Imagine you are playing at your local shop. Your friend, who is sitting next to you, engages in a trade with some other guy. As you are playing, you are keeping an extra eye on the trade just to see what is going on. The deal, as agreed upon by both sides, is your friend giving 2 Tarmogoyf for 1 Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker and 2 Maelstrom Pulse. Now, you know that Tarmogoyf is worth somewhere around $30 each, and that’s current value, not inflated “in-season value.” Maelstrom Pulse is close to $20, but not quite, so you put the pair at $35. A quick rundown of the math tells you your friend is obviously getting ripped. There’s no way Nicol Bolas is worth close to the $25 difference. Maybe $10 or $15 if you are absolutely stretching it, but even at the worst, your friend is still down $10. What do you do?
There are a few options here. 1) You intervene with a, “Woah woah there, guy” Kick in another $10 or $15, then we can get to talking on this trade.” The guy gives you the evil eye for busting up his heist, and you repay him with a shrug and a smile. Desperate to get the Tarmogoyfs, the guy offers to throw in a Noble Hierarch to seal the deal and your friend accepts. The trade has been balanced and all is well with the world. 2) You watch as your friend gets ripped and you tell him after the fact to “teach him a lesson.” Your friend probably gets pissed at you for not telling him earlier, but he always double checks his values from now on before he trades. He’s learned a life lesson and all is well with the world. It’s a scenario that all of us have faced at one time or another, but what happens when you twist it?
Imagine the roles are reversed and your friend is about to come up +$15 on the Tarmogoyfs. Would you stop him? Would you ask him to throw in a little extra, or anything at all to help balance the trade? Or would you just let your friend “rip off” the guy and high-five him after? What if the roles were still reversed, but your friend was trading with a little kid? Would it make a difference?
How far is too far to “come up” when you’re making a trade? Does it matter who you’re trading with? I posed the question to a group of Magic players, and the responses were quite interesting. I followed those questions with another: At what point would you butt in if you saw someone getting ripped off? And would it matter who it was? The responses were quite varied. I’ve listed some of them below:
How far is too far and does it matter who you’re trading with?
It doesn’t matter who I’m trading with, but I definitely don’t rip my friends”¦ Then again, my friends aren’t retards.
Infinite. Doesn’t matter who you’re trading with, just as long as you know you won’t see them again.
As long as both parties feel good when the trade is done, then it shouldn’t matter.
I personally don’t like scamming people. However, I’m more likely to scam males and not little kids. Also, the smaller the scam, the more comfortable I feel.
Who I’m trading with doesn’t matter. I’m always ok giving or taking $1 or 2.
At what point would you butt in and would it matter who?
It wouldn’t matter. I try not to butt in other people’s business.
I would butt in if it was a friend getting taken for around $10 or more. If it was somebody random, I’d probably just wait to trade with them next!
It’s probably taboo, but if I know I could offer something better, I’d butt in. I wouldn’t stop another trade unless it was a good friend.
I’d definitely help a friend sooner than a random. And a little kid sooner than an adult.
If it was someone I knew, I would step in. If not, then it’s up to them.
The responses for the first question, “How far is too far?” essentially split the surveyed into two groups, the capitalist group and the fair group. The capitalists would attempt to take advantage of any positive trade situation, though most agreed that they would not try to rip off a little kid. One person actually admitted that he would rip a little kid off if given the opportunity. The self proclaimed “Rip Off Master” said, “I believe in a free market. I never feel bad about other people having a lack of information. If everything were transparent, the stock market would be stagnant and the economy would stop.”
The fair group, on the other hand, would try to keep things as close and fair as possible, even if it meant them losing $1 or 2. I found that answer quite intriguing as I would never consciously be caught on the short end of the stick unless it was a trade of necessity. Sometimes people just feel that it’s not worth the hassle to haggle over $1 and though I would always try to balance it out, I can see where someone with that point of view is coming from.
When it came to being a Good Samaritan, the majority came to the conclusion that they would save someone from being ripped if they knew the person or they were a friend. Most people would butt in if they saw a little kid getting ripped off, but random adults would have to fend for themselves. One took a more laissez faire approach and said whatever anyone does is their own business. On the flipside, one admitted that if he saw someone getting ripped, he would wait to see if he too could take advantage of that person. Another interesting thing to note is that while most people said they would not interrupt a trade unless a friend was on the short end, many stated that they had been taken advantage of in front of friends and were only told about it after.
There are also many other subconscious factors that come into play when engaging in a trade. Has this person gotten the better of you in a past trade? Are you trading with a dealer or a store? Is the person a total jerk or a stickler who you just caught off guard? Do you trade differently with people based on age or sex or race? Should your morals or trading ethics change based on who you are trading with?
It is interesting to study trading ethics as they vary greatly from person to person. Being a business major, I have faith in the free market. But taking full advantage of any and all comers crosses the line of my personal religious beliefs. Personally, I feel that it is ok to edge a few dollars here or there out of a trade, as long as both people are genuinely happy in the end and you’re not forcing anybody into anything. However, if I feel someone was getting an extreme short end, I would ask them if there was anything else small that they wanted to make up the difference.
Regardless of what I think, coming up with a definitive right or wrong answer for these questions is impossible. While not everyone would agree with the extreme capitalist point of view, you would be hard pressed to find a person who would always force the trade to be completely balanced. So if there is no right or wrong answer to this, why bring it up? Mostly, I would like to start a discussion in the forums, answering the same questions. Trading ethics is only part of the profile of a trader that I would like to address in a future article and I felt that this small article would be a good jump off for a discussion. What do you think? Let me know! Thanks for reading and I’m looking forward to your responses in the forums.
P.S. I’m still looking for a column name. Several choices have been eliminated, but here are the contenders that are left:
– Trade Secrets
– Cornered Market
– Tricks of the Trade
Aside from your responses to the article, leave a P.S. with your vote! Thanks =)