Yuck. Stolen bikes… We are all familiar with some of the horror stories associated with purchasing bikes from online sales outlets like Craigslist or EBay. There are definitely some great deals to be had from these sources, but when you factor in the the risk of purchasing counterfeit frames or merchandise, the deals become less appealing. However, there is a larger issue that many of us wrestle with: the risk of buying stolen bikes.
Many of us have had to face the ugly feeling when you realize that your precious whip has been stolen. That memory can make it difficult to even consider buying a bike from an anonymous stranger online. This can significantly limit your buying options to a small group of known associates. If you are lucky enough to be a member of a large cycling club, this might not be an issue for you. But what if you aren’t?
When I was running a bike shop in San Francisco I wanted very much to be able to safely offer inexpensive, used bicycles to my community. Trouble was, it is almost impossible to safely find them. Many swap meets and flea markets are full of stolen bikes (or at least, everyone reasonably suspects they are stolen but can’t prove anything.) Stories of bicycle chop shops permeate the San Francisco bicycle culture. Bicycle registry services still seem unable to make it easy to run a serial number and find out if it has been reported stolen. That leads to one inevitable conclusion: if you want to deal in used bicycles, odds are you will eventually purchase stolen property.
That is where the newly launched online sales site Perfecto! comes in. By leveraging social media outlets and other data sources, they are striving to create accountability for the folks selling bikes online with their service. For example, sellers can log using their Strava account. This creates a very clear link to a person on a cycling specific social media site. Not only does this link to a person – it creates a barrier to sales that other sites like Craigslist simply don’t have. You can actually check their Strava profile and see when they ride, where they ride, how much they ride… making the thief that throws up a quick Strava account with no associated rides pretty obvious.
Over 1.5 million bikes, worth over $350 million are stolen each year. The more sophisticated bike thieves sell online. Perfecto aims to eradicate this. Unlike ebay, craigslist or other listings sites, Perfecto is made by cyclists, for cyclists and we don’t tolerate stolen bikes.
Another simple, common sense step is to encourage all sellers to list their serial numbers when selling them. This serial number is then checked against several undisclosed bike listings.
All of this integration and website hosting does have a price, of course. Perfecto! charges the seller 6% of the sales transaction “…to cover charges for our payment provider (Braintree), and for the cost of running Perfecto.” The buyer pays nothing aside from the cost of goods purchased. With Perfecto taking care of the payment processing, sellers also have the ability to accept credit card transactions from buyers – something not possible for most individual sellers. Credit card transaction provide an additional level of protection for buyers, as many credit card companies and banks have insurance plans for purchases associated with them.
Perfecto also prompts you to enter your bike’s serial number, which it runs against several databases of stolen bikes, like BikeIndex.
All of these things add up to a way to purchase online, while significantly reducing the fear of inadvertently purchasing stolen bikes. In addition, it helps to make for a more personal purchase experience. After all, wouldn’t most of us prefer to buy from a person instead of a username?