The Jerx Pre-Order Protocol

There is another classic magic debacle unfolding at the moment. I'll briefly summarize it for you, but you can read more about it here and here. (At least for now you can, these types of threads have a tendency to vanish.)

About a year and a half ago, a magician named Dave Forrest, who runs a company called Full 52 productions, created a Kickstarter to sell a chop cup that looks like a dice cup (it's a actually a cups and balls set that includes a chop cup). A couple hundred magicians purchased it generating about $25,000 for Forrest. That's when shit went south.

There were numerous delays with manufacturers, missing shipments, a bout of "jet lag," "personal issues," and all of this amounted to a product that was supposed to ship in June of 2017 that still hasn't been shipped yet, and no one seems to know if and when it will.

The strangest (and dumbest) cause for the delay was a fiasco regarding a close-up mat. You see, if you're going to do a chop cup routine with dice, you need to do so on a soft surface. Otherwise you have the situation: "I'm just going to set down this empty cup. [CLICK-CLACK CLACKETY-CLACK!]" So Dave decided to include a 4-inch circle mat with this release.

And, apparently, wrangling this little circle of foam has made it impossible to get this thing out to the people who paid for it. 

Do you see why this is especially moronic? The whole purpose of having a chop cup made with a dice cup and dice was to make it seem like an "everyday object." That makes sense. And performing on a normal, full-sized close-up mat is somewhat logical, at least in a formal performance. The mat is sort of your stage, defining your performance area. But isn't it kind of idiotic to say, "Here are my normal dice, and my normal dice cup. Oh, and here is my little cup-sized mat to turn the cup over on. Perfectly normal little dice cup mat. The kind you would turn a dice cup over on at home." You're turning that "everyday object" into a precious little magic prop, and emphasizing the fact that this particular object needs to be set down on something soft. It's dumb. No one was going to use that mat anyway. It's a pretty weak excuse.

Now, let me say this. I like Dave Forrest's material. I've used a few tricks of his quite frequently in the past. He seems to be a likable enough guy, and I don't think he got into this planning on ripping anyone off. That's just not enough money to ruin one's reputation as a magic producer. I think he's probably got himself into a position a number of people in magic have. They collect money for a pre-order, then they have the money, and they spend the money. But the work isn't done. The money is gone, but the work remains. So then it feels to them like, "Shit... now I have all of this work to do... for nothing!?

And I don't doubt that he is dealing with personal issues too. But here's the thing: so is everybody else. That's what life is—a bunch of fucking personal issues. Do I have sympathy for anyone dealing with significant personal issues? Absolutely. But whatever is going on hasn't prevented him from conducting all other sorts of other business if my spam mail is to be believed:

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The problem with these sorts of situations in magic isn't a lack of sympathy. It's that magic has a history of letting this kind of behavior off the hook. You pre-order something that's supposed to come in a couple of months and you end up waiting years for it? Haha, oh well, that's magic, I guess.

Even in those threads linked above you can see how cucked some magicians are; implying that if you conduct business over Kickstarter, or you have personal issues, that actually it's not so bad if you default on your obligations and make shit up about the status of a project. 

But look, I'm not here to pile on Dave Forrest. As I said, I like Dave's work, and I would be happy to help him out here. Dave, you are doing a horrible job of communicating with the people who supported this project. Let me mediate. Your credibility is shot. Tell me what the situation is and I'll communicate it to people in a way that makes sense. People trust me because they know I don't give a shit about any of you, and I will give them the straight dope.  

Yes, I know, I know. It's "personal issues." Here's the thing, if you find out you have cancer and you're devastated because you can't afford the treatments because you just finished paying for the funeral services for your entire family because they were struck head-on by a drunk-driver... you still have to communicate to Burger King that you're not going to come in for your upcoming shift. That's part of being an employee. "Ah," you say, "but I'm self-employed." Nope. Not after you take someone's money with the promise of something in return. You're their employee until that's taken care of.

Dave won't take me up on my offer, sadly. Nobody ever does. I'm just the ding-dong with a magic blog. 

Look, I may be a knucklehead, but—while I don't do traditional "pre-orders"—people do pay me money in part for something they won't be receiving until many months in the future. I'm not here to lecture anyone, but I'm in my third year of doing this, perhaps more successfully than anyone in the history of magic. So, for Dave or anyone else interested in doing a kickstarter or a pre-sale or something along those lines, here are the rules you should follow when conducting any type of pre-order.

The Jerx Pre-Order Protocol

1. Provide customers with a general UNambitious release date. If you think you can get it done in 9 months, then tell them, "It's going to be ready in about a year." No one will be mad if they get their product sooner.

2. Give regularly scheduled updates on where production stands.

3. If you're not going to meet your deadline, then the moment you realize this, you make a public announcement in regards to why not and you give people a new release date.  If your product is supposed to ship in June and you make an announcement on June 30th that there's a delay, that makes you an A-hole. Yes, magic is something of a "community" and we can be a little less rigid when holding people to release dates than you might be when dealing with Apple or some other big corporation. But this sort of goodwill is a two-way street. You don't get to take advantage of it on the one hand and then mislead people and not be forthcoming on your end. 

If you embrace these rules, the pre-order system can be pain-free for everyone. That's not to say it will be hiccup-free—there will be delays and unforeseen issues—but those are absorbed by both sides being candid and considerate with each other. If you're honest, and people can tell your intentions are good, it will feel like you're on the same side when dealing with any outside issues that may arise. If, on the other hand, you act sketchy and uncommunicative, don't be surprised when the relationship between producer and supporter becomes adversarial. You chose to make it that way.