Welcome back, Speculators!
Today's article harks back to an article I wrote previously which peeked at moral dilemmas in trading. The idea for this article came from this reddit thread in which I got to glimpse the opinions of quite a few traders/speculators. It was interesting to see different people's opinions regarding trading ethics.
To make this more interesting I'll do a breakdown of the reasoning behind said opinions. I'll follow each with a possible counterpoint.
Don't Rip Off Kids
This one is actually pretty unanimous. It seems everyone agrees that taking advantage of children is wrong on all counts. There is no acceptable reasoning behind trading a small child with no understanding of value five $0.5 cards for a $50 card; on this everyone agreed.
Counterpoint: None. Everyone (save the sociopaths) believe this is a no-no. What I find most interesting about this is the unanimity itself. As humans we have a natural tendency to protect the young (even those not our own), which is shown in this uniform agreement. And for even the sociopaths, some reditt users brought up potential legal ramifications of ripping kids off.
Trading with Kids
This one is interesting as well. Some players won't trade with kids period (likely out of fear that they accidentally rip them off) and others who fear that ignoring potential traders (no matter the age) is rude.
The other issue you might run into when trading with kids is that while some understand the concept of value, others may not and there's often no way to tell before you begin trading. It's also somewhat disheartening when they get their minds set on something they can't afford. Nothing feels more awkward than having to tell a kid that they can't have that card they really really want because they don't have anything relevant.
Counterpoint: This is a challenging one. I know a few kids who are very savvy traders and I'm sure they'd do even better if they weren't pigeonholed due to their age. I usually won't refuse to trade with kids I am exceedingly cautious.
Here we have a bit of divergence. Similar to ripping off little kids, most players seem to feel that newer players shouldn't be taken advantage of as it's also likely that they do not have a strong understanding of value. However, the key word in that statement is "most".
Some players feel that once a person is legally an adult (over 18) they are now responsible for their own decisions and any lack of information regarding card prices is not up to the opposing trader to divulge.
Their argument is often based on the fact that information is often what makes things valuable (I for example would not have my current job without my Mechanical Engineering degree). Thus, their reasoning is that since they possess more knowledge than their fellow trader, that constitutes "value" that they've earned.
Counterpoint: The problem I have with this argument is that unlike information gained via hard work and studying on your part, you're really punishing someone else for not having done the same. That would be like looking at someone who didn't go to college as "deserving to be homeless" because they didn't go.
A person's age does not guarantee they have a solid understanding of value. You can look at the high amount of credit card debt held by people in their 20's to 30's and find evidence that many adults lack strong understanding of money and finances.
The fact that many people who accept the pretense of "they should know it," won't trade with family or friends is (to me) a subconscious way of actually saying they know it's wrong because they wouldn't subject those they care about to the same practice.
Interjecting in Lopsided Trades
This is an interesting issue because it addresses situations where you yourself are not ripping off anyone, but instead are witnessing it. It makes you question whether you're morally wrong to simply watch or allow something wrong to occur.
Many players are timid individuals and when they see this sort of trade going on two thoughts pop into their heads:
- Well it's not me doing the ripping off and I don't want to ruin my chances to trade with either of the people.
- There's someone who might have some other good stuff and doesn't understand the value (a.k.a. blood in the water).
Counterpoint: I'll leave you with a famous quote by Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
Misleading Price Quotes
I read several players' posts who had no moral quandary with answering falsely when their trade partner asked them prices on cards they wanted. This could mean either inflating their own card prices or reducing their partners prices.
Often their logic is, "well they might not be lying depending on what site their opponent uses." To me this is just as scummy as using one site to price your own cards and another to price your trade partners' (which also falls into this category). Often the argument is that it isn't technically lying since both prices are valid.
Counterpoint: Using different sites to value cards in a trade is comparing apples to oranges and hoping your trade partner doesn't realize it. Some stores charge more for all their cards so if you use the same store to price both trade piles they should come out relatively evenly. However, when you use a store that overcharges for one pile and then one with low prices for another you are forcing a discrepancy. Forcing price discrepancies is basically stealing from your trade partner.
Many of us follow the guidelines that come summer we should offload rotating Standard staples while they still have value. Nothing kills value like rotation, so many traders really push the rotating staples come summer time. The irony is that the market then becomes flooded with people trying to unload the same cards, which causes prices to drop earlier than rotation.
The question then becomes where to draw the line of "ripping off." If you know a $20 card will drop to $5 when it rotates out, you can either 1) assume your trade partner knows it but really needs it and remain silent, or 2) tell your trade partner that it is in fact rotating out and risk not getting rid of it. The challenge becomes, "how far from rotation can you be okay with #1?"
Counterpoint: This one is really tough because there are often times when the die-hard tournament players need a staple for an upcoming tournament (or collection of tournaments). I often try to gauge why the person wants the card. There is risk to that because you can no longer claim "ignorance is bliss" when your trade partner expresses amazement that you're trading all four copies of the powerful cards they've wanted for months but no one would trade.
However, the good news is going about it this way will prevent you from suffering from guilt, which is always worth a potential failed trade. I also like to throw these cards up on eBay to sell. While the same person who doesn't know about rotation might be buying them, it's far more likely to be tournament grinders, as the people who are amazed at playsets of a staple tend to be more casual players and thus far less likely to buy cards online.
Some people seem to take issue with trades due to a knowledge gap. The two camps tend to base acceptance on "risk to you." Most people don't seem to take issue when the trade involves higher-risk cards, the ones that might break out or alternately bust and rot in a binder. But when there is little risk, for example picking up Modern staples before Modern season, they take issue.
Counterpoint: This situation arises a lot for speculators. However, in the end, the act of speculating constitutes taking on risk. There is no guarantee of a card's success, just different levels of likelihood of success. A good speculator targets the cards with either a high likelihood of success or a high reward should they succeed. Different speculators have different tolerances for risk.
In this regard I may diverge from the redditt pack in that I feel that I'm taking on some risk by picking up speculation targets so I use my knowledge to succeed. I won't quote false prices or lie if people ask me values, but if I think a card's price will go up I'll trade to pick up all the copies I can, and often I'll tell my trade partner I'm speculating on the card.