Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Single Pack Disease at AH

I shop my groceries in a supermarket once a week. It's the quickest and cheapest way to get the stuff you need for a family of four. The carrier is always filled to the brim, so heavy that I just barely can handle it and stop it from running straight into the back of adjacent cars in the parking area. I guess I'm like any ordinary middle aged mum in my neighborhood, apart from that I normally listen one or another of my favorite WoW podcasts as I'm doing it. This makes the task far less tedious.

But let's move along to the point. As I do my shopping I tend to buy the items in big packs. Living in a fairly small house I haven't got storage space enough to go for the Very Biggest, Supergigantic and therefore also cheapest versions. But I go for the middle priced. Take toilet tissue. I wouldn't dream of buying that in singles. It would be quite inconvenient for one thing, but it would also be far more expensive. So normally I stick to the 8 or 12 packs, even though I know that the ideal would be to buy 64 at a time, if I only had somewhere to put it.

The more of them you buy, the better price you'll get. That's the norm in real life shopping. Buy three books and you'll get a fourth for free. Buy ten at the price of nine. You know the drill.

The Cataclysm change
It used to be that way in Azeroth too. Stacks of items were always cheaper per item than buying them one by one. Pre-Cataclysm you could always make a little money at AH this way. You bought one elemental fire and cut it into ten crystallized fire pieces, selling each one at the double price of what they had cost you to begin with. The people who only wanted to buy that single crystallized fire they needed for their crafting were happy, the seller was happy, everyone was happy.

Enter Cataclysm and something happened.

The "Multi packs always give you a discount rule" is broken. Nowadays the rule seems to be exactly the opposite, at least at my server. And it drives me nuts.

My main is a tailor, but I don't have any miner or herbalist at max level. This means that I need to buy elementals to do my weekly special cool down cloths. And I buy loads of them. Each cloth type takes 30 elementals and I can make five of those cloths a week. This means 150 freaking volatiles of different flavours!

All this would be fine if it wasn't for the fact that the rule has changed. The elementals even stack better these days, so theoretically I could buy 30-packs. Click, click, click, loot mail box, DONE.

But alas - no. I can't speak for other servers of course, but on my server, Stormrage EU, you have to pay extra nowadays if you want a proper stack. The single packs are always cheaper per item, and I mean a LOT cheaper.

For every single item I need this means that I have to click at least three times in AH. One time to mark the item, one time to mark that I want to buy it out immediately and a third time to accept it and get it done. Looting it from the mail box fortunately only takes me one click, provided that I remember to use shift and right click. But never the less, all in all, it's four clicks for each one of the 150 elementals every week, which if I count it right will result in 600 clicks. And that, my friends leads to a LOT of clicking.

One day this is going to give me some problems with my arm, no kidding. The repetitive clicking, over and over again isn't just boring and annoying, it even hurts, physically.

I suppose there is a solution out there if you use the proper addons. There surely must be some addon that enables you to bid on a multitude of single posted items without having to mark and click on each one of them.

But should I really have to go through that hassle to find that addon, to install it, to configure it, to keep it updated and make sure it doesn't drag down my system?

I don't even WANT an auction addon in the first place! I'm not interested in gold making and I spend as little time as possible messing around with business related activities. I'm in the game to kill dragons, explore worlds and hang around with people I like.

Possible solutions
I guess there are two solutions to this. One is that Blizzard could change the game default UI in some manner so you don't need to do all that clicking if you want to buy 30 volatiles and end up buying them in singles because people refuse to post stacks of them.

Another solution of course is that we somehow get back to the standard that the more you buy, the less you pay. But I suppose that won't happen.

The goblins get better paid for big stacks, which require them less work to post. And I must admit that I'm sometimes even prepared to pay them for it, even if I grumble as I do it. It happens that I just can't face another click-my-way-through-thirty-singles session and buy out the pricey stacks just to save me some time. So why would they refrain from the possibility to do such good business?

The question is what a grumpy gnome is to do when she's out to do her weekly stack up shopping for her crafting?

Well, I put on a podcast and try to think of something else as I click my way through page after page at AH. Just as I do when I go for my weekly shopping at the supermarket.

But I can't help thinking myself back to better times, when the market in Azeroth behaved like other markets and one elemental was cheaper than ten crystals.


Shintar said...

I don't think this is a Cataclysm development, it probably just depends on whether your server has an auctioneer or two who likes being obnoxious. Whenever I made bolts of imbued frostweave on my Alliance priest on Darkspear EU back in Wrath, I also always had to buy tons of infinite dust in singles because the cheapest seller clearly had some kind of aversion against selling in bulk.

Nibuca said...

I'm totally with you that the UI should be update.. but in the meantime, I use the addon AuctioneerLite which will allow me to say what I want, how many I want and then highlight the auctions that will get me that quantity at the best price. I do still have to click "yes" to buy each individual auction (Blizzard added that limit to cut down on automated AHing) but at least I don't have to choose the auction then click buyout then choose the next one...


Rhii said...

Here's another solution for possibly cutting down on the clicks without using an auctioneering addon: I use the addon Postal to open all my mail with a single click. Helpful for auctions won and just my regular auction postings if they sell or expire. :)

Hope you don't get a repetitive motion injury!

Redbeard said...

I can say that on Ysera and A-52 (both US), I don't see that problem. What's driving me bananas is trying to level tailoring with the price of Frostweave through the roof. Rather than trying to get some Cata time, I've spent one afternoon on my main bashing heads in Icecrown to get Frostweave cloth instead. Given the amount I collected I could have made a mint, but when you need it to level...

Kestrel said...

Something I noticed on Kul Tiras-A (US) today: There were 152 separate auctions for a single piece of Elementium Ore, each with a 4g buyout. There were also 44 auctions for stacks of 20 Elementium Ore, with each stack selling for 4x20=80g. Guess what I bought for my Jewelcrafter?

Hint: I buy in bulk, too.

Argon said...

It is quite appalling. I have Auctioneer configured so I can do a single shift-right-click to buy out an auction, and a mail mod that pulls everything out of my mail with a single click, but it is still a huge pain buying the large amount of mats that are needed for many professions.

Grimmtooth said...

@Nibs - I'm not sure, but I think you meant 'AuctionLite' for the addon name. I was going to suggest that one, too.

And, if not, well, there's TWO that do that for you. :)

Klepsacovic said...

I use Auctionator for buying. I still can't buy all five dozen singles all at once, but I can rapid fire click. Then Postal can open all my AH mail automatically.

Grainger said...

Thankfully, since my main frost mage/tailor has been 85 for awhile and completed all the zones, my system for tailoring is to farm one volatile each day while waiting the 35-40 minutes for my heroic queue. So thankfully I don't have to do the AH game too often, unless I'm a few short and just really want to get it over with.

My server is like yours however, the larger the quantity the more per unit it seems. I'm guessing what has happened is that somebody figured out there are people who will pay 450g for 30 volatiles just so they don't have to do what you do (buyout x 30) - even if you pay 360g for the same amount. In the case of a virtual economy, people are more likely to spend a premium for convenience.

m said...

This is why that is happening:

single or low number stacks volatiles are mostly posted by people who looted them "by accident" (from mobs, from mining, from herbing, etc) and want to get rid of them fast - they put them in AH for cheapest price.

Then you have (bastards like me) who buy cheap life and use their 4 alchemists to transmute them. Once I make a 30 stack, I put them in AH at least 30% more expensive for people making epic items or dreamcloth because I know if there are not enough cheaper volatiles they will buy my stack. So there you go :)

Azryu said...

I shift-rickclick to buyout auctions. I can't imagine how much time I've saved using this.

Anonymous said...

I thought you were going to say that it sucks that people now post hundreds of items SINGLY, so that you now have to click through 50 pages to get to the page where people are selling in stacks.

I truly regret the day Blizzard decided to make it easy for people to post things singly on the AH. This opened the gateway for all the people posting 500 pieces of embersilk cloth ONE BY ONE.

spinksville said...

I blame addons for this state of affairs, they make it easy to post any number of items one at a time with a single click

Perdissa said...

What I end up doing is this. I buy the stacks at a more expensive price than the singles. Very often, the price difference is not great and it saves me the aggravation of clicking on 50 items at a go and again when collecting them from the mailbox.

Nev said...

I think it's a reaction to the very high prices we're seeing for the new cata mats - when a stack is300-500g then it makes it a little easier to sell singles & people buy just what they need. I see it a lot with the greater & lesser celestials - a person will buy 2 greaters then a single lesser - they obviously just need 1 more & don't want to pay for the extra greater.

I'm hoping with everything crossed that this will die down as prices drop - at one point we had 1 girl listing 350 single obsidium ores because 'I can get more per ore that way'. It is improving in some markets as the prices drop but not all yet.

Gevlon said...

The singles disease is annoying but there is little we can do. I also post singles, simply because they sell. The problem is that people can't count, so he rather buys 10 times 1 for 10x50G than a 10-pack for 450, simply because he can't multiply.

He sorts the AH to see cheapest on top, and 50 is cheaper than 450.

So another problem we can blame on morons.

Larísa said...

@Shintar:Yeah I suspect it’s a phenomena that only appear on certain servers. I’m afraid Stormrage/EU suffers from it.

@Nibuca, Rhii, Klepsacovic: Thanks for your addon suggestions. Can’t promise I’ll go for it though.You can call me lazy, but I really don’t want to install an addon and tweak it and learn how to use it just to be able to buy elementals without getting pain in my arm.

I guess it’s the natural market mechanisms in place. If you don’t enjoy farming frostweave, probably noone else does either.

@Kestrel: Lucky you having the same price. At Stormrage the stacks are considerably more expensive.

@Argon: I guess you still have to click every single item in AH, so it still makes a lot of clicks.

: Well I haven’t complete the zones and farming really isn’t my picture of having fun in the game. And normally I don’t spend time in queues for dungeons. If I can’t get a guild group I’ll do something else. Quest, level an alt or – gasp – log out.

And I agree it seems to be a shift, at least on some affected servers. Like mine. You pay extra for convenience, rather than getting a discount for buying possibly more than you really needed, stuff that needs to be stored.

@M: I think there are a lot of bastareds. The people who post 1 at a time aren’t posting just one. They’re posting page after page after page with single-item auctions. They’re doing it on purpose. Because they make good money from it. But I must say it’s damn annoying and I wish they could do something UI wise to make it less painful for the buyers.

@Azryu: Wow, that works? I had no idea. I have to try that. Would save me at least a couple of clicks, even if it doesn’t help out completely.

: I agree that the easiness of it has contributed to this trend. It has to do with the changes of the UI. The gateway opened.

: Actually you don’t need addons to do that anymore. Its built into the standard UI.

: I do it sometimes just because I can’t stand another clicking session.

@Nev: I hope it will change, but I’m not totally convinced it will. It is related to the changes to the UI as well.

@Gevlon: That’s how it used to be, but not anymore at my server. The other night I saw some sort of volatiles at say 9 g each. If I wanted to buy a 10 stack it would cost me 130… So I’m not sure if the morons are to blame for this. Isn’t it rather the goblins who have figured out that it’s damned inconvenient to buy stuff single-wise?

Thossi said...

Wouldn't the ideal be to find out who's selling the stuff you need, and then writing them a letter explaining you want so-and-so much of it for such-and-such price. If they're selling an item for, say 5g a piece and you then offer to buy a 20-stack from them for 100g - well, they'd make a profit, right? They wouldn't have to pay any AH fees if they're selling directly to you, right?

At least, the way you describe it, it sounds like it's the same person selling something in singles - say, 30 pieces of something, all in singles. At least, that's how it's usually on my server.

So, if it's the same person selling everything singly, offering them to buy a stack directly would turn out to be a win-win?

Bill said...

Why make this about the AH interface? The inadequacies of the AH and the mailbox are long standing. You could have written this about buying enchanting mats or herbs. Or buying whole eternals (which most all max level recipes used anyway.)

Blizzard decided that they wanted their elemental items to be a combination of Vanilla and BC/WoLK: Stacks to 200 (like crystallized/motes), but doesn't require any unpacking (like Vanilla).

So is this really about Blizzard tweaking the UI because you don't want to compensate with AddOns? Or how you didn't want to change how eternals were done?

tufva said...

As a fellow tailor I completely agree with you. It particularly annoys me when I'm in the middle of clicking my way through buying 30 volatiles and get interrupted and then can't remember how many I've bought so I have to go to the postbox to check. *sigh*

I'm not an AH fiend, so during Wrath I loved AuctionLite. No config at all if you just want to use the basic stuff (like I do) and it does a couple of little things that are SOOOO useful.

You put a stack of 20 Volatiles on the Post Auction page, but decide you want to do 4 stacks of 5 instead. Update number of stacks and it will update how many per stack based on how many you have. Tiny thing, but just so handy.

As someone mentioned you can use their own search tab for finding items and you just put in the number of items you want and it tells you the most cost efficient combination of auctions that will get you that number. If you have to buy more than you need, it will tell you how much you can expect to make back on re-selling those items.

Unfortunately it started messing me over a lot with Cata, so I'm not using it at the moment. It would say that it had bought something but it never appeared in my mailbox. After several instances of this I gave up and went back to Auctioneer. Still buying in singles as without an addon, but at least it gives me little coloured percentages on one side indicating roughly how over or under priced an item is.

Larísa said...

@Tossi: Actually it’s a good idea. On one occasion there was a seller who whispered me when he saw how much I bought. I didn’t need more at that point but I totally should have put him on my friends list to remember. I’ll try to do that. The thing is that I’m sometimes kind of… I don’t know. Not exactly shy but maybe a bit lazy in approaching other players. Yep. A bit of an antisocial if you want to put it that way. Not the best thing to be if you’re in an MMO I figure. But I’ll seriously consider doing it when I’m approaching the limit for how much mouse clicking pain I can take.

@Bill: I’m afraid I don’t quite understand your comment. :(

@Tufva: Oh that happens to me all the time. I normally don’t run to the box, I just gamble it thinking it was something around x volatiles. Sometimes I end up with a little surplus. No harm done. Sometimes I end up missing one, which means another run to the AH. That’s infuriating.

Anonymous said...

Buying singles at AH: use Auctinator addon. It doesn't require setting up (usable straight after installation) at all and handles singles very effectively.
Getting singles from mail: get any mailopener addon (there is plenty). You may need to set up the addon so it opens only mail from AH.
Finaly, there is 60-second delay between uploading each 50 mails to ypur bailbox. Most mail opener addons can handle this. However, you can force immediate mailbox repopulation with reload ui command:
/console reloadui
Make this command in a macro and place in on your action bar if you like the speed.

Anonymous said...

Auctionator, it's both the disease and the solution. Allows you to post 20x1 items in the same amount of time as 1x20. On the flip-side, you can buy singles as fast as your little finger can click. And I'm a gnome, I can click rly fast. Also groups up all items at the same price and quantity in one line so really cuts down on the garbage you see in the buy frame. Overall it does everything I need (I came from auctioneer) with some very nice quality-of-life additions.

Helistar said...

I second the addon suggestions.

Acuctionator: no-frills not invasive very easy to use AH addon which just does what you want (without adding 10^9 options like auctioneer).

Postal: single-click opening of all mail attachments + other goodies which make life easier (again, easy to use and does what it should, nothing more).

Aaron said...

I suppose I'm part of the problem. On my server, singles of (say) Volatile Life sell for 8g each, and there are rarely stacks bigger than 5 available.

As a service to the community, I sell stacks of 20 for 215g, and I rarely have an auction expire. I justify my higher prices as a convenience to the community. Don't want to click 80 times for 20 items? No problem, just pay a small premium and you can get back to playing.

The strangest thing? No one bothers to undercut me. If someone wanted to post a stack for 160g (20x8g) they could shut me down, but no one bothers to post stacks instead of singles. Go figure.

Michael said...

I guess I'm just odd, but I've always found it annoying that people can post in stacks, instead of just individually, so if I want the cheapest unit price I have to buy 8 of an item that I need only 6.

It would be so much more convenient if I could just say 'buy the cheapest 30' and it would automatically grab one by one from the margin.

Bobbins said...

The mass posting of the single stacks on the ah are not for the benefit of its customers they are an attempt to manipulate the ah. Ask yourself why would someone create such a 'wall'?

Single stack auctions in wrath were used to hide the cheaper high stacks through making them harder to find. Thus the more expensive single stacks were more visible than the hidden larger ones.

Lily said...

Try using the Auctionator's "Buy"-tab. You will be amazed at how easy shopping becomes. :) Oh and as previously mentioned. Combined with Postal is basically a must.

Kammler said...

Hi. My name is Kammler and I'm a (gulp) goblin. lol

The way folks buy goods IRL and the way toons buy goods in WoW is simply not analogous. IRL there are differences in quality--both of the goods themselves and of the store they are sold in.

For example, if you like to buy toilet paper in 12 packs but your local store changed its practice and began only offering 64s or singles you could choose to go elsewhere with your gold. Er, money. Not so in WoW.

Or perhaps you prefer two ply toilet paper (as I do)--and if your favorite brand supplied one ply in your preferred quantity you could buy a different brand. Not so in WoW.

Similarly, the price differential in WoW between singles and stacks has nothing to do with a discount based on quantity. It instead is a function of controlling supply to affect demand.

In WoLK stacks were cheaper only because supply of almost all trade goods were saturated. Needed to unload a whole bunch of wool cloth? There are hundreds of full stacks out there so pricing my stack is therefore not competing on a per unit price but instead on a per stack price.

I want to be the cheapest stack if I want to sell. (sort of like shelf space at your local market--I want to be at eye level)

This created the phenomenon you mistakenly (but understandably) attributed to "discount pricing for buying in bulk".

For a goblin like me (and apparently @Aaron) my opportunity to earn a profit is then to find some goods that I could buy cheaper in large quantity and sell in small chunks for some markup.

Again using wool as an example, I could buy at 7g/stack of 20 and re-list in stacks of 5 for 2.5g per stack--thus earning a profit of 3g/stack. I earned thousands of gold this way for a variety of trade goods in WoLK.

It wasn't a trick or in any way deceptive--lots of folks only need 5 or 10 units for a skill-up or to craft a bolt of wool used in tailoring so it made sense.

In Cataclysm the opportunity for a goblin is now to sell convenience. Hence, larger quantities of some items are more expensive. You need 30 of XXX (demand) so my stack is priced accordingly (supply). I'm still competing against other stacks for shelf space (pricing) but with fewer stacks and more singles the competition is less.

Being a goblin entails risk. If I want to apply WoLK gold principles I could buy cheaper singles and re-list at higher stack prices. But the risk to me is that you will simply decide the cost differential is not offset by the carpel-tunnel inducing multi clicks you must perform to buy the cheaper singles.

One must assume this market situation is what Blizz wants. If they really wanted WoW markets to act more like real markets they would un-link the faction AHs.

If goods listed in Exodar were only available for purchase in Exodar we would see dramatic pricing differences. Less traffic means less demand, so prices would be lower. You would then be able to choose a different store if you didn't like pricing at this one.

And goblins like me would have a great opportunity to buy in Exodar and list in Ironforge for greater profit. But I don't see this change on the horizon.

Sean said...

EVERYTHING and I mean everything I go to look at /buy on the AH on my server is mostly broken up into singles. It's maddening. I'm not even that concerned with the price of the stacks being higher or singles lower or what have you, but if I want 20 of something, I'm just not going to click on 20 individual lines, sorry. I'm going to stubbornly NOT buy what I need at that moment, wait til later, come back and look and see if there are any stacks listed.

nugget said...

Hm, I have a solution that doesn't involve addons, and may work for you. Sorry if someone's already suggested it - I haven't read all the comments.

If you find one seller who is consistently selling single units for a much lower price than a stack, have you considered writing to them, saying you'll buy for a median price between the stack insanity, and their low price (i.e. you'll pay them more than what they're getting right now), if they CoD all the stuff they're getting to you?

That would save you from the click horrors, and guarantee them sales without listing prices - win/win, should they choose to accept.

Just a thought. (Yes, I do sometimes have them.)

Copra said...

Actually the logic is that people get frustrated to purchasing single items and are willing to pay for the convenience of having a stack. Very effective fire-and-forget marketing trick, which works miracles. The same with posting stuff in amounts required (dailies, inks, crafting recipes) with higher price.

Sadly, if you look around you in RL, too, you'll soon notice that the 'bigger' package isn't necessarily cheaper. Usually the price / kg is higher with bigger packages, so you better be careful out there if you automatically think the bigger pack is cheaper.

But yes, I'm part of the problem, because I split the stacks to the size which sells at the speed I want them to: singles fast, stacks with better price slower.

The main point is, they all sell.

C out

Sarge @ the.movies said...

It's very annoying that Blizz changed the auctioning process to confirming every action.
In WotLK I'd just select the quantity needed in AuctionLite, press Buy and pick-up mail.

I can understand why they changed it for selling (glyph undercutters), but they should reconsider for buying stuff.

Ron said...

The annoyance is the reason why its the way it is. Basically how much gold is an extra click worth to you? If someone puts it into a stack of 30, but with a 5-10% premium, is clicking once vs 5,10,possibly 30 times worth the premium?

For me it sometimes is.

Anonymous said...

Had the same complaint. Downloaded Auctionator and haven't complained since. It's very nice for both buying and selling stuff, especially if you're buying crafting materials due to the handy shopping list feature.

Homeschool said...

I'm going to echo the Auctionator comment. It's a really light-weight auction house addon, but what it does is stack everything up by stack size and price. That person who posted 400 1-stack volatiles? A single listing. You still have to click once for each stack you buy (thanks to Blizzards AH addon changes), but it reduces it from multiple clicks to one click per posted stack.

Phelps said...

Ditto Gevlon. The singles sell.

Things that are used that way, I auction that way. As an example, on enchanting mats, I sell dusts in stacks of five, and essences and shards in singles. That's how people prefer to buy them.

I've had the same annoyance, which is why I have all the volatiles added to my snatch search in Auctioneer -- just to be able to click 30 times and buy them rather than 90 when I xmute Dreamweave.

Anonymous said...

All I get from this article is "I'm too lazy to install a simple addon that will loot all my mail with one click, therefore, Blizzard must cater to my needs and rework the UI for my benefit, or everyone must change to do things exactly as I like it, for my benefit."

Suck it up and install Postal.

Crash said...

I read your post, skimmed the comments, seen people recommending AH addons, and I second that wholeheartedly.

People - myself included - post Volatiles in singles for two reasons: their AH addon is set that way by default and not everyone is a tailor. There's quite a lot of people who doesn't want 30 of any given Volatile, and they probably won't buy more than they need.

Now, using just two addons - Auctionator and Postal, your 600 clicks becomes, in worst case scenario, 153. 150 to buy volatiles in singles (due to Blizzards limitation), three to collect them all from mailbox (mailbox got a limit of 50 mails).

Plus, Auctionator will sort search results by lowest price no matter stack size, so if someone posts a stack that's cheaper than singles, you'll see it on top, not on 377654th page.

Blizz UI isn't perfect, but there are addons to solve that issues. You just diminish your game experience by not using them.

Anonymous said...

Say what you want about add-ons, but if you buy or sell through the auction house, then you NEED one or two auction addons. Auctionator already mentioned above solves this problem and many other problems. Most usefully you sort and summarize potential purchases in a single screen what would have taken 20 screens in the default interface, adding convenient mad-clicking to complete lots of one-item purchases. Blizzard's policy requiring at least one-click-per event is beneficial to the community and prevents gold-farming auction house whores from gaining advantages through batching illegal API calls in the auction interface while going AFK. If you had researched the challenge you faced and its well documented solution, you would have saved yourself time from writing an irrelevant blog entry and its hundred or so banal responses.

Anonymous said...

If it's cheaper to buy singles than bulk yet people sometimes prefer bulk, it should be obvious to the enterprising among us what should be done... ;)

Altimeter said...

Scanned all the comment so I don't think I'm repeating...

The reason the supermarket analogy doesn't hold is packaging. Pricing isn't usually linear in the RL supermarket. The 500 ml bottle of ketchup is 2.99, and the 1 l bottle is 4.99. That dollar "saved" is in the packaging costs. Buying things from the bulk section extends this even further, as the only packaging you're paying for is usually a flimsy plastic bag.

In WoW, goods aren't required to be packaged, so 20 volatiles have no reason to be more or less than 20 times a single volatile, though I will concede the point that people are making in that there is some value in paying for convenience.

Rawer said...

Easy fix, get add-ons ... what @Crash said.

Zelinda said...

Get Auctioneer and Postal.
One click per auction and one click to open all your mail. Done!