The Cessation of Niceties – Rental Beam
Rental Beam began back in 2011 when I was approached by my Landlord with an idea. He wanted a way to post his available rental properties on his web site. That was the day that Rental Beam was born. Today might very well be the day that it dies. Allow me to explain.
(Legal Stuff: CasperTech, the CasperTech Logo, CasperLet and other related terms are the trademarks and service marks of Casper Warden. There is no relation between myself, my hobby business (DGP4SL) and Casper Warden or any of his business entities or activities.)
Update to the Back Story
This whole flap began because Casper Warden was upset that I was offering Rental Vendors in direct competition with his. His reason is specious at best, a flat out lie at worst. All you need to do is look for CasperVend compatible Vendors on the Second Life Marketplace to see why. (At last look there were over 91 items listed, most of them from people other than CasperTech.)
Also note that the Vendors provided by others require the “Purchase” of CasperTech’s “Free Vendor”. In other words, you can get a system from Casper that works with CasperVend only, and spend absolutely no money. It’s free!
Rental Beam – How I Run A Business
One of the “features” that I bring to all of my products is me. More precisely, my personal morals and methods of doing business. One of my most important operating principles is “Sell what the customer wants.” To me it’s only obvious. If a customer wants to buy something and it’s a thing that doesn’t exist .. make it for them and sell it to them. The whole concept behind Rental Beam is based on that principle.
From the outset Rental Beam was a product line based on providing services and products that could not be found anywhere else. In the 5+ years since inception, that principle has guided almost all of Rental Beam’s growth. I routinely ask my customers to “tell me what you want, need or wish you had.” And then if it makes sense and I see a need for it, in short order it becomes part of the Rental Beam line.
A second principle that I use for guidance is the necessity to Play Nice. That doesn’t just mean saying “Please” and “Thank you”. It means respecting the boundaries and needs of other people and businesses I share with in Second Life. Playing Nice has meant sometimes turning away business by sending it to others with existing or better products.
But Playing Nice is never about reducing business. It is now and has always been about benefit and growth for all parties involved. I cannot begin to count the number of times that a cooperative effort has resulted in a better outcome all around. “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” is an old saying that embodies it best.
Demands from CasperTech
I recently became aware of the excellent Mesh used in the vendors sold by CasperTech as part of their CasperVend system. The topic came to the fore because one of their senior people asked if my vendors could be created from scratch by customers. While explaining to them that the Rental Beam Vendors could only be used with the Rental Beam system, they pointed me at the fact that Casper’s Vendors come with full-perm Mesh. They even suggested I remove the script and replace it with one of my own. So I did.
A few hours later I had a fully functional Rental Beam compatible Mesh Vendor that looked absolutely gorgeous. So I contacted Casper Warden and asked how much of the pie he wanted should I decide to sell it using his Mesh. His response caught me totally off-guard:
You may not resell my mesh models. But you can sell the script with instructions. 🙂
Not really helpful but .. his mesh, his choice. So be it. I informed him I would not be selling the product nor the script, deleted my development model and put all thoughts of it from my mind. Then came this:
I would also note that by doing so you’d enter into direct competition with us. We already provide rental vendors.
(emphasis mine) And that’s where I drew the line.
Definition of Competition
Ever since adding CasperLet as a supported Rental Management System, I have been besieged by customers of both Rental Beam and CasperLet for a truly functional, easily maintained and configured vendor designed solely for Land Rental. I already had one in-world vendor and was building a second. After doing some quick research and speaking with a few people, I learned just why the CasperVend vendors are totally unsuitable for use in Land Rentals.
An informal poll proved that those renting Land in Second Life seldom use the CasperVend vendors because of their features … or lack thereof. They are specifically designed for Product Sales. It was only after being pressured by his customers that Casper hooked his vendors into the CasperLet system. But he didn’t really modify them or create a special version just for Land Rental; he merely provided a digital pipeline between CasperLet and CasperVend vendors then marked all Feature Request tickets as “Resolved”. Since 2013, his customers have beseeched him time and again to make a vendor specifically for Land Rentals and CasperLet. His only response has been “Already implemented.”
When customers beg you for a product, that tells me you’re not selling a product that meets their needs. So I decided to make one that does meet their needs. Since Casper wasn’t selling something into that niche, I judged it as an open niche and thus not in conflict with my “Play Nice” rule. Apparently so do my customers. Since releasing the latest versions of the Rental Beam Vendors I have received many notes of thanks and compliments for finally meeting a need that existed for years.
I was careful to make specific design decisions so that my vendors would not compete with Casper’s vendors. None of the Rental Beam vendors do product sales or delivery. That is the true product niche CasperVend’s vendors serve. Any attempt to use his vendors in a Land Rental capacity quickly prove why they are not useful for that purpose. (Do you really want to reconfigure every single vendor just because you renamed a Rental? Added one? Removed one? “Product Sold Out” when there are no available rentals?)
So I made the decision: CasperVend vendors serve the product sales and delivery market, Rental Beam vendors serve the Land Rental business. Separate markets, separate purposes, no conflict. But that’s not how Casper sees it.
Next I got this message from Casper Warden:
So you wanted to use the mesh that I created to compete with my own service? Shame on you.
I explained in as much detail as I could that our two products were in fact not in competition. I pointed out that a customer had to be both a CasperLet and Rental Beam customer first. I explained that Rental Beam vendors do not do product sales. I reiterated that I was offering to pay him a portion of the sales of Mesh Vendors using his mesh model. He could have placed Affiliate CasperVend vendors in his store and made a cut of Rental Beam vendor sales. Instead he chose to shut me out, color me as “competition” and terminate all relationship with me and Rental Beam. In short he turned an opportunity into a knife-fight.
And I don’t take kindly to being threatened while doing my level best to Play Nice.
Casper’s final words on the matter were these:
And you could have made this into a “win-win” for us both by offering services which complement my technology and doesn’t compete with it.
Call me stupid but I fail to see how denying customer requests, artificially limiting sales of my non-competing product and forcing people to purchase a product that is not and will not be designed to work in their market is a ‘Win” for anyone … except Casper. To my way of looking at things, his demand for market exclusivity is a disservice to everyone involved. A disservice I remedied by providing a product that depends on his product for operation, puts money in his pocket and brings customers to him that otherwise would not purchase. (As many have told me, they would not switch from the dying hippoRENT system because CasperLet did not offer and would not provide an in-world vendor suited to their needs.)
For a long time now I have been hounded by my customers to create a Rental Management system of my own. I have always politely declined, citing the effort involved or my lack of interest. In truth I have avoided undertaking such a product because it would have been a direct competitor for CasperLet. What I include in Rental Beam has always been as a complement, enhancing the services provided by CasperLet while still depending on it for operation.
I’m not so sure I care any more.
Update November 21st, 2016
I have just been notified by Casper Warden (via very contentious language delivered via In-World IM) that he intends to pursue legal action against me for use of his logo as the header image in this post. Despite my polite request that he give me some time to read and understand my rights and his, he has rapidly escalated it to threats of legal action. No ground for reasonable action given, no understanding or patience. Frankly it’s that sort of “bullying” attitude that most people find unpleasant to deal with. I would submit that if his business is suffering, it has far less to do with my use of his logo and far more to do with his mercurial and overly aggressive attitude. ‘Nuff said.