Feb 11

Negotiating with Computer Systems

I was shopping online for flowers and found a nice bouquet that I wanted to buy as a present. I entered my personal details, filled in my credit card number and made my way to the checkout page. There I saw that $ 15 was added just for delivery. It was the first time that these extra costs were mentioned. I firmly closed the browser window as I felt sure that I could get a better price at another online flower shop.

While searching for other online shops, I received an email from the online flower shop asking if I was sure that I wanted to leave:

Dear Customer,
We were so sorry to see you leave our site a few minutes ago. If you come back now we will be waiving the $14.99 Service Fee on any order that you place! From You Flowers offers Same Day Delivery anywhere in the US when your order is placed before 3pm in the recipient’s time zone!

I didn’t do a full search for other webshops yet, so I went back and confirmed my earlier order. $ 15 dollars off, that’s a good deal! Without realizing it, I had negotiated with a computer system.

There probably is a system in place that contacts customers that leave in the final stages of the checkout process. I am not good at bargaining in shops – I am a coward – but by showing the computer system that I was in doubt, I bargained without knowing it. The system of course didn’t recognize my emotional state of indecision, it was simply a matter of counting down time. It made me think what other simple negotiating skills can be implemented by simple computer scripts without entering the field of computer recognition of emotions.

I was always under the impression that prices on the Internet were fixed and bargaining was something you could only do in the offline world, with real people. Now I know better. How many euros and dollars could I have saved by simply postponing the checkout process?

Oct 10

Dutch company likely to be prosecuted for involvement in Israeli West Bank barrier

The topic of this post has nothing to do with the topics I usually blog about, but still I find it interesting enough to do a quick write up. It is about the Israeli West Bank barrier, which is a separation barrier being constructed by Israel.

In 2003, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) gave its advisory opinion on the lawfulness of the wall. In essence – and over-simplified – the ICJ found that the Israeli wall is in conflict with international law.

This decision had no or little impact on the situation in Israel. However, today it did impact one company in the Netherlands. The Dutch public prosecutor announced (Dutch) that it will investigate Riwal’s involvement in building the Israeli West Bank wall. Riwal is a Dutch company specialized in telescopic booms, scissor lifts and telehandlers. The public prosecutor received two complaints against Riwal and will later decide whether it will bring action against the company. It is (yet) unclear on what grounds Riwal would be prosecuted.

Sep 10

U.S. Court of International Trade: Wikipedia is not a reliable source

In a case between BP and the United States in which BP challenged the Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) classification of its merchandise, the U.S. Court of International Trade went into reliability of Wikipedia. BP had frequently referred to Wikipedia to argue that its product was petroleum oil, and not a preparation.

In a footnote (FN. 10), the court goes into the reliability of Wikipedia and states that it does not accept Wikipedia for the purposes of judicial notice.

The court notes BP’s frequent reference to the website http://wikipedia.org in its description of this process. [...] Wikipedia is a “user-contributed online encyclopedia” compiled of articles placed on “[w]eb sites that allow users to directly edit any [w]eb page on their own from their home computer.” Thomas L. Friedman, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century [...]. Wikipedia’s construction is based on the theory that “allowing anyone who surfs along to add or delete content on that page” will result in “a credible, balanced encyclopedia by way of an ad hoc open-source, open-editing movement.” Id. Although the court is aware that some studies have led prominent scholars to promote Wikipedia’s veracity, see Yochai Benkler, The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom [...], and acknowledges that several circuit courts have relied on it in opinions, [...] countless district courts have held that “Wikipedia is not a reliable source at this level of discourse,” [...]. Based on the ability of any user to alter Wikipedia, the court is skeptical of it as a consistently reliable source of information. At this time, therefore, the court does not accept Wikipedia for the purposes of judicial notice.