Hank Lee on Pre-Order Madness

Inside Magic Image of Female Magician Awaiting the Best New Effect of All TimeHank Lee's Magic Factory is a great place on the web for magicians and magic lovers. It is, to us, the virtual equivalent of a real magic store. Hank Lee is always friendly, topical, and filled with enthusiasm for our art.

Yes, some of his enthusiasm could be an outgrowth of his desire to sell magic, stay in business, eat and sleep somewhere other than under a bridge. Still, with his writing talent and business skills, he would likely make the same if not more plying his talents selling something other than magic. We suspect he likes this world of magic and magicians and finds a nice synergy of his passion and profession.

Each week, Hank Lee sends out emails to those who subscribe. The Hot List usually contains a short, well-considered essay or reflection he believes may be of interest to customers and subscribers.

This week's Hot List begins with a very interesting take on the "Pre-Order" game played by magic shops and wholesalers. We have pre-ordered many items in the last few years. It can be frustrating to pay in advance for an effect that fails to materialize on the promised date, or even within a month of the promised date.

We have accepted this scenario as a fact of life in the internet magic age. We assumed the pre-order funds helped to fund the production of the effect or provided some cash-flow for those in the supply chain. We realize our pre-ordering is enabling poor money management and perhaps even bringing poor quality magic to the market. No one would pre-order an effect described as ordinary or anything less than spectacular. Most magicians are happy to wait for the newest trick's arrival at their favorite magic outlet.

But the pre-order scenario works because the effect is described as something so wonderful, unique, novel, and new that the demand is likely to outstrip supply. Magicians cannot wait to purchase the effect on the day it debuts on store shelves – it may not be there.

We have a policy of not criticizing magicians or magic tricks. There are plenty of places on the web for snark and haters (or "snaters" or "harks"). Post a message to any one of the major magic forums asking for help or offering an opinion. Within seconds, a fire-fight of nastiness and sarcasm (complete with bad spelling and not good grammar) will appear in the post position immediately below your earnest comment.

We resist the urge to join the poorly thought out screeds because it is ultimately exhausting. We have a very limited ability to hate or question another magician's integrity or intelligence. Soon, we are disgusted with our own words and intemperate actions and need a shower or at least a good wet wiping (if that is the proper verb form for use of the moist towelettes we have collected from Kentucky Fried Chicken locations across this great land).

So, we won't name the names of those fortunate magicians and magic stores who have taken our pre-order money months in advance of the closest thing to real magic only to deliver a poorly edited PDF document teaching either something we already knew or something we would never use.

The fault, dear Caesar, lies not in the stars but in ourselves. We continue to fall for the promises of nearly miraculous results through use of a hitherto undiscovered magic principle as used by the inventor for the last thirty years, in thousands of shows.

Logic is lost when we are caught up in the moment. How could it be a tried and true effect honed by decades of real-world performances and yet be "hitherto unknown?" Perhaps the inventor lacks publicity skills and no one attended the shows held over the last quarter century? Maybe the inventor or distributor is puffing? Maybe we should think before we drop good cash on a promise of something we know does not exist?

Hank Lee's thoughts on the pre-order issue are refreshing. He provides a take from the perspective of a magic dealer.

I have been in this business of magic for 36 years. I remember when dinosaur magicians roamed the earth. Back in the olden days, we somehow managed without pre-orders. We sold items that had actually come into stock before they were advertised; or, within a few days of being advertised. It seems intrinsically sound business practice.

So why do magic dealers buck the sound business practice to offer promises in exchange for real money combined with a high likelihood of customer frustration and disappointment?


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