[The following is excerpted from Group Addiction: Scandal or Necessity?, page 13C of the Aug 20th Strawberry Town Post-Tribune.  The article was published under the byline of wandering barfly and freelance reporter Roderick Van Kirkenov.]

Hmm... pay the rent or buy a cool new outfit?

Hmm… pay the rent or buy a cool new outfit?

(I was window shopping Roderick-style at Barely Legal Couture’s location in Twilight Desires- that is to say, I was studying my fellow shoppers rather then the neatly folded piles of pixels, looking for a pretty girl who needed some Rod to get her through her day.  A blond in a flower sundress caught my eye because she was looking at me with a look of recognition but I didn’t recognize her at first.  My first thought was to wonder if she had been a one-night stand.  My second thought was to wonder if she would stand a second night.  But then I recognized the lip piercing, the attitude, the familiar movements of Tuty’s Brooklyn Girl AO, it could only be…)

EM: You!  Roderick Van Kirkenov!  Dammit, I knew I should have filed the paperwork for that restraining order!

I: Emily Marik, my favorite shape-changing fashion blogger!  You are looking good enough to eat today.

EM: Rod, even though I know better, I’m going to pretend that was an honest compliment and not a hopeful invitation to cunnilingus, because otherwise I would have to kick your scrotum through your lower intestine and these boots, although quite cute, aren’t really heavy enough for that.  Are we quite clear?

(We actually parted on good terms after our first interview, but my attempts to invite Emily out for a little off-the-record follow-up at some of the adult sims I know may have possibly left her with a bad impression.  On the other hand, she is truly passionate about creating a constantly changing look and style so I knew the best way to restart the conversation on more civil terms.)

I: Em, honey, I’m not only clear, I’m transparent.  I really was interested in where you got today’s look.

Gifted with fashion sense?

Gifted with fashion sense?

EM: Oh, this is nothing, just a little something I threw together from some group gifts.  The dress is a gift from Cerri’s Booty, and came with the hair flower and pearl necklace (at this point Emily paused to look sharply at me.  As an intrepid reporter, however, I knew any of the jokes about I could make about giving her a pearl necklace would lead to a hostile conversation and possibly heavier boots and held my tongue.) and also some sandals, which I have to admit I threw away because I didn’t care for the skin matching process on mesh open sandals.  However these boots are also gifts.  They’re from *JStyle, as are my bracelets, earrings, eyes, and shape.  The skin is Alyce, the May group gift from NVious by GiGi.  The hair is a group gift from Miss Canning, a little bit of a surprise as it’s a very nice hair and Miss Canning is a clothes shop not a hair shop.

I: While we’re discussing groups, may I ask a few questions?  One of the assignments that passed my desk was to gather some information about residents and their group use and misuse for Strawberry Singh.

EM: I should tell you no, but I absolutely adore Strawberry.  I was going to paper her office with notecards offering to bear her child, but I was afraid she would find that creepy.

I: No, that’s not creepy.  I paper her office with notecards offering to help conceive her child on every third Wednesday.  She hasn’t replied yet, however, so I wouldn’t hold your breath.  But onto Strawberry’s first question: Have you reached the 42 group limit?

EM: Yes, and no.  I believe at this specific moment I am at 40 or 41 groups, but I generally max out, ditch two or three groups, and then refill my list.

I: Which leads nicely to the second question: Do you do a lot of group hopping to keep up with all the groups you want to stay a part of?  It sounds like you do.

EM: Again, yes and no.

I: You are very decisive today, Emily.

(Emily showed me how clean her middle fingernail was before she continued the interview.)

EM: Less than half of my groups are groups that I necessarily have a permanent interest in.  But hunting is my hobby, and so I pass through a lot of stores.  If they have cool gifts, midnight mania, or lucky boards, I will usually join the store’s group to participate, and then wait and see whether I want to keep that store group or not.  I’m not shuffling more than 45 groups that I’m interested in, rather I’m joining groups as a form of coupon clipping.

I: Coupon clipping?  So what makes you want to join a group? (That’s Strawberry’s third question by the way.)

EM: Store groups?  Generally to get something for nothing.  Group gifts, lucky chairs, midnight or mini mania boards… I have hoarder instincts when I’m in world.  If I can get something I might wear someday… there’s a reason my inventory goes up and up despite attempts to prune it down.  There are a few groups I’m in for other reasons, social or event groups, a couple blogger groups, but mostly groups are the equivalent of coupons in First Life.

I: You say you join a lot of groups to get something for nothing.  A lot of store VIP groups have a group fee which you have to pay to join. How do you feel about paying group fees?

EM: I would rather not, obviously, particularly since I often don’t have a lot of Lindens to work with.  Recently on a hunt, I was in a store with a couple cute outfits as group gifts.  Unfortunately, the group fee was 50 L$ and I didn’t have it.  So I didn’t join the group.  That said, I can certainly see the point of group fees.  When a designer gives something cute away for free, for a group gift or for a hunt, they are taking a loss on that item (the time and effort to design it if nothing else) in the hopes that they will get more traffic and sales.  It does happen- I tend to be impulsive with cute clothes I see while looking for a hunt prim- but there are also group parasites that join, raid the free stuff, and leave.  (I do that too.)  Group fees are one way the store can get freebie raiders to help contribute to the upkeep of the store and the designers time and love that went into making the item.  I’ve also seen groups claim a small fee was to help keep spammers and scammers out of the group, although I’m less certain about that since chat and notifications are generally fairly controlled in most store groups.

Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy!

Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy!

I: Last question for the interview, Emily.  Name a few groups that you are a part of that you feel everyone should look into joining and share your reasons behind that.

EM: Groups for everyone?  Hmm.  The first group I would mention is the Carnal Oasis VIP group.  It was probably the first group I joined, or close to it.  I enjoy DJ events, and the Oasis is my favorite club, because of the friendliness of the staff and coolness of the DJs.  They host events 10-12, 4-6, and 7-9 (SLTimeZone) and members of the VIP group get notifications 1 hour before, at the start, and at the midpoint of each event, letting them know who is hosting, who is DJing, and what the costume-theme for the event is.  There is also a costume contest for the VIPs each event.  Big Boobie Babes Freebies is a nice Lolas-friendly group.  It borders on spammy, because there are lots of ad notifications, but it is generally spam that is worth seeing.  (And although it is about Lolas-friendly fashions, most of them still look good if you are like me and usually don’t bother with lolas.)  Also, when I’ve had technical issues with my fake boobs, they’ve always had an answer for me.

Two store groups I would tout as especially good values are *JStyle and WoWSkins.  The *JStyle group is free to join and there are bunches of group gifts, including complete avatars, skins, and shapes.  I’ll admit, the freebies aren’t necessarily great.  I’ve said before that a lot of the gifts go into the trash once I take a closer look, and the shapes tend to be more booty-focused than my tastes run.  However, I love the jewelry from JStyle and they are great way for anyone on a tight budget to build their closet quickly.  The WoW Skins group does have a 250 L$ group fee.  However, I would consider it an investment, particularly if you change shapes/skins frequently.  For that 250 L$, you can get the current group gift and a box of past group gifts.  You get the opportunity to play on lucky boards at the store.  There used to be seven, but now there are ten and they always have a small crowd there.  The two MM boards get changed about once a week, and although the targets are set fairly high (usually 400 or 500) they generally do lock down.  I’ve got over fifty boxes of skins and/or shapes from WoW in my inventory, not counting boxes that have been opened and sorted into folders of open inventory.  Assuming I’ve only had four dozen freebie boxes and that they would have, on average, retailed at 200 L$, both assumptions that I believe to be lowball estimates, I’ve gotten at least 9,600 L$ in freebies for my 250 L$ group fee.  I also want to mention The Horror! store’s group.  It’s a new store and new group that my friend horrorcherry runs.  She’s got some cool stuff, and definitely deserves a plug!

Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the groups for [DUMB BLOND], *PB Designs*, and Grumble, Grumble, as these are my erst-while sponsors producing cute and sexy clothing for me to look good in.  I’ll admit I’m no longer unbiased (they give me great freebies, and all I have to do is show and tell you that the freebies are indeed great!) but I’m very happy with all three, and think they are great places both to join their groups and to shop at their stores.

I: OK, Emily, once you start doing product placement in my interview, I have to cut things short.  If you would like, however, after I publish this story, if you’d like to meet at my place, we can do an off-the-record follow-up and you can show me some of the lingerie you’ve picked up from groups…

(The interview ends abruptly at this point…)

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