Tannen's Magic

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Postby Guest » 06/15/02 12:46 PM

Hello Genii Forum Members,

My name is Steven Brown. I am the new CEO of Louis Tannen's, Inc. here in New York City. We have been in business in the magic world since 1931. Our goal is to offer top notch customer service, the best quality merchandise and competitive pricing to the magic world.

I would like you to field any comments positve/negitive about Tannen's that you have to offer.
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Postby Pete Biro » 06/15/02 03:37 PM

Steven: Welcome. What is Tony Spina's role? Is he still an owner? If so what percentage?
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Postby Pete Biro » 06/15/02 03:40 PM

My sense of humor pevailing... why did you post your message in "Gossip and Rumors" ??? I assume your post is true and not a rumor ???

You did ask for negative comentary as well, so, Spina and I had a major disagreement years ago and since then I have not been a Tannen's customer. :(

When Lou and Irving were there I was a regular. Did the Jubilee at Brown's for Lou.

Good luck, etc. :cool:
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Postby Guest » 06/15/02 07:36 PM

Coming from the "behind the scenes" end of things, if there's one gripe I really have with how Tannen's has been run in the past, it's how they deal with the manufacturers and distributors who they buy wholesale from.

A year or two ago, when the shop started carrying my lecture notes ("Look Out World!"), it took an excessively long amount of time (I don't have the paperwork readily accessible to check, but it was at least two months--well over the standard 30 day net) and numerous phonecalls and e-mails to receive payment. I found it particularly frustrating/upsetting, considering that I considered (and still do, although living in Boston I'm not over there anywhere near as often) Larry, Tony, and the rest of the crew as friends, and was also a former employee of the store. Having since spoken with other wholesalers about this, I've learned that many of them have similar stories.

Also, and I'll be blunt about this because I do consider everybody I know there to be friends, and hope to be able to add you to that list next time I'm in town, Tannen's is shooting itself in the foot by making unauthorized knockoffs of effects such as the "Koornwinder Car" (aka "The Car Buggy", which really should be "The Card Buggy", but nobody's bothered to correct that mistake in any of the packaging, ads, etc.). Tannen's has (or had) a great reputation for providing some of the best original magic available; why kill that reputation by appropriating the ideas of other creators?

Tannen's still does release so much great original stuff--is the small amount of money made off of the ripped off effects really worth all the harm it does to the Tannen's name? As much as I love Tony and the rest of the Tannen's "family" and all they've done for me over the years, I always think twice before spending money there, because I don't like supporting companies who steal from my fellow creators.
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Postby Guest » 06/16/02 12:08 AM

Hi Steven,
Its only because you asked, and I wish you well in your new endeavor. I dismissed Tannen's years ago. If you're looking to take a note on some good approaches, look at Hank Lee and Denny & Lee. They're doing it right: Fast shipping, sometimes FREE shipping, and a smart and patient staff to answer questions over the phone. I remember not being able to understand anyone who ever called me from Tannen's. I recall them never having anything in stock. In retrospect some of these things may seem petty, but there are better places to go to, so I do. Having said that, I wish you nothing but the best.
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Postby Guest » 06/16/02 08:08 AM

Hi, Steven. I also wish you well and hope a change in management portends a return to more honorable business practices.

I've had a number of experiences where Tannen's staff have incorrectly (and dismissively) asserted that an item I was looking for no longer existed (just by virtue of Tannen's not carrying it). And I do hope your comment about "competitive prices" is matched by an actual review of at least some of Tannen's more exorbitant markups. The wackiest example I know of off hand is "electric sparkle additive," which retails for $10 bucks from Theatre Effects and $30 from Tannen's.

Others can speak more knowledgeably about Tannen's shameful history of unauthorized knockoffs.

Basically, I currently regard Tannen's as a place where I shop only when I really can't wait for mail order from a friendlier and more reliable source. That's sad, since I've been a Tannen's customer on and off for nearly 40 years.
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Postby Ben Harris » 06/25/02 12:06 AM

I once visited and caught them red-handed making up a gross (144) pieces of my "This & That" They had originally bought 24 genuine pieces, paid me in 120 days, and then started making them themselves.

I've been told by many, many people, that this is their standard practice. Let's hope it changes.

And while they are at it, maybe they can drop the rip-off of Cosmosis that they shamelessly promote on their website's front page. (Fat chance)

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Postby Guest » 06/25/02 05:53 AM

I am a formeer employee of Tannen's and personally know of a number of the unethical business practices of Tony Spina. Start off by purchasing items from the creator or originator instead of copying the instructions and making them up yourselves (I can name several items that are on your shelves right now as examples). Have items in stock. Tony's standard practice was to order 6 of a popular item just to fill back orders and then wait a few months to order it again. If an item is going to be on back order for an extended amount of time (lets say 6 weeks), give the customer the option of cancelling the order and returning their money. Have a fair mark up on items, especially items that you are putting on the market and not buying from a dealer.
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Postby Guest » 06/25/02 07:14 AM

Interesting that Steve Brown started this thread and has not responded at all.

Like many of you, I stopped ordering from Tannen's a long time ago because of slow service, things never being in stock, etc. I've heard the rumors of how they rip off things and you guys have confirmed it.

Steve, if you read this, what do you intend to do?
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Postby Matthew Field » 06/25/02 07:16 AM

Kudos to Steven Brown for having the, ah, gumption to make his posting here. Steve is a sweet guy who deeply cares about magic, and about making real improvements at Tannen's.

I try to visit the shop every week -- a real "bricks and mortar" magic shop where you can meet magicians, talk about what's happening, see magic demonstrated and spend a few bucks to keep everything rolling.

Best of luck to Steve, and may Tannen's flourish.

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Postby Pete Biro » 06/25/02 07:49 AM

Matthew... since you go there (Tannen's) a lot, maybe you can find out what is going on.

Brown started the thread and has not responded.

What do you know of his role and of Spina's?

Inquiring minds want to know! :confused: :eek: :confused:
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Postby Guest » 06/25/02 08:08 AM

I was partial to Flosso's myself when in the mood for bricks and mortar. Negligible stock, no staff (apart from Jackie), and a crumbly ambience, but it was dripping with history and a wonderful lack of pretension. Plus there was no waiting for service, since you were invariably the only customer. I miss it greatly.

(I work one block from the address of the original Hornnman-Flosso, which I never had the pleasure of visiting; the location is now part of a new high-rise with a Loew's megagazazillion-plex theatre on the lower floors.)
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Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » 06/25/02 08:16 AM

Pete, I was there this past Saturday and overheard Steve talking with someone about this thread. It sounded like Steve was responding individually to each person -- he hadn't gotten to all of them at that point, but he was working on it. Obviously, he's pretty busy now working on improving Tannens, and it is showing.

From what I understand, he and Tony are equal partners in Tannen's right now. I don't know what the plans are for the future, but I would assume that Steve will eventually take over completely.

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Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 06/25/02 10:34 AM

Damage Control in magicdom is woefully clumsy, misguided, sometimes insincere, underfunded, understaffed, and seldom effective. Most victims, guilty or otherwise, usually ignore grumbles, rumbles, and negative fallout that roars through the precincts of magicdom (especially now due to the Net)...As it does, They hope and surmise, that it will all(ahem) "disappear" in due time.

Alas, it seldom does.

Bottom line: It is very difficult to rehabilitate your "image" in magicdom and when a magic dealer does something wrong more than a couple of times, he loses customers, big-time, and probably for good.

Ripping off ideas and tricks is a major no-no. Slow delivery is a bad mark; no delivery is a death knell. "Slow payment" is a sustained siren in the dark. "No payment" is another death knell.

These days there is too much competition and a pricing war drives the market.

My nostalgia for the old bricks-and-mortar shops of yesteryear keeps me away from dealing with dealers (except at conventions). Only the booksellers get my business; and the last magic-curiosity shop that warmed my heart, thrilled my eyes, and satisfied my soul was By Appointment Only:

SPADE AND ARCHER (Harry Anderson)...

Maybe this is a glimpse at the future?

Onward...
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Postby Guest » 06/25/02 11:18 AM

It is a glimpse of the future, John. Price competition is the underlying basis of the free market economy. Why should it not apply to magic?

Online shopping is here to stay. I used to wander through book stores several times a week. Often I had a small list of things I'm looking for. It could take a visit to several store to find what I wanted, and then I may not find it. When I did, I had no idea if the price was better somewhere else.

Today, I order books online. Through Amazon, mostly. I also browse the Amazon site looking for new reading adventures. They even list things that they think I might like based on past purchases.
Online prices are good, but then I have to pay shipping, so it's a wash. But, I can usually find what I'm looking for quickly and easilly.

My magic shopping is similiar. However, often it's best to see what you're buying before you plunk down your cash. Especially if you don't know what you're getting. So, I'll browse on line, read reviews both online and in the mags, and then make a list of things I might like. I'll often call local magic shops to see if they have it, and then drop in. I'm happy to pay a few dollars more in the store because I don't pay shipping, and the shop has spend time demonstrating the effect to me. If we don't support the shops, they go out of business and then we have to order stuff sight unseen. And, if there's a big difference in price, I can still leave the shop and order it online. Or, I can point out to the shop how much I can save elsewhere and let them decide if they want to match the price.

I think that we're entering a time when free enterprise may work better because consumers are better informed. I've noticed that when I go into a computer store for something, I often know a lot more about the item I want that the salesmen. It's not that I'm so smart; just that I surfed the web and done some homework before I decide on my purchase. And again, I may pay a little more locally, but there's no shipping charge, and I don't have to wait for delivery.
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Postby Robert McDaniel » 06/25/02 05:50 PM

I began buying magic from Tannens 35 years ago. At that time, it was the king of magic shops with the big catalog. I was accustomed to the poor customer service because that was the norm. If you called Tannens, you better talk fast and don't expect the person on the other end of the line to know anything about magic unless you're talking to someone behind the counter. So, as a mail order magician, I believe that one of the things that ruined Tannens was the lack of good customer service on the order line.

As a manager of a large printing and distribution company, I can tell you that it is not impossible to change your company's image. When I took over 17 years ago, I had to mend a lot of fences. Since then, our image has completely turned around and we are now known for our excellent customer service. It's a cultural thing. It takes a leader to change employee attitudes and a good supportive staff to provide outstanding customer service to its customers.

I only wish I had access to a good magic shop in Austin where I could see the magic I'm buying demonstrated before I buy it. That's the way to really save money. Not by helping run all the magic shops out of business by saving a dollar or two on the internet.

Here's hoping that Tannens can change its image and start providing good customer service. I'd be willing to give them another chance.

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Postby Guest » 06/25/02 06:01 PM

I'd love to see Tannen's turn their business practices around. If they kept the things in stock that they advertise, provide fast and friendly service for phone order, mail order, and on-line order, and stop ripping off effects from the inventors, the word would get around very fast.

Steve made a good start when he started this thread. However, it's been ten days and no further word. Someone needs to tell him that ten days is like forever in these online forums.

I posted a new topic this morning, and there are three or four responses on the forum, and I've had three e-mails. In about seven hours. That's the pace of modern life.
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Postby Ben Harris » 06/25/02 06:18 PM

You are right Dennis. Pace, pace pace.
Ten days is way too long to not service a thread one has initiated. If they can't even get this right...

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Postby Richard Kaufman » 06/25/02 08:32 PM

It's hard to believe that anyone on this thread has told Steve Brown something that he didn't already know--but it IS possible that he didn't know these things. So, if faced with criticism like this out of the blue, what would you do?
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Postby Guest » 06/25/02 08:37 PM

Speaking for myself, if faced with things such as these, especially when I asked for them, I'd at least respond with a "Thanks, I honestly can't comment on that yet, but I will look into them and get back to you as soon as I can."
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Postby Guest » 06/25/02 08:52 PM

It's hard to believe that anyone on this thread has told Steve Brown something that he didn't already know--but it IS possible that he didn't know these things. So, if faced with criticism like this out of the blue, what would you do?
Richard,
It's my recollection that Steve offered to "field" all comments, both positive and negative. So, the criticism is hardly "out of the blue" and what he should do is respond as he implied that he would.

There have been very specific issues raised, and in most cases, the only logical response, if he intends to turn the business around, is to say: We have done some things wrong in the past, and we are not going to do them any more. We pledge to try hard to keep a good inventory of things we're advertising, to pay our bills in a timely manner, and to stop selling ripoffs.

Saying it would only be the first step, of course, but he solicited our comments and has just left us hanging... at least so far.
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Postby Pete Biro » 06/25/02 09:30 PM

Richard: "What should he do?" Well, after all the comments, either buy out Spina all the way or ask for HIS money back and split! :eek:
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Postby Jeremy Medows » 06/26/02 11:51 AM

Steve, you should ALREADY know exactly what's wrong (and there are many wrongs) with Tannen's. Just walk in as a customer for 30 minutes, or place a mail order for half a dozen items and experience what the rest of us have. Wouldn't you have done this before you plunked down the cash to buy a significant interest in the company?

And what's the deal with the ads for your current convention? They're a tad offensive, don't you think? I've been to the last few, but will not be going this year only because of the content of the ads.

Atleast you're advertising it. I think it was 2 years ago, that some of the ads didn't have the convention dates, and the ads that had the dates, had the wrong dates. Details are extremely important. Tannen's hasn't gotten the details in a long time.

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Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » 06/26/02 12:02 PM

Originally posted by Jeremy Medows:
And what's the deal with the ads for your current convention? They're a tad offensive, don't you think? I've been to the last few, but will not be going this year only because of the content of the ads.
I haven't seen these ads -- what's wrong with them?

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Postby Richard Kaufman » 06/26/02 12:50 PM

Jeremy, I with Jim: what exactly is "offensive" about the recent ads for Tannen's Jubilee?
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Postby Ryan Matney » 06/26/02 02:36 PM

I've seen the ads and I'm not sure what is offensive. Unless it would be that picture of Michael Ammar? :D

Seriously, what is offensive?
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Postby Guest » 06/26/02 02:52 PM

Now, if Tony Spina decided to put on one of Denny's grass skirts, that would be offensive!
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Postby Pete Biro » 06/26/02 04:01 PM

A grass skirt over his chastity belt? :p
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Postby Ben Harris » 06/26/02 11:30 PM

The "non-Kosher" faux pas in the ad is probably the offensive culprit.

The Ammar pic is woefully bitmapped.

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Postby Guest » 06/26/02 11:57 PM

I don't think anything offensive was meant by the non-Kosher thing. As an event that's been held for ages in Kosher resorts in the Catskills, it's a valid piece of information, both for those who do keep Kosher and need to know that, and for those who don't and may have been frustrated by the restrictions a Kosher kitchen placed on meals at the Jubilee.

There are lots of legitimate gripes with Tannen's; I really don't think this is one of them.
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Postby Guest » 06/27/02 04:43 AM

I agree. It was important to mention that they switched to a non-kosher venue. The line was ineptly written with a badly placed "so," implying that the non-kosher nature of the food is the proximate cause of its delectability. Inept writing is the norm in the United States, and most certainly at Tannen's, as a brief slog through "Top Hat Topics" amply demonstrates. But anyone who imagines that this was a deliberate insult should have his kup examined.
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Postby Rene Clement » 06/27/02 05:39 AM

I know over the past years Tony Spina fields a lot of complaints from the conventioneers about the Saturday breakfasts. Silly as it sounds, this IS INDEED a big issue from many Jubilee attendees. In case you were not familiar with the Jubilee, the hotel stay includes all three meals and you eat whatever and as much as you want of the items on the menu. Being that the past conventions were at Kosher hotels, tradition dictates the stove is not lit on Saturday mornings, so the breakfast menu omits the usual griddle cakes, French toast, fried or scrambled eggs, toasted bagels, and so on. If you want eggs, pouched is all they serve. I personally respect this tradition and have no problem with having a light breakfast one of the mornings, but I think those who take advantage of this "all you can eat" atmosphere feel cheated on this meal.
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Postby Guest » 06/27/02 06:42 AM

So "so" was perhaps intentional. Anyway, we are only guessing that this is what Mr. Medows found offensive. Perhaps it was the ad within the ad, for the amazing thingamabob-through-the-whatsit.
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Postby Guest » 06/27/02 08:16 AM

Genii Froum Members,

I would like to start off by saying all the input, both positive and negative, is much appreciated.

We will be listening hard to your comments and using them to best improve our current image. I know that Tannen's will not be able to win back all our customers who have issues from the past. However, we will try our hardest to move forward and try and forge a new positive direction here at Tannen's. Remember in a forum such as this, the positive comments will be far fewer than the negitive ones. Everyone likes to blow off some steam, and rightfully so.

I know my task at hand is large, yet it will be accomplished. Tannen's has a great history in the magic circle and we have thousands of satisfied customers. I am asking you to put the past behind you, take a breath, and move forward if possible.

Tannen's is a proud member of the Magic Dealers Association and is 100% committed to stick by its guidlines of practicing proper business ethics in the magic community. We respect magicians and vendors alike in their development of product for the industry.

Due to the volume of postings I will not be able to return a one-on-one reply to each posting, but I am listing hard.

Thank you again for your comments.

Sincerely,

Steven Brown
CEO
Tannen's Magic
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Postby Guest » 06/27/02 08:37 AM

Originally posted by Steven Brown, CEO - Tannen's Magic:
I am listing hard.
A Freudian typo? (The Titanic was listing hard just before....)

I for one do genuinely appreciate your soliciting this feedback.
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Postby timbrown » 06/27/02 08:45 AM

Well I guess that I will throw my two cents into this discussion. I made the pilgrimmage to Tannen's a few years ago during my first visit to New York. I was on business at a conference and of course I spend time wandering aroung Manhattan with a co-worker who grew up in Connecticut and knew the city well. I managed to talk him into visiting the Tannen location with me, although he had virtually no interest in magic. We walked from our hotel in Times Square to Tannen's. Upon arrival we were greeted by two counter persons (not exactly greeted as they completely ignored me during my entire visit and would barely even answer my direct questions). To my surprise and ultimate displeasure, Mr. Spina arrived while I was there and walked behind the counter. I tried to make some sort of conversation with him (basically "Hello Mr. Spina") but was also rather rudely ignored by him.
I did purchase a book (Lorayne's book on David Regal) but only because it was on sale for just $10. There were stacks of this book piled high(Star Power I think was the title) and the price was right. But the experience was dreadful and I haven't purchased a thing from Tannen's since.

Contrast that to a visit to Denny's near Baltimore. Now THAT is a great experience. Denny is helpful, friendly, a little crazy, knowledgeable and just plain nice to deal with. I will purchase from him again.

So good luck with your ventures.
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Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » 06/27/02 09:09 AM

Originally posted by Tim Brown:
Well I guess that I will throw my two cents into this discussion. I made the pilgrimmage to Tannen's a few years ago during my first visit to New York. I was on business at a conference and of course I spend time wandering aroung Manhattan with a co-worker who grew up in Connecticut and knew the city well. I managed to talk him into visiting the Tannen location with me, although he had virtually no interest in magic. We walked from our hotel in Times Square to Tannen's. Upon arrival we were greeted by two counter persons (not exactly greeted as they completely ignored me during my entire visit and would barely even answer my direct questions). To my surprise and ultimate displeasure, Mr. Spina arrived while I was there and walked behind the counter. I tried to make some sort of conversation with him (basically "Hello Mr. Spina") but was also rather rudely ignored by him.
I did purchase a book (Lorayne's book on David Regal) but only because it was on sale for just $10. There were stacks of this book piled high(Star Power I think was the title) and the price was right. But the experience was dreadful and I haven't purchased a thing from Tannen's since.

Contrast that to a visit to Denny's near Baltimore. Now THAT is a great experience. Denny is helpful, friendly, a little crazy, knowledgeable and just plain nice to deal with. I will purchase from him again.

So good luck with your ventures.
Let me contrast that with a description of my last visit, this past Saturday.

First off, they haven't been in Times Square for a while, so I hopped on the PATH train to 23rd St. and walked over to 25th, where Tannen's is now located. I rang the buzzer for the second floor, and was buzzed in. I went up the elevator and walked into a somewhat crowded room. Behind the counter, as always when I have visited, Majick (or however he spells it), their main demonstrator, was holding court. Steve and Tony were behind the counter as well, attending to their business. I walked up to the counter and caught Steve's eye. "Can I help you?" was his immediate reaction. I asked about a few items, but they were either out of print, or not in stock. Ok. So I turned my attention to Majick, who was performing some effect for two guys visiting from, I believe, Texas. I hung around for probably two hours, watching the demonstrations and looking around. While I was there, I received help from both Tony and Steve -- I didn't feel ignored by anyone. I left with three purchases, a Sankey DVD, Vernon's Tribute to Leipzig, and Sawa's Library of Magic. (How's that for variety?) While I was there, Doug Edwards and Michael Rubenstein both popped in. I saw Doug helping a younger fella with his pass, and Majick was also helping this same young'un with some other sleights. I left pleased with my experience. Though there is certainly room for improvement, I was certainly not ignored while I was there.

-Jim
PS - I've never been in Denny's, but I have ordered from them online...they ARE a great shop, from the experiences I've had with them.
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Postby Guest » 06/27/02 09:22 AM

Tannen's is a proud member of the Magic Dealers Association and is 100% committed to stick by its guidlines of practicing proper business ethics in the magic community. We respect magicians and vendors alike in their development of product for the industry.
Well, Steve, this is a pretty luke-warm statement. Tannen's has been guilty of the theft of intellectual property. (Making your own versions of other peoples tricks and profiting on their creativity without giving them their fair share of the proceeds.) For me, on the West Coast, the only way I'm ever going to consider ordering something from you guys is if you make a clear statement that you will never do this again. And then, when I hear feedback that you are actually living up to this committment, I'll start buying from you again. If you're serious about salvaging your image, then put a statement to this effect in all of your ads.
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Postby Brian Marks » 06/27/02 10:41 AM

With a new management, you must give them a chance before pouncing on him what the old management did. I spen much time in Tannen's . Tony Spina had no customer service skills at all. Ive seen many dissatisfied cutomers come and go and it frustrated me. Give Steve a achance to make things better.
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Postby timbrown » 06/27/02 11:50 AM

I'd like to clarify my earlier comments (and then I promise not to contribute to this thread any more)...I walked from a hotel in Times Square all the way to Tannen's at their current location...a LONG walk but like I said it was my first trip to Manhattan and I was exploring the city...walked nearly 8 miles that day!) So my point is that I went through a lot of trouble to visit the shop, only to have what I consider to be a poor sales experience. Granted, Tannen's is largely a mail order business but so is Denny's, Abbotts, Hank Lees,etc....I have been to one hell of a lot of shops in nearly every state in the USA in my quest for who-knows-what and I am telling you that my single most disappointing experience was with Tannen's has. They simply turned me off. There are just too many other great places to spend my hard earned cash.I love a great magic shop and really, really hate to see them fade away.

I don't really know how Tannen's is perceived by the rest of the world but if they gave others the same treatment as they gave me they should consider a name change. Perhaps Enron Magic...or WorldCom House of Amazement...Martha Stewart's Barn Full 'O Tricks...??
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