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Ken Magill

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Stupid Marketer Watch: Where's the Magic?

By Ken Magill

And for the latest example of why so many people hate direct marketers, look no further than the Criss Angel Mindfreak Platinum Magic kit as sold by TV Products Direct.

I decided to buy the kit last month after my seven-year-old son breathlessly told me how badly he wanted to learn to “lemitate.”

A Google search for “Criss Angel magic kit” returned several possibilities and I clicked on a sponsored link through to

The offer was one kit for two payments of 14.99 plus a “Free Bonus” DVD on the “secret to levitation, Just pay S&H.”

OK, so I’m not stupid, or not completely stupid anyway. I knew the “lemitation” DVD was going to be bullshit.  The level of bullshit I was about to pay for, however, would be pretty friggin’ stunning.

First, the shipping and handling. The fine print at the bottom of the order form said the shipping and handling for the kit was $9.99 and $6.99 for the DVD.

I, of course, didn’t read the fine print. For reasons that are about to become obvious, I would go back and read it later, however.

While ordering, the site upsold me on two additional kits for $14.99 each, each including the levitation DVD, “free” with shipping and handling.

Again, I didn’t read the fine print.

So imagine my surprise when the shipping-confirmation email arrived letting me know I had been billed $162.84 for the three kits and DVDs.

TV Products Direct dinged me for $62.91 in shipping and handling charges. That’s $20.97 each. Clearly, TV Products Direct upped the shipping and handling on the $14.99 kits to about 24 bucks apiece.

I understand that shipping-and-handling charges are not the true cost of shipping. They’re a psychological technique aimed at creating a perception of value while layering on revenue.

But $62.91 for three magic kits?

So now I’m pissed, but Max really wants to learn to “lemitate, please, please, please” so I let it go.

Then a couple days later the phone rings. Caller ID says it’s Clearwater, FL.

A woman on the other end of the line says my kits are about to ship, but she just wants to make sure she has the right address. She rattles the address off, I verify and then she tries to upsell me again. I politely say “no, I won’t be buying anything else. Please just ship the product.”

A couple days later the phone rings again. Again, caller ID says it’s Clearwater, FL. What is it about Florida that brings out the worst in DMers?

A woman on the other end of the line says my kits are about to ship, but she just wants to make sure she has the right address, to which I say: “You’ve already done this. Just ship the goddam product.”

Oh, and then there were the unsolicited emails. Seven days after I received the message informing me of $62.91 in shipping-and-handling charges, an email arrives from TV Products Direct pitching me on … drum roll please … the Criss Angel Mindfreak Platinum Magic Kit.

I still had yet to receive the three kits I already bought.

There’s an old tenet in direct marketing that says the best time to get someone to place another order is right after they’ve received the current one. Presumably, they’re satisfied with their purchase and have warm fuzzies about the company so they’ll be more likely to order again.

This is why charities hit donors up immediately after they’ve given. Yes, the practice irritates some, but it pays off in more donations.

TV Products Direct has apparently taken this concept and turned it on its Satanic head.

Not only that, the company has since added me to its email file—no surprise—and pitched me on, among other things, “My Best Fish Friend, Raise your own beautiful living fish at home,” and “Rejuvenate, New way to clean and restore your car without water.”

Let me guess, gold fish and car wax, each “free” with some whopping shipping-and-handling fees.

Oh, and let’s not forget the levitation DVD.

In it, Angel explains the technique was invented by a musician. After some dramatic breathing and arm flailing, he turns his back at a 45-degree angle to the small audience, puts his arms out and lifts his heels an inch or two off the ground.

He then demonstrates that what he did was push up on the toe that was hidden from view, giving the illusion of levitation.

He then explains the trick is best done in black shoes.

Twenty bucks.

That’s the average shipping-and-handling charge I paid for each of those DVDs so my son and two of his friends could learn to stand on one toe to make it look like they’re levitating.

And now Max is begging for a pair of black shoes.


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