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Time Is Money: Hate mail from competitors

Basil Berntsen

Welcome to Time Is Money! This is the column where Basil "Euripides" Berntsen is occasionally allowed to post stuff that's too short for Gold Capped, but too long for Twitter. Have comments or questions about the in-game economy? Email Basil!

We received a note from a reader this week, and I felt it was appropriate to get the Drama Mamas involved. While this is a situation somewhat unique to auctioneers, it certainly has dramatic potential!

Subject: Gold Capped -- feedback and suggestion for Basil

What do you do (if anything) when your Auction House exploits make you enemies that call you out with whispers and /2 flames?

See, I've recognized certain markets that were being rather monopolized on my realm. My realm is a rather low-population realm to begin with, and heavily dominated by the OTHER faction, so supply is usually short and demand is high for many, many items making our particular economy ripe for that sort of thing.

Sensing that I could infiltrate these markets, I leveled characters with the appropriate tradeskills and did just that. Understandably, the (former) monopolists were none too pleased. Now when I log on my bank/auctioneer toon I am immediately presented with a chorus of "love notes" like "U R DUMB" and "WHY U UNDERCUT ME?" I usually don't respond because these people obviously don't understand economics, or they do and they're just trying to bully me out of "their" markets. Whispers I can /ignore and it's no big deal.

But what do you do when they start spreading falsehoods about you in trade chat? That's a more public forum for their discontent and could hurt my business, especially since none of their accusations are true.

Usually, since I refuse to divulge the name of my main toon on the realm, they like to say that my banker is the bank alt of another character, we'll call him Player X, who is universally despised on our realm. Obviously I don't want to be associated with him/her.

Basil, I'm sure your Auctioneer acumen has earned you at least a few enemies on your realms. How do you handle it? Just thought that might be an interesting topic for your column, since it also proves just how effective your strategies for making gold on the AH are. :)


Basil says:

Ah yes, auctioneer hate mail. There are many things you can do to earn this; however, undercutting seems to be the one that gets the most competitors' attention. Tells and mail containing, "WHY U UNDERCUT NOOB!" should be considered badges of honor that you display with pride! It means you're doing it right.

I would hesitate before assuming that these competitors of yours are actually dumb, though. You have a thick skin and a quick trigger finger on the ignore button, but assuming they are sending these little thank-you notes to all their competitors, if they can make one or two of them think they've done something wrong, they might actually end up pushing someone out of the market. I know, it's not rational, but there are hundreds of ways to make money off peoples' irrationality. Daniel, I'm glad that you are not falling for this, but the important lesson for everyone else is that nobody can tell you how to price your stuff. No matter what they say, they're just trying to get you to stop competing with them, and there's no reason you should.

In your case, they've taken it a step farther and started trying to ruin your reputation in trade chat. First off, nobody reads trade chat except the 13-year-old Chuck Norris fans and other auctioneers, neither of which represent a serious segment of your auction house market. Point of fact: Despite what the loudmouths want us to believe, almost nobody looks at name on the auction before buying.

Second, I'd recommend highly against ever telling anyone who your main is. I keep a stable of bling-free bank alts and delete and recreate them every time someone figures out who they're connected to. It's nothing personal, but I have no interest in people second guessing or judging my business. I also don't look when I undercut and don't want that to affect my ability to enjoy hanging out with friends on my main. Bling-free, by the way, is important. If you want to kit out a banker and parade it around the auction house, do it with one you won't be deleting in a couple of weeks.

Another point of interest here is that this competition of yours is resorting to the least effective, lowest common denominator reaction they can in order to try to "protect" their business. This is because monopolies never last and are a stupid business plan! No matter how clever and rich you think you are, the only way you can make a monopoly is by buying out your competition, and that does nothing but convince them to produce more and sell it for more. If you happen to have a horseshoe lodged somewhere in your body and really are the only person capable of supplying a certain demand, by all means, profit from your monopoly! But don't think you can create one. Also, remember that even when you're the only game in town, lower prices always mean more sales, which might mean more profits overall.

Long story short: My advice is to create new alts, and when people demand to know who you represent, tell them to go fly a kite.

Lisa says:

What if you're the other guy -- the one who's been undercut, hot under the collar and raring for a trade chat showdown? No matter how upset you may be to find your perfectly laid plans sapped by some other dastardly trader, please don't mewl like a wet kitten in trade chat. You may indeed earn yourself some attention -- but as Euripides points out, you're preaching to the choir. The only people who'll be applauding your protests are the drama queens and other disgruntled traders. Any potential customers who happen to be listening in are more likely to be horrified by the drama and remember your name in a negative light. Whiners aren't winners. Take your losses and move on.

The only way to "win" this situation next time is to play harder, faster, better. Hone your strategy. Strengthen your market. Make no bones about it: competitive trading in the auction house is competitive. Some players don't find that enjoyable. If you're one of those, don't beat yourself up about it; get out of the traders' pool and focus on more modest goals. If you want to play the trading game, though, you have to be able to roll with the punches.

Robin says:

It seems to me that these people are advertising for you. You could turn it into a cheesy, but fun campaign.

/2 My fellow auctioneers hate me because I undercut their prices! When you see my name on an auction, you know you're getting a good deal!

You could be the Crazy Dave of the trade channel.

/2 Don't hate me because my prices are low! Why are they so low? Because I'm craaaaaazy!

You could even come up with your own cheesy slogan or theme song that is thoroughly annoying, like the local mattress store whose ads I hate but whose name I will never forget.

/2 You always know
/2 My prices are low
/2 So don't be slow
/2 Buy from me now

Yeah, yeah. It doesn't rhyme. I didn't say I was good at coming up with good theme songs. Dammit Jim, I'm a drama mama, not a jingle writer. My point is that you can use their mockery and slander to your own advantage. (Is it libel or slander if it is "said" only by typing? I'm going with slander.) You could turn this around so that you become the person people think about when they want to make a deal. When life gives you drama, make drama-ade. Or something. Yeah, bad at slogans. Obviously, I won't be the Crazy Dave on my server. Ah well. Good luck!

bringin' sexy back!Being an auctioneer is like being able to print money. Or gold, as it were. Wait, that doesn't make sense ... you can print on gold, but you can't print gold. That would be closer to transmutation? I can transmute titanium, but that's only worth it if the price of saronite is low enough to justify the time spent making it. I need some sort of analogy here. Whatever, I'll figure it out later. Making gold? Every so often, Basil will post about various strategies he's learned on the AH.

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