Greedy Goblin

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The ethics of a botched deal

Allison Robert wrote a post on WoWinsider and Cuthbert requested a followup. While my original plan was continuing showing Veblen's theory, if it could wait 110 years, it can wait 1 more day.

In the post, a blacksmith was requested to create an item. Mats were provided, so 25G fee. Unfortunately, the item is BoP, so the blacksmith could not give it back, so sold the item for 13G, and was very happy about his 38G.

The writer of the post believed it was ninjaing, and the blacksmith was not right to keep the money, strike that, it was not right to keep the fee. The opinion of the BS was "life lessons suck".

My opinion is: the client was double stupid! At first he did not researched his item. Even I know that unlike other crafted items, weaponsmith-made weapons are not BoE. I know it because my girlfriend researched high agility one-handers and found that Corroded Saronite Edge is great, but BoP.

However this was just WoW-related ignorance, and it's just a game. His other stupidity was life-related. He did not ask the price of the mace, although the mace was undoubtably his. The BS has no right keeping it. The client, after discovering that it's BoP did not asked if the BS is an enchanter, nor he asked him to vendor it and return this value. Most probably, he went emo, angry or sad and did not even attempted to salvage something.

He did not ask the fee back, nor he asked for compensation. After all, he payed for a service, not an item, so it was the BS's responsibility to have information about his craft. Have you ever heard "We sell solutions, not just stuff!"? This is the philosophy of cutting edge companies, and this is the very opposite what the BS did. Customers want solutions to their problems and not items. Only the professional customers are capable to find out what stuff they need, the others also need advice to select these stuff. These case the company should provide this information, help selecting proper product, educate the customer, and of course charge for this service.

The problem of the customer was not having proper weapon. He wrongfully assumed that Saronite Mindcrusher is what he wanted. The BS, should have:
  • informed him that the item is BoP
  • offer alternative items
  • craft alternative item or return materials
  • take the 25G for his service (even if the client chooses to get materials back)
So the BS provided a very crappy service here! Still it's the client who was stupid! He let the BS get away with his crappy service, he did not demand compensation, he did not contacted a GM, though crafting ninjaing is a punishable scam, nor he contacted the officers of his guild.

He let himself being fooled, he let himself being scammed. While it's no shame not being expert, it's a shame not being informed, especially in WoW, where all information is just a click away. And he can always demand expert service for his money, and not accept such crappy work. He did neither.

"The fool and his money will soon be parted" - that's the goblin law.

However the story became even more interesting, after Allison Robert posted a completely wrong follow-up:

Scenario A
Customer contacts Blacksmith with materials and a tip for a 2H mace. Neither notices that the piece is BoP. Blacksmith takes the port to Orgrimmar from Dalaran, makes the mace, gets a skill-up, and discovers that the item can't be traded. Both parties apologize for the mistake, and the Blacksmith offers to forego a tip. Customer insists on paying the tip as compensation for the Blacksmith's time. Blacksmith sells the 2H mace as he has no use for it, and then questions guild chat wondering what the proper course of action was.

Scenario B: Customer contacts Blacksmith with materials and a tip for a 2H mace. Blacksmith notices that the piece is BoP but needs the skill-up. Blacksmith takes the port to Orgrimmar from Dalaran and receives a tip from Customer. Blacksmith makes the mace, gets a skill-up, and "discovers" that the item can't be traded. Customer apologizes for the mistake and departs. Blacksmith sells the 2H mace as he has no use for it, and then posts in guild chat gloating over his good fortune.

You don't exactly need to reach for a copy of Ethics 101 to see that the Blacksmith is a fairly innocent party in A, but is kind of a rat bastard in B.

Notice that in both scenarios people do everything the same. In both scenarios, the item is crafted, and the money is kept by the BS. There is no real differences in the scenarios. The only difference is what the BS thought. Of course we cannot look into his head to determine what he thought. If we would accept Allison Robert's ethics we would be forever victims of
  • dumb people who really don't recognize that they are doing something harmful
  • evil people, who claim to not recognize that they are doing something harmful
If we don't want to be victims, we shall not care what other people think and judge them by the things they do! The BS provided crappy service, so he shall give compensation for it, no matter if he did it on purpose or was careless or dumb.

Blacksmith's immediate profit is 38g. By contrast, his opportunity cost is the hundreds of gold he would have made in repeat business from Customer and/or Customer's guildies. What you see now is the 38g. What you don't see is the comment in a random PuG's party chat three months down the line when someone asks about where to get a Blacksmithing piece made, and Customer says, "Well, don't go to (X)." And, leaving aside all question of ethics, with whom would you rather do business? A blacksmith who kept the tip and the 18g from vendoring the mace? Or a blacksmith who'd apologized, refused the tip, and mailed you the 18g?

Wrong again dear Allison Robert. At first, no one remembers his name. I have absolutely no idea who crafted for me and when, nor anyone else. Maybe the client himself remembers the name but his guildies will surely not. And the top of that, you also mentioned him as "X", protecting his identity making sure that he will not lose any business because of his crappy service!

People has the stupid tendency to believe that others will act nicely to keep their reputation. Maybe it works in a small town where everyone knows everyone. But not in a city, not in WoW and especially not somewhere where people don't dare to mention the names of others in fear of violating privacy. Even if the BS makes the worst reputation ever, he can change name and hop server in WoW or change company name and hop town in real life. Don't trust in reputation, it only works for WoW NPC factions!

Allison Roberts said, this guy got gkicked. So what? He most probably found a new guild in a day, and above all, he got gkicked not for scamming, but for gloating about it. If he would keep his mouth shut, he could keep his money and his guild.

Moral of the story: evildoers and dumb ones are out there. You can't expect any kind of magical system like "good reputation" protect you from it. You shall protect yourself from it by being informed, know your legal rights, and don't hesitate to stand up protecting them.


Cuthbert said...

You're the best.

Anonymous said...

Im in agreeance that its the customers fault, if you go to someone and ask themt o make something its not there fault its BOP.

Anonymous said...

I agree the onus is on the customer.

To paraphrase legal jargon "everyone must look out for their own bargains".

This is good old darwinism at work - if you are too stupid/ill informed that you invested a ton of gold without researching an item and the crafter in no way lied to you by telling you it was boe then thats your lookout - the crafter did all that was asked of him. Not asking for the sales proceeds or the tip back just compounds the stupidity. Even if the crafter knew what he was doing, relying on another impersonal individual to do you a favour by telling you compounds the stupidity.

The only thing to fault the crafter for is possibly 'Bragging' about it afterwards - best not to lose ones moral position by involving any kind of emotion - he should have kept it purely business - "I was asked to craft xyz, I crafted xyz".

Daniel said...

Great post and I completely agree. I never remember who crafts things for me unless their name is engraved on the item of the gear I am wearing until I find something new.

I don't expect anyone outside of my guild to remember I made potions for them or anything of the sort.

Though I do have an interesting tale from way back in the day about my bad bidding on an item and how the seller's actions wrecked him later. I need to write that up sometime.

Anonymous said...

in RL i tend to expect "crafters" (ie contracters, landscapers, electricians) to do the job i WANT or IMAGINE them to do after often minimal detail checking on my part (in retrospect). i am a lazy/stupid customer in that way. as a result, i am often disappointed with poor results, and have to do some of the finish/correction work myself.

my wife and i have an agreement that we will ALWAYS get 3 estimates on any "crafting" job we outsource, and to spend more time checking out facts/details.

we continue to be disappointed because laziness is terminal, and crafters will to do as little work as goblinly possible.

blacksmiths like that piss me off, but my laziness keeps them in business.

as always, awesome post.

Hinenuitepo said...

The customer did behave in a foolish fasion, no doubt. I've made a silly mistake or two in my day as well.

I do believe, however, that Allison did make one good point. Services are generally unlike the AH (well, even in AH your tendency to undercut etc can earn you enemies) in that your customer service skills matter. Being nice, using 'flowery' language to describe your products, and yes, returning mistaken items all play into repeat business. On our server, there are some very well-known crafters that get excellent return business. I personally use an addon and several enchanters/crafters are listed as 'good' or 'bad' on it depending on their behavior.
I've gotten quite a bit of referral business for some of the craftables I make as well, so it does in fact pay to treat people right, even in wow.

Carl said...

I recently had a very similar situation with jewelcrafting. A lvl 80 druid who recently changed specs asked me to craft him a necklace and some rings for his resto gear. I linked him my profession and he picked out the ones he wanted and would meet me in org with the mats.

So I went to org, made him the stuff and upon trading I realized the rings were BoP. I immediately offered to give him the mats for the BoP items from my own bank, because I was partly responsible for not noticing the BoP part. He declined and traded the necklace with no tip. I thought that was fair enough, and vendored the rings and kept the gold.

What's your opinion about this deal? Should I have asked for the tip and gave him the vendor gold instead?

Carl said...

As a follow up, that client turned out to be triple dumb and asked me to craft two other rings (same ring x2) and gave me the mats. This time I paid more attention to the restrictions and read "unique-equipped", so I asked him explicitly if he wanted two of them for himself, and he said yes....

So I went on providing the good service and explained how "unique-equipped" works. In hindsight I don't think I got paid enough for the time I wasted with him. How would you deal with this situation?

Gevlon said...

@Lupius: You offered him the mats, so you did the proper thing. He declined and gave no tip (I assume mats cost more than tip), so be happy because you ended up better than you should.

By explaining him unique-equipped, you did good service. However I don't really understand why did you made business with that idiot again. You could have expected complications.