Lower bids, slightly higher buyouts – why?

This may reveal me to be a complete noob, but I’m curious:

Why do some people list consumable items on the Auction House with starting bids that are lower than buyout prices?

By “consumable items,” I’m referring to anything that is a “use once and it’s gone” good.  These items include gems, enchants, food/flasks/potions, belt buckles, and raw materials – you buy it, you use it, and you buy more when you need more.  In contrast, there are gear pieces, weapons, rare mounts/pets, and other hard-to-get items, but I’m not talking about these types of things in this post.

(Or something.)

For the past several months, I’ve made the bulk of my money from gem sales.  That’s not all that I’ve sold, but it represents the majority of my income.

My server is a fairly busy one when it comes to AH competition.  At least, it is on the Alliance side; I can’t speak for the Horde.  Anyway, there are a number of people there who take the AH very seriously, and competition is usually strong for sales of what I refer to as consumable items.  The gem market is included in this.

I find it odd, though, when I see gems listed at “bid: 66g 99s 99c, buyout: 68g 99s 99c” with six of them listed, all in a row.  I see this all the time.

As a buyer, I can’t imagine looking at that listing and saying to myself, “Well, well. I think I might just place a bid on one of these gems!”

Generally, if a player needs a gem, he or she simply buys the gem that has the lowest buyout.  Such a player is not going to “wait, and hope” that his bid will win.  After all, the AH lists all of the same items in order from lowest buyout to highest by default.  Due to several factors – the abundance of gold in the game (relative to prices), the fact that these items are not necessarily rare (they can be produced all day as long as there are raw materials available), and the fact that the player usually plans to use the item right away – the lower bid price seems superfluous to me.

If someone is selling the Reins of Poseidus, I understand having a lower bid value.  But for consumable goods, I don’t.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I’m not an AH expert.  I’m a smart guy, and I have more than enough gold at this point (and the confidence that I can make plenty more), but I don’t play a pro AH game by any stretch of the imagination.  So perhaps I’m missing something obvious.

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Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc.  Comments are welcome!

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2 Comments on “Lower bids, slightly higher buyouts – why?”

  1. Erragall says:

    My first guess would be that posting something with a slightly lower bid price may post your item above a competitor even with the same buyout and then due to this ethos it became the norm to have your bid lower than your buyout so that everyone just thinks of it as the norm.
    Where this shines however, and the hidden treasure is bidding in bulk.
    a lot of the times due to the norm of posting your auction with a lower bid than buyout price you may find that, say the 7th item down’s, bidding price is lower than the cheapest buyout price and as that 7th item isn’t likely to be bought out you can bid on 10 of said item and get them for cheaper =] This is mainly for crafting professions.
    other than that I have no further insight =p

    • Mushan says:

      The idea that you would have a slightly lower bid than buyout to cause your auctions to be listed lower than items with the same buyout occurred to me when I started this post. And then when I finished it a couple of weeks later, I felt like I had forgotten something. And that was what I had forgotten. (/facepalm)

      Great insights – thanks for your comment! :D


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