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Trade skill crusader brings back customer service and sweat equity to crafting

Vial of the Sands
WoW players today tend to consider the deterioration of the in-game community in terms of relatively recent influences like the Dungeon Finder and then the Raid Finder. We sometimes forget that design tweaks and new systems have been chipping away at the paradigm of Azeroth as a place to forge ongoing personal relationships for years now. Take a gander at the beginning of this analysis I wrote on the death of the Azerothian salesman all the way back in the hyper-modern era of The Burning Crusade circa 2007:

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?

Most WoW players would agree that convenience and self-service is the way of today's game. But for one stubborn tradesman on Sentinels (US), life as an Azerothian salesman is anything but obsolete. Daen, a dedicated craftsman and proprietor of Daen's Crafting Emporium, single-handedly maintains what may be one of World of Warcraft's last remaining bastions of personal craftsmanship and trade skill service -- with a twist. This proprietor not only aims to provide personal service, but he does it at no charge, with the insistence that customers devote sweat equity to their mutual creations as well.

DaenMain character I don't really have one. My warlock Daenar is my oldest, and my paladin Daenzu is my most commonly used.
Guild Portals of the Nether
Realm Sentinels (Horde)
Roster of profession specialists
  • Daenzu Enchanting and jewelcrafting
  • Daenpo Tailoring and alchemy (max archaeology)
  • Daenha Skinning and leatherworking (max first aid)
  • Daenuk Mining and blacksmithing
  • Daenex Herbalism and inscription
  • Daenis Skinning and engineering (Goblin)
  • Daenar Mining and engineering (Gnome) (max cooking and fishing)
  • Daenaf, Daengo and Daenyc Varied professions but none maxed out
WoW Insider: What is it about crafting that's so appealing to you, Daen, that you've created this daily emporium for your customers? Would you say that your overall goal is maximum efficiency, maximum customer service, or simple satisfaction of interaction with other players?

Daen: My overall goal in the game (and in real life, by extension) is to provide the best example I can to the most people possible. If I can positively affect even one person, I've succeeded. The Crafting Emporium is merely the most recent and most effective attempt at that goal. I started out with a transportation service (using warlocks and mages to get people around quickly), then ran a dungeon run service for lower-level people and ended up with the Emporium.

As for the Emporium itself, my overall goal is customer service, but that's tempered by my desire for people to improve themselves. For example, I refuse to simply take someone's gold, buy materials with it, and give them the end result. I insist that they put enough effort into it to actually have some satisfaction with the result. It's earned me a few enemies, but I don't mind. Even if they don't like me very much, I'm still affecting them in a positive way, in my opinion at least.

Doing an enchant
So would you consider yourself primarily a roleplayer? Do you see running the emporium as a roleplaying activity, or do you simply prefer to interact personally with other players?

I'm definitely a roleplayer. I've long enjoyed RPGs such as D&D (various versions), D20, or Star Wars and World of Darkness, as well as several gaming systems I created for various occasions. However, I never really got into RP in-game. It always seemed way too distant for my liking. The Emporium isn't an RP activity, as a result. I do very much enjoy interacting with other players, customers or not, especially when they're confused as to why I run it.

How much of your business happens via direct customer interaction, as opposed to the Auction House?

Almost all of my business is done directly. People whisper me or use my name in trade, and we set things up. Most times, they have the materials ready and waiting before they contact me. I also get limited business done via in-game mail, for people whose schedules don't match mine. Pretty much every day, I get lockboxes in my rogue's mail to be unlocked and returned. The Auction House isn't something I use often. Most of the time, I only use it to sell leftover materials from my crafting: elemental materials, excess cloth, pets from my Sholazar quests, that sort of thing.

Public Service Announcement
Do you use trade chat much? How clear is the trade channel on your realm -- is it difficult to work around trolling and spam?

I use trade a great deal, in fact -- every five minutes for my Emporium, and I watch that channel very closely. Some people don't whisper me so much as just say my name in trade, so I've learned to be careful. In the past, I've had problems with gold sellers spamming their messages, but Blizzard's relatively recent limit on posts has cut them down a great deal. Trolling is still something of a nuisance, but nothing more. Unfortunately, trade has been pretty quiet in the past few months. I'm hoping that changes with more content added to the game.

Do you compete at all with the power players of the Auction House on your realm? What are relationships like between traders there?

I've had some dealings with auctioneers over the years. Most seem pretty even-tempered, but they're very hostile with each other, as I've seen. The fact that the Emporium is strictly nonprofit helps me a great deal. They don't see me as a threat, despite the low prices I put on my excess materials. They know they can simply buy me out and repost my materials, and I won't mind. They know that gold (and money, for that matter) means very little to me.

Have you always been a production crafter in WoW?

I had several activities I ran regularly -- mage buses, summoning services, and dungeon runs. I even ran a few recreational activites like scavenger hunts, hide and seek, and firework/spellwork shows. The Emporium is merely my most recent long-term activity, started about 14 months ago.

Daenar's the oldest character I still have (deleted the starting troll characters), started about a month before The Burning Crusade was released, but he started out as a miner/blacksmith. I wanted to make my characters interdependent, but I became frustrated with the bind on pickup items on the smithing list. I eventually switched to engineering and made the rest of my professions relevant to the classes they played (smithing for my warrior, enchanting for my blood elf, etc).

Pretty much all my efforts in crafting started out for my own benefit only. I only created the Emporium after my mage buses and summoning activities became less popular and helpful. Since I don't value gold, I've never really made items just to sell to people.

Staring down death
When did you start branching out into multiple professions on multiple characters?

I started branching out character professions as soon as I made them, because I used the professions to get equipment for all my characters. I joked with my roommate that I was a self-contained economy. I leveled up all of my characters simultaneously -- two to three levels difference, max. The exception is Daenyc, my death knight, since I couldn't level him up until after Wrath of the Lich King was released.

Do you try to farm your own materials, or is their source of little or no importance to you?

As a matter of pride, I always like to gather my own materials, but I'm not above shelling out gold to the Auction House if I'm in a time crunch. I've been hired before, back before Wrath of the Lich King, for my skinning services.

How important is recipe completionism to your personal satisfaction?

Recipe completionism is definitely important to me, but there are degrees of sanity I haven't lost to it yet. The fact that only rogue cooks can make Thistle Tea is something many cooks can't handle, for example. I'm especially interested in enchanting recipes which have been removed from the game, like the ones that dropped from the now-extinct four Nightmare Dragons. I regret that I didn't get those recipes before they were gone, and as they were bind on pickup, it's a permanently lost opportunity, especially as they're still in demand for their compatibility with heirloom items.

I even created a dwarven smith before Daenyc existed so that I could do his low-level smithing quests, get the recipe rewards, and use the neutral Auction House to transfer them to my Horde smith. I'm quite proud of the fact that my orc smith can make Ironforge Breastplates, and I've actually made one of those Alliance-only quest recipe items for someone, so I can claim that it's been useful.

Heirloom enchant
What about all those endgame recipes and ingredients? How do you handle those?

Endgame recipes have always been a problem for me for two reasons. Firstly, I deeply dislike doing dungeon runs with pickup groups (PUGs), and that includes raids. I just can't handle the rude behavior and general incompetence shown there. As a result, my only option is to purchase the recipes on the Auction House, but their prices are a bit on the insane side. Nonprofit may be a mark of pride for me, but it does hamper me a bit in that area.

When Icecrown Citadel was first released, I wanted very much to learn the recipes inside. I organized about three dozen separate reputation runs through the area, up to the first boss, to get the rep I needed to purchase them. We'd fight our way to Marrowgar, leave the dungeon, reset, and do it again. Because we never actually beat a boss, the raid lock was never activated. Unfortunately, those ICC recipes aren't used anymore, at least not often.

Tell us a little bit about your referral system for times you can't make something for a customer yourself. Is it all about lending a friendly hand, or do you have incentives or formal agreements in place to facilitate referrals?

Referrals are a valuable tool to me. I often ask people who have a recipe I never learned for their assistance, but I make sure they're willing to work for just the materials, as I do. It may sound self-centered, but I only refer people who share my methods.

Do you find that you've made much of a dent in today's Auction House-centric market? Do you get a significant number of repeat customers?

In general, I've had nothing but positive responses to my efforts, even before the Emporium started. People seem to enjoy the change in pace. I haven't noticed my activities changing the prices on the Auction House, but then I never really kept track of AH prices.

Some people have responded negatively to my efforts. They seemed to think I'm damaging the economy, but they're few in number. I don't mind, though. Being disliked doesn't upset me, just being ignored. I've lost track of the number of times I've put out an advertisement in trade, displaying my professions and saying they're free, only to see people continue put out general calls for help in trade. Either they don't believe me, or they don't know how to read. Both options amuse me.

Trade chat
When you're in game but not crafting, what would we find your characters doing?

If I'm online and not crafting, I'm working on my guild. It's not an easy task getting new recruits, though, since I want them to have values similar to mine. People generally don't have much interest in helping others, unfortunately. A lot of them view what I do as a job, and I do take it very seriously, but I don't like my job. I do like this activity. I'm content with having a small guild, though. I've had to rebuild Portals of the Nether from scratch several times over now, and I've learned that quality is always superior to quantity in a WoW guild.

Check in with Daen's latest offerings at Daen's Crafting Emporium.

"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn) ... a blind ex-serviceman and the guildmates who keep him raiding as a regular ... and a 70-year-old grandma who tops her raid's DPS charts as its legendary-wielding GM. Send your nominations to lisa@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Economy, Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

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