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Insider Trader: A discussion of our trade channel

Amanda Miller

Insider Trader is your inside line on making, selling, buying and using player-made products.

This week, Insider Trader will be starting a discussion about trade channel in World of Warcraft, including its usefulness to its likability, abuse, and role in the game.

At first glance, trade channel is supposed to be a channel linking all major cities, providing a forum for craftsmen and buyers to meet up and exchange goods and services.

Within this context, players make a living, purchase gear and consumables, research goods and services, make friends and business associates, and learn the ins and outs of server economy.

Unfortunately, when asked their opinions of trade channel, many players describe it as annoying, useless, or offensive, and many keep it turned off permanently. Still others seem to hover in trade chat, spending a great deal of time in it either chatting, selling or sometimes, buying.

There are many reasons that players have negative feelings and impressions associated with trade chat:

  1. Spoilers: Whenever a popular movie or book is released, such as a Harry Potter, many people find that they cannot log into WoW until they have seen or read it, because other players make it their mission to blurt out crucial plot information and reveal endings. Even new episodes of television shows aren't sacred. Although this happens in any channel, trade is often targeted. In fact, the gossiping and 'spoiling' is so infused into trade chat, that when the beloved Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, died in September of 2006, many people heard it first from trade channel.
  2. Language: Many people find that having to read the language used and statements made by other players in trade channel, which are often disrespectful, offensive, or abrasive, to be a deterrent to entering the channel. Offensive behavior includes racial slurs, sexism or negative sexual orientation remarks, threats, religion and culture bashing, and more, while abrasive includes excessive swearing, attitude, and sarcasm. Other people simply cannot deal with the lapses in grammar and spelling, lol-speak and unique terminology and 1337 speak, arguments, bragging contests, silly banter, or what many would consider to be a (too) high population of children.
  3. Another reason that people might not bother with trade channel is negative experiences while using it in the past. Players might have been ripped off, stiffed too many times for tips, had to deal with rude and demanding peers, run a deficit, or been unable to successfully sell their goods and services. In each individual case, it may be less the effectiveness of the channel and more bad luck, marketing or soliciting style, language and typing skills, or personality that is affecting the player's profits. Still, when the channel becomes laden with irrelevant conversation and heated discussion, it becomes almost impossible to trade around that. In addition, many people will exit major cities once a spat is underway.
  4. Insults and spam: Between the gold sellers, the people who will openly question or mock your advertised prices, and the people who will insult you based on your prices or your merchandise, many people can feel simply hassled. In fact, now that we can use symbols, and that spells and items and quests can be linked in a whole new way, people are growing more creative in their methods.
Where behavior is concerned, it unfortunately may be the case that the most effective means on cutting down on one's exposure to negativity is to simply turn the channel off. While there is a reporting feature, dealing with tickets can be annoying, especially if you are logging off soon, intend to sleep, or want to run a dungeon.

Still, it seems unfair that people who try to be polite and mature, and expect the same in return, are often the ones feeling driven from the trading atmosphere. Seemingly, this would increase the number of rude, immature, ignorant sellers and consumers dominating the channel.

Of course, trade channel is not solely full of people best to be avoided. Many players have a laissez-faire attitude about the language and behavior of others, and can, barring specific circumstances, tolerate the annoyances, the immaturity, and the arguments. In addition, almost anyone will hit trade channel if they have a specific item worth a fair amount of money, in order to get the best price.

In fact, while there are people who utilize trade chat in their normal course of daily business, many others will only seek it for rare items and services that their friends and guildmates cannot provide. Under what circumstances do you use trade channel for trading? Are you a regular user, or a casual one? What are the conditions under which you will avoid using it, and attempt to sell or buy using other means?

If you do a little digging, you will find that players have developed many alternative ways to make a profit and acquire necessary items, aside from having to use trade channel or even the auction house.

Guild chat, guild websites, and guild affiliations all provide a more personal trading atmosphere, along with controls. Any player who steps out of line can be reported to guild officials and action can be taken. Everyone knows the same people and are, by guild affiliation, friends and neighbors, which seems to encourage people to start off on the right foot and make an effort they wouldn't otherwise make with a stranger.

Forums all over the web are also being used to buy and sell items. In fact, people have developed web-based means of trading in-game, and although Blizzard has not always been amiable to the systems developed, players have found them refreshing and were excited about using them.

This is evidence to suggest that people are craving an improved trade channel, if not another means of doing commerce entirely. Web-based systems move away from the practice of dealing directly with other players, while dreams of some sort of in-game personal stall or 'store' aim to improve relations.

As a tradesperson, what sorts of features do you feel the current trading system is lacking? Do you find yourself wishing you had the capability to do things that you can't currently do? Are there any trading add-ons that you could not live without, or that have inspired you regarding changes that Blizzard should make?

Do you enjoy buying and selling player-made products, tipping honest, nice craftsmen, dealing with players on a personal level, and working to cultivate new friendships, business relationships, and a reputation? Would you rather avoid having to deal with the public? Do you value tradesmen in-game similarly to how one might value a skilled cabinet-maker, or do you not feel that virtual tradesmen in WoW are special?

Lastly, what do you love and hate about trade chat? What are your opinions on others' reasons for loving or hating it?
Each week, Insider Trader takes you behind the scenes of the bustling sub-culture of professional craftsmen, examining the profitable, the tragically lacking, and the methods behind the madness. Be sure to check out Death of a Salesman, a discussion about how trading practices in-game have changed over time. For more debate surrounding the motives and appropriateness of price critiques in trade channel, read our piece on 'Mr. Trade Channel Police Guy.'

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