The headlines and photos were easy enough to mimic, but for potential buyers wary of making a deal with the devil (or perhaps trying to), it mattered who was doing the selling. In the metaphysical category, credibility was essential. For a shopper buying something more traditional, such as an action figure, it’s pretty easy to tell when the vendor is cutting corners: If the customer opens up a package and finds a superhero without arms, it’s easy to argue for a refund. But in the metaphysical category, products cannot be so clearly assessed.
For a powerhouse account, a lengthy history of sold listings and positive reviews was enough to win a customer’s confidence. The smaller, less-established sellers, then, had to make up for their inexperience with colorful backstories. They’d offer brief autobiographies, chronicling how they got into black magic and how they’d love to help people find love, wealth, guidance, or whatever it was they sought.
So, dwarfed by sellers with massive amounts of positive reviews, I concocted a story that would simultaneously charm buyers and explain my lack of positive reviews: I was a girl in her early 20s with a gift for the dark arts, and I developed my supernatural abilities with guidance from my recently deceased (and dearly beloved) uncle. In an effort to honor his memory, “I adopted it as my mission to help others in the best way I can, and I have decided to do it through tarot card readings along with selling spells and haunted possessions to the world.” I acknowledged that I was new to the business and understood why people might hesitate to buy from me; with that in mind, I vowed that I would never sell a spell that could damage someone’s life, and that it was “my personal philosophy to not overcharge my customers to make a profit—I only want to spread my gift to the world and make ends meet.”
As was customary, I set this autobiography in a rustic font on top of a crude backdrop—I chose a papyrus pattern. With my backstory written and some basic HTML to freshen it up, I was ready to start listing.
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My lineup of listings was subject to routine substitutions, depending on what was and wasn’t selling, but my usual repertoire included a love spell, a banish-bad-luck spell, a three-question tarot card reading, and a communicate-with-an-angel spell. I relisted them daily.
Love spells, which went for $12, were extremely simple: After the purchase went through, I would ask for the names and birthdays of the buyer and the lover-to-be. They’d email me back, and I’d wait about a day to reply, telling them the spell had been cast, with wishes of good luck. (To be clear, I had no ulterior motive in collecting the information of strangers.)
Tarot-card readings sold for the lowest price, and at 99 cents, mine were the cheapest out there. The money was negligible, but it was the easiest way to get my customer-review count up and establish my credibility. The readings never took much time, anyway; after the buyer would email me their three questions, I’d pull up a tarot-card randomizer site, select a card for each question, and write up appropriate answers.