I was really hoping not to have to write this rather long note, but I’m not sure what else to do. I purchased Jay Sankey’s “D.O.A.” right before Christmas, and I’ve had nothing but problems ever since. The first issue, which I noticed upon watching the DVD, was that there is a crucial and unavoidable moment in the routine, when all the heat in the world is on the gimmicked props, and there is a really high chance (even unavoidable) of flashing the gaff. Jay does not explain how to handle this moment on the DVD—there is never even a complete performance—so on January 13th, I sent the following message (edited a bit to protect the secret):
"Hi Jay. I was thrilled to be able to order D.O.A. over the holidays. I'm returning to magic after a 20-year hiatus, and it seems like a great effect to add to my new/rebuilt repertoire. The method is ingenious, and I'm really looking forward to getting it on its proverbial feet. But it seems like there is a key step left off the DVD: how do you [make a necessary move] without flashing the gimmick? You never go through a full performance on the video, nor do you discuss this crucial part of the routine. Any pointers or tips would be greatly appreciated."
I submitted this to his email and also through the “contact us” page on the website. No response. I then decided to work on the routine anyway—maybe things would become clear when I actually worked through it with the props in my hands? But then I found a bigger, more crucial problem. Again, I don’t want to give away any secrets, but suffice it to say that the gimmick has two elements, which must move independently of each other. That’s how things work on the video, and that’s the behavior they must exhibit in order for the effect to work. My gimmicks were stuck tight. I even recorded a video of me shaking the one, and trying to dislodge the other, to no avail. So on January 26th, I wrote again (again, edited):
"Hi there. I'm still hoping to get some tips on the problem below, but while working on D.O.A. I've run into a much bigger one: the [thing 1] doesn't want to slip out of the [thing 2]. I'm not sure if the cutout in the [thing 2] is too small or the [thing 2] is too big, but the  gets wedged in there, making the effect pretty much unusable. Please see the attached photo and video. Have you run across this before? I'd love a slightly smaller  or a  with a larger bore. Otherwise I'm afraid I'm going to have to return this one."
Seems pretty reasonable, right? I asked for tips on how to get it to work, or a replacement of one or more of the elements. Again, this effect would not work at all with the props I had, even if I solved the (as yet unanswered) problem that I first raised.
One day later (January 26th), I got the following response:
Sorry you've been having trouble with this trick, but we've been selling this exact product for years without a single complaint. Also, there are no refund or exchanges on magic tricks (you'll find this a standard policy in the magic industry) because a big part of what you are purchasing is the secret - and that of course cannot be 'returned.' All the best,
As you can imagine, I was pretty steamed, so I shot back this email the same day:
"Thanks for getting back to me so quickly.
"Whether or not anybody else has complained about this product is not really relevant. I'm facing two issues that make it unusable, as outlined in the thread below, and I would greatly appreciate it if you addressed them. The first is a question of a key performance moment that is not covered on the DVD (I watched it again last night, just to make sure), and the second is a manufacturing error that keeps the product from behaving as it does on the DVD--and indeed must behave for the trick to work. Your note resolved neither of these issues,
"I understand that the main thing that a customer pays for is the secret to a trick, but to be at all valuable, the secret must facilitate a real-world performance. After making this purchase, I now know understand about 90% of how Jay performs D.O.A. using _his_ setup, but my setup is still unusable.
"I'd rather not return it--I'd much prefer to get it properly up and running. As far as returns not being standard policy, I've made returns on several occasions for various reasons, including gimmicks not working as expected, methods being incompatible with my mediocre eyesight, and gimmicked props coming in unexpected and undesirable colors. Most retailers are fairly accommodating, especially when product flaws make something unperformable, but even when they just make items incompatible with my style or abilities.
Since then, radio silence. So my question is this: am I crazy? Doing some cursory research, I see that there are others who have had issues with Sankey’s customer service and sales practices. But I also know that buying magic is a unique circumstance. I can return a pair of shoes to Zappos over and over until I find something I like, but once I know a secret I can’t give it back. On the other hand, we are really buying more than secrets—we are buying routines that are practical and performable. I’m not looking for anybody here to clear this up for me (at just $13, this is actually a pretty well-priced lesson in caveat emptor), but for just a little sympathy and validation.