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RandyStewart
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Inner circle
Texas (USA)
1990 Posts

Profile of RandyStewart
"We pride ourselves on getting it ALL right the first time - no excuses or the order is free!" I'm still looking for that company. Well maybe that's as unrealistic as the current expectations of the greedy but I am serious about replacing all the FREE perks with good old-fashioned quality service. If we could relieve sellers of the FREE perks and customer takes all policies maybe we could see some improvements in quality of service.

We normally complain about service within this Forum when dealing with online merchants. Even I've had a negative experience ordering online so I understand where most of you stand on the issue. Today, I'd like to defend the creators and merchants who offer their products and TRY to get the darn things to our front door. I think the problem is twofold. First, consumers attitude and demand for "the better deal" has dropped to unscrupulous levels. Second, the merchant who caters to that attitude. Many merchants feel they can't compete if they don't offer "the better deal".

Some of the "better deals" include:

*Guaranteed lowest price
*Price matching
*Buy one get one free
*FREE SHIPPING!
and a few other ridiculous concepts. That little list alone makes me wonder how they make any money.

However! Upon reading back on some of our posts within this forum, it appears that many of the sellers are unable to offer these things in a satisfactory and timely manner - it's just not realistic in day to day operations. Many of these companys truly intend to do as promised but are unable to keep up with these policies. Policies the customer is accustomed to and which companies try to respond to in order to just survive. All the while, as Paul Richards of Elmwood magic describes below, "the price militant" buyers continue...gimee...gimee...gimeee....

I would prefer to deal with a merchant who can deliver my prefered item with none of the above extras. Trust me, guaranteed lowest price, and even free shipping mean NOTHING to me if I can't get what I want. Discounted efforts usually yield discounted results. Heck I'll pay the merchant an extra ten bucks to charge my card and fill the order correctly the first time. Is that abusing me the customer? Not when you consider the frustration of getting credit card charges straightened out, returning items, and re-filling order (an experience a few of you are familiar with).

I'm a bit old school when it comes to any transaction. I GIVE NOTHING AWAY FREE....ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Besides, cheap freebies are an insult. And if you have the nerve to ask for any of the above extras (not that they apply in my business) I'll show you the door.

I fully understand each and every one of you who placed a simple order and found your official sleigh ride to hell. That very problem I think is due to the company's initial response to greedy customers and consequently the company's inability to do a decent job.

I'm waiting to do business with the online store that states they DO NOT offer free shipping, or any other perks promised by others. A online store that is committed to getting the credit card charge and filling the order right the first time. Imagine that motto:

"We pride ourselves on getting it ALL right the first time - no excuses or the order is free!" Suddenly the perks mean nothing.

I have a feeling this will be a post with one of the highest view counts and lowest response count.

Other's general response: "I see it, I read it, but I don't believe it...."
Chris Michaels
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New user
72 Posts

Profile of Chris Michaels
The best I could do is agree. I haven't had any failed miserably orders.. or any failed at all. I guess I'm just lucky. If it came down to it however, I would agree with you. I could care less about discount prices and free shipping. Penguin for instance.. I payed for my shipping anyway, cause I wanted priority. Which unlike a lot of other stores.. they don't do standard.

If it came down to it.. I'd much rather HAVE something that costs retail, than NOT have something cause I payed half price and got half the effort.


Chris

(btw Randy.. if you're up to it, can you PM me and tell me about you as a magician? I live close to Dallas, and it's nice to talk to people close.)
"penguin is the cheapest magic shop online" - some person I was talking to on AIM.
Paul Richards
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142 Posts

Profile of Paul Richards
Well said Randy! Your post is thoroughly refreshing to see in this forum.

I think there are dealers out there who do make that attempt and many of them have been around for years. They may not use the exact phrase you mentioned above, but they stand strongly behind their business and will quickly do what must be done to rectify problems when they occur.

The Internet has given us a new breed of customer in magic. Truthfully, this type of customer is not really new, but in the well over 15 years that I have sold magic, I have never seen the group this large. This new breed is a militant price shopper…demanding the absolute lowest price and, “hey, while you at how about free shipping!”

Unfortunately even the most well intentioned dealers are having to meet with these demands. It’s one thing to run promotions, but an entirely other thing to have across the board price slashing. Sadly, the dealers I see mentioned as “the best” on the Café tend to be those in the latter category. It’s a shame that so many long time and respectable dealers take heat on this board for charging the ACTUAL retail price of an effect! Or for charging shipping, which in general is not a profit center for dealers, but a hard cost of fulfilling the order.

John Law, a well-known British author and essayist who lived in 1800’s had a quote that I think of often. “The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot…it cannot be done. If you deal always with the lowest bidder it is well to add something to the price for the risk you run; and if you do that, you will discover you have enough to purchase from the someone that is better.”

That quote always helps remind me that perhaps things haven't changed too much after all. Merry Christmas to all and best wishes for a successful 2004!

Paul Richards
benrl
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127 Posts

Profile of benrl
Sorry, but I have little sympathy for dealers who refuse to remain competitive in an industry that has become so commodity driven. I would offer that most on-line dealers sell the same effects, books and Dvd's as every other dealer. They use the same pictures, the identical text and the same retail price. For this we should be thankful for good service? This is competitive marketing?

I truly appreciate the dealers who have chosen to differentiate their offerings by using marketing strategies that will benefit me: discounted prices, free shipping, frequent sales and UNIQUE and exclusive products. I accept as a given that they will provide me with fine service PLUS these benefits. I do not tolerate poor sevice, period.

On the other hand, I respect a brick and mortar shop's need to maintain a higher profit margin on their in-store sales. They offer an added value for the customer and I support their effort.

There are several on-line dealers that understand what attracts and retains customers. Other merchants might take a lesson from them.
dreidy
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Regular user
Sydney, Australia
156 Posts

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Not being in the US, most of the online deals don't count. No one ships free to Australia, though I have had shipping charges that have ranged from $11.95 to $63.95. Even list prices in the US are cheaper than local prices (and usually by a good margin) so maybe I'm not typical of other users.

What I look for in an online shop is the same as I look for in a local merchant, I want to see what I'm buying demonstrated competently. For example, I like the Penguin site and have used them because of the quality of the information, not the other deals. Similarly I've bought from other online stores for the same reason, I liked the info they gave.

I'll still buy locally if the goods are available (yes that means A$10 for a pack of Bicycles instead of US$2.50) because the best info always comes from 'the bloke behind the counter'.

So, forget the discounts, give me well presented, comprehensive information (believable reviews) and I'll buy from you.

David.
Tom Cutts
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Staff
Northern CA
5806 Posts

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It is a well established fact in sales. Being the lowest price is the laziest way to make a sale. It is one that creates a downward spiral which eventually kills off competition (the cause of price gouging) and then prices return to normal.

Right now E-commerce is still settling in. Not stocking items, and having them ship direct to end users, this is still new in magic. Since anyone with a computer and a website can play the game without stocking a lick, there is going to be a lot of change before anything which resembles normalcy or consistency settles in to the magic E-marketplace.

The price you pay for buying through the cheapest online dealer is never really getting to observe the merchandise before purchasing. I find that critical in buying magic. A lot of people are getting stuck with a lot of really bad "product" because of sight unseen purchases based on E-hype.

They have no one to blame but themselves. In seeing product in a real world application I save tons of money by not wasting it on the latest "great idea" piece of junk.

As the buyers start to wise up the market will begin to correct and service and relationships will return to their deserved position in commerce.

Cheers,

Tom
Daniel J. Ferrara Jr.
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Regular user
Long Island, New York
182 Posts

Profile of Daniel J. Ferrara Jr.
The fact is that there are millions of people who can shop at any given web site. That gives a Virtual Magic Shop an edge over a physical one. That is where the low prices come in. A deck of cards that used to be sold for $10 can now be sold for $8. The difference is that the web site is selling 100 decks for every 10 decks that a physical magic shop sells. They can sell at a lower profit margin because they have the ability to do a much larger volume.

Most retailers would agree that if they would rather sell 10 decks for $8 each instead of 8 decks for $10 each. Although they are doing more work for the same amount of money, they are also gaining market share. Every deck you buy from me is one less deck that you buy from my competition.

All the decent magic sites offer demo videos so you can see what you are going to buy.

I have been selling magic for over two years now (www.5fingermagic.com) and I have not had one order go out incorrectly.
ashah
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469 Posts

Profile of ashah
For a magic consumer buying something standard, such as a book, video, deck of cards, etc., one loses nothing by not being able to "observe" the items in person. As far as the bigger or more expensive items, it certainly makes sense to go to a physical shop.

But when it comes to the standard stuff, the online shops that offer good service and demo videos are just more attractive to the consumer with their lower prices and free shipping. For the majority of people, that's what counts.

Most people do not have so much cash that they would want to pay a higher price for something when they can save money with a negligible decline in service quality. On the other hand, there are those who truly benefit from a relationship with their local shop, and that's a different story.
Magic Clown
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Kissimmee, FL
14 Posts

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I agree with what's been said here, that customer service should be the main focus.

A lot of web sites selling magic are not interested in the art of magic nor are they interested in providing customer service. They're more interested in the almighty dollar.

I own and operate my own brick & mortar store and I have a web site as well. I focus on the store more than I do the web site because I refuse to participate in the price wars online. It's not that I'm afraid to be competive, there are 5 other magic shops in my area.

I do offer specials just like everyone else, but I think the focus should be put back where it belongs, customer service and providing quality products.

Whatever happened to "your not just buying a trick/illusion, your buying the secret as well".

Randy said it all in his post, people are just plain getting to greedy, epecting something for nothing.
Donald Carpenter
Fuzzy the Magic Clown
Professional Magic Clown

www.magicandsmiles.com
Show Them the Magic and Watch Them Smile
Steve Pellegrino
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224 Posts

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Quote:
On 2003-12-29 19:23, Daniel J. Ferrara Jr. wrote:The fact is that there are millions of people who can shop at any given web site. That gives a Virtual Magic Shop an edge over a physical one. That is where the low prices come in.
That is not necessarily true. First of all, and you have to honest - there are not "millions" of people buying magic. If new release sells 1000 that is considered a big success.

What all magic dealers need to ask themselves is this - "Why do people buy from me?"

If your answer is "I have the lowest prices", you are then also the guy making the least amount of money per item and you will not have customer loyality, because if you are selling at only 10% over cost and someone comes in at 5% over cost, what are you going to do then - sell at 3% over cost?

The magic price wars will be dying out soon enough because these companies cannot stay in business very long. Selling in mass quantities at low prices can work in a more lucrative retail enviorment, but not in magic because there isn't that "mass" of people buying.

I don't think this is a battle between virtual stores and brick and mortar stores. Living in St. Louis, I do not have any magic stores near me, so everything I buy is mail order. The web is great. Even though I work with L&L Publishing, I shop at other dealers too.

Ask me why I shop at other dealers and I'll tell you because I trust them. I pay full retail price at Denny & Lee's because I trust Denny. I know he carries quality items, he has been around and is going to be around.

Successful magic dealers will be the experienced guys who offer great customer service, don't sell junk, offer both a real and virtual store and have exclusive items.

I mention exclusive items because if the "price wars" continue, magic publishers, producers and creators will no longer sell to distributors. They no longer want to see their hard work be sold at the lowest percentage. If the product is in demand, then you will be forced to buy it from the creator at full retail.

No one and everyone is to blame for the current state of magic retail. Most of the discount dealers have no experience running a business and it's easier than ever to set up accounts with distributors. The distributors make money getting products out the door - especially new ones. Consumers are greedy. Hey, I like a deal as much as the next guy. But at some point everyone in magic needs to take a step back and look at where this is headed.
Skulldini
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N. California
80 Posts

Profile of Skulldini
Now I'll add my 10 cents worth/ no wait 5 cents/ no wait 2 cents/ no wait let me pay you to hear what I have to say, lol Get my point?

Long time ago there was this fella who came up with a really neat game that you could play on the TV screen. It involved moving a white small square from one side of the screen to the other without missing.
Wow was this game popular, so much so you couldn't keep it the stores. Now you would think that this guy would be a billionare by now, right? Wrong!

He wanted everyone to have this great game so he kept lowering the price so he could sell more. Only problem is no one told him that it was starting to "cost" him money every time he sold a unit. He and his company went broke.

The point is, that if you keep giving away the profit margin you lose, as does everyone else. Boy do I love a bargin, but we as consumers could unknowingly shop our favorite magic dealer out of existence by him/her trying to keep sales by lowering prices. Be careful.

Oh by the way the game---------( you older people will know ) PONG
Skulldini Smile
huggie50
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North Las Vegas
109 Posts

Profile of huggie50
I agree with Steve totally. The companies that will make it are the ones that offer great customer service, don't sell junk and have exclusive items. That is what sets them apart from the other dealers.
Magically yours,
Huggie
A C Spectre
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Connecticut
75 Posts

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Remember the 1980's? Interest rates were low and then the President cut taxes. People had more disposable income and housing starts went through the roof. The demand for new houses was so great that the construction industry simply couldn't keep up. All of the sudden anybody and everybody decided that they could build houses. If you had a tool belt and a skillsaw you were a carpenter, if you had a transit and a backhoe you were a general contractor. For awhile these folk's made insane money. Then the inevitable market correction came along and the only one's left standing were the people who had established themselves before the boom and/or those that had real quality goods and services to offer.

I feel this situation is somewhat similar. E-commerce is still in it's infancy. It's maturation will be shaped by the market and a process of natural selection that will eventually reinstate quality as the number one consideration of consumers.

A C Spectre
WoodRat
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Loyal user
California
233 Posts

Profile of WoodRat
I think Steve hit the nail on the head. It's all about trust. Trust builds customer loyalty and repeat business. I have tried many online dealers since my local magic shop (Steve Dawson's Magic Touch) closed down.

I order from Penguin and Magic Warehouse often. The reasons are trust and value. They are very responsive and give me the feeling they care about my satisfaction.

The price I pay for the products I get there represent a good value to me... so I continue to shop there, and if I need something they stock, I buy it there.

I have a choice of two local magic shops in my area, the closest is over 30 minutes away by freeway, the other nearly an hour. So unless I am considering a purchase of some new item (new to me) and they stock that item (that's hit and miss), I am buying online based on reviews and other info (like these forums).
Learn something new everyday.
threadz
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TN.
37 Posts

Profile of threadz
I have a brick and mortar shop and just started an online shop to me it is about trust and a relationship between customer and owner.Yes shops will make mistakes we are just humane but most will make it up like I would but so far (knock on wood) I haven't yet, but its all about communitation and respect.I don't care if I get a lot of business as long as I have repeat customers that are loyal to me as I am to them. Also because I can offer low prices and free shipping don't mean you want get quality service or from any shop for that fact.I am not out to compete with any other shops just with my own. I want to have the best shop I can have and not worry what other shops are doing.Well just my opinion but if you guys get a chance take a look I am not very big but I will try to get what ever you need or I will suggest another shop that might have it.Also Just go to my email there and drop me a line we can talk magic or give me suggestion on how to improve the shop.Thanks Wes
www.xtrememagicshop.com

where the magic is limited only by your Imagination!
aquariusmagic
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Regular user
England
122 Posts

Profile of aquariusmagic
A story:- Customer: "Dealer xyz is only charging $44.95 for that item and yours is $49.95"
Dealer "has xyz got any?"
Custmer "No"
Dealer "well, mine are only $29.95 when I haven't got any!"
regards
Francis Smile
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