Last weekend at the Star City Games Open in Kansas City, I spent Saturday evening working the trading tables before playing in the Legacy Open on Sunday. Most of my trading partners were a pleasure to work with, and some were even practicing methods we write about here on QS.
But today I want to talk about a trader who didn’t act that way. He was the typical bully trader, even going so far as to hassle a young kid right in front of me. I want to talk about how I handled the situation, other ways to handle it, and what these type of people mean to the trading community and Magic at-large.
Here’s the situation. I’m trading with a player (picking up my first-ever dual land) and a child, maybe 10-12, comes over and asks to trade. I tell him that if he doesn’t mind waiting a few minutes, I would be happy to trade with him. He waits while I complete my current trade.
I look through the kid’s binder and hand him my own. He has a very small collection with nothing worth more than $5. He pulls out a few cards from mine, all in the $12-15 range, and says that’s all he wants. I politely decline to trade with him and he sits at the table and starts talking to another trader.
This is when Damien (our fictional-but-fitting name for an unscrupulous trader) comes over after seeing my binder. He starts talking loudly about the cards he wants from my binder and starts to say things like “Come on, man, you have plenty. Just trade already.” For starters, this type of approach has never worked on me, but I agree to swap binders all the same.
At this point I’ve already decided to take a hard stance with this trader, based on the way he was acting. I like to take a more casual approach to trading, since trading and the Magic scene in general are about much more to me than winning tournaments or making money. With that said, I know how to trade with sharks, and Damien’s discourse placed him firmly in that category.
As I’m flipping through his binder and Damien continued making assertions that I should just trade him all my good cards, I started asking him his values on the cards in his binder. It’s at this point that I started to give up entirely.
Obviously this is ridiculous. I actually started asking him about cards just to see if he priced everything at literally double its highest retail value (Nope, he only had Tarmogoyf at $80.
By this point I’ve already made up my mind about Damien, but to be polite, I informed him that the SCG dealer both was selling these cards at roughly half of what he valued them at. His response, “So?”
I think that’s enough of a description, since you all know the type of trader I’m talking about. At this point, I knew I wasn’t going to be doing any trading with Damien, and I actually took a few minutes to flip through his binder and contemplate my next move. There was a crowd of people around me while this was happening, some of who knew I write for QS, and I felt it was important to handle this situation in a tactful manner.
So I told Damien I was sorry to take up his time, but I couldn’t trade with him. He pressed me for a more definitive answer, and I just put it simply, “I can’t trade with you at those prices.” I turned away and removed myself from the conversation.
Then Damien starts asking the kid if he’ll trade with him. The kid says no, and Damien continued to pressure him. At this point I started to legitimately get upset, because it’s one thing to be a card shark and another to bully a kid. I turned around and said “Look, he really doesn’t want to trade, okay?” Damien’s reply: “Look man, take it easy, why doesn’t he want to trade?”
Of course I wanted to reply with something similar to “Because you’re an asshole,” but after that I considered a few other lines of play.
Tell Damien it’s really not cool to try and rip people off
The problem with this is that Damien doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about the kid he’s ripping off, doesn’t care about what a card’s actual price is, doesn’t care what impression he’s giving off, and he certainly doesn’t care about what I tell him.
I would feel better if I attacked Damien, but in the end it’s not going to make a difference. My brain works on a pretty simple axis – if I could realistically change Damien’s mind or his trading methods, I would work at doing so. Since it’s pretty obvious I can’t, I have no problem writing him off and saving my time and energy. It’s simply not worth the time to argue with a person like this.
One other thing – I say “ripping off,” because this is not an example of someone assigning personal value to cards based on their value to him, it’s someone exploiting others to take their money. I know it’s a very fine line in theory, but trust me; it’s very easy to spot the difference in person.
Explain to Damien that no one is going to trade with him at his inflated prices
I nearly started into this conversation with him. While this is preferable to the previous approach, it’s really not going to do anything to change the situation. It would be more helpful to those watching, but I decided I didn’t want to give Damien any more of my time. So I took the third approach, and the one that is most difficult to do.
I walked away.
Why walking away is hard – and why you have to do it
Traders like Damien are like the typical playground bully or Internet troll, only more dangerous because they are after your money. They don’t operate on a set of moral values, and they are terrible for the Magic community, not to mention the bad name they give the trading community. And like the adage goes, you can’t feed the trolls.
It’s difficult to get away from this situation without railing at Damien. You know the damage he’s causing to himself, to you and to the Magic community. But these people are going to do what they do regardless of what you say to them, and they’re going to do it in arenas outside of Magic as well. It is only by ignoring them and passing the message along to others that we can clean up the community.
So how do we pass the message along? By attacking Damien in front of a crowd? As satisfying as that is, it’s not the best method. Instead, I went back to the group of people I was talking to and simply told them to be very careful if they chose to trade with him. I understand that this is a very small-scale approach to tackling this problem, but it is the first step to removing these people from the game, starting at the ground level.
I know this week is devoid of any specific tips on cards, but I take the issue of the integrity of the trading community very seriously, and I wanted to get it out there that these types of traders must be handled in a professional and mature way.
Next week I’ll begin diving into Mirrodin Besieged spoilers!
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