I'm looking for a word or phrase that encompasses the following series of events:

  1. Something is a great deal.
  2. Many people see that it is a good deal and buy it, invest in it, or similar.
  3. So many people do so that it becomes a bad deal.

One mechanism by which this might happen: It's a good deal because it draws on a shared, finite, but abundant and mostly untapped resource, perhaps a natural resource or a fixed amount of money. When many people pursue the deal, that resource gets depleted or stretched thin, causing it to be a mediocre or bad (net loss) deal. Perhaps just the last people in lose out, but because of the exponential growth of the knowledge of the deal, that's half the people involved. Or perhaps everyone, even the earlier adopters, lose out.

Examples: (but ignore the part of speech)

The CD class action settlement would send up to $20 to everyone who opted in the class. But so many people did, that it was a << phrase >>; my check was for 37 cents.

In a << phrase >>, after the traffic reporter said the I-495 had light traffic, so many people shifted their routes to it that traffic got snarled.

This place is awesome, except for the crowds.

  • There is a phrase "self-defeating"; I'll go see if there's a single, more pithy word for it (I don't think "counterproductive" is quite right).
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 28, 2015 at 14:26
  • I initially thought of "gold rush" which implies a headlong stampede towards a payout. I'm sure I have seen it used in this metaphorical sense, but all I could find were citations about the original and literal gold rushes, so perhaps I am mistaken. In any case it doesn't carry the meaning of dilution of the payout...
    – Marv Mills
    Sep 28, 2015 at 14:29
  • I considered "tragedy of the commons," but, in that case the actors know the commons are going to be depleted, and rationally rush to get their share before hand. In what I have in mind, everyone would show up at the commons with their flocks at once, and most of the sheep would die of starvation.
    – stannius
    Sep 28, 2015 at 14:30
  • Would 'depreciation' or similar synonym do the trick?
    – Julia
    Sep 28, 2015 at 14:36
  • "Gold rush" is fairly relevant. The dilution of the payout isn't necessarily core to the phrase I have in mind; I edited to make that an example.
    – stannius
    Sep 28, 2015 at 15:14

1 Answer 1


You can use oversaturation to describe when too many people get in on something and degrade its value, even though none of the definitions mention how people can relate to this. However, I think it's a fair application of the word.

So you could say, "The good deal became oversaturated and suffered". I think that word is pretty effective in getting the point across.

  • Overfishing is almost exactly what I had in mind, minus the fish-specificity of course.
    – stannius
    Sep 28, 2015 at 22:37

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