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Unusual Ways to Make Money

I’ve recently learned about a few novel approaches to making money. They’ve emerged from the union of established business models and the internet, facilitating sometimes dubious transactions at the speed of electrons flying down a fibre-optic cable. Many involve buying things other people will want later, or in a different format, selling them at a premium to the original price, and pocketing the difference.

Are these alt approaches to earning money are a good thing?

Here’s what I’m hearing about:

  • Buying concert tickets and reselling them at inflated prices. This isn’t terribly recent, and began as soon as someone figured out how to write code to buy all the tics off online sellers within nanoseconds of their release. This is an artifact of the way concert tickets are sold, i.e. with a pre-announced release time ‘Tickets go on sale 10 am Thursday’.
  • Making restaurant reservations and selling them to those who actually want to dine at the establishment. Definitely facilitated by online reservation systems. I can see the same system being worked for any hard to get appointment or ticket – salons, hotels, cruises, musicals. If there is a way to book in advance and a platform to resell, money can be made.
  • Gambling on anything and everything. The internet and various apps have made it easy to wager on the colour of Taylor Swift’s next outfit, the winner of a baseball game, or anything else that will happen in the future. By uniting those with different opinions, who are willing to put money on their stance, and providing a system to manage the transaction between the winner and loser, new businesses have been born.
  • Shopping thrift stores for quality apparel to sell on used clothing sites. Buy a pair of jeans for $10 at the Salvation Army shop, sell for $20 on Poshmark. Doesn’t everyone win? – the Salvation Army and the worthy causes it supports get $10, the entrepreneur nets $10, and the buyer gets a deal on cool jeans. Also decreases waste and the environmental impact of fast fashion. What’s not to love is that the thrift shop model provides the necessities of life for those with limited means.
  • Mining cryptocurrency. This requires work, computational power and resources (i.e. electrical connection, hardware etc), so the value exchange is understandable. An underpinning of blockchain is the distributed nature of the system. While mining may seem like free money, crypto-miners are paid in coin whose value can fluctuate wildly.
  • Commercial aspects of role-playing games. When fun and games turn into capitalism, it’s possible to sell a powerful characters. To me, it’s deceptive to play a character if you hadn’t invested the time and skill into building it yourself. But money says otherwise. Even weirder is business, advertising business, is built on people watching other people play their characters. 
  • Collecting running shoes. This isn’t different than collecting anything: figurines, coins, rock star memorabilia, baseball cards, etc. I’m just flummoxed that it works with running shoes. Other collectables have value because they’re collectable; running shoes can be worn for running and various other practical applications. Yes, I know, the collectable shoes are special editions. I wonder which came first – the special editions or the collections? There are other practical items with collectable versions, like cars, scotch and dogs. What’s next? Forget I asked, there’s probably a market for collectable frying pans, vacuum cleaners and shower squeegees. 
  • Dabbling in the stock market. Since stock markets were created, they’ve been imagned as the way to an easy fortune. Now this dream is accessible to everyone one, regardless of income. Not saying accessibility is bad, but accessibility to a way to lose your money isn’t doing anyone a favour. On average, investors’ net gains reflect the average increase of the market. This means that for every investor who wins big, there are those who do worse. 

Are these financial frolics ethical, as in no one is being taken advantage of or hurt, either as a customer or entrepreneur, especially of last resort?

Ticket buying, restaurant reservations and any other advance securing of spots, are similar. The providers of the show/entertainment/service, and their customers of limited income, are the ones who are disadvantaged by this system. Particularly when there is no cost to make a reservation, it is too easy to fill the booking schedule, leaving the establishment turning away paying customers for the ghosts of reservation-makers. Those of modest means – enough to enjoy partaking in paid entertainment, but not enough to pay a premium – lose out on the enjoyment for no good reason, because the venue is fully booked, but it isn’t. This lack of a full house also hurts the establishment, that will likely have planned their staffing and raw material orders to serve the number of reservations. 

Gambling is fine between consenting adults, until it isn’t, when it’s an addition. Gambling online increases possibilities for abuse. Being able to wager on any random event, like if it will rain on Tuesday, seems to serve the addiction better than amusement because there is no end to the things to gamble on. It is said you should only invest in the stock market what you can afford to lose. Stock trading has similar characteristics to gambling insofar as it’s speculating on the uncontrollable future. Apps provide ready access to these speculations, making it easier for the unwary to get involved in unhealthy ways. 

As for watching people game, can’t see the harm in escaping from reality for a while, as long as everyone remembers to come back. Even if it doesn’t agree with my sensibilities, purchasing characters at worst could hide the truth, obscuring who the accomplished gamers are.

Collecting stuff is mostly a pursuit of those with extra resources to spend on non-essential items. That the internet facilitates collecting may be beneficial, as it allows those with valuable items to address a broader market and obtain a fair price if they need to sell items. For those that are curating second hand clothes, purchase from thrift stores does take advantage of the thrift business model, which originally allowed those with limited means to obtain the necessities of life at a low price. Granted, it those who are reselling items could be earning the necessities of life for themselves and their loved ones. 

Over all, I’m astonished that people make significant sums of money doing any of the above. And by significant, I mean compared to an average annual wage. I’m also impressed that people earn money doing all of the above, as long as no one is hurt in the transactions. 

Thanks for reading.

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