Iris Rants: Selling Second Life Skins Piece-by-Piece Makes Designers Look Greedy, No Matter Their Intentions
There are a few new trends in the Second Life skin market, and I can't say I'm a fan of them. When you buy a skin, you expect to pay exactly what it costs and get exactly what you see, at least. These are some pretty straightforward expectations that we've been able to take for granted for years, but things are changing. Skins are sold without key features like eyebrows, which have to be purchased seperately, or any purchase at all has to be fed through a HUD system that won't return any leftover L$ put into it.
That's right, they're holding your money and your eyebrows hostage. But I'm not convinced this is 100% raw greed. There may be more to it than you think.
Tattoo layers have given us a whole new level of customization for our avatars, and skin designers have embraced them fully. Changeable makeups and features make SL skins more easily customizable than ever before. This also means that buying a skin can add dozens and dozens of items to your inventory that you may never use-- brow shades and cleavage options and beauty marks and all sorts of things. It's because of this that I can understand how a designer might think they're just giving their customers options and limiting clutter by selling the skin and each of it's component pieces, including eyebrows, separately. Of course you can't just set those components out for free or non-customers will flock to take advantage of your "generosity", so maybe you cut a bit of the price off of what you would charge for your skin and distribute it among the components. Customers would be paying the same as they would for a bundle, but choosing precisely the features they want. Sounds good, right?
The problem is that it never, ever looks good.
If this was how it had always been, no one would think twice, but it's not. We're used to paying a lump sum for our skins and walking away with everything we need. That is still how most skin brands work. Even if the math works out to the same amount you'd be paying for that full bundle, spread out, that's just not how it comes off. Customers see an incomplete skin, usually still being sold for a fair chunk of change, that requires extra purchases to even be usable.
This method of selling might seem like a great way to give customers the customization they want while not flooding them with free extras they don't need, but the general consensus, at least among the fashionistas I've heard from, is that that comes with a fair amount of bad feelings and baggage about the brand.
There's a similar problem with stores that ask their customers to pay through a HUD system that won't return any unspent L$. Maybe it's a security measure to limit people's ability to interfere with their vendor systems. Or maybe it's more like the gift card racket in real life, which many stores love because it's practically impossible to spend that last $1.34 stuck on there, and very easy to just lose or forget about the damn thing entirely. Free money for them, right? Once again, no matter what the intentions, it's a bad look.
In the end the thing that both of these do best is make customers feel like they're being taken advantage of, and that's something every business should avoid at all costs.(Hat tip to Juicybomb's Gogo for this topic suggestion.)
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Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.