Welcome to the Tiki Central 2.0 Beta. Read the announcement
Celebrating classic and modern Polynesian Pop

Tiki Central / General Tiki

tiki trader trickery

Pages: 1 2 91 replies

I've just seen this post on the Exotica list about a rather interesting little article written by the chap behind tikitrader.com:

"talk about biting the tiki that feeds you!"


holy cow! Allen must not think his customers read..
I find this odd and hypocritical coming from a man who has been promoting and cashing in on "all things tiki" for years. Both his store and website are filled with this very merchandise that he seems to be condeming. If he feels so strongly about "The proliferation of all things tiki has reduced the icons of Hawai'i and Polynesia to the most watered down, generic, lowest common denominator" then why are so many of these "false Idols" being sold at a premium in his very store?

http://www.tikiking.com Neat Tiki Stuff
http://www.mp3.com/tiki_king Hear the King sing!

[ Edited by: Tiki King 2006-07-19 11:15 ]

Hmm, sounds like Mr. St. James is not into it..wonder why he has businesses called http://www.tikitrader.com, the Island Decor Shop and the Hawaii Five-0 Web site? Perhaps the ol' hipster snobbery of "I was into this way before you" has something to do with it?

I also guess Allen has never seen the shirts with depictions of Christ the devout wear in my neighborhood or these very popular and tasteful 'Sports' Jesus statues:


I think what allen is sayings is there is , "well, I didn't mean you shouldn't buy MY tacky idol imagery"


I think what allen is sayings is there is , "well, I didn't mean you shouldn't buy MY tacky idol imagery"

Tikitrader.com....uggh, caveat buyer, beware emptor!!

Nice attempt at CYA.

If he didn't say it, I will. One shouldn't.



I suppose I could point out that the girls on his hula girl mugs are white, or that the glasses with dragons on them may be disrespectful to Chinese cultural beliefs, but hey, I think he's already shown himself as a hypocrite. I like that he mentions Sven's book in one of his item descriptions. Perhaps he should read it, as that might help him to clarify where this renewed interest is coming from. I'm just making an educated guess here, but I think most of the so-called "hipsters" into this are reasonably well educated and can understand the distinction between PolyPop and Hawaiian culture. (I find is repeated attacks against "hipsters" amusing- Hip? C'mon, let's be honest: Seek The Tiki Oasis was like a Star Trek convention with alcohol.) And psst...it's really not that big of a comeback. Sure it's growing, but if you step back for some perspective, you'll find that the revival is invisible to most people. It probably looks bigger to someone who runs a Hawaiian gift store, and of course to people like us.

OK, starting to ramble. I'm looking forward to BigBro's comments on this one.


What I got out of the article, kind of, was that's he's against what a lot of us are... the further diluting of the concept of Tiki.

How many times have you had a non-tiki friend say "hey... check out this Tiki mask" only to find out it's of African origins and style. That bugs me.

And I too worry about the recent fadishness of tikis popping up ... I saw a pair of swim trunks at Macy's with Moais on them.

Perhaps Allen is not refering to tikiphiles like us but more to people who will jump on (and eventually off) some sort of tiki-party bandwagon.

At least that's what I got out of his article.



The author of the article obviously has a huge chip on his shoulder. What amazes me is that the newspaper printed such a heavily biased article that was obviously a blatant attempt to market his store (albeit one that may backfire on him).

martiki, your comments were well spoken, but that trekkie comparison is so embarrasing! :)


Sure, as things get popular they get changed and diluted to fit with current tastes. It's unfortunate and inevitable, but the die hards will still be into it in 5 or 10 years and will still know the difference between a good mai tai and a bad one.

I still felt the author of the piece missed the point entirely about why you and me and most of us are into this so-called "retro tiki". Knowing about real polynesian culture has nothing whatever to do with knowing how to make a good tropical drink or the feeling one gets when walking into the Mai Kai.

IF I would be an ill-thinker I would say this:

What Allen was thinking is this:

"Well now that I have to bail California and move to Hawaii because I have angered so many customers, how can I and ingratiate myself with my new neighbours...
And since other Tiki manufacturers have left me in the dust because I don't have it together business-wise, and since a lot of pro-Polynesian pop stuff has already been written without my input...:
I JUST DO A ONE EIGHTY, get all huffy about the kitsch, and thus get lots of attention and the sympathy of the Hawaiian traditionalists, and later appease the American Tiki customers I have left with a seperate piece that is not widely published in Hawaii! Yeah!
I can dance at both weddings!"

...BUT this would be assuming an intentionally manipulative mind, and I have always said that Allen is NOT a bad person. He is well meaning, but just a little confused, and so frustrated customers and these kind of writings are the result.

As a matter of fact, I know Allen has tried to bring together true Tiki mythology and Polynesian pop for a while in his texts, and I believe he has been genuinely conflicted about the impossibility to do that well.
And then he somehow snapped when he saw that Tiki head bobber!
I share his pain at seeing some of that bad cheapo Tiki crap that's out there, and I cringe when I read the misled attempts of bringing traditional Polynesian mythology together with FUN in such tomes as the "TIKI-a GO GO coco-nutty day planer". But that's pop culture!

The fact is that they are two seperate things. That is the whole point of my book. One is an extinct Islander religion, (which can never be revived the way it was, but must be recreated in a new form), the other is an American pop culture. Pop culture IS trivial by nature.

True knowledge never is affected by outer appearences. The secret protects itself. Even if it does so under the guise of a trivialized image of itself.

I live for the day when someone actually has something NICE to say about Tikitrader. Like they got their order on time, or even got their order at all....

Has anyone been to the actual shop? Does he throw a clam-shell at you if you try on one of the shirts?

Trader Woody

Do you not find it interesting that Allen's addendum justifying his remarks in the 'Honolulu Advertiser' article is as long as the original article itself? I think it says a lot about the man and his views.

Will someone just come out and say, "Hypocrite"?


I live for the day when someone actually has something NICE to say about Tikitrader.
Trader Woody

Woody, I hope we ALL live that long. Just don't make any large wagers on it.


I met Allen just over a year ago. He has always been very nice to me and was very interesting to talk to. He was the very first person in the "tiki" business that I showed my carvings to. He is very knowledgeable and since I've known him, he has leaned towards the traditional Hawaiiana side of tiki. He always praised Leroy and Bob at OA. Yeah he's cooky, but aren't we all. I don't want to touch his business practices because I believe the customer should receive something better than they expected. He's hooked me up with aloha shirts, and even gave me an 8foot and 10 foot palm log about 34 inches in diameter that are just begging to be carved. I hope he takes care of his obligations and does well.

On 2002-07-29 15:04, Trader Woody wrote:

Has anyone been to the actual shop? Does he throw a clam-shell at you if you try on one of the shirts?

Trader Woody

a year ago, i went to his store in ventura~ (before i joined this list) i got the "eebie jeebies".. he talked incessantly about himself, dropping names...he got 2 angry customer phone calls, and one guy stopped by to complain about something else..my spider-sense was tingling..

he pushed the chipped/worn Trader Vic's plate (and ignored me, when i asked if he had a boxed one).most all his stuff was Archie McPhee quality.

he nearly took off my head when i spied old tiki stuff and tried to take a better look at it. evidently that was his "museum".

ok: i'll say something quazi nice: he didnt charge tax on the ceramic tiki (that he claimed he poured and glazed) i bought. on the other hand, he wouldnt take VISA or a check, he insisted on cash.

Hmmmmmmmmmm. Very interesting!

On 2002-07-29 14:14, hanford_lemoore wrote:

How many times have you had a non-tiki friend say "hey... check out this Tiki mask" only to find out it's of African origins and style? That bugs me.

Oh gosh, several times a week! I can't even get a decent night's sleep anymore!

Sorry, I'll crawl back under a rock now,
Tiki Chris


The thing that jumps out at me from this guy's article is that he's dead wrong in many ways. He talks like he represents the Hawaiian people (carefully spelling it Hawai'i), and represents them as a humorless bunch who sniff with wounded pride every time a "haole" enjoys a tropical fantasy that contains some piece of tiki imagery. There may be some Hawaiians like this, just like there are some Christians like this, to use his example. But on the whole, I think Polynesians are hardly the sober indignant bunch that he describes.

I've been to Hawaii many times, and my parents have a friend directly descended from the royal family. These people have a great sense of humor, they love the islands, they love visitors, they love to party, they understand the mainlanders' fantasies about exotic islands, and they like to discuss and poke fun at the same time about many of the semi-mystical beliefs associated with tiki and the old KAPU laws. All with a full understanding that these are artifacts of another time, not like some sacred imagery that should be locked up in a monastery somewhere and only whispered about in awe by appointed native guardians.

The natives I know have never shown any tendency to be offended by the proliferation of any form of hawaiiana lite in pop culture, because they're smart enough to recognize that it's strictly about having fun. If anyone knows how to have fun, it's the Polynesians - they invented the luau! And they also see that in some ways it actually stimulates interest in the serious preservation of a historical culture. But of course that's not the main thrust of polynesian pop.

I always think of viking stuff in Scandinavia as a similar example. Over there, you can get all kinds of little viking tchotchkes and horned helmets and stuff, all because the people, on the whole, are able to have FUN with it!


aquarj wrote: I always think of viking stuff in Scandinavia as a similar example. Over there, you can get all kinds of little viking tchotchkes and horned helmets and stuff, all because the people, on the whole, are able to have FUN with it!

Then again, you don't see too many Germans selling little jack-booted dolls or brown shirts with the 'Deaths Head' insignia on 'em. Ho Ho.

Ooops, I think I might be blurring threads....

Trader Woody

I'd think the compition with the ABC Stores would be hard to beat with trinkets but I haven't a clue as for what so-called vintage goes for on the islands.
A & M's
benboo bam


VERY WELL PUT, aquarj! You said exactly what I was feeling! Perfect way to explain the "Aloha Sprit" and lightness I experience when visiting the Hawaiian Islands! Hang Loose! Laney


Regarding Germans and "little jack-booted dolls", that's probably a joke, but let me clarify...

Viking culture and imagery was closely tied in with the representations of the norse gods, like Odin and Thor and all that. Likewise the imagery of the tiki gods was often meant for intimidation - the traditional Ku is the war god after all, right? And ancient Polynesian history had its share of man-against-man brutality, directly associated with these images. But I think the use of these images in a modern pop context really has nothing to do with these original meanings. When a little Danish kid wears a Viking helmet, it has absolutely nothing to do with plundering villages, and the culture as a whole recognizes that.

I'm sure the nazi reference is supposed to make a point, since obviously it's hard to "have fun" with those images. But as always, there are people who cherish the bad and people who cherish the good, and it's a shame that Germans are so often associated with just the horrific nazi era. Actually I think the Germans in particular have a history of very powerful iconography, dating much further back than just the last century. And contrary to the stereotype, the Germans know how to have fun too (and a few of them happen to be experts on tiki).



Man, it's really weird to read an article by some white guy who is more culturally reactionary about Polynesia than any Hawaiian I ever met. I think only the totally ignorant would want to remove all traces of Polynesian Pop culture from the islands. Of course, this would mean no more ukeleles, steel guitars, aloha shirts, flip-flops, or surfing on fiberglass boards. The Hawaii we all love, including most Hawaiians, is one of the most unique melding of cultures that ever was. The Hawaii we know couldn't have existed without the influence of other cultures -- Asian and European. And, that phenomena reached it's zenith around 1959 when the islands became a state and jet travel became common. To condemn haole's living in 2002 as some kind of cultural wrecking crew is ridiculous. The events that changed ancient Hawaiian culture forever happened about 150 years earlier than the era we celebrate as tiki culture.

Whoops! My little joke backfired slightly. I wasn't making any connection at all between the nazis and the vikings. It was more a response to BigBro's call for German jokes.

Having spent a few months in Germany, I can safely say that not once was I accosted by Nazis and in fact was given huge quantities of beer by my Bavarian pals.

Trader Woody

And for those who want to get heavily into collecting fun Scandinavian Viking thingamajigs:

And now back to dissing Tiki Trader.

Trader Woody


On 2002-07-30 13:48, aquarj wrote:
When a little Danish kid wears a Viking helmet, it has absolutely nothing to do with plundering villages, and the culture as a whole recognizes that.


WHAT? they dont wear those all the time? next you're gonna tell me, that boy's mom normal attire isn't that metallic cone bra!

[ Edited by: dogbytes on 2002-07-30 19:13 ]

One only has to look at the result of what the fear of political incorrectness has done to modern Waikiki:
In this Mecca of Polynesian culture there is hardly a Tiki Bar to be found, but lots of generic corporate outfits. From the Hard Rock Cafe to Banana Republic, Wolfgang Puck to Japanese chains, franchises that can be encountered in any city all over the world abound. Maybe some places apply a careful touch of Polynesia here and there, but all in good taste, just don't be Tiki-tacky!

In the heyday of Tiki on the mainland, MANY Hawaiian, Samoan and Tongan expatriates frequented places like the Bali Hai in San Diego, The Seven Seas in Hollywood and Kono Hawaii in Anaheim, because they were as close to "home" there as they could be. I am sure these islanders could differenciate between a sacred Heiau and a place to have fun.

The obsession that true religion can only be treated with awe and stiff respect is a stuffy Christian notion brought on by the missionairies. Ancient Polynesians were as playful as they were fearful in their dealings with their gods. The representation of their ancestors was giving them mana, and mana was and is a positive energy flow, be it at home or in a place of business.

I truly believe that my Book of Tiki, which has been distributed all over the world, from Norway to Argentina, has increased the mana of Polynesian culture rather than harmed it.

Time for two cents: tikitrader is thief & crook! A year ago my wife purchased a hand carved tiki pole from this guy for my birthday yet she never got it, even after repeated emails & phone calls. Finally she bought a pole from Bosko (Truss & him are the best) and gave it to me for are anniversary, when she explained then tikithief incident. Right away I started bugging this guy with emails & phone calls after 6-8 weeks I got two plastic tiki mugs, 1 broken tiki mug & 1 mug intact, NICE! Finally in another 3-5 weeks I got a couple of small wooden tiki's, kinda cool but too little too late. I have always wanted to write something on this board about this guy but didn't want to step on any toes, so heres to one of the best threads ever!

I have read the rant again, and now have come to a psychological conclusion:

The repeated attack on "Tiki hipsters" points to this:
Allen is not really aware that he did wrong in his business dealings. But after years of condemnation by a large part of the disgruntled Tiki community because of said incompetence, he had to either admit fault OR find a position for himself that allowed him to live with himself. He wanted to give Tiki to the public, but the ungrateful SOBs rejected him.

The human capacity for selfjustification is limitless, and he needed a perspective that afforded him to be able to condemn the ones that condemned him in order to go on, so they became TIKI HIPSTERS.

This way of bending your reality has elements of schizophrenia, as the contradicting article and addendum show.

....or, on second thought, maybe he just recently got a tradition conscious Hawaiian girlfriend!?

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki on 2002-07-31 00:28 ]

Yo Ben! It's LA CONCHITA. Just south of Santa Barbara. There used to be a Tiki carver there in the banana farm. Sorry folks that this is off the subject, but the Tiki Trader's old store was only 15 minutes away from here, and he told me about this old carver that once lived here, so it kind of fits . Right?

Today's Honolulu Advertiser actually printed my (above) response to Allen St.James' "essay", in the "Letters to the editor" section. But WHO writes those headers, they got it all backward: "Tiki entertainment gets mostly generic touch"!??
But I feel acknowledged to be among other serious Island concerns like "Dog complaints fall on deaf ears" and "'Hobby,' if made legal, would create more jobs", which I want to reprint here:

"Why is there so much fussing about chicken fighting? If the government was smart, they would legalize it. Why? Because it will bring more jobs for the people of the Hawaiian Islands, and it is also culture. Anyway, it's not as bad as they say it is. I read the July 29 article about the chicken fights and yes, there are a lot of people that come. But some of them are only there for the Filipino food. So you people out there who give us cockfighters a bad name, we are human just like you. The only difference is our hobbies and I love my hobby."

Right on!
...but on the more serious side, (and to not make me look like I am trying to portray Hawaii as a banana republic), here is a truly valuable and angering letter:

"Leasehold conversion law lost its moral intent

Like rain that falls incessantly from above, the constant downpour on Hawaiian trusts, entitlements and lands is slowly eroding away the foundation of our people.
The deluge of lawsuits, condemnation of lands and threats upon Hawaiian institutions are inundating the few resources the Hawaiian people can claim. Yet again, those who have much are bullying those with so little.
The recent passage of Bill 53 through its second reading before the City Council is an example of outright political pressure exerted by those who have the money to lobby our council members against the will of the people.
The mandatory leasehold conversion law has lost its moral intent and is now up for grabs to the highest bidder.
The Queen Lili'uokalani Trust is being threatened by Bill 53, specifically, the queen's ancestral lands in Waikiki. A considerable portion of the income generated from these properties is used for services and support our people receive through the Queen Lili'uokalani Children's Center.
Lunalilo Trust. Kamehameha Schools. Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. The lawsuits and manipulation of the law by attorneys who seek to cast down the rights of Native Hawaiians and indigenous people continue.
Where does this leave you, my dear Hawaiian people? Are you content to sit on the sidelines while all that our ali'i entrusted for our care is swept away?
"You must remember never to cease to act because you fear you may fail!"
Our beloved queen's words should stoke the fires in the hearts of her people. Remain silent no longer!"

That is beautiful, maddening and makes me want to get into politics to fight the fight! How would Atomic Cocktail say: Lawyers- Into the volcano with 'em!

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki on 2002-08-02 13:47 ]

What's wrong with simply preserving history?

On 2002-08-02 14:04, TheTikiGuy wrote:
What's wrong with simply preserving history?

...uh, what is this refering to? Tiki Bars can't be counted as "preserving history" for the Polynesians, that would play into Allen's corner if we would make that claim.
Or do you mean US preserving the history of Tiki Bars?

samoa posted on Fri, Aug 2, 2002 2:18 PM

a copy of a copy, wrapped in an enigma of a copy........... and i say more cartoonish the better! i feel like he is talking about me! and i like it :) i think everybody is too serious. so what if today's hipster only is interested for a short time and then get rid of their tiki mug, who cares...., at least they had a good time & i buy their tiki mug cheap at a swap meet :)

[ Edited by: samoa on 2002-08-02 15:17 ]

Hasn't the whole land deal in Hawaii been a byword for corruption for decades? Only Florida appears to have a worse repution. My admittedly limited sources have pointed out that the whole real estate deal out there is a virtually criminal farce.

But what's the real deal?

Trader Woody


Right on Samoa! I already Like You!

On 2002-08-02 14:18, samoa wrote:
a copy of a copy, wrapped in an enigma of a copy........... and i say more cartoonish the better! i feel like he is talking about me! and i like it :) i think everybody is too serious. so what if today's hipster only is interested for a short time and then get rid of their tiki mug, who cares...., at least they had a good time & i buy their tiki mug cheap at a swap meet :)

[ Edited by: samoa on 2002-08-02 15:17 ]


Are these lawyers working for the developers who want to destroy these lands for profit? If not, on whose behalf are they starting lawsuits? Is there some kind of preservation/conservation organization there that can step in and help to fight back?


Chickens are cool! Lawyers suck! Polynesian Hipness is way good (it's a safe fantasy come true! And, I do it for a living !). So, the whole thing boils down to, Alan had to move cause he ripped people off and was no longer hip cause the lawyers started lawsuits against him and now he will have nightmares of chickens attacking him while he's at an illigal cock fight in the beautiful islands we all love?
Into the volcano with him, the lawyers, but save the chickens!!!!

I'm not sure but I bet the land dispute has to do with the Bishop Estate in Hawaii which held lots and lots of land in trust for the benefit of the Hawaiian people. The trustees leased the land for 100 years to developers who then built homes, etc. on it. I bet those leases are ending and the Hawaiians want the trustees to take the land back... My mom and dad owned a house with a 100 year lease on the land that was set to expire around the turn of the century (2000).
Similar situations happened in Mexico awhile back and on Native American land in Arizona. I guess people thought a 100 year lease would never be a problem. So, who says our civilization is short-sighted...

[ Edited by: Kailuageoff on 2002-08-03 14:06 ]

[ Edited by: kailuageoff on 2002-08-03 19:39 ]

Thanks, Gecko. I read the Tikitrader's article. What a cranky, bitter old knitpicker. I think Bob Van Oosting and Leroy Scmaltz have the best attitude toward the whole genre, of great respect and knowledge for the true primitive origins of this culture combined with the realization that like most things Americans want, they have put their own stamp on it, made it a little less serious and perhaps a little more fun, and ran with it. That understanding is why they've done so well in the past 47 years! I have both books on American Tiki culture and serious books on art of the Pacific rim. Who the heck is Tikitrader to say I can only have one or the other? The guy should lighten up and sell something.

I am continually astonished at the intellectual capacity of the people who post on this forum, given that a large part of the
Tiki cult centers around drinking.I hope this doesn't sound hypocritical.

The more we drink...the better we think... :lol:


Two things:

I am certainly wary of any thread that is so dangerously close to becoming a witch-hunt, but that said, let me add one thing: I have been warning people away from dealing with Tiki Trader for at least five years now. I don't have anything against him personally, never having dealt with him, but he has been taking people's money and delivering either broken merchandise, or nothing at all for YEARS. I receive reports of this behavior pn a regular basis. All we can do is let each other know about this, and simply avoid doing business with him.

That said, I think I am going to give up Tiki forever and start collecting Noggins!
(thanks for the link!).
These rule!

Wow! People really hate Allen! Well, I don't know what is up with the article he wrote, that's not the Allen I met. I've never ordered anything from him, just dealt with him in person. He's a little expensive, but outside of that I thought he was very knowledgable and helpful. The second time I went to his store, I bought a necklace for my girlfriend and a mug. He would not take a credit card or check, of course, but when I told him I had no cash, he just said, "That's OK, you can pay me next time!" Needless to say, he moved before I could ever pay him.

Anyway, it sounds like my experience with Allen was the exception rather than rule, but yes, someone out there DOES have something nice to say about him! Maybe he went nuts or something. It sounds like he's just bitter in that article. From all the negative experiences others have had with him, though, it is clear to me now why I am the only person in all of cyberspace that has a link to his website on mine.

Pages: 1 2 91 replies