Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tipping makes me uneasy

Probably it’s got to do with the culture I come from, but I’ve never felt comfortable when it comes to tipping, and if possible even worse about bargaining.

In my world a price tag should show the price the seller wants to sell the item for. Nothing less, nothing more. You should always feel safe with the knowledge that you have agreed upon a price which will make you both happy.

Non fixed prices come with an amount of uncertainty, which makes me feel uncomfortable. I’m pretty sure I’ll be fooled in the end somehow – because of my lesser knowledge, lesser experience and a piece of bad luck. In 90 percent of the cases I’ll end up as a loser. And in the last few percent when I don’t, I don’t feel much better, even though I may look as a winner. I don’t want to take advantage of other people. I want fair deals. But it’s hard to know what’s fair when everything is flowing in an ongoing negotiation.

From Sweden to Azeroth
In Sweden we don’t tip a lot, if ever. You may do it at restaurants, you used to do it in cabs, but nowadays it’s included in the fee and not expected. That’s about it. There are few places in the world where you tip as rarely as you do here. That would be New Zeeland I guess, at least if it still is like it was when I visited it 20 years ago. I still remember the signs meeting us on the airport, telling us that tipping in this country wasn’t a custom – it may even have been forbidden. What a relief it was to read! Two months as a tourist in a non tipping country – it couldn’t really be any better!

But in most cultures in the world you tip. And you bargain, which in my eyes is even worse. (Seriously, if I can’t get clear information about the real price from the seller, I lose interest in buying anything at all. When I visited Tunisia last summer I ended up in not buying a single item in the bazaars since I couldn’t put up with the bargaining procedures).

Azeroth is not like Sweden or New Zeeland – it’s like the rest of the world. A place for tippers and bargainers. Have you ever tried to get a price from an enchanter? It’s almost impossible. You always get the vague answer: “no fee, but tip if you want to”. Further questions about what a normal tip is won’t give you any straight answers. Sigh.

Tipping a tailor
The other night I was put in one of those uncomfortable situations. I had been thinking for a while about getting a Deathchill Cloak, but the price at AH, about 1 600 gold, was a bit too much in my opinion. It turned out however that I could gather the mats for about 600 gold. This was a more reasonable price to me. Now it happened that a tailor announced in trade chat that he could craft those cloaks. I asked about the fee and he said that it was up to me to give a tip.

How do you tip such a thing? I knew that getting the pattern would take quite a lot of work – you need to be Loremaster of Northrend, so it’s not something that any tailor will get from the trainer. Considering how much money this crafter would save me, I thought I should give him a decent tip. I ended up giving him 50 gold. The next night I saw the same tailor advertising in trade channel. He didn’t only craft those cloaks for free – he even offered to PAY people to do it for them, since he wanted the skill-up. Stupid, stupid Larísa, ending up as a loser again!

Portal fees
Now in Azeroth we’re all businessmen. How do I act myself when I’m offering services to others? Well, to be honest I don’t have any experience of advertising in the trade channel and selling my stuff on the street. It wasn’t until recently that I switched into a crafting profession and I haven’t got used to the idea, even though I realize that I need to do it at some point.

Since I’m a mage it happens every now and then that I get requests to do portals though. And I must admit that it doesn’t make sense at all how I do it, considering my feelings about vague prices. I never ever ask for a fee for a portal. If I’m not already in a party or up to something I’ll make it. If they ask me about a tip I’ll reply: “Give what it’s worth to you”. How vague isn’t that? Often I end up getting 1 g. A few times I’ve got 5 g and once or twice even 10 g. But half of the portals I make end up as losses since I don’t even get a tip to cover the cost for the rune. It certainly would be better for me as well as for the customer to set a fixed price. Considering the amount of gold circulating those days, 2 g wouldn’t be unfair. (Portals for guildies, friends and party members are free, of course.)

Maybe I’ll make it into one of my new year’s resolutions: start charging strangers for portals.

The question is what I should do about the tipping? Perhaps putting a bit more of attention into Wow economy would help, making me feel more aware about the market prices, so I get a feeling about what’s reasonable and what isn’t. Because the likeliness that Azeroth will turn into Sweden is pretty small. It’s up to me to adapt.


Rohan said...

Heh. I tip excessively as well. In the 25-50g range as well, depending on what the item is. It's only gold, and it gives the crafter a real sense of appreciation.

I even think it applies in real life. Being generous in tipping is not that much of an added cost, in comparison with choosing to the activity in the first place. For example, the tip given to a waitress doesn't really change how expensive the meal is. The really expensive choice is choosing to have the meal in the first place, not the size of the tip.

Plus it encourages good service, and you might need a tailor again some day.

Anea said...

I'm uncomfortable with tipping as well, for the same reason as you - I'm not sure what to do.

My first experience being the tipee was with my rogue, unlocking lockboxes. There were people galore advertising in cities, to unlock boxes for a set fee, or a tip, depending on the person. I thought this horribly tacky. I click a button - it costs me nothing. If people felt compelled to tip, I wouldn't refuse it, but I never asked for it.

When requesting an item be made (with my mats - with theirs is much too expensive) I will always go with a person who offers to craft it - but doesn't ask for a tip. I am more than happy to compensate people for their time and effort put into being able to craft an item for me. But not greedy people who ask "how much?" in response to your request.

However, the flipside there is that I'm not entirely sure what I ought to tip. I only ever had to tip for portals (about 5g for ports to Shatt, if I remember right) So... I try to err on the generous side. 'cause otherwise I would feel stingy.

When it comes to bargaining? No deal. I don't even touch it.

Gevlon said...

At first: "lose" means to not win. "loose" means something like "running free"

If someone does not advertise a set price that has a simple reason: he is just as lost with prices as you! He hopes that you offer him price.

If the guy says "tip is welcomed" he most probably hunting skillups and will be happy with 5-10G.

However if you saved 1000G on the Deathchill cloak (compared to AH price) losing (and not "loosing")50G is not THAT bad. Of course still bad. Don't forget, if he want more he has a mouth to speak. If he accepts 5G while he wanted more, it's his stupidity.

Remember the No1 rule of markets: you get rich from the dumb!

Anonymous said...

I am rather bad about remembering to tip if I've sought out someone that I know can do something and brought mats with me, but when it comes to something like the trade channel, I tend to tip higher for the rarity of the item.

For instance - an enchant learned at the trainer at skill level 380 won't get nearly as high a tip as an enchant that's gotten from exalted reputation or an instance drop and requires 450 skill. In the first case, I'd probably tip 5-10g, in the second 20-30, particularly if it's hard to find or the person was in any way inconvenienced by my having to schlep a bunch of materials to wherever they happen to be. Keeping a flexible scale like that lets me have somewhere to start when it comes to tipping, but still lets me make the final decision (say, if the person is a real jerk).

Anonymous said...

@Rohan: I think waitresses should have fixed salaries like anyone else. If she doesn't do her job properly she'll not get any raise or she may even get fired. But I can't se any difference to her than to a teacher or a doctor. Her salary shouldn't be the choice of the dinner guests.

About the tailor - well maybe it wasn't a bad idea to keep on good terms with him. After all he knew all patterns in the game and it's good to know someone you can trust when it comes to expensive materials and who can craft anything you wish.

@Anea: actually I think it's more honest and simple if people tell a fixed price and that's it. It's not greedy to ask for payment for clicking stuff. If you're a mage you've spent a lot of gold training the portals and the reagents aren't free. If you're a rogue you know it takes quite a lot of job to level lockpicking. And you've got other more fun things to do in the game than to click stuff for people you don't know for free. So I think a fee is quite natural.

@Gevlon: thanks for pointing it out. That word is a blind spot to me.

I don't know what it is that makes me so anxious, I think I sort of want to be loved or liked and can't cope with the thought that someone would consider me greedy and mean.

Anonymous said...

@Anna: sounds like a sound philosphy to me. It takes some knowledge though to know which recipies are rare and which aren't.

Gevlon said...

Larísa: why does it matter if a complete stranger thinks bad of you? He will have no affect on your life. He has no power to punish you for being "greedy or mean". Look at me, everyone consider me greedy and mean, yet both my gold and my visitor number is growing. The opinion of others about you is irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

I usally tip based on how hard it is for myself to find a crafter for the item. Common item=10g, pretty rare, like i have to hunt several days for a crafter=50g, like 1-2 on sever has it=100g.

Unknown said...

I usually tip guildies, especially when I'm in a rush to get something done.

What I don't like is people settting tip prices. It's not a tip if you ask for it!

Druanor said...

Larisa, there is nothing wrong with being generous, if that will soothe your feelings (as much as Gevlon will disagree with that sentiment). It makes you look good in the eyes of the receiver and makes you a happy camper. Win win as far as I am concerned.

I use a reasonable system whereby I don't feel like I cheat anyone and I don't feel like I got taken advantage of either. I tip 1g for ports for a small profit. I tip 10g for normal enchants. And I tip 10% of mats for exotic things like your cloak. So when you think about it, your 50g tip was spot on as far as I am concerned.

Don't let the fact that he was advertising the next night about paying for skill ups. Lots of people are doing that these days. -shrug- that's their business if they want to lose gold on skill ups. You can just apply the Gevlon adage to him...what a moron.

As far as negotiating prices goes, just consider that this was the norm up to about 60 years ago. And if I am not mistaken, it seems the Swedes were rather astute businessmen in their day. What you have to understand is what things cost to produce and what their worth is. When you haggle with someone start low and let them work you up to an acceptable price for both of you. I just consider it a game and try to enjoy it instead of dread it. That is what's called a fair deal. What this kind of business does is force you to research what your buying before you buy, which in turn makes you a more conscientious shopper. I don't see any harm in that. Better than getting ripped off.

Lastly, waitress (and service people in general) don't make a lot of money to begin with. Therefore your tips are much appreciated. Unlike what others feel, a good tip will guarantee continued good service. Basically it puts a smile on their face and makes them remember you. Does that not fit into your personality? If it doesn't then I am reading you completely wrong. You seem like a person that enjoys making others feel good.

Anonymous said...

For a craftable item - I usually tip 10g.

I charge a flat rate of 5g for a portal to anwhere except Dalaran. Dalaran is 10g, enless of course I like you, then its free. =D

Anonymous said...

@Gevlon: isn't it pretty basic - that you want other people to like you? What do you want people to say about you the day you quit the game? "He was good at making money" or: "He was a nice player to hang around with, I'll miss him"? But I know you have a point - sometimes I care a little bit too much about the opinions of others, there are times where I'd be better of just ignoring it

@Zakesh: sounds fair enough. Though it requires that you've got pretty deep knowledge about patterns and recipies, how common they are and what it takes to get them.

@Herc, no it's not a tip, it's a fee when you have a set price, and I don't see anything wrong about it. It's transparent and easy to understand for anyone. No dealing,either you think it's worth it or you don't.

@Druanor: I know that waitresses and service people have terrible payment and I think that's whats wrong about the whole system. Give them a salary just as everyone else has, a decent one. There's no need that people into service occupations should be depending on people being nice to them. Compare it to a dentist. He won't have a low price and then hope that you'll tip him...
The service people deserve respect and a safe income.

@WTF Spaghetti: wow, that's some portal fee! I'd never go that far. I even hesitate about my latest idea to charge 2 g from strangers, thinking it may be too much.

Anonymous said...

Tipping a waitress makes some sense to me since you can vary your tip based on the level of service. This is just the system in the US and discussing tipping in general is an issue best left alone online.

Tipping in WoW is another matter entirely, and in my opinion mostly nonsense. The services people provide in WoW are pretty much uniform; you want a cloak made, the crafter takes your mats and hits a button and you get exactly what you wanted. I suppose there's some ways a service provider can excel in WoW (i.e. my mage can teleport to her customer's location instead of making them come to her), but for the most part there's no variation in service so tipping seems pointless to me.

So I think in WoW, service providers should just charge a flat fee, up front. People advertise that they will provide services for free while accepting tips, but you know they expect some form of payment. And if they don't get it they are unsatisfied.

When I provide some service in game, I charge a fee (10% of mats) and I make that fee clear up front. No tipping nonsense. If someone doesn't want to pay, they can go get the service from someone else who will give it out for cheaper, that's fine by me. It's just a game and my livelihood doesn't depend on me making a sale, so if someone doesn't want to give me what I want, I'll pass on dealing with them.

When I'm buying from someone else, I use the same 10% rule, and I've never completed a transaction where the service provider seemed to feel cheated; most of them seem grateful that I offer the fee up front, as they know they're going to be compensated for their time.

Anonymous said...

@ Gevlon - Why tip? It's good Kharma pure and simple. Someone did something for you and that is a sign of appreciation. Even to a stranger (omg what is the world coming to).

Of course having seen your blog, its pretty easy to understand your position.

Eli said...

Tipping is simply paying a small portion of the cost to learn a profession. It's renting their skill instead of buying it for yourself.

I've personally spent thousands of gold keeping my jewelcrafting up to date and disenchanting items I could have sold. This time around blizzard at least took away a lot of the rep grinds needed, but I've found enchanting incredibly hard to level and jewelcrafting takes at least 3 days of dalies to learn a recipe.

Unlike what Isa said, crafting is more than hitting a button. It takes a lot of time and effort to get to the point where you're allowed to hit that button. By being a crafter, we're missing out on every mining node, unskinned mob, and/or herb we come across.

I do agree with Isa that it's better to charge a flat fee for crafting, but so few do that. I personally do it and most of the time I have to spend the next few minutes explaining that I'm charging a fee for my services.

People are weird and even for Americans tipping is pretty ambiguous. Like I first said, just think of it as a rental fee. If the crafter isn't going to give you a number, then give him something small enough that you won't regret later.

Anonymous said...

Larísa, I'm a New Zealander myself, and I'd just like to confirm that our tipping ettiquette is indeed the same now as what you described, and we'd be very happy to welcome you back if you'd like to holiday here again. :)

Anonymous said...

@Isa: 10 percent rule makes sense, although it doesn't make up for that some patterns are much harder to get than others.

@Eli "renting" their skill, yeah, I like that word for it!

@Catherene: Oh I'd so much like to go. I can hardly think there is a more generous, easy-going, friendly, openminded people than the kiwis I met 20 years ago. I hope it's still the same. And it's such a beautiful country too! And I knew that far before the LoTR rush.

Anonymous said...

I'm coming back to this pretty late so it might be pointless to comment, but I thought I'd clarify two points that others have commented on.

I didn't mean to imply that the only effort involved in crafting was hitting a button. I just meant that there's no real way for a service provider in WoW to distinguish himself. Yes, leveling a profession is tough, but everyone who has a certain recipe went through the same hassle. Tipping is a non-uniform method of payment that rewards superior service and punishes inferior service, so I think it's inappropriate. A flat fee to my mind is better for making sure a crafter is compensated for their time. I know that's how I feel as a crafter--I put in the effort to learn something, and I demand to be compensated appropriately. So I won't be wishy washy about being tipped, I will charge what I feel I deserve as a flat fee.

Well, you can make up your own rules for flat fees, I just feel 10% is good, and I am consistent in that I charge 10% when crafting, and pay 10% when being crafted for. In my experience the tougher to gain recipes also have high material requirements, so it tends to works out. I've never had a complaint.

Anonymous said...

Tips for things I want... if it's a vendor (non-rep grind based) recipe 5g, 10-20 if it is a rep grind. Rare drop.. I have sympathy for people hawking rare dropped, as I have farmed for them before, so the tip tends to be much higher.

I rarely port someone that doesn't offer a cash incentive.. usally something like "Hey can you port me to X, will tip x gold".

If not I will just ask... normally people have already opened the trade window as before I have the portal going.

5g as a standard.. I thought the world economy was in tatters... that sounds like WoLK inflation.