Greedy Goblin

Monday, June 8, 2009

An easy question

I got a reader mail, linking a question on Just my two coppers forum. (This is a moneymaking forum with various topics).

This question was "I've bought Abyss crystals for 73 silvers, but the seller sent me mail, asking to pay it back as he wanted to sell it for 73 gold, what shall I do?"

At first I wanted to ignore the request as the answer is so simple as not standing in the fire. Then "oh wait, for many people (or at least humanoid creatures) it is hard to not stand in the fire". So I decided to post my thoughts: Short version.

Longer version: if you made money without work, someone made a mistake. Maybe this mistake is posting for silvers instead of golds. Maybe it's not scanning the AH. Maybe it's posting on weekend for weekday price. Maybe it's trying to sell too fast. Maybe it's dumping too many items. Maybe it's not checking the material costs first. They are all mistakes. If you return the gold to someone because "he made a mistake", you shall return all of your gold to all of the guys because they all made a mistake.

Even worse thoughts on the forum: "if they came across as really cut up about it and polite, it might make me feel pity and give it back for a small increase on my initial cost." This is direct reference to the social parasitism that can be described: "ape subroutines forcing you to give resources to people who appear to be friendly".

His fate shall be decided on his actions and not words. If he comes to you "Dear Sir, I made a mistake and I accept responsibility, but please help me out by returning some of my loss", he is no better businessman than the guy who tries "lo m8, culd u giv me the price in golds not silvers LOLOLOL dont be jerk I need a mamoot". Less annoying yes, but still equally careless. Confession: I would also treat them differently. I would explain it to the first one, and simply /ignore the second.

Skrooge wrote that he would return 10-25% so he could feel good about himself. Better, as he is aware that the guy does not deserve repay but he is still a victim of ape subroutines as he cannot feel good while taking all the money. I would not only repay 0, but would feel good as I've just kicked one more M&S butt, doing something great for the world.

Even worse from a commenter: "If he's a major player in the enchanting market, the last thing you'd want is for him to be a vindictive undercutter." Actually I want him to be a vindictive undercutter. I post low, he undercuts me, I buy his auctions, cancel mine, post for the good price. Hostile emotions of others is nothing you shall fear of. It's something you shall use against them.

Business must be based on cold calculation. The day you try to be "nice and friendly" or hesitate for moral reasons is the day you bought your first class ticket to the shelter for homeless.

PS: if someone wants to COD you some item, but instead he sends you the price, KEEP IT! If you return it to him, your Booty Bay rep will fall to hated, and all the "1G plz :DDD" kids of the server will haunt you forever and ever and your ignore list gets bugged!

I mean there is even a popup window asking "Are you sure to send X to Y?", so it takes a really stupid person to do this! OK, there is one exception: if he is a long time supplier and you don't want to lose his services.


Vyr said...

'PS: if someone wants to COD you some item, but instead he sends you the price, KEEP IT! If you return it to him, your Booty Bay rep will fall to hated, and all the "1G plz :DDD" kids of the server will haunt you forever and ever and your ignore list gets bugged!'

Well, I did pay back that guy the money. Only because he is my long time supplier of goods. I rather just give him his money dues so he can supply me with cheap supplies so I can make way more profit with them.

Ranjurm said...

It seems short sighted to ruin a relationship with a supplier (who is allowing you to make money through his private mailing at a lose already without knowing it or because he doesn't have an interest in making money the way you do). For a quick buck you burn that bridge.

Zadiel said...

On the one hand, I would feel bad if I made a mistake like that, but in my years of AHing/trading, I've never made any of those stupid mistakes. Ever. You'd have to be really careless in order to do so.

I'm talking hundreds of thousands (actually probably millions) of auctions listed and hundreds of mail transactions without an incident.

On the other hand, if you deal with this person on a regular basis, I'd say keeping the business relationship intact would be the wiser move.

Jormundgard said...

If all you care about is money, then that's all you'll get.

Anonymous said...

gevlon is right. the original seller needs to chalk it up to a learning experience. sucks for him.

Sven said...

I'd agree with Vyr here. The key thing is whether you have an established relationship with the guy, rather than them being a generic beggar. Regardless of whether goblins agree with the thinking of social people, they truth is that they exist and a good businessman keeps the punters happy, which means having them think of you as a nice chap, even if you aren't.

I don't recall the exact numbers, but in real business it costs about 10x as much to win a new customer as it does to keep an old one. If you have a long-term profitable relationship with the guy, let him win a few, so long as you make profit overall.

A concrete example: a couple of years ago I happened to be passing someone in trouble in STV and stopped off to toast the mobs he was struggling with. The guy was obviously an M&S in goblin terms and I also gave him a few hints about how to play his class. He was enormously grateful and also asked my advice about what to sell a few items he had found for. I told him what they were worth on AH and also offered to take them off his hands right away for 10% less if he wanted the cash. He jumped at the chance and from then on, for the best part of a year, he never bothered checking AH prices, he just sold me the items for whatever price I named, from which I got an ever increasing string of profit, and he got instant cash, because, as an M&S, he was always broke. In return for a little kindness now and then, I made a fortune from the long term relationship. There's a niche in the WOW market for the "high customer service with high prices" business, just as there is IRL.

Keeva said...

I've made that kind of mistake in the past. I sent a whisper to the person and said "enjoy your bargain" - knowing that 99% of people would laugh (and/or spit) in my face if I told them it was a mistake.

Personally, I enjoy doing nice things for people. If I was in the emailer's situation, I would send them back. In fact, once I saw someone accidentally post something very cheap, so I bought it and sent it back to them with a note explaining what they had done. Call it my warm&fuzzy good deed for the day.

I'll never be a goblin.. I like helping people too much. I know how horrible it feels to accidentally list something cheap and lose it, so I figured it would make them feel great if someone helped them out and sent it back.

TLDR: Do whatever you think is right for you. But if you're taking the time to ask "what is the right thing to do?" then I think you already feel bad about not giving the item back.

If you really don't want to give up a bargain, but you feel bad about ripping off someone who made a dumb mistake - offer a compromise.

Anonymous said...

Well, the question for the gold comes when you try to drag the item to your bag, not when you open the mail. At least in my country I have to pay the package before I could open it. I was kind enough to send the gold since I thought the sender made an error ... yeah I never got my gold back because I'm obviously a M&S...

Anonymous said...

Returned the money?

Everyone has a taste of bitter fruit on the AH from poor investments, mistakes...etc I too have made my share of mistakes, but have learned from them also. I would not pay him 1 copper for doing what anyone else would have done. If you were lucky enough to be there to witness this "mistake" and reap the benefit. Also, is the price or abyss crystals 45 gold on your server? They're listed for 112 gold median price. Why would this guy sell for 45 gold. He is an idiot and now you are too.

Anonymous said...

One time something like this happened to me, but in reverse-I put up a stack of something or other that normally sold for 255g near the beginning of the expansion and put it up for 2500g and somebody bought it right up. "Never underestimate how stupid your customers are" is really the best advice.

Russ said...

I can see the point from both sides.

I've sold glyphs for 1s because of an auctioneer messup. I've priced things badly, because i wasn't paying attention. I understand how nasty it can be. However, I NEVER asked for the money back. I played, i lost, fair's fair, move on. Good job whoever bought it.

If you price things wrong, dont expect other people to be nice, or to pay for your mistakes. It doest work like that in real life either.

Amithrar said...

I've made the odd mistake on the AH, just the other day I sold a few items for 10c when I meant to put 10g, maybe it was tiredness, maybe auctioneer bugged. Either way I wouldn't ask for the items back, it was my mistake and as such I accept the loss that results.

Anonymous said...

Even in real life I've had a somewhat similar issue. Sunglasses had a price tag of 30 euro, where the correct price was 130 euro. While I was paying for them, the seller saw that the price tag was wrong and wanted to increase the price. But... you are still entitled to buy the item for the price on the price tag according to the law (at least in The Netherlands).

I feel sorry for the seller, but I still won't pay the higher amount (and I bought it for 30 euro).

On the other side, if you have other business with that person (like guild relations or you regularly pug with him or he is regular supplier) and you require that business from him in the future (and that business is worth more to you), then and only then would I discuss some kind of compensation.

But this is also a sound business decision:
If he is your long term supplier of cheap goods, you would loose more by not compensating him for his error.

Markco said...

Thanks for your input Gevlon; your reponse was great (image too), very funny but very true of a cold, calculating businessman.

For anyone wondering those forums are filled to the brim with money making ideas from average players and a few very talented gold capped auctioneers.

Thunderhorns said...

I wouldn't send the guy back any money either. Just like I wouldn't ask for the money back if I had screwed up. The best teacher is experience and negative experience is just as good as positive experience.

I wouldn't pay back a diamond.

Yaggle said...

I think this falls under the "Handle it however you want" category. If you want to keep the money from somebody's mistake, go ahead. If you want to return it, go ahead. But if you make a mistake, never expect anybody else to return it, and certainly don't ask them to return your money. There are many people whose spiritual beliefs make them feel obligated not to take advantages of these mistakes. That's their business to adhere to their beliefs if they want to.

highlatencylife said...

You correct again Gevlon, if I started to give money back to everyone who made a mistake. I would be broke.

Do I make mistakes, and do other people profit off those mistakes, heck yes they do. Hopefully I learn, double check my work, and continue on.

If the guy was nice, I would send him a nice letter, telling him I would give him a discount if he wanted it back for like 60 gold he could still make a profit, but I would not simply give it back.

No one rides for free.

SimonB said...


Small techy point, and my knowledge of sales law may be a little shakey these days (coming from my accountancy training many years ago) but the way the legal side works in the UK is as follows:

Just because something has a price tag of €30, the shop is not obliged to sell it to you for that amount.

The price tag is technically an "invitation to treat" rather than an "offer for sale". The contract for sale doesn't occur until you exchange funds with the shopkeeper and therefore he is entitled to tell you that the price tag is wrong and refuse to complete the sale.

How often this happens in practice, I do not know. The business would be balancing up the loss of revenue versus the loss of customer goodwill. I bet if they had priced those sunglasses at £1.30, however, they probably would have refused to sell to you and would have been legally within their rights.

How/If this applies to the WOW situation is tenous, however I would venture to suggest that since the seller has accepted the $73 silver, he would be deemed to have entered into a contact and thus has no recourse (he could have cancelled that auction at any time prior to sale).

Perhaps more relevent to this WOW situation is that there is no recourse in british law for an individual who enters into an inane contract who then trys to renege. eg, if you sell a painting for $100 and then later find out it was priceless and try and get extra from the buyer, the law will tell you to get stuffed (unless they actively misled you). There is a latin phrase for it used in law that means "everyone is responsible for their own bargains" but I can't remember what it is off the top of my head.

In WOW, as with the law, idiots lose and smart people win.


SimonB said...

Went and found the relevent case law parts as it was bugging me :D Feel free to skip if not interested in the legal side of contracts:

A shop owner displaying their goods for sale is generally making an invitation to treat (Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain v Boots Cash Chemists [1953] 1 QB 401). They are not obliged to sell the goods to anyone who is willing to pay for them, even if additional signage such as "special offer" accompanies the display of the goods. (But see bait and switch.) This distinction was legally relevant in Fisher v Bell [1961] 1 QB 394, where it was held that displaying a flicknife for sale in a shop did not contravene legislation which prohibited offering for sale such a weapon. The distinction also means that if a shop mistakenly displays an item for sale at a very low price it is not obliged to sell it for that amount [1].

Bristal said...

Gevlon, is it really worth a measely 75G to you to piss someone off and make them feel crappy? Suppose that was the last straw and they cancelled their subscription?

Can't you can make an argument that it's useful to treat EVERYONE as a potential valued customer?

I worked retail years ago (before barcode scanners) when the unwritten rule was if you mispriced something you honored it. Suppose a business accidentally advertised or mispriced a high end product that would essentially put them out of business if they had to honor it.

Gevlon, do you think that is an appropriate punishment for the mistake? Loss of a business would likely affect an entire community so a few people could get a $5 television set.

The cost of treating people poorly purely for your own short-term gain is never positive in the long run.

highlatencylife said...


It's called a bank toon learn to use one.

My customers never know who I am, cause I use a bank toon with a different name. So I sell everything through that toon. Piss someone off, just roll another toon. LOL.

Shindia said...

Someone on my server recently listed a bunch of stuff in stacks instead of single for the price that single would have gone for. He got very irrate in trade chat and tried to persuade everyone that the person who bought them was at fault. Fortunately those in trade were smart enough to realise that he should be responsible for his own mistakes. It didn't help his case that he spammed trade with his woes for hours on end.

Ranjurm said...

"But if you make a mistake, never expect anybody else to return it, and certainly don't ask them to return your money."


I have to disagree with this sentiment. There is no reason but a 30 copper postage to stop you from asking for some money back. There is a good chance you will get something back from trying. You have nothing to lose from trying and plenty to gain if you should succeed. Now you should never expect anything in return but you should always try to get something back.

Observ said...

I had something like this just this weekend. I was buying Arctic Fur's for 80g a piece (AH is arround 100 - 110). A guy sent me 2 of them with also the price. So i sent him back his 160g + 160g from me explaining his mistake.
Next thing i received from him 20 Arctic furs for 60g a piece (1200g) total. That makes me 800g. So basically yes, do send back if he is an valuable supplier.

Chris said...

I agree. He deserves nothing. I recently had something similiar happen to me, but I was the one undercutting. I bought Level 70+ greens for 5g DE'd into Greater Cosmic Essences saw there were some out there already I wanted easy money posted for 18g instead of 23g. The guy that had the ones for 23g actually whisper'd me and told me I was the reason why America's Economy is so messed up. My reply that 13g is still a large profit. He continued to call me names and things for 10 more minutes. Telling me I was uneducated and didn't know how the market works. I followed by pulling all my greater cosmics from the bank and listing them 1 copper under his bid price but 3-4g over his Buy Out price. They all sold. :-)