As you may be aware of, a recent cheating scandal has rocked our beloved game in the most recent weeks. Trevor Humphries was suspected of (and admitted to in a subsequent Facebook rant) cheating at the SCG Open in Worcester, and the well-known Alex Bertoncini got thrown in the cell for another three years.
As I sat back and watched the community raise their pitchforks, I was saddened that people still have to resort to trying to game the system to obtain an unfair advantage. In the back of my mind, however, I thought for an instant (naively and stupidly, I know), “I’m so glad I switched to the finance game so I don’t have to deal with people cheating and lying to obtain an unfair advantage.” That thought bubble lasted for about two seconds before I realized that our finance game is no exception to the rule. We hear horror stories all the time of stores cancelling orders after a card spikes, as well as brag stories of, “Yo, I traded this 12-year-old a [card]Shivan Dragon[/card] for his [/card]Rishadan Port[/card] that his dad gave him. We both were happy with the deal, so it was totally fair, duuuude.” Neither of those are exactly the same thing as stacking an opponent’s deck during a match worth thousands of dollars, but I think we can agree that there’s a degree of scumbaggery in it all.
This week I’m gonna take advantage of the fact that everyone’s mind is focused on ethics and behavior for the moment, and take a look at some “Finance 101” dos and don’ts in order to avoid garnering a bad reputation (and to avoid being a jerk without realizing it). I recognize that everyone has their own ethical line in the sand, so if you disagree with my logic then feel free to leave a comment explaining your side of the argument.
Ship Your Damn Orders
If you’re relatively new to the world of Magic finance (well, you don’t even have to care about finance to have experienced this), then you might have had the following situation happen to you at some point: you order a playset of a card ([card]Master of Waves[/card], [card]Dig Through Time[/card], take your pick) off of a website like TCGplayer, only to get an email in the next couple of days that states that your order has been canceled. Some stores will use the reasoning of, “Our system wasn’t able to adjust our inventory in time,” and sometimes that’s true. Crystal Commerce often lags behind by five or ten minutes after a transaction on one site (e.g., eBay), and the inventory doesn’t change on TCGplayer until it’s too late. Other times, the store just uses that as an excuse to not send you the card, then just relists it at a higher price.
You might save 20 or 30 dollars by reslisting your [card]Dig Through Time[/card]s at $15 a piece instead of $4, but you’d best be prepared for the scathing negative reviews that customers will leave after getting shafted. If you’re not worried about that, be aware that TCGplayer has been cracking down hard on sellers who don’t ship, and you can have your account canceled, as failing to ship violates the terms and agreements you signed up for when you registered as a seller on their website.
Don’t Burn Your [card]Trade Routes[/card]
This will probably be a much more hotly debated topic than the previous “obvious” tip. If I get asked to flip through a kid’s dusty, beat up, three-ring binder filled with bulk rares and old stuff from the 1990s that was a present from his dad, I’m going to pull out that [card]Rishadan Port[/card], [card]Deserted Temple[/card], or any other card, and tell my trade partner what they’re worth (assuming that he or she doesn’t already know). If he’s a casual player, he probably would have been more than happy to dig through my box of $.25 rares, pull out five or ten cards, and call it even. Though “both parties are happy,” I don’t feel comfortable doing that. Even if he’s willing to take bulk rares and dragons, make it worth his while and let him take cards until the value is as even as possible.
This topic came up rather recently in a debate on a Facebook thread regarding Alternate 4th Edition cards, and accepting your trade partner treating them as regular cards. I’m taking Corbin’s side here, because I would much rather remove asymmetric information from an open trade than have my trade partner look at that [card]Rishadan Port[/card] online when he gets home and realize that he got scumbagged. Keep your trade channels open and mutually beneficial (for real), and the whole “friendship/respect/repeat customer” thing is going to follow.
I sleeve every card I own that’s worth at least $1 TCGplayer mid, and I try to keep up-to-date labels on the sleeves with a Sharpie. I jot a little “sp,” “mp,” or “hp” on the sleeve to keep track of conditions, or use abbreviations like “jp” and “chi” for languages. If you’ve ever sold cards at a grand prix, many stores will instinctively trust you on grading simply because of the large volumes that are moved at once. They don’t have time to unsleeve everything and check every little imperfection on your $3 [card]Beastmaster Ascension[/card]s to see if they should knock off $.50. When I sold my [card]Caged Sun[/card]s at Richmond after the spike, the vendor scooped all of them up without even counting, trusting my number. I had expected him to double check their condition, so I had to stop and mention that two of the Suns were pretty beat up. A vendors’ job can be extremely tiring and chaotic over the weekend, so try and help them out by pointing out your own cards’ imperfections, and not tricking them into overpaying for played cards.
Most dealers that buy bulk rares do so as long as the cards are all NM and English. While I was in Philadelphia (yes, I only get to go to a couple of grands prix a year, so all of my stories involve Richmond and Philly at the moment), I watched a vendor start going through some of the bulk rares that he had purchased. He had trusted the seller to be honest about all of the cards being NM, but it turns out half of the cards were MP, and several were just unplayable beyond hope. You could argue that it was the store’s fault for not checking thoroughly enough, but his only real fault was trusting the seller to speed up the process so that he could get back to the table and not keep other people waiting. If you’re going to sell bulk, please don’t try and cheat the vendors by upping your own number or lying about condition or language.
One Simple Adage
Thankfully, this entire article can be summarized in a few short words: don’t be a jerk. Finance used to be a wild west, and the fresh meat went to the wolves who were vicious enough to bleed new players for their cards when they didn’t know the values. We’ve grown since than, and should work just as hard as when we play the game to eliminate cheating behavior and scumbaggery from our culture. Profits can be just as tantalizing as the glory of winning, but it’s not worth the sacrifice of other players’ fun and love of the game. Until next week!