Gold-making has a lot to do with numbers and math and other such things. Then there's lots of game mechanics to take into consideration. But one of the biggest aspects of gold-making that doesn't get the amount of discussion you'd expect is the interpersonal dynamics involved. Be it an intricate undercut, repost, modify fallback to attempt to change your competitor's posting habits setup or an actual conversation we are, in one way or another, interacting with other players; both buyers and other sellers. How these relationships are managed are of the utmost importance to gold-making success.
Like in life, there are a lot of different types of people and even more ways of dealing with them. I'm going to do a little series of the people who have contacted me in-game (or those I have contacted) and what came of our discussions. Names have been changed to protect the foolish.
Ah, Bernard. Bernard's been around for a while, actually. I used to compete with his hunter on belt buckles and other crafted Blacksmith pieces but he wasn't really a big deal; he'd hit the AH hard for a while then fade away, as fair-weather gold-makers are wont to do.
I do believe he's been successful over time, either that or is just incredibly lucky because he has one of the only Mini Tyrael pets on Argent Dawn which, in my mind, is the badge of a rich gold-maker. Anyone can get a Spectral Tiger at this point; it's the Tyraels that are truly rare in my eyes. So when I would see him pop up, while I knew he wouldn't be a real pain in my side, I also didn't shrug him off as I would any other fair-weather competitor. In fact, you could even say he intimidated me a little bit.
Until he opened his mouth.
At some point during this encounter I rolled my eyes so hard I damaged the area of my brain that regarded Bernard as a threat.
The very brief backstory is that most gems on my server have been doing pretty well; no one's owning the market (myself included) and there's a good amount of profit going around. I do probably get more sales than most but I certainly don't have any form of control like I do with glyphs.
For whatever reason Bernard decided today he wanted to be "that guy" and he took several valuable Vermillion Onyx cuts from 160-220g to about 65g. He started out with posting several per cut; his statements lead me to believe that he expected me to balk and back off for a while. However, I continued to post. After a few rounds of undercutting him he began posting only one per cut to save on deposits and/or mail fetching time, and as you can see he logged off within an hour of beginning his short-lived coup.
Let us count the ways in which Bernard screwed up here.
- Whispered me in the first place, "taunting" me while calling me by my main's name.
This is a multi-part screw up; let's hit each of them. First off, he called me Faid despite being on Misten. I don't hide my alt so I'm not bothered but in a game where people don't even really register the names of people other than guild-members and competitors it's pretty telling when someone calls you by your main's name while on your AH alt. It shows they care enough about who you are to determine your alts (even if it's not difficult) and that shows that you're under their skin for whatever reason. It also is frequently used as an intimidation tactic; a way of saying "That's right, I know who you are. I've got my eye on you." I'm not sure if that was Bernard's attempt, but it's a vibe I often get from such encounters.
So then he decided to tauntingly whisper me. This is a clear sign that what he's doing is not likely going to last. How does it say that? It shows he is doing this for a reaction. If this were market manipulation, similar to a glyph wall strategy, there would be no benefit in alerting the competition to what you're doing. After all, they'll see it as soon as they hit the AH. The only reason to goad competitors is if you care about what they are going to think/do in reaction, and you only care about their reaction if you're doing this for them, and not for yourself. Once you're able to determine that someone is undercutting you as a personal vendetta (either specifically targeted or meant to be about being "that guy") there are two very simple ways to combat him:
1) Not care. Just don't care. Continue as you normally would. Undercuts and low buyouts may dampen my profits but words will never drive me from a market. :P The thing we tell kids is that if you just ignore the bullies they won't have any fun and they'll stop beating you up. Now, I think that's kind of shitty advice to give a bullied kid but it works pretty well in the AH; if their entire desire is to make people balk the best thing you can do is deny them that satisfaction and keep on trucking. It goes very well with the second strategy:
2) Either explicitly say (only if you're already talking like we were) or implicitly show that their tactic is completely ineffective. If someone's goal is to rob others of profit; which Bernard specifically stated was his goal, then making it clear you are perfectly happy with the new, lower profit margins will take the wind from their sails pretty much instantly. Given the rate I pay for the ore I honestly consider 60g to be a pretty decent price. Of course I'd prefer 225g but I'll happily sell gems at 60g all day long and, given that fact, Bernard's tactic was incredibly /facepalm-worthy.
- Failure to Know Competition
Considering he cares enough to identify me and call me Faid I found it surprising he didn't have a clue when it came to my willingness to forego large profit margins long-term. I mean, I'm maintaining my glyph wall (currently @20g/ea) on the same character he's talking to/competing with. If he'd done half a second of research he'd see it's laughable to attempt to dissuade me by claiming he will forego profits long-term in order to keep prices low.
- Empty Threats
I consider a three month glyph wall to be a short-term endeavour. You can imagine how I feel when someone boasts about ruining the market and quits within an hour.
After Vermilliion Onyx he moved on to undercutting a few Sun's Radiance cuts, then logged off, and hasn't been seen since, at least not in any market I care about. I was back to 150g+ sales on my gems within two hours and everything is peachy.
If you are going to threaten a competitor with market manipulation you sure as hell better be ready to put your money where your mouth is when they call your bluff; otherwise you will never be taken seriously.
Bernard stands out to me as someone who did nothing but hurt themselves by approaching me. Sammy, from the previous post, may not have gained anything but he had nothing to lose. Before this exchange I was wary of Bernard when I saw him approach the AH but between his actions and his words on this morning just past he has lost that completely. It's the perfect example of why you should never approach competitors; you'll usually end up giving up more than you're getting.