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Insider Trader: Death of a salesman

Insider Trader is your weekly inside line on making, selling, buying and using player-made products.

Forget the endless debate over "hardcore" versus "casual" – there's another moniker that we here at Insider Trader hold dear: "salesman." What's that? You don't know any salesmen in WoW these days? You're not alone. Times have changed since craftspeople toiled to build reputations as the go-to traders on their servers ... when Ironforge was the hub of civilization, where a few elite enchanters held court over the entire server with coveted formulae from such exotic locales as Stratholme and Scholomance.

It's a brave new world in today's Outland. Most enchanters don't enchant for the general public at all, unless you provide mats and a tip. And in any profession, with so many other players on the servers who have the same patterns (even rare patterns are generally available from more than one player) and so many easy ways to make money (hello, daily quests!), there's little reason to hang around town to build a regular clientele. Components provided or created by other professions are readily available on the Auction House – there's no need to seek out and nurture relationships with another player from a complementary profession.

Have the conveniences Blizzard has developed for today's crafters meant the death of the salesman?

Death of a salesman
I don't know how things are going on your server -- but where I play, nobody seems interested in crafting as a pastime in its own right anymore. Daily quests are the new money-making machine, and they're open to anyone, crafter or not. Player populations are high enough that most items and services are available from multiple sources at most times, on most servers.

What strikes me most about today's crafters is the air of aloof pragmatism, the pervasive idea of cranking up a profession in order to create a needed item or buff and then dropping that profession for something else.

Enchanting, the only profession that was designed to emphasize face-to-face transactions, is a telling example of how much things have changed. Enchanters today level up by enchanting their own gear over and over because paying customers are so scarce. Once they get the lay of the land, most 375 enchanters stop selling publicly at all, enchanting only for guildmates and friends (unless they're lucky enough to have a formula that's especially rare on their server). Disenchanting has become a mini-profession in its own right, especially since enchanters make more money selling mats than they do trying to sell enchants in a stagnant trade environment. Many players have their own enchanting alts to disenchant drops now, and sharding etiquette gives the whole PuG a shot at a shard. But the big change for enchanters is one that was announced at BlizzCon this August: enchanters will be able to create sellable items that players can use to enchant their own gear. While Blizzard says this system will only cover lower level enchants, it does lend an air of finality to what remains of the practice of hawking your wares in town.

Tips tap out
Complicating matters for salespeople is the unpleasant topic of tipping. Forum flaming, /ooc and /trade spam wars, badmouthing at all levels – when one player doesn't tip the way another player thinks is appropriate, things go downhill fast. But if you're unfamiliar with the demands of a particular profession, how do you know what's kosher and what's not? Hard to say. What's appropriate varies from server to server and evolves over time -- sometimes as quickly as a matter of days or weeks, as servers access new and more potent content and recipes. How's a poor casual orc supposed to keep up with the times?

While many players belong to guilds with considerable crafting resources, players who truly need the services of other players do still come to the cities in search of trades. Those who do must brave the WoW economy's latest challenge: the ugly state of tipping today. Tipping used to be the way to make a profit from trades. Today, it's most often considered an optional courtesy, although plenty of debate still rages over whether or not crafters should ask for "tips" or "fees." The general consensus seems to tip toward tipping ... But how much?

Like the players who consider playing the market on the Auction House a mini-game within WoW, there are still diehard craftspeople who think the process of buying, selling and creating is enjoyable in and of itself. Those tradesfolk may be going the way of the Molten Core raider, however, in the face of faster and easier ways to make money ... higher server populations with more widespread pattern availability ... the proliferation of multiple alts to handle multiple professions ... and the sheer attraction of more new content at all levels. For the old-fashioned salesman of Azeroth, it may be curtain time.

Insider Trader's Lisa Poisso is a writer and editor, when she's not wondering what to do with her time now that nobody stands around hawking services in the trade channel anymore.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, WoW Social Conventions, Economy, Making money, Insider Trader (Professions)

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