Getting the Best of the Post
So you've traveled to Mystery Island, visited the Island Mystic for wisdom and Haikus, and stopped off at the Trading Post, in the shade of those lovely palm trees. You're searching for a rare plushie or Petpet far too expensive for the Shop Wizard Shops and you don't like Auction Sniping. Maybe you've even read a few guides and articles on how to use the Trading Post. Yet you feel there's something missing, something important you just can't grasp. Something that would you make more than just a casual Trading Post user. That's where this guide come in.
The Trading Post to many people is an annoying and torturous experience, filled with long waits wondering if the trader is online and worrying if they will even accept your offer when they do show up. Some would rather spend their evenings in Jhudora's clutches or King Skarl's dungeon than buy things from the Trading Post. They'd much rather use the Shop Wizard, which is as easy as clicking a left mouse button. But the Trading Post is really a wonderful way to meet new Neopians, haggle, and get great deals on large lots. The secret is in knowing the little tricks and secrets, and I'm not talking about knowing what HTS means or looking out for newbs who don't know the real prices. I'm talking about the simple little details that are overlooked by many people that can make all the difference in Neopia.
The first bit of of advice I have to give comes before you even hit the shiny button labeled 'Find those Trades!'. Look above it and you'll see three options: Newest, Random, Oldest. Random is the default selection. These buttons are absolutely crucial when it comes to being a savvy Trading Post user! It makes a huge difference if the trade is the newest one there or the oldest. Why, you ask?
Well, it's simple. The owners of the newest trades have a higher chance of still being online. Not only that, but as the most recent trade, it will usually reflect the most recent prices. Look at the Trading Post after Tarla has given out a rare item or Paint Brush. The oldest trades are still asking for the old expensive price because the trader has yet to update it, while the latest trades reflect the cheaper, deflated price. On the other hand, during a plot when the price of weapons go up, the oldest trades will have the best, un-inflated prices. By going backwards through increasingly older trades you can see if an item has recently increased or decreased in price. There might not be any change, which can be a good sign; it means the price of the item is stable and isn't about to suddenly change. (Unless that charming Pink Ixi called Tarla finds a load of them in her infamous warehouse.)
I haven't found many uses for Random ordering. It can be very confusing and misleading as it will give you old prices, new prices and no sense of order or time. On the other hand, it's great for finding Laboratory Map pieces.
Sorting your trades by the oldest first also has its own uses. Old trades are ones that have been up the longest, which can potentially mean several things; that they haven't been online, that they are asking for too much or that they haven't received any offers. But how do you know? Hold one just one moment and we'll get to that, I promise.
But first, once you've searched for the item, (perhaps that plushie we talked about earlier when we first came to the Trading Post, remember?) and arranged the search results in whatever order you like best, there comes the next step. Reading the wishlists. I cannot stress enough how important it is to read the wishlists! They are your key to deciding what to offer. Wishlists range from silly jokes, to the desired amount of NP, to threats should anyone offer junk, to just 'none'. By the way, none does not mean that trader is giving away the item or items for free! It simply means that they didn't enter anything into the wishlist. My favorite kind of wishlists are the most informative ones (this is a subtle hint to those who wish to use the Trading Post for selling, wink wink).
Now if you want to make a successful trade, follow the instructions! If the person says they do not want to haggle, respect their wishes and don't send them a Neomail asking, 'will you haggle'? If someone says they do not want items, don't offer items! You're only wasting your and their time. Remember that this isn't the Shop Wizard; you aren't going to stroll into their shop, pay the tag price and leave. The Trading Post is dealing with other Neopians far more directly, which to me, is part of the appeal.
So now you've found a newer trade with a reasonable wishlist, and you have the money or items you want to offer. Now what? Remember I told you earlier to hold on a moment? Well, a moment and more has gone by and it's time for me to tell you the next and final step. Clicking on the username.
Cue lightning and thunder sound effects.
Next to the lot number is the username of the owner of the trade. If you click on it, it'll bring you to their user lookup. Sneaky, eh? The first thing you can look at is when the user was last online. If they've been gone for a long time, you might want to think twice before offering. They might not come back any time soon. If they've been gone for almost two weeks, the trade will come down soon anyway. However, it can also be a good thing; most people will have probably withdrawn their offers if the trader has been gone for a long time because they got tired of waiting. This can lead to you getting a good deal; you can offer low and be pretty sure there aren't that many other trades.
Next, look at a few other things. Their account age, their pets, their shop and gallery. We're being really snoopy now... or, to use the word I prefer, thorough. A newbie will usually be a little more impatient to sell and more impressed by large sums of Neopoints than a old player. Now I am definitely not supporting trying to trick them! That's just not nice. But it doesn't mean you shouldn't put their account age into consideration. Look at their wishlists and galleries; do you have an item they want?
And don't be afraid to send a Neomail! (Unless of course their wishlist states they do not want them.) Write a Neomail that is friendly and polite. You can chat a little, tell them why you want the item or ask if they'd like to haggle. If the person likes you they will be more likely to haggle and settle for a lower price. I completed my Usul's outfit by being honest: I offered my trade and told the trader it was the last item I needed for her. She was very friendly, asked what other items I had for trade and I ended up giving her an item for her gallery in exchange. None of that could have been achieved without contacting her! Also, don't hesitate to ask for prices either. If no one on the Trading Post has a price listed, tell them that and ask politely for the price.
Using the Trading Post for me is like doing detective work. I look at all the offers, delve into different accounts, find out about people and then make judgments based on what I've found. Only then do I make an educated offer based on what I've deduced from the clues I've gathered. It doesn't always work; sometimes there's not enough information available, but it gives me the ability to make the best offer I possibly can. I get rejected as often as I get accepted but I don't receive rude emails or get blocked from great traders. And I've met some great and friendly people.
So, to make a long story short: remember that you're dealing with real people, not Neopian Shopkeepers; respect their wishes and do some research! And eventually, you'll get your hands on that rare plushie you've always wanted for your gallery and maybe make a few friends along the way!