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Magic (getmagicnow.com)
1329 points by wittyphrasehere on Feb 22, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 528 comments

Besides questions about revenue and such, can I just say that I absolutely love the landing page. No gimmicks, no parallax, no videos, no fake testimonials, no hero images, no marquees. Just good copy.

Not sure if this is because of how quickly this blew up, but well done.

Thanks! Yeah, honestly, after deciding to launch this we released a really minimal landing page which I saved here: http://getmagicnow.com/index-old.html - As you can see I made that in about 20 minutes, and was not expecting this. After someone posted it on Product Hunt I spent whatever time I could polishing it up. In general though, I agree, simple websites are much better. Thanks for the kind words.

Hm, well here's a startling difference between the HN and Product Hunt community.

The PH comments:

  This website looks extremely untrustworthy, purely from a design standpoint. I feel a lot of potential users would be put off by this!

  Interesting idea. Terrible site design. Unclear if they're charging for this added convenience.

ProductHunt is just a useless hype machine for starts that don't hold any real value at all.

There are those that would say HN is no different.

Not true, Product Hunt delivers quality traffic, with high-level people who are hungry for products and convert very well.

> Not true, Product Hunt delivers quality traffic, with high-level people who are hungry for products and convert very well.

Are you a human being talking about other human beings, or a "market opportunity" about-talking "quality traffic" that "converts very well?" I should write a "quality traffic" bot with "good conversions," then post it on Product Hunt.

High quality SV echo chamber traffic.

I was under the impression a lot of people use it for idea generation/competitive intel & that (in marketing terms) PH is a (small) traffic/link hack...

In other words I'd be interested to find anything on the quality of its traffic.


We launched one of those landing-only email-catching product pitches on Product Hunt and Designer News. It went amazing. We never even topped #1, yet we got lots of useful feedback and more than five hundred emails of potential customers, some of them high-profile (think @google.com or @abc.com)

The quality is very high.

That commenter at PH could tell the original design took 20 minutes, and if you only have resources to allocate 20 minutes to a product page design, how good can the product be? I think there are more in this community would agree about the original design without completely writing off the product's potential.

This was pretty funny, actually. They saw the old version I mentioned above. I was surprised when someone posted it on there and I was actually glad that the reaction was lukewarm, because we didn't think we were ready to launch.

And then...boom.

Time to trade up the chain?

Well, I agree with it. "Anything you want, just give us your credit card number". No explanation of who they are or why I should trust them. Hell, they even accept Bitcoin!

While you have changed the copy and a few other things a little, I was quite amused at how people on ProductHunt considered it untrustworthy mostly through virtue of using Times New Roman rather than a nice Sans. An interesting example in the psychology of running counter to fashion..! :)

Not just the design. No Terms and Conditions, no incorporation, no IDs of owners/operators - really doesn't seem like a legitimate business (despite money being handled by Stripe).

That was my thought when I looked at index-old. It kind of makes it look like an early-mid 2000s website, as well as unfinished.

The typeface of the older design appears as Helvetica on OSX. Edit: realized this is likely due to changing the default font years ago, unbeknownst improving the experience of sites like these. New typeface is certainly an improvement either way.

Times in Chrome on OS X

How come you removed the part of the FAQ that mentioned your fee? I think everyone knows you have to charge one and we're totally cool about it. Did you just feel that subject was best saved for later in the signup process, or did you want to keep the door open for alternate means of revenue?

We noticed that people were more confused by the ambiguity of the nondescript fee, than us just saying that we'd tell you the total amount. You are right though, we do need to figure out a better way to explain this. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

"We quote you one simple price that includes everything: The goods, the delivery, any expected gratuity, all service charges including our own, and any applicable taxes and fees. What you see is what you pay."

Can they use that verbatim? Because they should.

Sure, consider it a gift. Now go forth and change the world. (Or at least the world of laziness.)

It's part of the secret sauce. If Magic is worth something, then so is knowing their numbers.

One thing is that it says chatting is free and there are no hidden fees. It doesn't say how much extra it is costing.

Tip is included.

I suspect just like the concierge at a hotel, the cut comes from the provider of the service (a dozen roses for 100 bucks - they can afford some affiliate fees from that)

If you visit the direct link: http://www.getmagicnow.com/access.php without adding an email address it still says that "You've been placed on the waiting list!". Simple error, but easy to fix so there is no confusion. Great service!

If you visit this link, you can pay them $5,000: http://getmagicnow.com/pay.php?p=500000

Payment pages should really be linked to an order ID of some sort, without which customers shouldn't be allowed to pay. Otherwise, lots of things can go wrong. Depending on how they have configured things on the server side, a customer could change the amount being paid and the system would consider the ticket paid, cheating them out of money. Or a customer could follow an old link and wind up paying twice if they thought it didn't go through the first time.

If you visit this link, they can pay you $5,000: https://magic.bettir.com/?p=-500000

Whoa, seriously? I'm going to guess you're joking since they probably implemented "customer order of amount x".

Edit: they've fixed this now.

I'm not joking, click on it and try to pay. It shows an invoice of ($5,000), a.k.a. $5000 negative dollars. I didn't enter real payment information to see what happens next because of really idiotic interpretations of what constitutes "hacking", but it is a really bad design choice on their part that took me about half a second to find.

Founder, if you're reading this: was this an in-house build or did you outsource this?

The answer is probably they spent around two days building this before demand grew left them zero time to improve infrastructure. Which is more or less good.

Less good? Infrastructure breaking because of load is one thing (concurrency/DB issues) but nothing like this should ever be exposed to the user on general principle.

Stripe doesn't let you send money to cards.

I'm glad to know Stripe's API is sane but you cannot ever rely on that when designing something like this!

Wait, what?

Great MVP, great focus. Few thoughts -

Make sure top phone # is tappable on mobile browsers.

Examples that don't make me question your ability to deliver - airline example seems to be hiding complexity (I question it as I read it), others really good

fyi, there's a typo in the FAQ: "we'll let you know the total price so you can confim"

Thank you. Fixed!

The font on the new page much better.

Is this available in Canada?

We can't do everything in Canada but we can definitely do some things. Try us.

Just take a look at Google's initial page when they started.

But how can you disrupt without parallax?

... And thanks. I thought I was the only one who thought the video fad was dumb. Now it's just a toll booth for getting a product presented, and I never watch them. How about others? Do you find videos actually useful or are they just glitz?

I hardly ever watch product videos. I'm usually in locations where It would be rude and I don't want to put in earphones just to find out what's going on. But I'm a curmudgeon, and may be an outlier.

I groan when my questions aren't answered in print on the page, I don't want to watch a video either.

I will happily join you in outlier-land. I want to be able to read - and quickly grok - what a product is about. Needing to watch a video to understand a product is a marketing fail, IMO.

We should form a club! We can have meeting where we show videos that we all ignore, while we chat over drinks.

I thought that was this site. :)

I'd join that too. I never liked videos that are just some person reading from a script. Just give me the script, I'd rather read it at my own pace and time, and I don't care if you really want to be youtube-famous.

When I want to know what a product does or how I might find it useful, I prefer text. I don't have to wait for a video to get to the point.

However, when I've decided to actually try it out, I find the video extremely useful as I expect it to demonstrate the onboarding process for me (ie how do I get started quickly).

thinking that everybody prefers reading is a typical programmer bias. A good number of people will prefer watching a video. Same with voice, most programmers prefer email or chat for work related discussion. Almost all the sales people I know would rather pick up the phone and sort the issue by talking.

Do both and you can cover both camps. Doesn't have to be as boring as a plain transcript, obviously.

(I very rarely watch videos and much prefer screenshots or descriptions.)

It's not about what people like but about what works.

I don't mind videos but I hate those non informative mood videos.

This site doesnt need video because the information is already there.

Most people can't watch video during work hour. We should always treat video as 'optional extra'.

Case in point, technical support/call center and room where you're constantly 'monitored'(NASA control room/datacenter NOC etc).

Glitz IMO.

Annoying glitz too if they include information in the videos that isn't in text form on their website. Videos play at one speed, I can't fast forward the video if I'm a faster "video-watcher" like I can with reading. And if I'm on a VPN I'd rather avoid loading the video altogether if I can avoid it, which is what my browser plugins are for.

Well, perhaps I could just watch the videos faster, interesting thought experiment.

if youtube in focus on chrome, then shift+> for faster playback

> Do you find videos actually useful or are they just glitz?

If I'm legitimately interested in a service and want to know how it works, sure, but if I just want a quick overview to decide if I'm interested I'd rather have something simple like some text and images.

I don't have time to watch a video for every thing I look at. Give me text that can processed in seconds, not video that takes minutes.

It's extremely rare for me to indulge a linear narrative when I'm looking for information.

My vote goes for the short 1-minute video with understandable presentation of how the product works and solves my problem rather than reading paragraphs of text.

Its also refreshing that afore mentioned good copy got right to the point and told us what they do. No silly vaguenesses about a coming awesome product that they never really describe and then some email sign-up so that they can notify you when they actually have something to sell you.

Just what they can do for me right now. Hat's off. Good luck.

+1 no giant full-width+full-height responsive image

Okay this looks really interesting! And with no full-width+full-height responsive image, I can proceed... it's something different, something not exactly 100% what you would expect...

So intriguing... so what, dear MagicMan, is it? Would you kindly answer dear Sir, because I'm uncertain, and curiously in need of an answer before I text myself down the rabbit hole...


I love the idea, and the execution, but just one nit -- you say "no hidden fees", but I think bundling the fee into the total price is the definition of a hidden fee. If your examples itemized the fee it would be a different story. Other comments here express a similar anxiety, e.g. how much [extra] am I actually paying for this?

Also, I know you're busy, but FYI CA state law requires you have a Privacy Policy. I would like to know how long you retain records and who you are sharing them with before doing business with you!

When you're using a concierge service is not the time to pinch pennies.

Corollary: When you're pinching pennies is not the time to use a concierge service.

The whole point of a concierge service, such as this, is to have someone on call to whom you may say "Here is my problem. Make it go away." Such services generally come at a much higher rate than Magic appear to be charging.

I hope their business model is to provide sane-cost concierge.

I think there's a fallacy here . . .

Is there, though?

Sure, it'd be preferable to have a full fee schedule available, for cases where it's needed. But, given that using a concierge service is perhaps the definitive case of spending money to conserve time; given also that this is a side project which has suddenly blown up in its creators' faces; and given finally that said creators appear to be working unbelievably hard to scale it up and out to meet the demand they've discovered -- given all that, I think it's pretty unreasonable to shit on the people who've made concierge service cheaper and more accessible than ever before because, in scrambling to meet unexpected demand, they have yet to get around to polish. Give them a month or two to get everything shaken out, and if they still haven't put up any fee information, then go after them. Until then, calm yourself; you are, after all, free not to use their service, if it fails to meet your requirements.

Well it's not hidden because they tell you up front, before the order is placed, how much it will cost. If they told you $20 and asked for $25 when they got there, that would be a hidden fee. Like AT&T saying you can get cable for $20/mo, but your cable bill always ends up being $32.88.

Charging more than you say is not a 'hidden fee' it is fraud. Hiding the fee in the total price is exactly a 'hidden fee'.

To this point, look at @exogen's extremely helpful demo of the service he posted. Can you tell how much the fee was? I was curious, so I actually went to Octo Sushi's site and tried to mock up a fake similar order, and I couldn't figure out if there even was a fee added on top of Octo's price or not.

The minimum order is 25$, not including tax, and I don't know if that includes the delivery charge. So the final Octo Sushi price has a minimum of around $27.50-30.00.

Getting someone to push back on ATT bill errors would be an amazing feature if Magic could make it work.

We're happy to call ATT on your behalf :) Try us out!

The last time I had a problem with ATT I had to make multiple calls and spent over an hour in total on hold. How would you charge for that?

I'd have gladly paid for someone to take that pain away. There's probably a viable business model in there somewhere if someone can independently put a competent customer service layer in front of companies like ATT.

There's a service that will negotiate with them to reduce your bill. I remember reading about them last year, it's some Berkeley MBA who likes to practice negotiation, he might handle this too:


This looked quite interesting and useful right up until it asked me if I /really/ wanted to close the page.

That's very poor negotiation in my books.

This would actually make a lot of sense if you could detect when a call came off hold. A small pool of operators could deal with calls as soon as the operator on the other end becomes available.

And if they're all busy, they could put ATT on hold. That I would love to do, even if they just immediately went on to the next call.

Do you have the authority/credentials to make customer service calls on my behalf? Like if I wanted a refund on my flight or wanted to reduce the cost of my ISP payments?

I would love to see a report on how this, or something like this went. That really would be a valued service. Whether the value is set high enough is a very good question. Transaction costs are very low so that provides more leeway.

There's potentially high value add in exactly these tasks. Dealing with the workflow in large companies is something that takes a lot of mental energy, and a company that could produce a strong workflow to stay on top of it and drive it could be far more efficient at it than most of us. And it's something you'd be glad to pay for.

The fact that there is a fee is hidden though.

Although after thinking about it I disagree with your post, I had the same initial impression.

I think it is because the wording of the texts make it seem like they are quoting the price of the service you are requesting, but the quote actually includes their fee. There's nothing wrong with that, but for some reason I didn't realize it on first read -- maybe a small wording change can make this more clear.

I take "hidden fees" to mean asterisks. That is, offering something for $10 and adding 7% for tax, a $1 service charge, 10¢ convenience fee, 5¢ concierge vetting fee... you get the picture.

They could make everyone happy by switching "hidden" to "extra"

I think "extra" means wrong things though.

Perhaps it should be something along the lines of "final price exactly as quoted including tip, nothing more" the key being that they aren't one of those services (like so many others) that advertise one price and charge you another.

"no hidden fees" is a recognizable meme though, and being pedantically correct is perhaps – and this is a pedantic concern – not as valuable as the phycological grab of that phrase.

Well, they're showing Magic being used for a lot of delivery services where the deliverer will expect a tip, so it seems like there is a hidden fee in the same sense...

Unless they're working out something with the provider where the third party will not expect a tip, which would be a miracle.

Edit: I stand corrected. Someone quotes the site as having:

> It's completely free to chat with Magic. When you order something, we'll let you know the total price so you can confim it before you are billed. There are no hidden fees, and tip is included.

The price that they quote you is the only fee. It's up to you to decide if it is worth it.

> CA state law requires you have a Privacy Policy

Who does that apply to? Companies based in CA? Companies doing business with anyone in CA?

Interesting. I'm not sure I understand how California can make laws regulating companies in any part of the world.

There is fairly length set of rules and case law governing all of this. The short version is that if your company is engaged in business with Californians, there's a decent chance that California law applies to you. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimum_contacts

This isn't entirely unique to California by the way (although California is notable for reaching further than other U.S. states). For instance, there's a famous case (or series of cases) concerning the application of French law to Yahoo with respect to activity taking place on U.S. servers but accessible to French users. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LICRA_v._Yahoo!

On a practical level, if you're worried about California law, you should consider if you have any people or resources located in California. Or in the U.S. generally. Or if you plan to expand to California at some point. It's one thing to break California law. It's another to have any assets that California can go after.

They can't, but if you make CA mad and they decide to sue you, you'll be out much more than it would've cost to just copy and paste a boilerplate privacy policy. A great deal of legal mechanics work this way -- sure, someone can't technically make that kind of mandate, but since it costs a lot of money and time to have a court case where that kind of thing gets proven, you're better off just making sure no one even tries.

Pretty much any civil action is similar. Unless it's on a massive scale, ask a lawyer what you should do when someone appears intent on pushing a frivolous copyright suit on you. Sure, you have every right to use that content, but do you have the tens of thousands of dollars (minimum) and months or years in court to prove it? It's practically always easier to just accept that you've been bullied out of exercising your rights and replace the contested content with something that the claimant won't launch a frivolous suit over. Lawsuits are only worthwhile when the workaround is more expensive, which is often a hard standard to meet -- that's why most cases end in settlement.

Bad idea: Giving legal advice without a license.

Worse idea: giving incorrect legal advice without a license.

Jurisdiction is complex. With the Internet, you do not need to have a physical location somewhere to do business there.

Fortunately for us, no reasonable person would construe my generalities as "legal advice".

>With the Internet, you do not need to have a physical location somewhere to do business there.

Although this is true, the rule of thumb has generally been that sites are governed by the rules of the principality where their servers reside, because it's the only effective or practical way to determine jurisdiction in a worldwide network. (It's likely that most websites have something hosted in CA, by the way).

I agree that this issue can become complex, but it's really only a side note to the intent of the post, which is that under our current legal structure, people are regularly bullied by plaintiffs that make exercising legal rights and obtaining justice much more costly than just complying with their original demands. The privacy policy thing is just one example of this.

It would be more worthwhile if you pinpointed what exactly the poster said that's incorrect. At least one place in their post, they suggested consulting a lawyer, so I'm pretty sure no one's construing that post as Official Legal Advice.

I'm not a lawyer, so I could just be talking out of my ass, but it annoys me to read uninformative "you are not a lawyer" comments, as though people who are not lawyers are wholly unqualified to even informally discuss law on a message board. Of course it's true that anybody who takes serious business action on account of dubious message board advice is a fool, whether that's legal, medical, financial, tax, or otherwise.

The core problem is that practicing law without a license is illegal. That actually is a pretty low standard to accidentally break unless you read and re-read your posts to make sure every statement is non-specific enough. I am perfectly qualified to discuss law (I took several law classes in my life, several from a top-4 law school) but I don't do it, since a post like this takes an obscene amount of time relative to a normal post. The same is true of many qualified non-lawyers on the Internet, so most of the people who do comment are either sufficiently clueless about the law to not know they shouldn't, confident of anonymity, Ina different jurisdiction, or similar.

In this case, there are many issues (indeed, most of what idiot wrote is not correct), but to give one: op is taking money from people in different states, placing orders with delivery services there, etc. Contrast that with idiot's statement about no jurisdiction and frivolous lawsuits.

Doesn't stop them trying.

When you pay at the restaurant you don't know about the extra of putting it together, and so I don't think they're morally obligated, but it's certainly controversial and something to think about.

A magician never reveals their secrets...1st rule of magic.

Hey everyone - this is insane. My friends and I created Magic a few days ago as a side project and it's completely blown up by accident since then. We're getting stormed with messages and orders.

We thought we'd launch it ourselves later if it did well, and other people have been posting it on Product Hunt, Reddit, HN themselves...

I'm here to answer any questions, although we've hardly slept!

So I used to use something like this with Amex's concierge service. Like getting a Wii on release day, or getting a gift somewhere.

I stopped using them after this bad experience. I asked them to send about $100 of good chocolate as a gift, and they just sent a $10 bar, 10 times. Duh.

Anyways, I felt a very good sensation looking over this. Probably because it's just such a PITA to do things like order pizza. Gotta talk to people, decline sales questions, etc. What a relief to not have to deal with that day-to-day stuff. Or just going out to the store or grabbing lunch before the place closes. A personal assistant I pay on demand for anything? Sweet.

Probably because it's just such a PITA to do things like order pizza

Is this sarcasm? I can't see how wrangling an order through an intermediary is easier than just ordering from the local pizzeria's website.

Not to mention that it takes a non-trivial time to confirm - in exogen's example above, it was 69 minutes plus delivery time. Small questions about relatively trivial things really drag out that confirmation time.

What?? No, not sarcasm at all, I'm dead serious.

Often I'm just on my phone at night, no tablet/laptop. So say I want to get some food. I've got to go find the damn website. Remember a login maybe. Or deal with some JS-laden thing that doesn't render smoothly on my 6" Android. Sort all that shit out. Wonder if I have cash for a tip, cause I feel obligated most times.

Or calling. I gotta actually dial, talk to someone. Deal with all their questions if I want combos or the offer and I'll save $2 if I just say yeah, and what's my phone number and address again?

I realise I should get over this. That I'd do better in life (especially if I'm gonna sell my own software) if I got more comfortable just calling people and telling them what to do.

Meanwhile, I'm already imagining how awesome this is gonna be next time I'm in SF. I leave the office, start walking home. Text Magic and say "hey get me some X from Y". Get home and unpack my mind and someone comes and gives me food.

If it's an hour confirmation time, that's not as magic, but it's not a show-stopper. With less coordination than making the order myself, I can just pipeline things to work out.

Perhaps this reflects badly on me or is a commentary on society or laziness or I dunno. But I'm pretty fucking happy to imagine I can have someone else unlock the city for me if I'm not feeling up to it.

Here's how sick I am: I would order lunch via this every day, versus trying to get myself to go at the right time. Not too early because of the lines, but not too late because then they run out of good stuff or close. But I should probably get out a bit more so I won't use it every day just because of that. Otherwise I totally would. Hell, if they are streamlined enough, I'd even do it to order a cup of frozen yogurt (I'd probably pay $15-20 twice a week for delivery alone). I do prefer to get out and walk and take breaks, but sometimes it just doesn't work out, or it's too far, or whatever lameass excuse.

Agree generally, but I do wonder why in 2015 this has to be driven manually by humans. I understand we're flexible decision makers, but we're also a significant cost in these sorts of processes. I can appreciate this definitely follows the "do things that don't scale" line.

If there was a standard by which browsers stored payment and delivery details, a little beefed up from what we have now, would that get us part way? And then an endorsed way of interacting with an ordering system that can answer questions by default (no newsletter signup, no insurance, no warranty, default shipping, etc).

Loads of security issues, but we're going to have to solve this sort of thing eventually.

>If there was a standard by which browsers stored payment and delivery details, a little beefed up from what we have now, would that get us part way?

Isn't that basically the idea of PayPal or Amazon Payments and similar things?

I'm pretty sure Google Chrome has an API hidden away for payment info. Google seems to market it towards ecommerce developers (that's how I found out about it), but I can't find my documentation on it. Plus it's not on track for any sort of standardisations.

If you look at exogen's example, there was the same back-and-forthing that you get on the phone or with a website. Need to spend $11 more for delivery? exogen made it easier and said "surprise me", but if he didn't, cue a back-and-forth over what would make up enough of an extra order.

Alternatively, what if exogen wasn't willing to increase the order price by 50%? Back to the drawing board for another round at a different shop. It seems like a slow way to get food unless you're particularly laid back about pricing and what arrives, or you know exactly what's available at the shops you want to source from.

I imagine I'm gonna setup Magic. Then before I'm packing up to go home, I'm gonna text "Get me a lamb korma, hot, and some naan from Little Delhi, cost + $12 for delivery is fine". Then they're gonna say "ok, btw total is $25". By the time I get home and change, ding-dong food's here.

Of course, it'll depend on their execution. They're gonna have to keep a reputation of not totally ripping me off, like Amazon. With Amazon, I don't ever, ever, price compare. If I was gonna buy a 256 GB SSD and Amazon said it was $300, I'd go "well shit, I guess they went up" and that's that. If they keep abusing me, I'll figure it out, so keep the abuse low, and if I get pissed off, comp me and make me feel special.

There's no reason Magic needs to be slow and involve lots of back and forth so long they don't give me a reason to distrust them.

Edit: But you're right. If it's always slow, always back-n-forth, always weird pricing I need to check, then it wouldn't be great. So I'm just gonna hope they do a good job.

In your home town, it's probably not a big deal. But if you're travelling in random towns, I could definitely see this being useful. Bonus points if you can tie it into a 'what's cool to do around here right now' service. Or 'what's the best craft beer place near here'. That kinda thing.

Whoa, I've never used my concierge benefit and didn't even think about it on hard to get items like console launches.

How did that go? Do they just find you a scalper and you pay the overcharge, or do they find you one at retail price on launch day?

In general it was fairly reasonable. On the console, they managed to find a store not too far away that had stock and reserved it for me. No fee. Their travel agency also seemed pretty useful.

Best concierge thing was going to a packed restaurant, told it'd take a long time without reservations, making a call and turning around to "right this way". No fee from Amex. They really wanna sell the flattery/status idea to get you spending more and feeling the $450/$5000 annual fees are worth it.

Curious -- what card do you have and what restaurant was this? I'm wondering how often this works.

FWIW Amex Business Platinum card holder here. Their Concierge got us a reservation for 6 people at 8 pm, at the French Laundry, the next day.... That's as close to magic as I've ever seen.

I had Platinum and the option of the Centurion (black). People I know with Centurion cards actually just don't use them that much after an initial "fun" period of showing off. Using them at clubs, for instance, is just a great way to get extra charges thrown in, since people will guess you aren't carefully reviewing your statement and have extra money.

OTOH if you don't mind coming off as a dick, you can pull out a Centurion card and try to bully/bluff people with a "don't you know who I am" kinda deal. Though I did love the one time a friend tried this and the clerk just laughed and said "we don't take Amex". Also, other banks are issuing "Black" cards so there's a lot of people trying this not even being Amex holders.

Centurion used to come with more benefits, but they've been pulling them back and making it more of a show-off "I'm so elite" kind of thing. (A big blow was losing Continental elite status, since United is Chase's bitch.) They're building out airport lounges now to help compensate. And in Toronto Pearson, because Canada is just so incompetent, airlines don't have faster lines for security, just Air Canada and Amex. Rather annoying if you're a United 1K or otherwise paid for first class. That's probably the only reason I'd consider getting an Amex card again.

Nowadays, even random VISA cards will have concierge services, because it's fairly cheap, underused, yet makes people feel special. And for the cost of a Platinum card ($495 for primary, then $195 I think) you can use a lot of other services. And Centurion cards were $5000/$2500. I think you could just carry $5000 in cash and get the same kind of "respect".

(I haven't used Amex in years. Despite paying on time, always, and having a runrate of over $250K a year, they did a financial review, requesting my tax/employment records. I told them to fuck off and that was that.)

I had a great experience with the concierge if it was an extremely simple task with clearly defined results. If I asked for recommendations/to make a vague hotel reservation, its absolutely worthless. I had an operator actually begin reading off the first 50 hotel names until one "sounded good". I let her read a few dozen of them to see where this was going before I eventually told her I would book it myself.

Are you OK with people using Magic for things that don't result in a purchase? Something like "Is the 4:30 train from Greenwich to NYC late?" or "What hours are my local DMV office open?"

"Anything you want" makes it sound like people can use it like they'd use Siri.

There was a UK service called AQA that would answer questions for £1 back in the mid 2000s. They started off super super useful, but quality degraded enough as they scaled that it was no longer worth it. Used to be able to say "which shops in a 20 mile radius have xus in stock", or "who should I complain to about the service in xyz bar" and get great answers, but as they automated it more and more you'd just get back vague info

I was briefly an AQA employee. You were paid per question, so all you really cared about was how quickly you could send an answer and move onto the next question. The quality of the answer didn't matter, unless the customer complained and got a refund, which virtually never happened.

Poor metrics win again!

Yeah, we've been receiving a lot of requests like this. Right now we are doing our best to handle them all because we believe that happy users will be purchasing customers. We'll have to see how it goes.

That could be done by charging a standard fee for the operator's time spent searching.

Or a Magic Gold premium membership, if people want to ask non commerce questions beyond the first three free ones.

Seems like maybe a get-together with Watson api docs is in order.

With no pun intended, Watson isn't magic.

Maybe they could respond "sure, our researchers can find this for you for just $3, here's a link to add your credit card to your profile".

I have a concern:

How do you plan to handle security related dangerous items? For example, an user may ask you to deliver a package taken from one place to another place and you may arrange that but that package may contain dangerous/destructive/harmful materials which may be against law of the land where you operate.

You can ask user to confirm contents but he/she may lie and faithfully you may try to deliver and in between you may get struck in legal issues. If the origin is well known or reputed enough, then risk may be less but otherwise, there is an element of risk. Have you considered it? and how do you plan to handle it safely? Thanks.

That was an immediate concern I considered as well. Like, a drug front that sets up a little website that looks like a restaurant or something. Only customers would ever really know about it, but Magic service providers would find it when someone asks for it. Customers place "secret code" orders with Magic. Magic unwittingly delivers drugs (or whatever contraband) throughout the city.

But...then I concluded that surely it's ultimately cheaper and safer to just hire your own drug couriers. Given the slightest risk of discovery, they're less likely to reveal anything about the sender or to know the identity the recipient, unlike Magic.

So yeah, some people will always slip some shady stuff through every now and then. But I don't think Magic is the best solution to any of those illicit problems. No illegal arms dealer is sitting around thinking, "If only I had someone to deliver all these gun orders, I'd be rich!"

Same concern exists for all couriers, doesn't it?

From the landing page:

"We'll order what you need from the appropriate service (e.g. DoorDash, Instacart, Postmates, etc.), and deal with them"

All of these services handle the delivery when you order directly through them, so I don't think Magic is accepting a hand-off from them and then adding an extra leg to a trip. It sounds like Magic is just acting as a middle-man in these cases. I don't see anything on their site which suggests that they ever actually handle your stuff.

Hey, just here to recommend that you use or otherwise build a CRM interface around the SMS conversations. This will allow you to scale the number of messages without being overwhelmed by operator costs.

Best of luck to you. I see a lot of hard work in your future.

Here's hoping you can scale up fast enough to outpace demand and give everyone a good first impression.

What are you guys using to manage in-bound text messages? Something like sendsonar.com or something home-grown?

Plot twist: it's the founder's cell phone.

I'd love this in Australia - I'm in a wheelchair and it'd make shopping much much easier.

I am in India and I want to send a gift to my friend in the US. Possible?

Why are you posting here? Send them a text and ask.

Hmm...Because I can't send a text from India from my phone at least.

Maybe make a google voice account? It lets you text.

There must be other services that let you text internationally, or pretend to have a US number.

there is also https://nomadsms.com for that.

How are you scaling it up?

In our previous businesses we have scaled large customer support teams efficiently, and we also have handled a lot of online chat-based systems. As long as we can charge appropriate fees, this should be solvable. So far, so good.

Yeah, and that. :)

Uber-ize it.

How do you generate revenue?

By charging a premium on all services and products. For people who just want things completely handled.

You said you created it a few days ago. Do you happen to have many helping hands to handle the deluge of messages you will be getting? Coz first impression is going to be the last impression.

Way to go, Mike! Exciting that this is blowing up on you.

good luck folks!

I discovered this through a Facebook thread that has a ton of comments on it from non HN or techie peeps. Thought you might want to know what normal non-techies think.

"I think it is a great idea that has potential but I personally wouldn't use them because I can't find anything about them on the website. Looks like a scam."

"They need to re-design their website so it doesn't look like it was slapped together in 10 minutes and add an about page so we know who they are."

"Not even a business at this point."

"This stuff kind of annoys me actually. I get the minimal product concept to test the market but when stuff like this is pushed out there it makes consumers very wary."

"These guys will take this to some bay area VC's and probably get funded because it blew up on Reddit and HN with a bunch of other techies. Meh!"

"It is going to take some serious $$ to get a service like this going. The support alone for handling inbound texts and having reps look for and book deals is a very big undertaking."

"Yay! Another useless service that creates more low wage service jobs that cater to the wealthy."

>"Yay! Another useless service that creates more low wage service jobs that cater to the wealthy."

... What.

This just doesn't compute. In what mindframe does this ever make sense as a complaint? If you're creating new jobs, even if they're low wage, you're just giving people more choice - they can now work at one more place than before, no one's forced into that, it literally can't do harm. And direct transfer of wealth from the wealthy to the poor is a positive, right?

I'm so confused.

Part of the issue is that instead of creating traditional jobs that come with healthcare, benefits, strong legal protections, training and company car/whatever, the platform 'task economy' businesses often cut out these benefits and treat everyone like piece workers. So whereas previously eg a customer service rep got low wages but at least their tax was done for them and they had health benefits, now they get a low wage and have to do all that themselves. There's little chance of on-the-job development and training because all the business needs is more tech engineers to polish a front end or analyse data. Their workload (and therefore wages) can go up and down randomly leaving them out of pocket. All the while it puts some traditional businesses out of business because they can't compete on price/service with these companies, so ultimately there are less and lower quality choices. It pushes the burden of doing business down onto the workers rather than up towards richer investors. I'm not saying this 100% applies to Magic, but it's a general and very valid criticism of this type of "the Uber of X" business.

I think that's a bit naive. In the micro, one new task economy startup might be a net gain, all other things being equal, but if it's part of a macro trend where skilled jobs are disappearing and being replaced with commodity task work, we might be sliding down a dangerous slope. Your final question sound kind of like the slightly more extreme argument that yacht factories enrich otherwise unemployed people. To me, that argument always rang hollow because how much wealth is really being transferred when demand for such things is fundamentally limited. I think ideally you want a broad base of jobs that can actually provide people with a middle class livelihood.

In addition to all this, let's be clear. The only wealth being "transferred" here is that of the minimum wage to workers. Everything else is making someone else rich, likely already rich investors.

Justified inequality is good as long as it filters out high quality from low quality. The genius should be compensated more than the low-life.

Systems that classify human potential at birth though are rather unfair and amount to nepotism. The opposite of objective quality. No matter how many jobs a King or Queen creates, the upper class is always above the lower class.

Also, absolute transfer of wealth doesn't mean relative transfer. Slavery nowadays is actually more expensive then just hiring illegals because of housing and food costs. Wealth here is transferred in an absolute sense.

That said, many Uber drivers are very happy with the steeping stone it lends them. Flexible hours, and rather decent pay.

I think it's inherent that every economy needs a number of "lower-tier" employment opportunities for the "upper-tier" to exist and function well. And until robotization becomes viable and accepted, this will continue to be the case.

I see both sides. Seems like there are way more low wage jobs out there though. Plenty to choose from.

Does it have to be low wage? What if people are paid a base wage but also got a percentage of the fee? Those that truly became experts at finding a service/product that matched the customer's request could become increasingly proficient.

As for the "low wage jobs" comments, I'd pick this over being an Amazon warehouse automaton!

"What if people are paid a base wage but also got a percentage of the fee"

That would be great!

Given the context, it doesn't need to compute. Its how someone feels about the product. People aren't rational. That doesn't mean they aren't worth going after.

> "They need to re-design their website so it doesn't look like it was slapped together in 10 minutes and add an about page so we know who they are."

It's interesting the contrast of first impressions. HN is often fortunate to receive a behind the scenes look into projects. Here we have a first-hand discussion with the creators commenting and answering questions, such as their previous businesses [1] and general updates [2], which helps us gauge the business more than perhaps a general user encountering the site. From the top-rated posts it also appears many here are so used to typical design choices that there's an appreciation for the more straight-forward approach.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9087931

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9088208

I understand what you are saying and agree with a lot of it. Not saying I completely agree with all of the comments, instead simply pointing out what your average non techie/HN people think.

The "general user encountering the site" will most likely be the users using this service so imo they are just as important as the HN crowd.

>>"Yay! Another useless service that creates more low wage service jobs that cater to the wealthy."

That sort of comment annoys me actually. Is it not great that "wealthy" people pay for all of those service jobs? Out of all things, I literally can't see any problems with this. Unless the wages are below living wage of course,but it looks like the commenter has a problem with service jobs in general?

In Mountain View, California minimum wage is below a living wage. I understand the sentiment: The scarcest resource for me is my time. Money is how we let people decide who gets to tell whom what to do with their time. A system where 0.1% tell 99.9% how to spend their precious time alive is not morally just. (I'm not saying we're quite that bad as a society -- at least not yet.)

"A system where 0.1% tell 99.9% how to spend their precious time alive is not morally just"

Welcome to modern-day capitalism. This is exactly what it is, with or without Magic. Don't like it? Neither do I, but then we need a new socio-financial mechanism to redistribute wealth, which goes well beyond the scope of services like Magic.

> A system where 0.1% tell 99.9% how to spend their precious time alive is not morally just.

Says who? Where's the cutoff between just and unjust?

Exactly at the point where I place it.

I think a common sentiment about on-demand service startups is that it can lead to a dangerous situation for the lower-level employee, who is typically working as a 1099. Relatively low pay, and they're responsible for their own benefits, taxes, etc.

This is something I have a lot of interest in at the moment, so if anyone would like to chime in, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

There are plenty of decent paying service jobs. Plumbers, Roofers, etc. There are also tons and tons of low paying, low skilled service jobs. I suppose this is an entire different topic of discussion but something that needs to be looked at for the future of our kids. We need more higher paying skilled jobs regardless if they are service jobs or not.

Since I can't edit anymore - my comment went from well above 1 point to negative 2. Could people explain what do they don't like about my argument, instead of downvoting please? All I said was, that I don't see anything wrong with people creating service jobs which pay a living wage - if you think otherwise, explain why.

I just decided to try this out in Seattle. Here's how it went! http://brianbeck.com/images/magic.png

(the minimum was from the sushi place, not Magic)

That's awesome. And I think it scales for just long enough, too. I don't think hiring real, intelligent humans to make on-the-fly shopping decisions like this (think, an old-school concierge desk at hotel) costs more than the incremental value they'd bring in. If 90% of the requests can be handled automatically, then you can afford to make magic happen (and delighted customers) in the 10%.

It falls apart at a certain global scale, but I'm sure the business has pivoted twice by that point.

Nicely done.

Awesome demo! Can you update the shot while swiping left to show the timestamps?

Sure! http://brianbeck.com/images/magic-times.png

The first couple responses were pretty slow, sounds like they were getting absolutely hammered with requests. I could have done it a lot faster myself for sure, seems promising though!

That actually doesn't seem very good. If I'm craving sushi as 7pm, getting delivered at 9:15 isn't really going to do it for me.

Isn't that because he had no credit card attached to his account, and needed one before anything could progress?

In addition to the high demand they're going through, right now, I'd say it's understandable.

It was 3 minutes from CC request to CC info done.

Definitely not in the long run. But cmikec's latest update here put it in perspective – they had to limit access while this request was being handled because they were getting totally flooded.

The more trained and properly staffed they are, the faster it'll be, I don't think it's representative

One and a half hours to order something (plus delivery time - which they set would be another hour!) for 33$. Wow.

Given their explosion in requests around this time, I'm not fazed by it. Try the same request a month from now...if it's the same turnaround time, then I'd be worried that the company can't handle the volume long-term. Which would be a shame, this seems really useful.

What were the extra pieces?

Edamame, some sushi rice, and escolar sashimi which I've never tried before. (edit: some kinda soup as well)

This is horrible compared to my daily experience using Seamless. Why would a person craving sushi want to exchange 8 text messages and then click on a web link and get sushi 2+ hours later?

They had to click a web link because it was their first time using the service so they had to add their credit card. How else are they supposed to charge you?

Well right. But my description of the experience still stands. It doesn't seem like an improvement.

Because it's seamless when you want takeout. And instacart when you want groceries. And something else when you want office supplies. And a fourth thing to make dinner reservations...

Because they want to feel they have their own personal servant.

And how was it? :)

Not sure about surprise additions, but isn't it bit overpriced for one person quick lunch?

Well, the additions weren't really a surprise given I told them to just meet the delivery minimum for this particular sushi place ($25).

Offtopic: your iPhone is pretty long :) or you used something like Stitch It! ?

did it manually, I'm afraid.

Get the app Tailor; it'll do it for you. :)


Maybe the Magic people should promote a tool, since word-of-mouth promotion can be hard without.

Thank you. Every once in awhile I need stich some mobile screenshots together and this seems perfect.

How much did they surcharge?

I just put the same items into an order on eat24.com, which is how I'd normally do this. The order came to $30.38, which is exactly $2 less than what Magic quoted. That's before you have the opportunity to add a tip.

So either the Magic surcharge was $2 and they tipped $0, or they tipped $2 and were doing some free introductory thing. ($2 off coupons for eat24 are also plentiful, so I guess Magic could have also made $4.)


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