It’s so encouraging to see many of you Alexandrites taking an active interest in magic! Even for you hobbyists with a growing interest in magic, you’re starting to venture past the gates of the magic I offer at http://www.alexandergrait.com/store and starting to buy magic props and accessories online. Unfortunately, a few of you have gotten “burned” by unscrupulous magic websites promising “pie in the sky” magic effects. This is an unfortunate part of today’s cyber world. It’s the wild west all over again. As any magician who’s been in the business awhile can tell you, magic effects, above any other product sold online, have often been hyped up beyond all recognition. The only product that might be hyped more today are the fun world of “diet pills.” It’s sad for part of my brotherhood of magicians because competing dealers continually try to offer something better than their last effect or better than a competing dealer. It’s a neverending quest to offer the most amazing magic effect. I covered some of this in my blog YouTube Magic, but thought it might be prudent to offer some further guidance here since so many of you are buying magic online. Of course you can always email me privately at Alexander@alexandermagic.com for a list of recommended online dealers.
Okay, onward! The first thing I want to say is, “beware of the description.” Marketing-speak, no matter what the industry, is often very different than reality. How many times has your vacation hotel turned out to be very different from the pictures in the brochure, or how many times have you seen an advertisement for some mouthwatering microwave meal only to buy it and conclude that you must’ve eaten the cardboard packaging by mistake? Magic marketing is no different than any other form of marketing that you come across every day in terms of exaggerated and misleading claims. Frequently such terms as “reputation-maker” or “show-stopper” are applied to magic effects in dealer catalogs. Some of these descriptions, like skin care products, are written by copywriters and not magicians.
In fact a glance through most magic catalogs will show you almost every item there has some valid reason why you must purchase it right then and there, or your life cannot continue.
Another common temptation is to purchase a magic prop or item just because it looks intriguing or because you are curious about how it works. When you do that more often than not you will be disappointed. I speak from vast experience. Taking this a little further, if you know deep down that you will never use the effect, either because it won’t fit with your show or style, then for goodness sake don’t purchase it! Otherwise you’ll waste lots of money on a trunk full of magical bits and pieces that stay there forever.
When you order a magic effect the price usually gives an indication of type of effect it is. If an item is more expensive than average, you can probably assume that it has some kind of secret gimmick and/or it is very well made. This is a guideline and not a rule, however. Never assume that the higher the price the better the trick. Actually, the favorite tricks of some magicians are the cheapest around. And no, it’s not because we are cheap.
In deciding whether or not to buy an item, remember that it will probably need to withstand constant handling, so it needs to be tough enough to last many years. That being said, it’s obvious that you should consider magic items to be an investment, something to be stored carefully and wisely. This advice is even more relevant when you consider that many magic tricks are delicate and require careful handling from day one. Magic is not cheap from any source because it is a “specialists field” and you always pay for the secret as well as the physical item. This is important to remember. You are never paying for just the item. Many magic effects have taken years of research and development just to get them to a marketable stage. Keep these points in mind when you buy online.
Buying from a brick and mortar has it’s pros and cons too. You may be forced to buy online if there are no magic stores within a reasonable distance from your home. As mentioned, any of you Alexandrites are free to email me at Alexander@alexandermagic.com and ask for recommendations of magic shops in your area. I know most of them. If there is a magic store locally, however, you have the benefit of being able see and touch the items in the flesh, handle them and take them home with you that day. When I was a kid, we had Hollywood Magic, Inc.
Online you can not only purchase magic apparatus from a multitude of dealers and magic suppliers, but view videos of effects being performed. Other magic related websites often give independent reviews of magic, videos, and books and other items of interest. If you intend to purchase magic online, be especially careful of shipping charges, and the provision of a secure server. Some shipping charges in some instances could end up costing more than the items you order (e.g., if you inadvertently buy from China or India). Even if foreign dealers present prices in American currency you should still be aware of potentially high shipping costs. Using a secure server means that your credit card details will be safe online because the details you send are encrypted with complex codes. The reality of internet fraud is that the public has greatly over-reacted to the often wild claims about the risks. Actual cases of fraud when ordering goods online are so small, that the risk is less than any other transaction using credit cards such as purchasing at a real store. A common misconception about online magic shops is that they are faceless and have no personality. Although it’s quite possible to place orders without speaking to anyone, online dealers are still run by human beings and they are available on the end of a phone line. I encourage you to build a relationship with an online dealer that looks like they will service you well. Go ahead and let them know what types of magic you are interested in and talk to them about your growing interest in performing. Many reputable dealers online are a goldmine of information and you can benefit from them even though you may never meet face to face. You can also subscribe to their newsletters, flyers, and catalogs. Before we leave this subject here are some useful questions to ask when ordering magic online.
-Was the service friendly and courteous?
-How long did the package take to arrive?
-Was the order complete or were items damaged or missing?
-Were the items of good quality? Will they bear wear and tear?
-Was the correct payment debited?
-Were the charges reasonable compared with other dealers?
Remember, you are a magician now. So keep careful records of your suppliers including receipts, notes of what you purchased, and so on. Don’t leave anything to chance or assume you won’t need the information later. Chances are you will. Most important: Have fun!