The Importance of Fact Checking
inNovember 29, 2007 - 5:55pm
An unfortunate scenario that occurs more and more often on the Web these days happens when a fallacy or misinformation about a subject is posted somewhere, after which it is picked up and carried forward by an ever widening circle of people who assume the information to be correct. Rather than seeking corroboration from a reliable source and cross-checking found 'facts,' e-commerce shop owners assume the information is accurate and proceed to use the information to write descriptive text for certain items they offer for sale to the public. Not only does this perpetuate the distribution of misinformation but it also may eventually cause problems for the seller.
Supporting a mistake by using flaky 'knowledge' borrowed from an auction listing for instance, including casual misapplication of professional nomenclature, assists in widening the circle of folly surrounding a particular item in the industry. Faulty terminology and degraded facts can have disconcerting consequences when it comes to making an impression on customers, and it may be a shopper who feels the need to point out an overt mistake. When this happens the personal credibility of a particular dealer or online e-commerce site takes a nosedive. When a browser can find one item in a shop for which information is being offered that is wildly inaccurate, they will immediately suspect this is also true for more, if not all, of that shop's inventory. And in the case of an online mall type setting, where hundreds of shops are grouped together on one site, the site itself can gradually begin to suffer loss of credibility.
Some online mall type e-commerce sites have specific guidelines that must be followed by shop owners wishing to list items for sale on their site. Often people selling in these venues will choose to list an item in their shop based solely on the fact that they have seen a similar item listed in another shop. Rather than consulting the sites guidelines to determine if the item is appropriate for listing they assume it must be ‘OK’ because someone else is doing it. In a case like this, there won't necessarily be a problem with the items description or identification, but with the very suitability of the item. When an individual seller assumes an item qualifies to be listed on a particular site based solely on the fact that others appear to also selling it, and deciding to copy them, can be a recipe for disappointment. If in following the lead of another shop, an item is listed in error and site personnel or a customer points it out as inappropriate, using the excuse that another shop (or shops) also offers the item, does not change the fact that you listed it incorrectly. The final responsibility for item identification, describing an item properly, and listing it according to the guidelines of a particular e-commerce site or mall rests solely with the individual seller.
There are several important reasons for thoroughly researching an item prior to listing besides the personal satisfaction gained by expanding ones knowledge base. Conducting adequate research usually will mean an object is less likely to be priced too high or two low for the market. A too casual attitude about their stock can cost e-sellers money if an important piece they failed to research thoroughly sells too cheaply or a common piece that is overpriced fails to sell at all. But even worse, incorrect identification or dating of an object due to lack of knowledge could cause someone to accidentally mislead a novice collector who is trusting in his or her 'professional' judgment. You may not think of yourself as being a professional dealer, but many customers will. Making the later discovery that a purchase isn't exactly the prize originally represented is a bitter experience for a customer. Should they become aware that a shop has misrepresented an object, an act that has cost them money, few will be forgiving. Customer complaints of this nature against a shop are indefensible.
In the end, complete item identification is always best. If a shop owner is completely unfamiliar with something, researching the old fashioned way should always be attempted. Don't assume that a single unknown writer of a single listing Googled up from somewhere on the Web has done any actual or factual research on the object. Don't automatically assume that they have even managed to correctly name it or its maker. Do take into account that it is feasible the writer may have simply copied information from someone else. It is possible that all along previous Internet paths leading to a single description have been people who were in the dark about the object, too, copying information piecemeal from others who were confused or mistaken or who were perhaps fabricating information, entirely. Not maintaining some amount of healthy skepticism prior to copying another's action or quoting someone's 'expert' statement is a lot like playing the old game of 'Telephone'. In the beginning an item that is described thus, "New Artfully Decorated Vase Based on an Old Design", can end up ten Web dealer's later as an identical item titled, "New Listing! Old Art Deco Vase with Base Design."