Art of Haggle: the Hagglee
Last night, as I was collecting the spoils of sold Darkmoon cards, I noticed an established raider saying in Trade chat “WTB Darkmoon Card: Volcano.” The first thing I did was head to the AH to check if I had been undercut on my own Volcano deck. Seeing that I was the only seller up, I quickly canceled my current auction with it’s 18500g buyout and relisted for 22000g. Smiling to myself on a job well done, I prepared to check in on my other alts. Before I could log though, I got the whisper.
…the dreaded, dread whisper.
I am going to let you in on a dark secret: I am terrible at haggling. Brutal, cut-throat AH PvP? Does not phase me a bit. My exorbitant prices leave poverty and destitution in its wake? Don’t care. I mean, hell, I smelled blood in Trade chat waters and ate the 6g deposit fee to jack up my Volcano price by 3500g (nearly 20%) to capitalize on the potential desperation. Part of that comes from my over-arching philosophy that is summarized by the title of this blog, e.g. player versus auction house. I am playing against the AH, not the individuals that make up the AH. When I repost, undercut, or engage in social engineering for my personal benefit, I do so in Solipsism Mode – treating the game as single-player with AI bots that clearly (okay, mostly) pass the Turing Test.
This is a self-defense mechanism as, generally speaking, I am a big softie that is receptive to social guilt. I don’t succumb to the “total chump” level of eating a loss, but I’ll feel bad about it later… and later still will be angry at myself for not drawing a harder line.
Lucky for me, the raider short-circuited any possible guilt mechanisms by going straight for the “Okay, bottom line, what’s the lowest you would be willing to go?” line. For future reference in any haggling you do, that is a bad opening gambit. Insulting, even. If you don’t want to haggle, buy it off the AH at the premium my time and your convenience demands. “Did you have any Waves cards to trade?” I asked the question because in Trade he specified he would be willing to swap decks. As it turns out, he only had the Hurricane deck, of which I had three unsold sitting up on the AH already. The Tsunami deck is a slam-dunk for every type of healer, but I was missing the A, 2, 6, 7, and 8 of the deck. “Which ones do you need?” I specify the five missing cards, having already looked at their prices on the AH and noting that the 6, 7, and 8 alone add up to ~15,000g (with obviously no competition). “If you don’t have Waves cards to trade, lowest price is 17,000g.” My prior Volcano posting was 18,500g which meant the bid was ~14,800g before I canceled it. At 22,000g buyout, the bid floor is now 17,600g. Selling at 17kg is 2125g per card; assuming 7g for Volatile Life, that means 191.5g per Inferno Ink, 19.15g for Blackfallow, and any stack of herbs below 153g that mills into three Blackfallow and half an Inferno would be profitable.
No, I did not actually calculate all that at the time.
Looking back, a successful 17,600g bid would end up giving me 16,720g assuming a 5% AH cut, so I could have offered less than 17kg and came out ahead. Then again, I would prefer the full 22,000g or, you know, as much as humanly possible. The haggling ended in a draw with no exchange taking place other than me telling him the name of my main in case he changed his mind. I anticipate him doing exactly that, insofar as saying “screw it” and buying my auction straight-up or finding a different seller altogether. Even in a nightmare scenario in which I never ever find a buyer at any price, the Volcano trinket is still extraordinarily powerful for Elemental shaman and warlocks generally (among others), both of which I have. Had this been an item I could not ever possibly have an interest in, say Crimson Deathcharger or epic spellcasting leather or something, my (internal) bargaining position would have been weaker.
You might wonder why I would bring up this topic at all given my lack of ability/confidence in this position. Well… obviously to get better at it. Everyone has to start somewhere, eh? If I were to distill all the above into bite-size, homework-esque bullet-points, it would look something like this:
- If you are bad/nervous/unconfident at haggling, acknowledge it. To yourself, not the other guy.
- You don’t actually have to haggle. The reason why you might want to is that theoretically the haggler is a guaranteed sale within a certain price range. It just comes down to finding the perimeter of their price range and seeing if it overlaps your selling range. Speaking of that…
- Figure out your selling range. Start at the top, which is the lowest price of any competing products. If there is no competition, the sky’s the limit, although you may want to cap it at the highest price you reasonably believe it could go for on the AH. The bottom level of your selling range should be whatever price you believe the item would sell for instantly on the AH. Alternatively, you could choose the current or historical price of materials, whichever is higher, plus 10%. You are not running a non-profit here, so unless you can repair your gear with the warm fuzzies you get from charity work, make sure to get paid for your time. Once you have both ranges, ignore the low one and offer AH price -10%. You figured out the low-end price just in case the haggler came back with a lower counter-offer.
- Information is everything. If the buyer is desperate, that gives you information, namely that he/she will probably go higher than normal. Same thing works in reverse. Have you seen people in Trade say “WTS X, 1000g or best offer, pst”? That’s dumb, no one is going to offer them 1000g straight-up after an opening like that. Why not? Because the seller gave away the information that they will accept less than their original target.
Next time, I will go over the other side of the coin: being the haggler.