UPDATE (19/01/2015): What Jiandra has to say complements this post. Go check her out!
Hey there people, back with me, the one and only Ahotaku39 with another piece on cosplay. No, this time I won’t commenting on the shitty condition of the cosplay community like I usually do (pst, I plan on writing the third sequel in October). This time, let’s get acquainted with the common cosplay scams that happen in the online realm of trade in Indonesia.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. This piece only cover 3 of the top scams that I have knowledge of based on my observations in several Facebook cosplay groups and anything that appears on my news feed as a result of sharing. I also provide several tips at the end to protect yourself from frauds.
I classify scams based on their origin, or who conducts the scam. Based on that, there are two types of scams: buyer-side and seller-side.
Okay let’s get to it.
Common Scam #1: The Hit-and-Run
Buyer: “I want to order that Miku costume,”
Seller: “Okay, that’ll be 400K in total. Pay 200K up front for materials. It’ll be done in two weeks,” (in this case, the seller is potentially losing money)
Buyer: “How about 100K? I don’t have enough at the moment,”
Seller: *sighs* “Okay fine,”
2 weeks later…
Seller: “Your costume is done. Pay up,”
Buyer: “Your destination number cannot be reached. Please leave a message,”
Seller: “Son of a bitch,”
I’m sure that this is a scam not only found in the cosplay community, but also the figures community. The hit-and-run scam is a common buyer-side scam. But first, what is a hit-and-run scam?
A hit-and-run occurs when the buyer agrees to pre-order a costume from a seller, but when the costume is finished, the buyer suddenly vanishes without a trace or has a billion excuses up their sleeve to evade payment. Or, in the figures community, when a buyer puts a bid for a figure at an auction, wins the auctioned figure, but then vanishes despite winning the bid.
What causes this scam? God knows. The most common excuse is the buyer does not have enough money to finish the payments. Of course, this is still an idealistic assumption. There could be a whole lot of other reasons.
Anyway, despite being a rather stupid scam because the scammer still ends up losing some money, it is still detrimental to the seller in terms of costs. The buyer only loses a fraction of their money compared to the seller, who invests in time, skill, and still has to incur loss by spending some of their own money on materials.
How to avoid this scam specifically for sellers? Do a background check on your customers. No, it’s not a breach of privacy; it’s called reducing risks. If your customer has a bad track record, consider rejecting them politely.
Common Scam #2: The Disappearance of a Maker
Buyer: “How’s the progress on my Judge Gabranth armor?”
Seller: [Seen at 4:00 PM]
1 month later…
Buyer: “Okay motherfucker, where’s my armor?”
Seller: [This FB account has been deactivated]
Buyer: *screams internally*
I’ve fallen victim to this type of scam once. It is also a quite common seller-side scam.
A disappearing maker happens when suddenly, the seller vanishes while processing your order. Poof, just like that. Gone. Untraceable. It’s kinda like a hit-and-run, only seller-side. You are left a lot of bucks short and costumeless.
What causes this scam? I have a bunch of hypotheses, but the most reasonable one is that the seller is unable to manage their time and orders. After a mental breakdown or two, they decide to say “Fuck this shit, I’m out”. Or it might be that the seller is actually reallly busy with something urgent, like their thesis or a death of a relative. Or here’s another pessimistic hypothesis: the seller was just out there to feed on your gullible sorry little self.
Common Scam #3: This is not the Costume I was Looking For
Buyer: “I would like to order this Archer armor,”
Seller: “That’ll be 1 million, pay 50% up front,”
Buyer: “I expect it to be done in three weeks,”
Seller: “Got it,”
Three weeks later…
The costume arrives, but the quality is shit. The color is wrong, there’s still bits of glue everywhere… it’s basically fucked up crap.
Also known as “Incompetent Maker Syndrome”. While it’s “scam” status is still debatable, it results in the loss of funds for one party, which makes it a scam. Anyway, this scam happens when a person orders a costume, pays a hefty sum of money (often in full), and then gets shit they didn’t order.
Related to Incompetent Maker Syndrome, the maker might be a complete novice but is trying to bite more than they can chew, resulting in a shitty costume and a very angry customer. However, the customer also shares the blame as they didn’t do their research.
Survival Tips for Both Sellers and Buyers
- Always try to do some background research on your potential customers. Ask their friends or other sellers who have done business with them, whether the buyer has had a bad history of transactions. If they happen to be a master con, then it would be wise not to do business with them. Safety first.
- There will be a time when you will get called a fraud or scammer. Keep your balls together and be cool. Often times, buyers are whiny spoiled assholes that call you every five minutes asking when their costume will be done. Keep telling them that you need time to process their order. As long as you finish within the agreed time frame, you’re still in the right.
- Always keep in mind that the most valuable asset is trust. To obtain trust, always be honest with your customers.
- And if you know that you can’t handle an order, you always have the right to decline. Don’t be an Incompetent Maker; you’ll lose business fast.
- Do a background check on the seller. Ask for a recommendation from your friends. The sad thing is, even though there have been bad testimonies from other people, some knuckleheads insist on ordering from a specific seller. Don’t be a knucklehead.
- Be friendly when talking to a seller. Remember, they have what you want and you have what they want. It’s a fucking business deal, not a trade demand. If you act like an asshole, expect to be treated like an asshole.
- Please provide reasonable deadlines, especially for complicated armor designs and imported wigs. The import-export business tends to run late. Don’t be asking for a full-custom Iron Man costume in a week.
- There will come a time when you will be scammed. Remember to keep calm and nicely ask the seller. If they still deny their scamming, you can always humiliate them publicly. If you really want your money back, report to the Cybercrime Division at the Indonesian Police.
- And finally, remember to always fucking read. It’s not the seller’s fault if you end up messing your own order just because you didn’t fucking read their procedures on ordering. God gave you a brain and a set of eyes, use them.
And that concludes my short elaboration on cosplay scams and a couple of survival tips to avoid being scammed. In the end, it all comes back to you and how you use your wits.