Your investment journey in Canada starts with Immediate Core

By Paul Empson, General Manager, Bakers Basco

As the global e-commerce market continues to grow, so too has the popularity and growth of online marketplaces. According to the 2022 Future of Marketplaces Report by Edge by Ascential, third-party online marketplaces will be the largest and fastest-growing retail channel globally – adding $1.3 trillion in sales over the next five years.

But 2022 also saw significant growth in online resale – the fastest-growing sector of the second-hand market expected to grow nearly 4x by 2026. And while you’d expect to see this for items such as fashion, homeware or electronic goods, how often have you opened up your eBay app to search for ‘bread baskets’? Yes, you read that right. Let me explain.

The fact that anyone can sell anything online these days opens up opportunities to give unused or hardly used items a second lease of life by passing it on to someone else – and making a bit of extra cash. This way of selling is good for the environment by reducing waste and goes a long way in helping to promote a circular economy.

But when that item doesn’t belong to the person listing the item in the first place – especially when it is still in working order and used by those who do own it – there’s a negative side to the growth of online marketplaces that needs to be better monitored and addressed.

As providers and controllers of returnable transit packaging (RTP) equipment that is used across the bakery industry to transport bread up and down the country each day, you can imagine our shock when we saw something that we own appearing in an online marketplace. These online listings can range from a couple of baskets to ‘over 100’ in one case, with one crafty seller attempting to sell them for in excess of hundreds of pounds.

What’s more, each piece of equipment is stamped with our name, address and contact details – so there’s no question over who it really belongs to. It’s all well and good to try and sell something you own, that has been gathering dust in the attic for many years, but taking somebody else’s property and trying to make a quick buck is just plain wrong.

The worst part of it is that when we have confronted them about it and tried to claim them back, they point blank refuse – one seller even told us we’d have to buy them off him and pay him what he paid for them if we wanted them back! And this is equipment that has our name clearly marked as the owner with details of what to do if our equipment is found.

We’re used to dealing with this sort of thing in the offline world; our bakery equipment is constantly being nicked by other bakers who think it’s okay to use it for themselves or recycled by unscrupulous recycling companies, shredded for sale back to the plastics manufacturing industry. We’ve even seen cases where our Omega baskets were found being used as lobster pots on a boat, a garden path, security door, sheep feeders… even a monkey bridge at a zoo!

Some might call it ‘creative’, others ‘ingenious’; I call it a blooming nuisance. Not only because it’s an issue that is costing the baking industry millions every year – when this essential bakery equipment is taken out of the supply chain it limits the supply of our daily bread – but because in each of these cases the bread baskets are the property of a baker, making each one an example of unauthorised use that is illegal, disruptive and costly.

These actions might seem harmless but you’ve got to draw the line somewhere. Managing this in the offline world is no walk in the park when it comes to recovering equipment – despite deploying a national investigations team and GPS tracking technology. But with the rise of online marketplaces like eBay and Facebook Marketplace, this takes it to a whole new level, leaving our industry – and many others like us – faced with a whole new problem.

Anyone who says it’s a ‘victimless crime’ couldn’t be more wrong – the bakeries that pay to license our equipment, the retailers that sell their products and the shoppers who rely on them for their daily bread supplies all end up paying extra for the actions of a small number of thoughtless, selfish, greedy people.

Since 2006, we’ve had a dedicated team that tracks down missing baskets and reclaims them – or takes people to court if they won’t give them back or they’ve destroyed them. We don’t take everyone to court: most people are happy to return the items when asked politely. Sometimes, it takes a legal letter; and in cases of persistent abuse, we go to court.

We’ve successfully pursued hundreds of cases. Hearings can result in a County Court Judgment (CCJ) against the defendant, comprising significant sums in costs, damages and interest, eventually restraining injunctions and ultimately culminating in court fines, and even a suspended jail sentence. This kind of thing sticks and will show up on credit checks and affect lots of things like tenancy agreements, equipment hire, supplier credit and more.

Just because these unethical online sellers think they are somehow anonymous because they are hiding behind a screen, they shouldn’t be fooled that will stop us. Our team is already on the case to crack down on these unlawful online activities – and we, like many other businesses dealing with equipment, need even more support in monitoring third party listings that could be considered a safety risk or in breach of consumer rights.

Remember, if it’s not your property, you have no right to take it, never mind try to sell it on to someone else. Equipment that belongs to an individual or business is not for sale. It’s on all of us in the industry to be aware and help stamp out this kind of illegal activity, not just in the real world offline, but online too. Be vigilant, be aware and report it.

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