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Insider Trader: Just the tip

So, there you are. You stand near your faction's favorite commerce hub. You're hawking your enchanting skills over the Trade channel, doing your very best to get pick up a few customers in between rapid fire Saurfang jokes and not-so-sly murloc references. Then, finally you see these words: "LF Enchanter for Greater Assault, have mats. Will tip."

You drop the person a quick whisper, group up to make it a little easier to find them, and then enchant their bracers with that sweet, sweet attack power. They thank you and place the tip in a trade window . . . 2 gold. Before you can even blink, the person breaks group, and logs out. It could be worse -- sometimes, you feel like you're lucky to get even 1 gold for your time.

Especially with the Dungeon Finder making gathering enchanting materials easier for everyone, craftsmen are finding themselves struggling to earn cash via the old tipping method. After all, enchanters are no longer the single-flow hub of getting enchanting reagents. And while enchanters are the long-traditional tipped craftsmen, Jewelcrafters, Inscription practitioners, and just about all professions are in the same boat.

How do you get tips? How do you handle the tips? What goes into a tip? Let's take a look behind the jump and start breaking down the ancient art of supplying tips.

The Myths

Let's start by looking at the myths about tipping. One of my favorite forum-based arguments for why a tradesperson shouldn't be extravagantly tipped is that you're paying for them to "press a single button." Like all good myths, there's a grain of truth in that argument. After all, all the professional is doing right now is pressing "Create."

But you're also paying for time, effort, availability, and any other number of things. You're paying (in some respect) for the time that enchanter spent getting their skill up to a sufficient level. You're paying for that person's time to come meet you in a capital city. You're paying for the person to stand there with you, instead of being in a raid picking up more Emblems of Frost.

Really, though, what you're paying for is convenience. You're paying that person to use an ability on your character sheet which you could have done yourself. There's nothing stopping anyone from levelling up a master tradesperson in every single available profession. Of course, that would be inconvenient and an immense timesink. However, when you're tipping someone, you're saying "Thanks for keeping me from having to level my own jewelcrafter, and for hanging out in Dalaran with me."

My next favorite myth about tipping is that it's more expensive than just shopping for items in the Auction House. I guess on some servers the Auction House could be so cheap that it's a constant funnel of nearly free character improvement. On a whim, I checked out Enchant Bracers - Great Assault on a few different servers. Every time, the enchant was several hundred gold. That enchant only takes 24 Infinite Dust and some essences. That's only a couple Heroics worth of materials, really.

So, for the cost of half that on the Auction House, you can hit a couple Heroics and just tip someone from the Trade Channel. Now, you're supplying mats, so the cost of goods will no longer be a factor. But nobody works for free, and instead of millking margin through the Auction House, you're paying for the work via tip. It's usually cheaper this way, but you should still pony up a little cash to the crafter.

The Amount

The big struggle that I see about tipping is "I don't know how much." I have two different methods for deciding how much I'm going to tip a crafter.

The first option is probably the most "fair." I look up the cost of goods on the Auction House and then look for the pre-created item at the same time. I then cut that profit in half, and offer that amount as a tip on the trade channel. That's a fairly equitable way of doing it since I could find someone to do it cheaper. And by finding someone to do it cheaper, I'd be removing the profit of this work from the crafter's revenue stream. Making half profit is better than making no profit.

Still, doing all that can take a lot of work. My favorite method of tipping is what I think of as being the "daily equivalent." Your average daily quest seems to net about 13 gold. For most run of the mill enchants, jewels, or inscriptions, I'll tip the person one daily. (That is to say, I'll tip 13 gold.)

If the enchant is one of the more special enchants (I usually judge that by whether it takes an Abyss Crystal or some other weird reagent), I'll tip two dailies. (That's 26 gold.)

If I'm getting someone to build something really fancy, I'll tip three dailies. For example, I'd drop an engineer 39 gold (probably 40 to round up) to help me make a mechano-hog. (I'd actually go to 4 or 5 dailies, if the engineer has to fetch the materials for me.)

Again, giving someone 40 gold for a motorized chopper probably seems a little cheap. But I always could find a guildie or other friendly person to make it for free. 40 gold isn't nothing, and I think tends to be a pretty fair amount.

Setting expectations

So, we've talked a little bit about why the customer should tip, and how much the customer should tip. What we've not talked about yet is whether it's fair to tell someone up front that you expect a tip. My answer is pretty simple. If you want a tip, you should say so right up front. "I will do this for a tip." It might seem rude to say you expect a gratuity, but I would think it's a dozen times more rude to expect one and then be upset if you didn't get it.

It's okay to even say how much of a tip you'd like. "Enchanting with your mats for 10g a pop by Stormwind Bank" is a pretty simple phrase to throw out on the trade channel. You may find yourself in a pricing competition on the Trade channel, in which case you'll have to be a little more sneaky. But usually, I'd expect that to work out just fine.

You'll be surprised how much business you drum up by setting this expectation ahead of time. Folks who just want to get their gear enchanted, but don't want to haggle, may thank you for your earnestness.

Summary

Tipping is just a fact of life for many professions. It's how they make their money. Tradespeople are not out to gouge anyone, but if they're not making at least a little cash, they won't be out there for hire.

What about you, gentle readers? How do you handle tips in your professions?

Each week, Insider Trader takes you behind the scenes of the bustling sub-culture of professional craftsmen, examining the profitable, the tragically lacking, and the methods behind the madness.

Filed under: Insider Trader (Professions)

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