In the past, I’ve written at length about the rapid rise in MTG finance speculators and the resulting impact on the game. An interesting dynamic is created – one which is relatively unique as far as hobbies go.
This week, while nearly every other finance writer dives into their predictions for Avacyn Restored’s upcoming impact on the MTG financial market, I look to deviate and discuss a different topic. One related to the relationship between finance speculators and the broader MTG community.
Most members of the MTG community are aware of our presence. Casual and competitive players alike can either avoid this fact or embrace it. Either way, there is a growing population of players who are seeking to profit from this beloved card game.
As a value-trader / profit-seeker / greedy person, however you want to spin it, my trading experiences have varied heavily from one individual to the next. Some exchanges have been augmented by the acknowledgment that I have decent availability of the hottest cards and I may trade them at a small premium. Other exchanges have become quite awkward because of this same recognition.
I have two recent anecdotes to share along these lines. I will share my immediate reactions, my actual responses and the end result. Then I will brainstorm other potential ways of handling these situations and I’ll even elicit comments from all of my readers, who have surely had similar experiences in the past.
Anecdote 1: The Pitfall of Twitter Uncovered?
By now, most of you know I am an avid user of Twitter. I have ambitions to increase my follower base and have a truly measurable influence on the MTG community.
I try to drive awareness of my “Twitter-dom” in various ways – some subtle and some (see above) not so subtle.
One subtle way is the inclusion of my Twitter handle in my signature on my MOTL account. Whenever I send someone a private message, my Twitter handle is included on the bottom of the page. I am not ashamed of this tactic and honestly I doubt it gets noticed.
One MOTL member ended up doing much more than noticing. While in the midst of some negotiations on a purchase I was aiming to make, this member looked at my Twitter feed and noticed I am a value-seeker. Upon this recognition, he wrote to me his apprehension with proceeding with the trade because he realized my motivations for buying may have been strictly financial.
This was a first for me. I could certainly understand the seller’s concern – as a person who seeks to profit from this hobby, my interest in his cards imply that perhaps his prices are a bit too low. It completely alters my perspective on this interaction. If I were in his shoes, I would certainly consider negotiating higher prices on my cards knowing a potential “shark” was interested.
Concerned I may have offended the seller, I promptly responded in a reassuring way. I explained that my intent was not to immediately sell his cards for profit – in fact, I needed the Vendilion Clique in the deal in order to complete my playset. (By the way, doesn’t Vendilion Clique seem like a great hoser for the new “miracle” ability? Nice Temporal Mastery).
This seemed to settle the seller to some degree and the deal was agreed upon. Now when I receive the cards I will be faced with a tough situation. My plan is to follow through on my promise and seek to trade the cards at a local tournament rather than sell for profit on MOTL. But is this the right decision? Taking a step back, could I have approached this confrontation in a way which would have netted me the cards while not pigeonholing myself into a tough spot?
Recall I don’t want to upset other members of the community here. I don’t think we’re bad people for wanting to buy cards from others and attempt to sell them for more. Larger stores sustain their existence with this model, and I think the fact that I have the means to make moderate purchases on the fly is a service to be provided to sellers in desperate need to offload cards. I can certainly understand how this stigma has formed – if I sell cards to a shark, I must be getting ripped off.
Anecdote 2: Some People Just Don’t Want to Negotiate
I frequently sell cards on MOTL – it’s an efficient way of moving cards without the fees of eBay and the lowball prices of retailer buy lists. I strive to be reasonable with prices, at times settling with a 0 profit margin just to make another contact in the community.
I once made a fairly substantial sale (~$100) to another MOTL member. I had priced the card fairly, no negotiations were necessary. Besides, the buyer and I had chatted through Twitter in the past so we were on agreeable terms
Over a year later, I was impulsively interested in purchasing a Grim Tutor. After a couple failed attempts at acquiring one, I came across a sale list with a competitive price. Even though the price was fair, I saw little harm in attempting to negotiate a few bucks in savings.
Was this an appropriate step to take? Although the price was fair and I wanted the card, my profit-seeking instincts kicked in and drove me to attempt a better price. It is natural for me to seek the best deal on a card. In my opinion, settling for the asking price is a true shame unless you’re making a speculative purchase where you hope for the price to rise.
Wrong or not, my negotiation attempt was not received well. It turns out the seller was that same MOTL member who had previously made a substantial purchase from my list without seeking to negotiate. Perhaps rightfully so, the seller was offended at my attempt to negotiate on what was already a competitively priced card.
I hadn’t meant to anger my once-Twitter-compatriot, I quickly apologized and agreed to his sale price. Almost out of shame for my actions, I was compelled to make this purchase.
My apology was accepted and the relationship was mended. I purchased the card and we parted ways at worst neutrally. Now I am left to wonder if I had behaved inappropriately and if my decision to purchase the card was strictly out of emotion. Again, I have no desire to anger members of the MTG community and here is another example of me attempting to keep peace.
Similarly to before I now possess this card which I no longer need and feel funny selling for profit. Doesn’t it feel “dirty” sometimes to buy cards from someone on MOTL and immediately place them back on the site at a higher price? This is a practice I try to avoid yet acknowledge is necessary at times to make quick profit.
Does this act cross the moral boundary?
Picking Up the Pieces
These experiences have reshaped my perceptions. Value-traders are not universally lauded for their transparency and broad card availability. Many people frown upon our habits. While this comes as no surprise, these recent experiences cause me to question my own behaviors.
Perhaps I am not carrying myself professionally in these circumstances? Perhaps I am seeking out financial gains too overtly and aggressively? Or perhaps I simply care too much about what others think about me?
Either way, I am glad to be made aware of these perceptions. Now I am left to decide how to proceed. But before I do, I want to compare my moral compass with others in the community. What do other people think about how I handled these situations?
I eagerly await your suggestions.