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 naïve 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.