A middleman is anyone who assists in the trade of goods by acting as a neutral guardian of both the buyer's and the seller's interests in a trade. They act as an arbiter of fairness, using their inventory as a central storage vault for both parties.
In the Combine, stealing from other players through trading is an acceptable In-Character action and is, therefore, neither punished nor undone. As such, it is strongly advised that traders not send goods or credits to trading partners they do not already trust.
If you doubt the honesty of the other party in a trade, use a respected middleman. If you aren't sure who to trust, the best thing to do is to consult an established Trader Reputation list (see below).
Using a middleman does not always imply you do not trust your trading partner. It is often done merely as a routine safety measure. Some factions or individuals may have standing policies of using middlemen for all trades.
How "Middling" Works
Once two traders agree on a deal, one or the other will contact a middleman to ensure the trade. If the other party does not agree to the choice of middleman (usually because the person chosen is not well known as trustworthy), another can be selected until both traders agree.
Sending goods or money to a middleman without previously requesting their assistance is a breach of protocol, and may result in your goods or credits being inaccessible in the inventory of an inactive player, or the middleman may simple refuse to help you. Always contact your middleman before you send any goods or money!
After the middleman has been selected, both traders send their portion of the trade to the middleman, rather than to each other. Once the middleman has received both the buyer's money and the seller's goods, he then completes the trade, giving the money to the seller, and transferring the goods to the buyer.
Although many middlemen offer their services for free, it is customary and polite to offer some kind of token fee in appreciation for their time.
Established Trader Reputation Lists
Centrepoint Station's list of trusted middles is brief, but as of late Year 8 kept very up-to-date.
A list of pre-approved middles maintained by the Hapes Consortium.
Once the standard reputation reference, the famous Enigma List is still used, though not updated. Names in bold black are known thieves, whereas names in bold green are trusted middlemen.
The TPA listing is no longer updated, but still contains useful information on known thieves.
(requires ezboard login)