Friday, August 21, 2009

PhotoSource, Sacramento

I did not plan on writing anything today. Actually, when I write for my blog, it is usually unplanned. However, I did plan to write on this topic sometime in the very near future, but with a decidedly different point of view. What would have been and what is are in some respects two sides of the very same coin. I thought I would be inspired to write about the other side, the much more positive side… and later. But the time is now and the inflection is not my creation; it is what it is, I am merely documenting it.

This weekend, starting tonight, will be one full of “Kodak” moments. My camera and I will be working closely together shooting a concert, an NFL preseason game and a rather large motorcycle rally. Although my equipment is more than adequate, these three days present a golden opportunity to try out a lens that is a notch above the “pro-sumer” lenses I own. These professional Canon “L” series lenses are well beyond my current budget, but can be rented for an affordable sum. Although renting on a regular basis can be an expensive proposition, the planets have aligned this weekend – I would get my money’s worth. If only I could find a local vendor…

There are a number of companies that provide rental equipment via the Internet. If I had planned far enough in advance, this might have been a viable option, though still not my preference. For this sort of transaction, given the choice, I prefer it to be in person. In this case it is the only choice – there simply isn’t time to receive a shipment. I called my local camera store, Action Camera in Roseville, Calif., already knowing they don’t rent equipment. It was both a shot in the dark and a hope that they might know somebody who does. They are uber-helpful like that - and they did not disappoint. (Not this time, not ever. It is the reason I buy everything camera related there). Action Camera directed me to (the terminology here is important, I did not say recommended) PhotoSource in Sacramento.

I called PhotoSource and they do indeed rent lenses and, specifically, the very lens I wanted to try. At $50 per day, it is a bit pricey, but for $75 I could have it for the entire weekend… for all three events. Deal. I told them I’d be there in a couple of hours. When I arrived, I found it to be a large and multi-faceted photographic service center. The building houses not only camera equipment, but also a darkroom, processing services and a host of other products and services. I think to myself that I’ll have to come back when I have more time to explore. After being greeted by the counterperson, I briefly explained my telephone conversation with what turned out to be different employee and got ready to fill out the paperwork to rent a lens.

“She told you about the credit card authorization, didn’t she?”

What credit card authorization?

“We authorize your card for the full price of the lens in case you lose it or break it.”

No, she didn’t mention that. How much is it?

“For that lens, $1,200.”

Well, there isn’t that much on my card.

“Do you want to try it anyway?”

No, I know there isn’t that much, and now I’ve wasted an hour of my time and 35 miles to find out what you should have told me over the phone.

“Oh, I’m sorry, she’s usually pretty good about that.”

Usually? Pretty good?

Now, to be fair, I am not so na├»ve to think that they would just let me walk out with that lens for only $75. I figured they would hit me for all kinds of information and hold my card number just in case. But I did not think that they would actually authorize it for well over $1,000, which, if I were fortunate to have it at my disposal, would have been frozen for more than just the three days of the rental. Furthermore, I rather imagined there would be some sort of insurance I could purchase that would cover both parties – like many of these Internet companies offer. And I don’t have a problem with the policy they put in place - it is their right. But failing to inform me until I walked into the store is inexcusable.

I was looking forward to writing about being able to rent lenses locally. I wanted to write about how I could try before I buy and perhaps buy from where I tried. But PhotoSource committed a cardinal sin in the world of customer service: Never piss off the customer. It is a mistake they won’t have the opportunity to make with this customer again.


kenju said...

I don't blame you one bit for being upset with them, and were I you, I would write a letter (or send this post) to the head of the company and to his customer service.

Michael K. Althouse said...

Already did, but I don't expect a response.

PhotoSource Staff said...

I am sorry to hear about your displeasure today at PhotoSource. As stated, we are a multi-faceted photographic center for both the amateur and professional alike. From conception to presentation, we strive to provide quality service for all your photographic needs. This does include a full rental department in which the equipment, along with rates, and requirements are listed on our website ~

During the telephone conversation this morning, the customer was advised to browse the website, as it clearly states that a collateral deposit for the value of the rental equipment is required. This can include an insurance policy, (such as a business policy, or as part of a professional photographic association) that lists PhotoSource as the payee for the loss of rented equipment. The most common form of collateral deposit however, is in the form of a credit card authorization in which the value of the equipment rented is held in the account for the rental period. This is to protect both the customer and ourselves in case the hardcopy of the credit card is stolen, cancelled, or damaged.

We are not aware if the customer took the time to browse our website, and consequently the following events took place. We understand that many people do not carry the amount necessary in their account, and work with our customers to come to a satisfying conclusion for both parties.

It was not our intention to mislead the customer in our rental requirements, and apologize for the inconvenience of the wasted hour and 35 miles. In this day in age of internet services, it is our quality work, customer service, and support that provides PhotoSource with such a strong local base. I do hope in the future we will have a chance to prove as such to you. Thank you.

Michael K. Althouse said...

Well, that all sounds very nice and, perhaps might even be so save one important detail: the customer was not informed of your website. Not regarding pricing, not regarding services and certainly (most imporantly) regarding rental policies. If that is what your employee told you, your employee is lying. I am a professional journalist. I am not in the habit of fabricating the facts to suit me. I stand by what I wrote, like it or not.

Michael Althouse

Belizegial said...

lololol. Good for you to bring this to their attention. I bet it won't happen to anyone else, if they are sincere in their apology.