bought an island in the Caribbean on what is left of your kid's instant gratification. That's the most gratifying thing about Kwedit.com.