Shopkeeper's Guide

From TheKolWiki
Jump to: navigation, search

So you've decided to open up a store in the mall. Well good for you. You're probably dreaming of fame, fortune, and enough Meat to fill your swimming pool. And of course, you get to foist all of your unusable items off on n00bs who don't know any better. Bonus!

If you're looking to grow the size of your pile of Meat (your "stake"), you've come to the right place.

Contents

Introduction

When you really come down to it, making meat in the Mall is really simple. You buy a store, stock it with your extra stuff, and let the Kingdom's population take it off of your hands. That's really all there is to it.

This article is geared towards those who want to attempt to maximize the amount of meat that they get out of their store or use their store to raise large quantities (e.g. millions) of meat over time. New players and those with smaller inventories may not need to spend much time figuring out the optimal price or advertising budget for their stores, but more advanced players can benefit substantially from giving it some thought.

Commodities

In the Kingdom, all items are commodities, meaning that they are bought and sold on price alone. Let's face it; you're going to have a difficult time convincing someone that a Hell ramen bought from you will bring more adventures than one of your competitor's.

The direct result is that selling in the mall is all about having the lowest price, and being first in the mall search results when a user is searching for a particular item.

So what determines whether or not you sell your item?

  • The price of the item: the lower the more likely you are to sell
  • The advertising budget: the higher the budget, the more likely you are to sell
  • The general mall supply: the smaller the supply, the better your chances
  • The demand for the item: the higher, the better.

The Kingdom Economy

The Kingdom economy is extremely large and diverse, ranging from players with 100 hardcore permanent skills and ridiculously huge stores of Meat, all the way to Turtle Tamers who keep getting beat up in The Dire Warren. There are many exceptions to the various rules of thumb to selling items in the mall, because there are so many different skills and needs out there. For example, if you're selling titanium assault umbrellas, half of your customers are buying them to beat monsters about the head (or head-analogue) and the other half may be pulverizing the gear. You may even have collectors who will buy 10 of them, because they're just dying to have a display case with 31337 of them in it. (Yes, this does happen.)

The items themselves are so diverse in their effects that almost no general statements about classes of items (like food) apply to everything. So take general advice on selling with a grain of salt, and make adjustments to suit yourself. The alternative would be to get smacked around by the invisible hand of the economy, which I've been told can sting quite a bit.

The only thing that is certain is that the economy will change

One of the things we know and love about the Kingdom is that there's always new content coming. New items impact trading in the mall in a big way. For example, during recent Crimbos, new items have arrived in bulk quantities; suddenly thousands of adventurers were getting common drops of items that never existed before. In some cases, new items are better replacements for something else that's been in the economy for a while.

In these situations, the introduction of new content into the game can lower prices on existing items because they become less desirable. Imagine the hypothetical (and frankly very unlikely) introduction of an item called a "hyper wad". Imagine that "hyper wads" could be used as any kind of other elemental wad, and that they were a very common drop in some new area of the game. If such a thing were to come to pass, you could expect to see the mall prices of cold wad, spooky wad, hot wad and the rest to drop substantially. Why fork over quantities of Meat for an expensive elemental wad when you can just go farm hyper wads?

Case Study: Evil Golden Arches

Here's a simple example of how a game change can change the Kingdom economy.

In February 2008, the Evil Golden Arches went from being a campground item that could be used on a daily basis, to being a usable inventory item. Before February 2008, almost everybody had one and was using them to generate one evil food item every day, which could be used to eat or sell.

While these items had negative stat effects, they were still useful in some circumstances. For example, you could pull them from Hagnk's and use them when you were at level 1. Since you had no base stats at level 1, only the positive stat effect of the food would really count.

After February 2008, an evil golden arches (EGA) could only be used once, and it was consumed, producing 3 evil food items. There were several results:

  • The demand for evil golden arches went up, because each EGA was producing only 3 food items, instead of as many as you wanted over time.
  • The supply of evil food fell dramatically. Instead of everyone producing one item per day, now only those who have extra EGAs can produce evil food.
  • The mall price of the standard evil foods is still very close to the minimum, because the demand for evil food is still very low.
  • However the price of Jumbo Dr. Lucifers increased since those are occasionally used to refill mana.
  • The mall price of evil golden arches themselves has increased somewhat.

Then in February 2010, the Libram of BRICKOs was introduced as an item of the month.

  • That produced a marked increase in the demand for MP restores. The Jumbo Dr. Lucifer is the most effective MP restore in the game for very high level players and saw a large jump in price.
  • The prices of evil golden arches also jumped up substantially.

Case Study: Soul Doorbell

Another interesting example that shows how the Smaug's Hoard Strategy can fail (see below) is the case of the soul doorbell. An item released during the Silent Invasion event, its price started at 300K and increased at a slow but steady rate; it was somewhat difficult to make, and demand was high, but the constant influx of items kept the prices from rising too quickly.

When the Silent Invasion event ended, soul doorbells became impossible to create, but demand remained - at this point, if a player wanted to acquire all three silent skills, they had no other option but to buy soul doorbells (3 to 6). Prices shot up immediately, peaking at 1.85 million meat (which would be a cool 516% profit margin) before settling at slightly more than 1 million.

And then, on November 15, the soul forge (Near the fog there is an... anvil?) was updated to allow the crafting of multiple items in one visit - which meant nothing less that soul doorbells became craftable again. (One needs to spend 1 soul doorbell to access the forge and as long as one could only craft a single item at a time, it was not possible to increase the number of soul doorbells in the Kingdom.) The market crashed. Soul doorbells lost 90% of their value overnight.

In short: Don't rely so very much on "rarity".

Business Basics

The Cost to Buy In

I remember the days back when I barely had 6 pieces of Meat to scrape together to help a poor hobo. 50,000 Meat to open a store?! Perhaps Jick has had one too many astral mushrooms.

Here's the reality of the situation. If you have ascended a few times, you'll likely have so much junk in your inventory and in your closet that just selling the stuff you can't stand to look at will net you several times the buy-in price. Plus, the 50,000 Meat is a one-time business start-up expense. If you stock your store correctly, the startup fee will very quickly start to look insignificant next to the pile of Meat you make.

If all else fails, you can always try meat farming - or you can make a small donation (of real-life money) and sell your Mr. Accessory over in the /trade chat channel. That's probably the quickest way.

What Sells: Food, Booze, and Combat Items

  • Consumables, consumables, consumables. Many of the items in the Kingdom can't be destroyed, only transferred. (There are of course exceptions, such as the case when items are pulverized). For example, weapons and armor can't be consumed or destroyed except in those special situations. On the other hand food, booze, combat items, and potions are destroyed or removed from the economy all day every day by a hungry Kingdom populace. There are a lot of drunkards and compulsive eaters out there, and you will likely make the bulk of your Meat off of satisfying their animal urges.
  • Items generated by skills such as scrumptious reagents, dry noodles, and items gained from the skill Advanced Cocktailcrafting all sell very briskly, at high prices due to the fact that there is always high demand.
  • Rares and ultra-rares sell very well, as well as some semi-rares.
  • Seasonal or time-specific items may enjoy temporary boosts in volume and price. For example, stat days may influence players to buy certain items to take advantage of a particular moon phase. The market for some outfits may improve around Halloween.

What Doesn't Sell

  • Common items that drop easily for everyone, particularly common outfit items such as the eyepatch, 7-Foot Dwarven mattock, or the Orcish cargo shorts. Anyone with a pulse can pick up these items, and they don't need to buy them from you. While there will be a few sold (see the "Lazy Schlub" customer profile), volume will be low, and you won't often be successful.
  • "Bunk" items that provide a beneficial effect, but where there is a far better substitute readily available. For example, combat items that do small amounts of physical damage and that have high autosell prices (and thus higher mall prices) are frequently no good because there are cheaper items that do more damage.
  • Items available to everyone at low prices, and items already sold by NPC stores. (E.g. fruit which can be had at the hippy stand, items that can be bought at the market in town)
  • Quest items / special items. Many items can't be transferred or disposed of, such as chefstaves. Farming them for sale in the mall wouldn't make much sense, since you can't sell them.
  • Items with any negative effects, such as evil golden arches food. Actually, there are niche markets and reasons why negative effect items will sell, but in general they don't.

As a rule of thumb: If a significant supply of the item is available at the minimum price (i. e. twice the autosell price or 100 meat, whichever is higher), you shouldn't expect to sell any. You might still get a few sales, now and then, but don't count on it.

Why your customers want your items

In order to sell large amounts of volume, it's a good idea to know what's driving your customers. Their motivations will fall into a number of different categories. By knowing what they're trying to do, you can stock what they want...loot will ensue. This is not a complete list of motivations, but something to get you thinking.

  • The Collector: Toast....must....have....toast....irrational urge...to have thousands...building....
  • The Conspicuous Consumer: Everybody loves to eat and drink. Well, except those Oxygenarian contrarians. Adventures, stats, what's not to like? Put yourself into their shoes. If you have a few thousand Meat burning a hole in your pocket, are you going to go out and buy yourself bowls of cottage cheese, or something...more sophisticated?
  • The Destroyer: People who want to buy your elemental-damage dealing items so that they can pulverize them with malus aforethought.
  • The Quester: People who are stuck on a particular quest and just have to have that one item in order to beat the boss.
  • The Lazy Schlub: Sure, I could go get a few stars and lines for a star key, but why bother? Someone else has done it for me.
  • The Exploiter: People who go buy particular items to exploit a loophole. For example, the type that will go buy 100 meat vortices and then head over to the Themthar Hills to vortex every bandit they meet, before CLEESHing them and clobbering some poor, defenseless frog (thus guaranteeing the supply of bandits never dries up). Exploiters will look for situations where they can make more Meat/gather more items than what you're charging. They're actually quite fine customers because they buy in bulk.
  • The Merchant: People who buy large quantities of items so that they can turn around and do something else with them. Sometimes that's barter, using them to create some other item, or resale.

Business Strategy

Pricing Items in your Store

The most common question a new shopkeeper has is about how to price items in their store. While you can price any item wherever you want (subject to Mall minimums), the range of price that you can pick and have a decent chance at actually selling something is fairly narrow.

In this section, we're ignoring items that are widely available at the mall minimum price. You don't have many pricing options on those, other than to sell at the minimum, ramp up your advertising, and hope someone sees you. Further, we're also ignoring items where there's no demand in the market, because it doesn't matter where you price those items -- they won't sell.

Fortunately, there are hundreds or thousands of items that fall in between these two extremes, and you have several different options for pricing them.

Pricing Options

  • Price at the current mall minimum. Using this approach, your item will usually sell only if your advertising budget is larger than your competitors', who advertise at the same price. Alternatively, if the supply is low and/or trade is brisk in the item, you will often (eventually) sell at this (or a moderately higher) price. How quickly you want a return on your sale may dictate how you think about this.
  • Price a few Meat below the current mall minimum. This will guarantee that you are put at the top of the list when someone searches for the item. The downside is that a mallbot may scoop you and re-lower their price so that you'll only be lowest for a few minutes. For example, if an item's lowest current mall price is 700 and you put one out there at 699, typically 3 minutes later someone else will be advertising at 650-690, scooping you. You don't want to cut so much off of your price that you destroy your profit, but you also don't want to barely undercut your opponent because they may come back and undercut you immediately.
  • Price at the lowest possible price; 2x the autosell value (or 100, whichever is higher). This usually guarantees the fastest sale, and the lowest profit. On the upside, you'll still get twice what you would have gotten if you had autosold the item. The result will be quick Meat with little wait, as mallbots and hungry players will descend on your store to loot you of cheap gear. Warning: this strategy may leave you feeling used. For a quick fundraiser, this is the way to go, but may only provide you a fraction of what your loot is really worth if you have patience.
  • Price above the mall lowest price. Counter-intuitive, but it can work. Some items tend to sell in quantities, and are less price-sensitive. For example, there are players who will be in the market for several dozen ten-leaf clovers, or spices. If your store has dozens available at a slightly higher price, the customer may be willing to pay the higher price because it beats buying one and two at a time from the 10 other stores that offer them cheaper than you do. For example, bottles of basic booze such as bottle of vodka are regularly available for 100 Meat, but the stores that sell at these rates and that don't have limits don't tend to keep their inventory for long. If you can offer a block of 200 bottles, you may be able to charge 140-150 in exchange for the convenience of buying in one place.

Picking a price that's lower than everyone else's, lower enough that it won't be immediately scooped by a mallbot, and at the same time maximizing profit is an art and science. How to do it will vary by day and demand for the item. There is no reliable formula that you can use to maximize your profit because supply and demand are constantly in flux.

Mis-pricing

A word of warning: don't accidentally misprice your items. Before you confirm price changes in your store, double-check things. If you accidentally put an item that should be 10,000 Meat on sale for 1,000 Meat, chances are good that a mallbot will harvest it very quickly. If you overprice accidentally, you can always go back and adjust the price downward. Whining at a user who snaked something out from underneath you because of your pricing error is not likely to be successful.

The Evils of Wal-Mart Pricing

Don't always price at the lowest point. Often in the Mall, there is a split between the absolute lowest price, and the reasonable lowest price. For example, someone might decide to sell scrumptious reagents for 300 less than everyone else, and put a 1 item/day limit on purchases. In this case, since they're taking such a loss you shouldn't even compete with them at that price. Compete with the next highest priced store that doesn't have any limits.

Store Themes

In building a name for yourself as the kind of filthy rich tycoon that other adventurers love to hate, you may want to go with a theme store. You've probably seen them in the mall, and these sharp shop keeps may be on to something; as in the real world, business focus in the Kingdom may well pay off.

Focused Shops

This focus can come in many different ways, as there are many different groupings of items in the Kingdom. Examples of focused shops include:

  • An all-booze shop, containing nothing but ingredients and drinks.
  • A shop devoted to weapons that only Seal Clubbers can make.
  • A shop containing only ultra-rares.
  • A shop that covers all of your Monster Level boosting needs.
  • A shop that sells time: any and all items that will give you more adventures, boost your rollover adventures, or generally help you escape the evil tyranny of the 40-adventure day.

These shops will in essence be attempts to get the specific population of players who have those specific needs to take notice. If you're into selling ML-boosting items, you may have speed ascenders amongst your customers. If you're selling spare cocktailcrafting ingredients such as magical ice cubes, you'll probably have Disco Bandits stopping by.

The theme of your shop will also determine your revenue and stock turnover. Your neighborhood Gucci shop isn't mobbed with customers, but when one stops by in a buying mood, they tend to drop piles of cash in one transaction. Your neighborhood Wal-Mart is probably quite busy, but nobody is going to buy your 250,000 Meat item so you can forget about it. So is your theme Gucci, Wal-Mart, or some shade of grey?

Figure out who you want your audience to be. Go get what that audience wants, and then sell it to them. Figure out what other ancillary items they might want. For example, if your crowd is Turtle Tamers, you might have luck selling initiative-boosting gear that wouldn't sell as well to Moxie classes.

The Shotgun Approach

Ahhhhh, the "kitchen sink" shops. The ones that have 2 or 3 interesting items, and 200 piles of junk that no one will ever buy. Since the interface revamp in early 2009, players can buy items directly from the search page, so you no longer risk losing business as they wait for your 50MB item list to load. On the other hand, you're not likely to get a lot of impulse buys. Those require a few items that jump right out at the player who does venture into your store.

Don't be afraid to go shotgun if you want to. It's your store. You could think of it as an extended, walk-in closet of sorts.

Advertising

Advertising determines how high you rank in mall searches when many different shops have the same price for a given item. Having a large advertising budget is absolutely critical if you want to compete in the market for common items, or items whose mall price is always the minimum mall price possible.

That said, large advertising budgets are only for mall tycoons; each Sunday your advertising budget is reduced to its square root, meaning that a huge advertising budget becomes a tiny one in 2-3 weeks. In order to be able to afford advertising in the Times Square of KoL, you have to become a Wal-Mart and sell tremendous volume to make up for the cost.

When to Advertise

There is a time and a place for a non-tycoon to put a hefty sum into advertising: when you've got a lot of stuff you are trying to sell to the "Lazy Schlub" profile, all of it priced at mall minimum along with dozens of other shops. If you've got a million Meat of such stuff, putting 50,000 to 100,000 into advertising may be the way to actually sell it.

If you're going to invest a princely sum in advertising, it's probably best to do it on a Monday. This gives you the entire run of the week to reap the rewards before your budget evaporates on Sunday. By contrast, dropping a huge advertising budget on Saturday typically wouldn't be wise.

When to Avoid Advertisement

Advertisement is typically most helpful in selling low-priced items that are very common in the Kingdom. This presents a problem though, because you need to sell many more of a low-priced item in order to recoup the cost of the advertisement.

One sure-fire way to lose a lot of meat is to put in a hefty advertising budget when you're only trying to sell a few dozen or at most a hundred items. Suppose that the average cheap item you're selling is worth 150 meat, and suppose that you have 10,000 meat to spend on advertisement. This basically means that you have to sell 67 items just to break even on your advertising investment. In order for the advertising to cost you 10% of the proceeds, you'll need to sell about 670 items.

Using this rough math, you can quickly determine how many things you'll have to sell in order to justify a particular ad budget. Since mall minimums are usually twice the autosell at a minimum, your advertising budget should consume less than 50% of your total projected proceeds, otherwise you're better off skipping the mall and auto-selling all of your items.

The moral of the story is that you should avoid large advertising budgets unless you have reasonably large inventories of items to sell. If you don't have large inventories of items, most times you will be better off letting them sell more slowly, or autoselling.

Quantity Limits

The mall allows you to limit how many of a particular item each buyer can buy per day. In general, if your goal is to raise Meat you will not want to do this because it will slow down your buyer's ability to give you Meat.

The special exception is in the case of charity sales. Occasionally, players will put valuable items on sale at discount prices, and then limit the number that can be purchased to avoid having other players buy their entire stock. For example, dry noodles may be on sale at bargain basement prices with a limit of 1 per day. If it's important to you that many different buyers have a shot at an item, then use limits. If you want to raise Meat and you don't care who buys an item, eschew limits.

You might also choose to have a "loss leader" in your store -- an unrealistically cheap item to lure players in, with the hopes of getting them to buy other items while they're there. There isn't any good evidence available as to whether or not this works but in the event that you do try this strategy, you'll want to have a purchase limit on your "loss leader" to avoid getting looted by the first opportunist who happens by your store.

For more information on quantity limits and all of the reasons they might be used, see this thread.

Crafting for Meat

If you search the mall carefully, sometimes you can find price disparities: cases where an item is selling for more than the cost of its ingredients. For example, you might notice that serum of sarcasm sells for 500, scrumptious reagent costs 1200, olive costs 70 at the fruit stand, and one turn of cooking. If you're a Sauceror, you can produce three serum of sarcasms per cooking step, so you can spend 1270 on the ingredients and sell the results for 1500. Ka-ching!

Remember that crafting (other than meatpasting) takes time, however. The above approach is only worth considering if the money you can make from crafting and selling is more than you could earn by other methods, such as meat farming. In the above example, you'll spend one adventure and earn 230 meat - but if you can survive combat in The Castle in the Clouds in the Sky, and own a Leprechaun, you can easily make more than 230 per adventure. In other words, you have to consider opportunity cost.

There are ways to craft without using adventures - in the above example, you might be using a Chef-in-the-box or getting someone to cast Inigo's Incantation of Inspiration on you. The Chef-in-the-box is good for about 100 uses. Assuming you can acquire one for 3300 Meat, one instance of crafting essentially costs you 33 Meat. In the above example, the cost of crafting would become 1303, leaving a profit of 197 Meat - and you're free to spend your Adventure elsewhere!

The above approach is, in effect, selling your user time for Meat. You're willing to go through the process of buying ingredients and cooking potions (presumably in bulk); others are paying a little extra for the convenience of pre-cooked potions. This is a viable strategy (people have reported making as much as a million a day selling milk of magnesium), but beware of competition from other people with the same idea: if you get into a massive price war, your profits could vanish.

There are some items which sell for much more than the cost of their ingredients. An example is sleazy hi mein, which sells for 5500. The cost of the ingredients is 1000 for MSG, 800 for dry noodles, 1200 for scrumptious reagent, 1000 for delectable catalyst, 250 for a sleaze nugget, 80 for one chef-in-the-box turn, and one adventure in the Wok of Ages. You're spending 4330 in ingredients, plus an adventure, for an item worth 5500. You might feel that the adventure is worth 1170 Meat, or you might have other uses for your daily adventures.

On rare occasions you will find examples of items which sell for less than their ingredient cost. For example, you might notice that the sabre-toothed lime cub sells for 1100, but the lime sells for 1200 and the sabre teeth sell for 130. You can make money here too: buy sabre-toothed lime cubs, untinker them, and sell the limes. This likely will not work for very long, as sabre-toothed lime cubs do not come into the Kingdom naturally, and nobody's likely to make them and sell them at a loss.


Arbitrage

Example

Arbitrage can be described as "the practice of taking advantage of a price difference between two or more markets" - essentially, you buy an item where (or when) it's cheaper and sell it where (or when) it's more expensive. For instance, a tomb ratchet might cost 1375 Meat in the Mall, but if you can find one for a lower price in The Flea Market (e.g. 1100 Meat), you can make a profit simply by buying and reselling items.

Event-Driven Arbitrage

The Kingdom's calendar is cyclical in nature, and sprinkled through with special events that affect the meat market. Strategic players (both buyers and sellers) can exploit these calendar events in order to maximize their gains. For example, on a moxie stat day, (or possibly the day before) there may be somewhat increased demand for items that convey moxie stats. Stat days can drive demand for items. On the other hand, because some holidays produce items, the market can get flooded with special holiday items that everyone has been farming. For example, roasted marshmallows can only be produced on Yuletide. On that day, a huge number will be created and put into the mall. As a result, the day after Yuletide is a very bad day to be in the marshmallow business, because you'll be competing with thousands of other players who just want to cash in their farmed items for meat.

The trick with arbitrage is to craft your own strategy, not to replay someone else's strategy. Arbitrage provides no price advantage when many people are following the same idea, so the essence is market creativity. While there are some simplistic strategies that might sometimes work, (e.g. buy marshmallows by the thousands at extremely low rates the day after Yuletide, and then start selling them off weeks later when the supply is lower and prices have risen) there is nothing formulaic which is guaranteed to work.

A note of caution on arbitrage

Finally, when performing arbitrage, be careful that the goods you're producing are things that people actually want. You might have the lowest price in the mall for vial of hamethyst juice but still never sell a one (because everyone buys jug of hamethyst juice instead). This can be a very expensive error to make.

Alternatives to selling in the mall

The mall is not always the best place to sell items. The best example of this situation is when you want to sell a large number of a very common item that is always available at a mall minimum. The Kingdom contains many farmers who spend large amounts of time in a single area, such as The Castle in the Clouds in the Sky. The item drops that they get while farming those areas start to clog the mall, because many more are produced than can be sold. If you're holding on to a bunch of the same item, that means that your chance of selling them through the mall is slim to none. Other times, you'll have a high-Meat item and you won't want to risk selling it in the mall at one fixed price when you could get a better price elsewhere, exploiting the large demand for the item.

So what else can you do?

Autosell your items

Sometimes the best way is the quickest and easiest. Autoselling your items that are unpopular in the mall will only give you the bare minimum Meat per item, but you get the Meat pronto whether you have 10,000 of an item or just 1.

  • Advantages: a fast, easy method that is indifferent to your quantity of inventory.
  • Disadvantages: returns the lowest amount of Meat per item that's possible.

The Flea Market

This area might allow you to foist off some items that won't sell in the mall. There are different pricing strategies that go along with the flea market though, and some items (like common drops from farming areas) still probably won't sell here.

Some items that are difficult to sell in the mall at the minimum price there can be sold here for a profit over autosell. Look for equipment, food, booze, and HP restores useful to low-level players but hard for them to get. Example: phonics down sells for 230 in the mall, but only those with high advertising rates can sell it there. Ten a day might sell for 200 meat in the flea market, however.

  • Advantages: available to all players, not just level 5 and above (like the Mall).
  • Disadvantages: requires paying a listing fee and cut of the proceeds, interface ensures low volumes

Kbay (now defunct)

Kbay: Just like eBay for the Kingdom of Loathing, you can put up grouped lots of items for sale with a minimum price, and let the bidders tell you how much your stuff is worth.

  • Advantages: allows selling in grouped "lots", allows setting minimum bid levels, and lets you "advertise" your items with a description. Allows you to sell gift items that cannot be put in the mall.
  • Disadvantages: very little price control outside the use of minimum purchase prices. Takes a while to sell things, since most of the best auctions will run for at least 48 hours. As one last downside, Kbay gets a lot less attention than the Mall of loathing, so the potential pool of customers will be much smaller.

Kbay has an entirely different selling strategy associated with it. For example, if you want to get rid of large quantities of an item, how many lots should you sell, and how should you space them out? If you are putting together a basket of goods, which combinations will result in the highest prices?

Business Ethics

Your goal in the mall is going to be to make a killing on your items, raising piles of Meat that you need to acquire rare items, fund a speed ascension, or buy that shiny new familiar you've been dying to have.

In general, the sorts of things that your kindergarten teacher would have disapproved of will not help you towards your goal. They include price switching, fraud, and various varieties of scamming. Using such tactics in the mall will typically result in attracting all sorts of unwanted hostile attention.

Don't commit a crime in the Kingdom. The Penguin Mafia hates competition. Feel free to be as ruthlessly capitalist in the mall as you'd like, but don't scam other players.

Undercutting

Many shopkeepers do not like it when you put your items up for sale at one Meat less than their price. This is called "one-Meat undercutting". Note, however: if someone undercuts you by one Meat, you can undercut them back by one Meat. You will still have the cheapest items in the mall, and your sale price will have only dropped by two Meat. In some sense they have done you a favor: they set their price so that you only have to drop by two Meat to have the cheapest again!

If this happens frequently, it may be worthwhile to get a mallbot to adjust your price automatically.

Buyouts

If someone is selling the same product as you, and your price is lower, they may try buying up your inventory and reselling it at their price. It's possible to prevent this by /ignore'ing the rival shopkeepers (and setting your store to not sell to ignored players). But a better response might be to thank the rival shopkeeper for buying your product, and then get a lot more product to replace what was bought out.

Conversely, if someone is selling for cheaper than you, think before buying them out: How easy will it be for them to restock?

How much is Meat really worth?

The Mr. Accessory Measure

Mr. Accessories can be used to derive something of an inofficial "exchange rate". As of October 2012, a Mr. Accessory sells in the mall for around 11 million Meat. Assuming US $10 per Mr. A, Meat trades at about 1,100,000 to the US dollar or 11,000 Meat to the US cent. This exchange rate is subject to massive change with no notice.

Important note: If you are the type of person who just read that last paragraph and wondered whether it would be possible to earn enough Meat to somehow convert back into real currency, you know, enough to quit your job and play KoL full-time, and to take that blond you just met out to that nice restaurant... forget about it.

Inflation and the Kingdom "Gold" Standard

From time to time in the markets, it may appear as though there is inflation (or deflation) afoot. This can happen with the growing and shrinking meat supply. Like in any economy, if huge amounts of meat enter the market, larger amounts of meat start chasing the same goods, pushing prices up. If meat is hoarded in closets and items are farmed like crazy, less meat goes after more items, and prices fall. The problem with the Kingdom - and MMORPGs in general - is that killing monsters essentially creates money from nothing; if you get 27 Meat for killing a W imp, then the supply of Meat in the kingdom has increased by 27 Meat. (Which, in turn, slightly devalues every piece of Meat in the Kingdom.) That may not seem like much, but remember that a) the Kingdom has many, many active accounts and that b) a dedicated meat farmer can easily earn in excess of 200,000 Meat per day.

Some things, though, remain relatively constant. Mr. Accessories (and, to a lesser extent, ten-leaf clovers) serve a somewhat similar purpose as the gold standard used to in the real economy. Mr. A's and clovers have unique properties which make them good for large-scale exchange of value. First, they cannot be created en masse by any player in the game. (Arguably, Mr. A's could be, but the volume of players is such that any quantity created isn't usually enough to meaningfully upset the total amount already available). Second, they are intrinsically valuable. The Mr. A gives a somewhat useful buff (although it has long since fallen victim to power creep), and clovers have many different valuable uses. Third, they are both "consumable" -- Mr. A's can be traded for IoTMs (some of which cannot re-enter the economy once used, and none of which can be turned back into Mr. A's) and clovers can be spent. This means that there are built-in "sinks" for these items so that their supply will not inevitably just build up forever in the market.

All of these things add up to the fact that Mr. A's and clovers are good long-term investments for those looking to store value. They may or may not be good investments, depending on the quality of IoTMs released by The Powers That Be - the better the items on sale in Mr. Store, the higher the demand for Mr. Accessories, and the higher the demand, the higher the prices. Similarly, if the items in question are useless or situational, the price of Mr. Accessories may drop.

Historical market data going back to 2010 can be found on the KoL Marketplace, hosted by Coldfront (just as this very wiki). Since 06-30-2010, Mr. Accessory prices have risen from ~8,000,000 to ~11,000,000. The price of ten-leaf clovers has erratically moved back and forth between 1,000 and 2,000 meat.

Really Nifty Meatmaking Ideas (that might work, but probably won't)

In this section, we'll describe a few meatmaking ideas that have been tried in the past. They are here to help us learn from the mistakes of shopkeepers who have come before us. Unless you're the Michael Milken of the mall and way smarter than all of the rest of us, your best bet is going to be the simplest: skip the fancy strategies. Go gather stuff that people want and need, and then sell it at a reasonable price.

The Artificial Momentum Strategy: Buy Slightly Lower, Sell Slightly Higher

Idea: Hey, I've got an idea! Why don't I buy up all of the dry noodles at the lowest price point, and then put them back on sale for 100 Meat extra! That way, people will buy mine and I'll make a profit on the difference!

Verdict: Because people are constantly generating new ones, and when you put all of those noodles in your shop at the higher price, someone will scoop you with a lower price and they won't sell. This approach typically only works with low-volume, high-price items; e.g., it could conceivably work with zombie pineal glands or with rare Mr. Store familiars no longer available. If the price difference you're going after is small, there probably also won't be enough volume for you to make real Meat doing this.

This strategy typically won't work because the economy is so large and active. If you're the sort who buys into the efficient market hypothesis, then you won't try this strategy.

The Looting Strategy: Abusing your Brothers and Sisters

Idea: Muhahahaha! My clan doesn't enforce good/any karma limits! I can take all of the wonderful food and booze that those other fools contributed, and sell it all on the open market!

Verdict: You clearly didn't read the business ethics section. I really don't think your kindergarten teacher would approve. There are places worse than hell that individuals like you go.

The Smaug's Hoard Strategy: Buy rares, and sit on them for months

Idea: Ahah! now I've got a super-fantabulous idea for massive meatage! I'll buy uncommon/rare items in quantity, and sit on them for months at a time! At some point in the future, I'll dole them out at unrealistically inflated prices to throngs of consumers all too happy to fork over the Meat!

Verdict: OK, this could work; but it's risky. Once an IoTM moves out of Mr. Store, its supply can no longer increase; at best, with items that can't be destroyed or consumed (such as the haiku katana), it'll remain constant. The same goes for time-limited seasonal items or one-time giveaways such as tropical wrapping paper. However, that doesn't mean prices will increase as well. What if Jick introduces a new item that's a better substitute, and nobody wants your lame rare item anymore? What if the item you're sitting on gets nerfed? You'll be sitting on a large cache of stuff no one wants. Compare the Sugar Fruit Fairy and the Li'l Xenomorph; they do essentially the same thing, but the Xenomorph is superior in almost every aspect. Prices for the candy cornucopia have risen over time, but not even at the rate of inflation; at the time of writing (October 2012), the price of the candy cornucopia was roughly 51% of that of the Mr. Accessory, meaning you just about managed to destroy half of your investment. (Of course, the Sugar Fruit Fairy was considered underpowered to begin with; the point here is that circumstances matter.) You might get burned for trying to manipulate prices in this way, because your control over other aspects of the market is almost zero.

The High School Dropout Strategy: Preying on Your Customer's Inability to Do Math

Idea: Awwww man! I've got the sweetest plan! I'll offer like a paired giveaway! If the buyer just buys 10 hermit permits from me for 200 each, then I'll give them a free screwdriver! Hee hee! What a deal for me^H^Hthem!

Verdict: So basically, you're assuming your customer is stupid. Given that your permits are marked up by 100 Meat each, you're thinking some poor tosser is going to give you an extra 1,000 Meat in exchange for an item (the screwdriver) they could buy separately for less than 300 Meat?

This plan even assumes that your customer is going to be willing to shell out 1,000 Meat and trust you to KMail the screwdriver to him or her later. Good luck with that. Many of the buyers out there are understandably wary of promises (which may or may not be kept) that are outside of the normal transaction.

Possible reversal: Let's say you have 1,000 of some item that sells everywhere for the mall minimum price. In this situation, you might be able to move some of that junk out of your inventory in exchange for some extra free gift. Keep in mind that people will still have to find your shop, meaning an advertising budget.

The Wal-Mart Strategy: Sell Everything at Almost 0 Profit, and Make a Killing on Volume

Idea: Hey! I have access to The Bakery where I can buy cheap pie tins -- their minimum sale price is higher than what I paid! I'll buy 1,000 of them and resell them for a profit!

Verdict: OK, that can work, but I hope you have a massive advertising budget. This strategy can work, but keep in mind that you'll be up against many other stores who have advertising budgets in the hundreds of thousands or millions, who are all doing the same thing. Most likely, your minimum priced item won't even show up in the search results on the mall.

Tips and Tricks: Mall Shortcuts

  • When entering inventory into your store, failing to enter a price will always result in your item being priced at the default maximum (currently 999,999,999 meat). When you're finished stocking your store with many items, you can then go back and hit the "Manage prices" link to change them. The "manage prices" function will let you see the current mall minimum.
  • When entering inventory, using a quantity of "0" or no quantity at all will place all of the item in your store. If you have 5 lihc eyes in your inventory, and you stock your store with "0" of them, then all 5 will go into the store.