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WoW tipping etiquette and social networking

Amanda Miller

While catching up on my reading, and perusing Kestrel's blog this morning, I came across a post examining some of the fundamentals of tipping when dealing with a craftsman or asking to have a lockbox opened. By nature, tipping is a controversial topic, even in a virtual world. There are only loosely defined guidelines, the gesture is optional (or is it?), and it is all about communicating and exchanging with politeness and respect.

Before we can determine how to go about tipping, we need to have a clear picture of if and under what circumstances tipping is appropriate. We have previously discussed some of the situations in which this is debatable, including:
  1. When you are dealing with a player who is leveling their crafting or lockpicking skills, and you are providing the materials, in essence, you are already helping them out; the exchange is costing them nothing, and they are gaining a skill point.
  2. If you are purchasing an item for a fee of Xg plus materials, then the fee may also be said to contain the tip, or stand in place of it.
  3. Kestrel points out that if the person volunteers to travel to you, this is tip-worthy behavior. This might then complicate the above two situations.

There are many other situations in which tipping may or may not be required, and which might affect how high one should tip. Such circumstances include, but are not limited to:

  1. Should there be a difference in the amount of the tip when the crafter answered your trade channel call, versus if you answered theirs? After all, presumably, if the craftsman responded to your advertisement, he or she was likely in the city on other business, and is now going out of his or her way to do you a favor.
  2. Should you reward cheerful, courteous players with higher tips, or tips in a situation that would normally see you not tipping at all?
  3. If the craftsman is asking for a tip, or in Kestrel's case, asking how much you tip, as if they are interviewing you to see if your business is worth it, do they deserve a tip nonetheless? What if they are providing the mats, or traveling to meet you?
  4. As Kaliope points out, as a crafter, you might be negatively affecting the market for your craft by not requiring tips, or a flat fee.
  5. Kaliope also notes that with some transactions, the craftsman is adding significant value to an item. For example, if a jewelcrafter cuts four gems worth 40g uncut, the cut gems could net about 50-60g a piece, bringing in a cool 200g+. In this case, Kaliope suggests a tip equal to 10% of the materials' worth, in keeping with what enchanters often ask. Is asking roughly 16-20g as a tip for such a service reasonable? Would you pay it? Note: Kaliope never accepts for money from a guildmate or friend; this is a keen example of how social networking in WoW can be extremely beneficial.
Establishing guidelines for when to tip and how much is clearly a delicate process, with very muddy waters. Although to some extent tipping and asking for tips is a personal determination, the community and the economy play a large role. Once you have laid down your own rules, and squared them in keeping with the reality of the market, there still remains the finer points of implementing the tip, or request for one.

When requesting services:
If you are looking to have something unlocked, made, or enchanted, there are several do's and don'ts for ensuring a positive experience. The goal here should be a fair, speedy, and pleasant transaction. In fact, every time you seek a crafter's aid, you are given the opportunity to expand your network, which in a social game like WoW, can mean new friends, tanks/healers for groups, discounts on items, and many other bonuses.

Your job then is to attract the best players when seeking services, interact with them in a friendly and meaningful way, perhaps throw a tip, and even suggest that they add you to their friends list. Having a solid foundation of contacts is invaluable in WoW.

One way to start is to examine whether or not you have issues with spelling. You simply will not catch the attention of the most upstanding players by asking for a "rouge", nor will you by saying "wtb enchanter". Sorry, we are not for sale.

If you have an honest problem with spelling and grammar, sit yourself down and make a list of each of the classes and professions, spelled correctly, which you can find on the official website, or by perusing the right-hand side of our website, under "class", "races" and "professions". Write out a template for asking for help in trade channel, and keep the list by your computer. Examples include "LF tailor to craft [item]", "I am in Undercity, and need a rogue to open my [Eternium Lockbox]". When you do your research on a particular enchant you want, or an item you want crafted, write down the proper spelling with your list of mats to acquire.

Actually, even if you don't have particular issues with spelling and phrasing your trade channel announcements, you may still benefit from taking some time to think them out, and word them properly ahead of time. Once you get a few phrases you like, you can even make them into macros, which are especially handy if you do business regularly.

Another important element that should be present in your trade channel message is a clear idea of where you are and whether you are willing to travel. Because the trade channels in the major cities are linked, you are looking for responses from people who are either in the same city as you, or who are willing to travel to you. Once you have someone lined up, you could offer to go to them, if only to be polite. Do not be demanding; even if you don't end up friends with this person, you needn't be souring your reputation by being difficult to work with.

When offering services:
If you are the craftsman or are willing to pick a lock, there are several guidelines that will either secure you a higher tip, or ensure you receive none at all. Mannerisms do count, even if the effect is subconscious. In fact, I have been known even to give some money to a beggar if they can put forth well-written, polite, and humble conversation. For all of the rude, typo-infused, angry requests I get on a daily basis, that one nice player that pops up every six months may just get paid.

As Kestrel points out, it is in bad taste to request a tip up front. If you are providing the mats, perhaps you should simply work out a flat fee, or deal only with customers who will bring their own materials. In addition, Kestrel's personal method is to exclude phrases like "for free, but tips are welcome" and simply make no mention of a tip. When asked how much is being charged, the reply is that there is no charge. Whether this actually results in higher tips, or tips more often, is debatable, but it is refreshingly polite.

In keeping with Kaliope's point, is this fair, as nice as it may be? Will it harm the market? Are certain services such as jewelcrafting and enchanting more sensitive to such a measure than others, like lockpicking? Perhaps for some services, tips should be requested ahead of time. Alternatively, wording such a request as your fee rather than a tip, which sounds optional, and therefore potentially rude to demand, might flow more smoothly.

As the crafter, if you are looking for tips, but are not asking for them outright, it would be advisable to offer to travel to your client, as this is not only a kind gesture, it also makes the client feel obligated to repay you in some way. Of course, as a craftsman, you should be more concerned about social networking and your reputation than receiving tips; perhaps even more concerned than your customers should be.

In fact, by following some very simple guidelines, you could establish a solid, loyal customer base. This would not only allow you to maximize the profits from your professions, it would also win you friends, group members, discounts on materials or consumables you might need, and a steady supply of players willing to come to you for their crafted items. Being polite, flexible, and thinking creatively are all great ways to boost your reputation and sales.

As for thinking creatively, this is important because it will allow you to provide the items that your customers want, in exchange for what is a deal to them, yet provides you with something you would otherwise need to purchase or farm. For example, if you are a tailor, you could sell items to your leatherworking customers in exchange for double the leather required by the recipe, rather than the exact materials. If you are looking to have a specific enchant done, then perhaps you could trade one a crafted item to an enchanter for one or all of the mats you need.

As a final note, I believe it is worth mentioning that whether you are offering or utilizing a service, being unique and standing out from the crowd is an effective way to get noticed, remembered, and make contacts. You may get hecklers, but to be honest, saying anything in WoW has the potential for that.

What are your pet peeves when operating in the trade channel? How do you go about tipping, or not? Do you try to remain aware of your opportunities for social networking, or are you just there to trade? Do you have any tips for receiving tips?

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