Disclaimer: I knew the risks of buying guilds, especially in sketchy situations, and took them anyway. That part is 100% on me. This is mainly a critique of how Blizzard dealt/deals with it.
Telling people you will sell them a guild, and taking their gold for nothing is apparently a legitimate method of making gold according to Blizzard, so this is indeed a gold making post in case anyone was wondering.
So earlier this year in February, someone was selling a level 25 guild with 7 tabs on my server. After getting an invite to the guild on an alt and using Sapu's Guild Bank Macro to evaluate the tabs, I found there were over 29,000 g worth of goods in the tabs, including lots of current mats/gems etc. The guild also had a few hundred members who were active, so a fairly valuable guild, a rare find on my small server.
To recap: ~30,000g in goods, 19,350g worth of purchased tabs I'd be saving, and active members. I offered 40k, feeling I could sell what was in the Guild Bank and get a nice profit from the resale of the guild. He wanted 50,000 and wasn't willing to budge. Looking back now to that period on my previous gold totals graph, I had 1.45 million, 50,000 being ~3.5% of that. This of course doesn't justify the stupidity that occurred next, but provides some context.
So he said that he wanted the 50,000 up front before the transfer. Now this had set off all sorts of RED FLAGS for me, it went against all the advice of "half before half after" and similar ideas I had read up on in this Guild Buying Thread at The Consortium. Regardless I sucked it up and said "Screw it, it's only ~3.5% of my total capital, I can afford to lose it" knowing I could get screwed, and obviously this is how it ended. He got the 50,000 gold, paused for about 60 seconds, then promptly kicked me out of the guild and put me on ignore.
Things Get Hairy
Of course right after this happened I was a little taken aback. The first thought I probably had was "Well, crap." To pour salt in the wound the guy immediately went to the AH and bought a Vial of the Sands and started flying around Org. I probably whispered him some choice words from an alt, and immediately proceed to open up a ticket. I of course gave a very detailed report, as you can imagine if you've read my blog. Screenshots, time stamps, the whole kit and kaboodle. I got this response from Blizzard, emphasis by me:
First off I sincerely apologize that I was unable to speak with you directly, and for the wait you have had. >.< However, you have come to the right spot, and gave us all the info we needed!
We have investigated the player you have reported, and are taking the appropriate actions. Because of privacy concerns, we are unable to disclose the nature of the action taken.
Due to many variables involved with item reimbursement and types of issues, restoration is not guaranteed. We have made every effort to verify your particular case, but unfortunately, we were unable to provide the restoration of money as guild sales are considered an unsupported transaction. We are sorry for any inconvenience you may have been caused. While we will make every effort to provide assistance in cases of loss, the decision to go forward with a restoration is entirely at Blizzard's discretion.*Clarification: When they say guild sales are an unsupported transaction, it means just that, they're unsupported. They are not however against the ToS such as trading an in game item for real world currency.
This is where I start to take fault with Blizzard's response. They said they had taken appropriate actions, but when I logged in later that day after this response, the character in question was playing, not even a 24 hour ban slap on the wrist. He was once again in trade chat, still trying to "sell" his guild.
Does it seem like the appropriate actions were taken? When I logged on, there was already a character decrying him in trade chat, so I whispered them to see what happened, and they told me a similar story to my own. In my opinion, justice was not served. Not to even mention that he still had the Vial of the Sands listed in his armory (although the removal may not have been recorded there if it was indeed removed).
I completely understand why Blizzard has a policy of not supporting transactions like this. Selling guilds as commodities is not exactly promoting "community" in the game, and surely you can not drag a guild into the trade window and hit trade. I do take offense that when someone, in whispers in game, says they'll trade you 50k for a guild, and takes the 50k for nothing is still in trade the next day pulling the same scheme, and Blizzard still does nothing about it. They at most got a 3 hour suspension, according to Blizzard's Penalty Volcano.
IMO as it was his second infringement, it should have been at least a 24 hour suspension. It's all fine that the GMs dealt with it the way they did, it's not their fault, but I think it's a poor stance by Blizzard to let scammers know that doing this is acceptable, and will only get them a slap on the wrist at most. This guy was in trade chat for weeks after this event with the same scheme. For a while I had a macro responding to it and warning others, in a personal attempt to thwart his scamming, and filed a follow up report to Blizzard to which I received a canned response telling me that I should use the in game reporting system.
The gold issue I actually got resolved eventually. Another (perhaps friendlier, or perhaps realizing my persistence) GM in a follow up ticket refunded me my 50,000 gold. He noted that it was a 'special case' and most likely would not be repeated if future stupid trades occurred, which is completely understandable through Blizzard's current policy.
Not all had been restored though. This guy was still in trade pulling the same scam, and surely eating up more of Blizzard's Customer Service time, and when was enough going to be enough? He started going around to other guilds trying to "sell" them, not even in a GM position this time, but eventually it stopped, and business carried on as usual. I had assumed he was eventually banned for all this, but lo and behold, he shows up a week ago (6 months later), in trade, still selling the same original guild from the same account!
I think that Blizzard should crack down a bit on this, or it has the potential to get out of hand. Knowing that I could do this, I could theoretically quickly make a lot of gold. I have a level 25 guild on Tichondrius, which I purchased from WoWProfitz a month or two ago when he quit WoW. I could easily snap up a couple buyers, I've sold a similar guild on that server for 25k in the past already. I could get the 25k from one guy, keep spamming in trade, get another 25k or even more, buy myself a Sky Golem and all it will get me is a slap on the wrist. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.
The fact that the scammer's account is still active upsets me on a personal level. The fact that he's still advertising the same scheme in /2, 8 months after the original infringements, is unacceptable to all WoW's players. It's clear that not only were Blizzard's actions in his case not enough to deter him from doing it again, they were also not enough to make him think he'd have any negative repercussions after a (at least) third try.
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