Bunz imploding as community revolts and rebrands groups to Palz
The monetization of an online community built around cashless bartering, based in anti-capitalist values and centred on real human relationships, appears to have failed.
Who'd have thought?
Bunz, the Toronto-based trading platform with its own app and digital currency, is facing intense criticism right now in the wake of a bombshell announcement revealing mass employee layoffs and a drastically reduced BTZ program.
Bunz, the organic network of local Facebook communities from which that tech company sprang, is doing just fine, on the other hand — but they're no longer calling themselves "Bunz."
This is frankly so fascinating and wonderful. The great #BUNZXIT.— Deidre Olsen (@DeidreLOlsen) September 12, 2019
You see, the original Bunz Trading Zone was established by a group of Toronto friends back in 2013 to help each other out by trading unwanted goods for stuff they actually needed or wanted.
The private group exploded into a movement of sorts as more and more people invited their own pals in to enjoy the fun, live a less wasteful lifestyle and meet their neighbours through trades.
That spirit of community eventually spawned dozens of hundreds of local sub-groups, all with their own themes, such as the Bunz Makeup Zone, the Bunz Home Zone, the Bunz Mental Health Zone and the Bunz Helping Zone.
An angel investor took Bunz to the next level in 2016 with iOS and Android apps, allowing people from all over the world to take part in trades.
A digital currency exclusive to the platform was launched in 2018 and, as of 2019, Bunz was an established company with its own corporate office.
I’m very much a bunz history (and all internet subculture history) enthusiast. IN MY DAY it was called “bums” and then people pushed enough that it got changed to “bunz”— jacqueline nora (@jnvincentMD) September 12, 2019
And then the spinoff groups!
And then the app!
And the fake currency for a NO MONEY ALLOWED system! https://t.co/5ikfzZcMIQ
Still, myriad volunteers from all over the county have been maintaining thriving, Bunz-branded Facebook groups — groups that together see way more user activity than the official app itself.
That dedicated community of traders is where the brand's true power has long resided — and that community appears to be done with Bunz.
Say hello to "Palz."
RIP Bunz pic.twitter.com/tjaHJ5L6FE— Carly Rhiannon (@carlyrhiannon) September 12, 2019
Following this week's abrupt announcement that Bunz, the company, had restricted the use of its BTZ digital currency to just food and coffee vendors, volunteer Facebook administrators started turning on the brand.
Dozens of Bunz-branded Facebook groups have changed the "Bunz" parts of their names to "Palz," or simply "Toronto" over the past 24 hours, raising eyebrows all over the city.
At least 40 Facebook groups that previously fell under the Bunz banner had changed their names to Palz as of Friday morning, including the popular Bunz Friending Zone, Bunz Trading Zone and Bunz Anger and Venting Zone.
"Yesterday, September 11th, Bunz HQ announced that its BTZ (in-app currency) would no longer be accepted by vendors or makers that are not coffee shops, restaurants, or bars," reads a widely-distributed letter from a group of former Bunz administrators issued on Thursday night.
"This means that small businesses that relied on BTZ to bring in new business, or even vendors who started facilitating their goods and services through the Bunz app and by accepting BTZ as a form of currency, are now out of luck," the letter continues.
The group contends that vendors were instantly shut out of the app with no time to inform their clients of the change, contrary to the terms of their contracts, resulting in the loss of "income streams that are crucial to the survival of small businesses in Toronto."
"Makers, innovators, artists, creatives, activists, advocates, and regular, everyday people are the backbone of what was once the Bunz community," reads the letter.
"We all came together several years ago as people who believed in the value of the little things. The value of a half-eaten pizza, an old cassette tape, a joint, a tall boy, a jar of spaghetti," it continues.
"Most of us didn’t have much money, and none of us had the means to create apps, or profit off of our relationships with one another."
So, in an effort to reclaim their communities, Bunz administrators are adopting the "Palz" name en masse.
The former BUNZ admin full-on cannibalized the main advertising branch of a corporation and reclaimed it for the people, to bring it back to its anti-capitalist roots And if you can't respect that I don't know what to say, PALZ!— Anastasia Krisman (@stacystatik) September 13, 2019
Torotonians who've been following the saga of Bunz since Day 1 are loving the drama.
Many are loving what it represents, too: The power of people over profits (not to be confused with the tagline for Bunz' recently-introduced in-app advertising program, #PayPeopleNotPlatforms).
"We would like to bring Bunz back to what it once was," reads the letter from administrators of what is now known as Palz.
"We want our groups to remember why they exist. We do not want to profit. We do not want your app sign-ups," they wrote. "We do not want you to buy into an online currency that will let you down."
"Our groups will stay the same, our values will stay the same with a commitment to hearing from you, a commitment to existing outside of the scope of trademarks, corporations, advertisements, and the monetization of human connections."
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