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Jamie123
10-02-2009, 13:28
In a recent thread in this forum section a member mentioned that he had handled a certain camera at at a couple of stores and then went on to order from an online store as the other shops didn't have sealed boxes.
What followed was a few people accusing him of wasting the shopkeepers time and putting him out of business.

I have seen this issue come up and while I get the point to certain degree I still think it is founded in a somewhat skewed notion of how commerce works. It assumes that the customer is morally obligated to give a seller his money if said seller has given the customer his time.

Now call me old fashioned but I was always under the impression that when I go into a store it is the sellers job to convince me to spend my money and if I don't it's ultimately his failure and not my lack of loyalty. Afterall loyalty has to be earned, an cannot be demanded.

Now, of course, no small shop owner can compete with the low prices of some of the online stores. He has to charge a premium but the question is how much this is and what additional value he can bring to the table that the online store cannot. Sometimes it's expertise, sometimes it's a better warranty and sometimes it's just being treated exceptionally well.
In any case, if you leave a store and still think "I'm going to order this from B&H" then the clerk has missed an opportunity. Even if you were set on buying online from the beginning he still had the chance to change your mind.
Also, I think it's perfectly acceptable to handle a display item even if you don't buy it. That's why it's called a display item.

Obviously, there is also the point of common courtesy. I don't think it's right to intentionally lead a seller on and make him go out on a limb if you're not at least considering making a purchase. Also, if you're just in a store to play around with displayed gear (which is ok, IMO) it's polite not to keep the clerk from attending to other customers. Basically, I don't think one should push the good will and professionalism of a store clerk up to a point where it really exceeds the treatment a regular customer could expect.

sevo
10-02-2009, 13:46
I am just as loyal to stores as they are to me...

Al Kaplan
10-02-2009, 13:51
I'd just as soon give my money to a local shop, even if it cost me a bit more money.

Ronald M
10-02-2009, 14:00
This arguement has been going on for 50 years that I know of.

Nothing has changed and my take is

The local store allows you to feel and look through the camera and give you the opportunity to see if you like or dislike it for reasons you can not read about. Such as does it fit your hand. Can you see thru it and compare it to other viewfinders.

If there is a problem on how to operate it, the local guy can help you assuming it is not a big box discount store. If there is a warrantee issue or question he can help. My local people will send the camera in at their expense and there is a place to retrieve it other than your front porch when you return from work.

When you want a filter or lens shade, they have it.

as good a B&H is, you can not get this over the phone.

My local guy knows me and bends over backwards to cut me the best deal. He comes close to New York, but there is still a premium. I pay the premium because the unspoken services are there for me.

When he shows you a camera, do you really expect him to explain all this to each and every customer? If you don`t value this, then call New York and order by phone.

KoNickon
10-02-2009, 14:07
Same here. But maybe the compromise is that I use the local store for my developing and film purchases, and online (like RFF) for equipment. The store I have in mind is great to deal with but their used equipment is just not realistically priced.

kshapero
10-02-2009, 14:35
I look at three categories:
1. Local shop
2. Best Buy, etc.
3. Online

I will always try to give business to the local shop and if they earn my business then I don't mind paying a little extra, but not freaky extra.

KenR
10-02-2009, 14:38
My 2 local camera stores have gone out of business in the last few years as digital took hold. One told me that he had processed 40-50 rolls per day from realtors, before digital, and that it didn't pay to open the door any longer (he gave me an old beat up 5x7 Kodak 2D that he had in the window, which I restored). So I try to go to the not so local camera store to buy film, chemicals, and some equipment - although his prices are higher than the big guys on line or even farther down the road, which I reserve for major purchases.

35mmdelux
10-02-2009, 14:46
My local camera store charges bizzare freaky prices to the point where I can provide little business. Remember the $10 sponge because it was labelled photography equipment? Welcome aboard internet and the flattening of prices.

Graham Line
10-02-2009, 15:14
I'd just as soon give my money to a local shop, even if it cost me a bit more money.

My local shop is big enough (or something) to pretty much match the price of the legit mail order houses + shipping.

To expect to handle the product locally and then whine they don't have a sealed box to sell you sounds a little bit self-centered or something.

Inphenity
10-02-2009, 15:31
Here in Columbia SC there used to only be one shop that actually dealt in film, the rest were Ritz Camera type places. The staff at this particular shop came across as really elitist, but they processed black and white film in house and had a good selection of darkroom supplies, lighting equipment, used and new gear ect. ect.. I guess it was the local "Pro shop". They eventually closed down (owner retired) and even though the prices were insane I missed having a local place that I could pick up a few rolls of oddball film.
Fast forward a few years and now we have a new shop that deals mainly in film. It's run by a couple of hobbyist photographers that saw the need for a decent shop in town. I first went in to rent some darkroom time (having learned to process my own b+w). I was greeted at the door with a free cup of coffee from one of the new owners, and proceded to marvel at the range of old film gear for sale in the store. 4x5 view cameras, old speed/crown graphics, medium format kits, and a plethora of 35mm slr's and rangefinders. It was my little slice of heaven. I bought some paper and made a few prints and snagged a beer around the corner while they dried. Then I went back in to get my prints and pay for everything and got a 15% student discount even after I told him I was not a student. Aside from things they don't stock I always go to them even if a pack of paper cost me a few dollars more.
I now have my own darkroom here at home so I no longer need to rent theirs but I still get a freebie nearly every time I go in. Last time it was a few free rolls of kodachrome, the time before a 35mm mixing chamber for my dichro 67(from a junk enlarger). I am really loyal to my local shop because the staff gets excited to see someone else with the same love for film, and they don't mind if I go in, pick up 1 roll of the cheap film, and just hang out talking photography for a few hours. God bless small niche shops.

Al Kaplan
10-02-2009, 15:37
Your description makes me want to move to Columbia, SC. We used to have shops like that in Miami. No more. Not in years.

wgerrard
10-02-2009, 15:43
There's a feeling in certain circles that customers ought to "support" local retailers, especially if they sell something that most people do not buy. For example, bookstores, who are in a situation comparable to local photo stores in that they usually cannot compete on price with big online sellers.

I certainly don't feel a need to support any merchant. The word "support" implies an ethical imperative I do not think exists. My local shops are worth the extra money only if they provide something big online sellers don't.

There's one real photo shop in my area. I buy small items there: a strap for a bag or a camera, a couple rolls or film, an aging bottle of Rodinal. I don't buy big ticket items there. I hope they stay in business. But, if they don't, it will have no bearing on my access to the products I want to buy.

Henryah
10-02-2009, 16:17
Customer loyalty and the local shop.
As Ronald M already has pointed out: This debate has been going on for at least fifty years or so. A friend running a camera store in NY told me that he had an answer to customers who wanted him to meet the prices of the box pushers in Manhattan.I can do that he said, if you just leaves the money, grab the box, and be out of here within a minute. And dont expect me to stand heere for an hour telling you how to use the thing. That was around fifty years ago.

capitalK
10-02-2009, 16:26
For the last year, up until last week, I had been working part-time at the local mom and pop.

I could write a book.

And it goes both ways. The way the customers treat the store and the way the store hasn't kept up with what customers want.

ethics_gradient
10-02-2009, 16:32
My local store has great prices on bags - better than any online retailer (before shipping in many cases, even). Plus, I get to try them out and see if the size, fit and finish, etc are suitable to my needs. The people that work there are all very knowledgeable and courteous. I'd like to give them more of my business, but they've gotten almost completely out of film stuff, to the point of even re-naming themselves "North Tampa Digital Photography", so I'm limited to the very infrequent bag purchase, or a handful of developing supplies.

GoneSavage
10-02-2009, 16:40
I work in a locally owned camera store, and I think it's a great job. I get to teach people about photographic equipment while learning about it myself. I enjoy the challenge of finding any customer their perfect camera, and have no problem answering questions for hours. In general, I find that our customers are incredibly loyal; I can't count the number of times I have heard them remark about supporting local businesses, and whenever I do it always makes me proud.

However, I know that a large percentage of the people browsing our store do so to help them figure out how to spend their money online. While I don't necessarily agree with this practice, I understand that some people can't afford to shop locally. Maybe they don't deserve the advice we give, but Jamie is right in suggesting that we always have the opportunity to convince them to support us. If you're local shop owners are arrogant, then they probably don't deserve your business.

That said, tho WORST thing you can do to a salesperson that spends an hour helping you choose a camera is come back and tell them how you bought the thing on ebay. IT KILLS.

Inphenity
10-02-2009, 16:45
Your description makes me want to move to Columbia, SC. We used to have shops like that in Miami. No more. Not in years.

Al, This place is an oasis in a sea of drab, but if you ever decide to visit drop me a line

thetooth
10-02-2009, 17:00
i rarely purchase new goods ( except for bulk film and developing chemicals ) from the local store , but i do frequent their consignment case .

the only reason i don't purchase new all the new camera are digital !!!

a small side story
i recently went in there and found a m2 with a 35mm summaron for a great price in their consignment case . i ended up buying the camera and telling the salesman more about the camera then he could tell me . on that same note if i was buying a new digital point and shoot he may have run circles around me explaining all the doo dads and gadgets pertaining to the camera .

Bob Michaels
10-02-2009, 17:10
We have a good local shop, Colonial Photo & Hobby, in Orlando that I have traded with for well over 50 years. They are a well stocked Leica dealer. The owner died recently but the sons now run it. I used to ride my bike and buy model airplane supplies there back in the 50's. I try to support them.

But, every lens and body I have bought in the last ten years has been used. Just too many good film camera deals out there to buy new.

And, their film selection is good but the prices high. So I buy almost all my film in bulk on line for about half the price.

I make it a point that I will never ask to see a product there and then buy it on line. If I look or touch it there, and then buy it, I feel an obligation to buy it there. That is just fair.

We are fortunate to have a very good used camera dealer nearby. I visit there at least every every other week just to socialize. Lots of photographers hang out there on Saturdays. That owner and I are friends and have no problems loaning each other equipment for a week or so to try. He never charges me for cheap things like caps, hoods, filters. And I have no problems just giving him similar odds and ends that I find I have but cannot use. He gave me a nice Canonette GIII last year because he knew I wanted one. When his daughter was selling Girl Scout cookies, I helped her make her quota.

We are also fortunate in having a very good independent camera repair guy. I stop by to see him at least every other week or so. Sometimes bring beer since he is not open to the general public. In return, I get immediate service, usually free. Rangefinder alignment? Ten minutes, no cost.

I do everything I can to steer business to any of the above. They take care of me and I try to return the favors.

kknox
10-02-2009, 17:21
I have bought & had many Leicas, & I do take service work to a local Seattle shop that is 1hr from my home. I have bought items from them & they have great information and can fix a 40yr old camera in a fair amount of time. Would I go into the shop & waste the salespersons time to get information & then go buy the same thing on the web or somewhere else for a little less no way. If I was looking for something he had at a fair price even a little more I would buy it from them. Someday all these shops will be gone & you guys will be bitching that there is no place to send your cameras or lens in for repair. Then you will all be stuck with Best buy & places like Costco to buy all your point & shoots, cause there will be no one left to sell you the high end stuff. If you think it will not ever happin look around. Support your local camera guys the best you can they have to eat also.

paulfitz76
10-02-2009, 17:36
"We are fortunate to have a very good used camera dealer nearby."

Bob, I'd love to know who this is... I go to Colonial for film, paper, some inkjet paper when I need it and all my E6 is done there. Are you talking about Marshall's in Auburndale? He has so much film stuff it's just fun to look it over. I buy a fair amount from him used, since you can handle it all, negotiate price and get a warranty.

Bob Michaels
10-02-2009, 17:49
"We are fortunate to have a very good used camera dealer nearby."

Bob, I'd love to know who this is...

Greg Bryant at Orlando Camera Exchange on north side of Fairbanks in Winter Park, just off I-4, right down past Skycraft. Open Tuesday through Saturday from around 9-10 to around 5 or so. Does not take credit cards. Real easy to get along with and do business with. Don't be offended if you walk in the store, are looking around, and he ignores you. Greg figures if you have a question, you will ask. Once you ask, he will chat with you until closing time. http://orlandocamerexchange.com/default.aspx

Chriscrawfordphoto
10-02-2009, 18:39
I buy film and chemicals all the time at the local camera store here in Fort Wayne, Indiana. They mostly sell digital stuff now, but they keeps film and BW chemicals for the students. I actually bought my digital cameras from them because they charged about the same as the mail order place, and the people who own the local store have done a lot to help me over the years.

I was in there a couple weeks ago, and the owner told me that a man had come in to buy one of the Olympus micro 4/3 cameras. This was right after they came out and the store was getting them in only one or two at a time because Olympus couldn't supply more than that due to demand. One had just come in that morning, and it was still sealed in the box. They didn't have a display model because people were buying them as fast as they arrived. The customer wanted to look at it, so the store owner (he also helps customers) gets it out for the man to see. The man liked it and wanted to buy one, but he didn;t want THAT one! Why not? Because it wasn't new in the box anymore! Serious! He refused to buy it, and the store had no other to sell him so he went and bought it mail order. Dumbass!

amateriat
10-02-2009, 18:44
The last bit of new camera gear I ever bought was from a local shop on West 17th Street in Manhattan (17th St. Photo, ironically one block away from Adorama!), in early 2002. I bought my entire Hexar RF system from them–two bodies, three lenses, and two flash units. I walked the talk here, and yet they disappeared within a few years. (Part of this was from post-9/11 economic fallout.) I believe they still have an online presence, although the brick-and-mortar part is long-gone.

Of course, I've done so well with the gear I bought from them that I haven't had much need to buy new gear (the only new "digital" gear I bought (my Minolta DS 5400 film scanner) was a few years later, from another (bigger) nearby shop, which also went belly-up a year or two ago.

I am a believer in Buying Local, but only up to a point. In terms of buying film, about the only rationalization I have on the "buy local" front is that, since I'm mostly shooting Kodak these days, most of my money goes to Rochester. ;)

And, B & H and Adorama are the proverbial subway ride away. What's a guy to do?

Edit: Chris, I've heard that before, too, and it sucks royally.


- Barrett

peter_n
10-02-2009, 19:04
I source from a mix: online stores, forums, and my local store. Well not exactly local, EP Levine's is in the docks area, but they're the only real Leica store in downtown Boston. It's an old-fashioned kind of place that's been rejuvenated by a new(ish) partner ownership, one of whom is Mike Bard, a former manager at another store in the Boston suburbs. I was one of many loyal customers who followed Mike to his new business.

They sell digital and film and have a good demographic in customers, many professionals shop there, serious amateurs too, as well as the more casual type of customer. The last things I bought there were my MP3 camera and a Gitzo tripod, both at good competitive prices. The downside is Massachusetts sales tax but it's worth it to support local business. I do my best to steer business to Mike or Cole who works in sales there. If you live in the area give them a visit they're at 23 Drydock Ave. and it's on the Silver line.

Mephiloco
10-02-2009, 23:45
We don't have much in the way of local camera shops here in New Orleans. They all pretty much stock the same stuff as Best Buy. Only one stocks film supplies/developer (Moldaner's) and I try to buy from there as often as possible, as it's a small venture and has good staff who are very knowledgeable and don't get angry or talk down to you when you just come in to buy a couple of rolls of film or developer, unlike the big Metairie camera stores.

I find it hard to buy anything more than film locally due to inflated prices. A certain store in metairie (one guess which) sells rolls of tri-x for $12/each, and a 77mm house brand polarizing filter can be had for as cheap as $130 (+tax, roughly $142 total, for a filter).

I'd support local camera shops more if it were feasible or they offered me something I couldn't get for cheaper online.

Edit: There is a local film place, specializing in fibre paper, developers, films, etc that I like to support called the Dark Room. Unfortunately they stopped selling their expired film in store, opting to put it on ebay. I miss getting film that expired the week before for 50% off, which is why I have so many rolls of Efke 25/50 and HP5.

mwooten
10-03-2009, 04:00
Al, This place is an oasis in a sea of drab, but if you ever decide to visit drop me a line

Is this shop in the five points area?

--michael

Jamie123
10-03-2009, 04:21
I make it a point that I will never ask to see a product there and then buy it on line. If I look or touch it there, and then buy it, I feel an obligation to buy it there. That is just fair.



This is what I'm getting at. Why do you feel the obligation to buy a product just because you have touched it or looked at it?
Or am I misunderstanding something here? Of course, I'm talking about display items, which IMO are there to be looked at and handled.
Asking the store clerk to open up a box just so you can get your greasy fingerprints all over a new item it is a different story altogether.

aad
10-03-2009, 04:24
A local shop takes the time to have items available for your scrutiny in your area. That costs money that the online shop doesn't spend.

If you value this service, buy from your local shop. Otherwise, buy online, and eventually the local shop will disappear.

But to waste a shopkeeper's time handling his merchandise, and asking questions, without any intention of doing business, is rude. The display item is there to sell HIS merchandise, not to provide a community service. If one believes that it IS a community service, I respectfully suggest that you open your own "camera fondling boutique" and support it with your own money.

Bob Michaels
10-03-2009, 04:49
This is what I'm getting at. Why do you feel the obligation to buy a product just because you have touched it or looked at it?
Or am I misunderstanding something here? Of course, I'm talking about display items, which IMO are there to be looked at and handled.
Asking the store clerk to open up a box just so you can get your greasy fingerprints all over a new item it is a different story altogether.

Jamie: I realize that the merchant went to significant expense to 1) pay for the store rent and other costs, 2) pay the wages of the clerk whose time I am taking, and 3) to pay for the item that is there in inventory. My logic applies the same to display, boxed or even merchandise on the used shelf. It even relates to taking up the clerks time to discuss the merits of an item because he spent time learning it or went to a training session even if the item was never taken off the shelf for me.

Inphenity
10-03-2009, 04:54
Is this shop in the five points area?

--michael

Yeah its the F-stop on harden street. Great place and good people. They don't sell much new gear though, I don't think ive ever seen a leica in there. Loads of vintage gear, and a darkroom, studio, and frame shop that you can rent.

Jamie123
10-03-2009, 05:22
Jamie: I realize that the merchant went to significant expense to 1) pay for the store rent and other costs, 2) pay the wages of the clerk whose time I am taking, and 3) to pay for the item that is there in inventory. My logic applies the same to display, boxed or even merchandise on the used shelf. It even relates to taking up the clerks time to discuss the merits of an item because he spent time learning it or went to a training session even if the item was never taken off the shelf for me.

Yes, and I went to significant expense to pay for my photographic equipment and spent a lot of time and money practicing my skills. Still I don't think a client is obligated to hire me just because I took the time to show them my portfolio and put together an estimate.

I'm not trying to change your opinion it's just that I find this notion a bit skewed.

I think customer loyalty is not something that is earned with a one-time "performance" by a merchant. To me it is earned with giving the customer the feeling that the store will be there to help him no matter what problems may occur with the product at a later time.
So in other words, the premium I pay when buying local is not for the time the merchant has given me to make his sales pitch, it's for the time I will potentially occupy AFTER I have made the purchase. This is something I will not get if I buy online.

btw, I usually buy my film from pro labs and my photographic equipment from pro stores with pro warranty. I have noticed that in my city all camera stores aimed at consumers charge anywhere from 30-50% more than the pro stores (like $e.g. 6k for a $4k camera). The pro stores in turn are about 10% more expensive than the cheap online electronics stores but they provide a better service and warranty.

Al Kaplan
10-03-2009, 05:50
The person who loses out the most with the present day business model is the young (or new) photographer who has noplace to ask all the usual questions. Camera stores used to have a coffee pot and some chairs, the owner's wife (or one of the regular customers'e wives) would often bring in a plate of home made cookies. There were always a few older guys (most chicks didn't become photographers back then, they baked the cookies) willing to explain the finer points of developer agitation or how to meter in a difficult lighting situation. Nobody ever thought about the possible dangers of cigarette smoke, or even pipe or cigar smoke. Lungs or lenses, we all lived in a smoke filled environment and it was just reality. Those smoke belching chimnies on the factories meant that people were working, which meant that they could buy cameras and film. That was a good thing.

JoeV
10-03-2009, 05:55
I try to frequent my local shop (Camera & Darkroom in Albuquerque) about 50/50 with ordering chemicals and other darkroom supplies online from Freestyle. I feel that to be a fair compromise.

I was intent on making a last-minute trip to Colorado some weeks ago and visited C & D to pick up some filters for my Lumix G1; I had to stand through the usual "lecture" from the owner about the proper use of polarizers. Not a great people person, that guy, which seems odd considering the business he's in. But I continue to support my local camera store because I'd rather have such a store available, even with a jerk of an owner, rather than have to mail order for everything.

~Joe

Jamie123
10-03-2009, 06:06
The person who loses out the most with the present day business model is the young (or new) photographer who has noplace to ask all the usual questions.

I don't agree. The young/new photographer now has the internet where he can ask all the usual and unusual questions he can imagine.

Al Kaplan
10-03-2009, 06:22
Jamie, that's IF he can imagine those questions. To me it was like having a bunch of teachers. Very often I'd get invited to somebody's darkroom so they could show me exactly how they did something. A friend of mine who knew Gene Smith and spent time in his darkroom taught me a lot about ferracyaniding techniques. An afternoon in Jerry Uelsmann's darkroom, actually WATCHING him, having him there to explain and to answer questions, probably saved me several days and 500 sheets of paper when I wanted to learn about combining images from several negatives seamlessly, and how to combine both negative and positive images in one print. This was well over 30 years before Photoshop came along and everybody got on the internet.

Leigh Youdale
10-06-2009, 01:30
There are some unattractive concepts surfacing here.

"I don't owe anybody anything"
"I can use up somebody's time and facilities without any responsibility"
"I want it NOW"
"I want it at the cheapest price"

Some think loyalty or mutual support is the way the world should operate.
Some think the individual is an island with no need to connect with community
Some are happy to use up a local resource without giving anything back by way of support.

OK. Have it your own way. But don't whinge when the on-line discounters with no service or support are the only game in town.

And while I'm having a rant, I just plain don't understand how people can contemplate (and do) spend thousands of dollars on camera equipment yet search the internet for films to save cents per roll, even canvassing combining orders from overseas rather than buying from local stockists.
In the end the same thing will happen - you'll have no choice but to buy in bulk on the internet from someone who doesn't know you and doesn't care about you. It's happening right now, folks.

Bob Michaels
10-06-2009, 02:57
Yes, and I went to significant expense to pay for my photographic equipment and spent a lot of time and money practicing my skills. Still I don't think a client is obligated to hire me just because I took the time to show them my portfolio and put together an estimate.

Jamie: maybe the better analogy would be the potential commercial client who has you create some great ways to photographically convey their message by developing a theme, finding great shooting locations, unique lighting techniques, shooting angles, etc. and then goes and hires someone who is cheaper because they do not have your vision or invested the time that you did.

We both agree that you do not have to buy from a local photo merchant just because they are there. It is just when that local merchant contributes something that it becomes unfair to buy from someone who is cheaper simply because they do not have the expense of making that contribution.

kshapero
10-06-2009, 04:40
I don't agree. The young/new photographer now has the internet where he can ask all the usual and unusual questions he can imagine.Do you really think the Internet can fully replace human contact? Are we that isolated? I think I learned more just from the second hand smoke oozing thru my skin in those days, then in an Internet chat. But this IS an interesting Internet chat, eh?

Al Kaplan
10-06-2009, 04:52
You can ask all the questions you want on the internet. Do you answer any questions? What is your contribution?

Al Kaplan
10-06-2009, 05:05
Yeah! Second hand smoke! Now I'm usually forced to make my own smoke, and a few times when I WAS trying to show somebody some old tried and true darkroom techniques, such as blowing a cloud of smoke under the enlarger lens to get just a bit of diffusion, I had to put up with complaints about the smoke. Of course we didn't always use tobacco smoke either. For diffusion purposes smoke is smoke. Nicotine is known to increase cognitive ability while a certain other smoke can really get the creative juices flowing.

mfunnell
10-06-2009, 05:22
And while I'm having a rant, I just plain don't understand how people can contemplate (and do) spend thousands of dollars on camera equipment yet search the internet for films to save cents per roll, even canvassing combining orders from overseas rather than buying from local stockists.And yet, Leigh, here you are in Sydney. Where a roll of Tri-X costs in excess of $12 per roll while it can be ordered from the States for less than $5. Yes, that's cents per roll. 800 of the b[u]ggers. When ordering 50 rolls, that adds up.

And why is this so, you may ask. Not because it costs Kodak a single cent more to produce it. Not because of shipping costs (though you may be told otherwise). But simply because some corporate marketeer has determined they can get away with it. "Market Segmentation." "Price Expectation." In the pre-internet world, it was really because "they can't do anything about it - after all, where else can they buy film?"

Well, FCUK them! This little worm has turned.

I know, for the next-best thing to a fact, that even large corporations can be forced by (shock! - they talk about it, but hate it when it happens) market forces.

Camera bodies, here in Oz, used to cost twice what they cost in the US and Japan. Retailers had little choice - wholesale prices here in Oz were more than twice what they were overseas. Come the internet, grey market importers started eating the manufacturers' own supply chains. And the manufacturers were forced to give in. They next did it on lenses.

They've not yet done it on consumables. But when I order inkjet cartridges from Adorama at 1/6th the cost I can get them in Oz (and the local Canon rep confirms that's 1/3rd the price they're supplied to them wholesale), well, that's going to give to.

I'm all for supporting local businesses. I buy all my Cosina Voigtlander gear from Scott at Mainline - even when I could save by ordering from our head bartender. Scott is a good guy and neither he nor CV are gouging for profit - any differential is due to odd (and unpredictable) currency movement and (actual) shipping cost. I buy other things from Mainline.

I buy books from my local bookseller. I did from the day the original owner opened. If you what to have a local bookseller, you have to. I buy meat from my local butcher, vegies from my local grocer and bread from my local baker. But not to a fault. Part of being local, and becoming friends (as I have with my local merchants) is that they will tell you when you're being ripped off. The number of times my local bookseller has told me that a legal import he can sell me will cost, say, $125 - but I can get it equally legally from Amazon for $25 are innumerable. Chris doesn't like it, and neither do I. But there it is: between publishers gouging for profit (at the expense, in these internet-enabled days, mostly of merchants) and government regulation rip-offs happen.

But I am not going to spend three times as much for ink/paper nor twice as much for film (even after shipping) as I have to, simply to line the pockets of manufacturers who wholesale goods in Oz at 2-3 times the retail price they sell them elsewhere.

Why should I line their pockets at my expense while contributing to the (long term) loss of business to their retailers?

...Mike

[OK, so that was a free-range rant. Get over it. It is the internet, so what do you expect?]

giellaleafapmu
10-06-2009, 05:23
Shops by having the possibility to show you what you are buying and speaking with you in a real conversation should have a huge advantage on internet shops, my experience is that they usually waste completely this opportunity by ordering only consumer grade stuff, not being kind to customers and generally speaking being much less efficient than they should, I don't feel guilty if they eventually will disappear. The few exceptions which are nice to me seem to be also nice to others and apparently they do fine (in these cases I always prefer to buy from them rather than the net).

wgerrard
10-06-2009, 05:53
"I don't owe anybody anything"
"I can use up somebody's time and facilities without any responsibility"
"I want it NOW"
"I want it at the cheapest price"



I think the last two are pretty much universal human characteristics. Besides, if I want something right now and a local shop has it, then that's the fastest way to get it. However, it's been my experience that an item ordered at a shop can take much longer to arrive than from an online seller. If I pay for it, items arrive overnight. No shop has ever offered that option.

I agree that it is unfair to knowingly pump a local salesperson for info before buying online.

My experience with local shops is mixed. I buy shoes at a local shop and won't consider going elsewhere. I buy some books at a local bookshop, but most come from Amazon because the local shop doesn't carry them and I don't want to drive across town to make the order and then again to pick it up. My local camera shop gets my occasional business for film and supplies and bags, but they can't compete on price for big ticket items.

I still don't feel a need to "support" my local shop. If they sell something I decide to buy, that's sufficient support, especially because I will almost certainly pay a noticeable markup. Yes, an experienced local shop can be a great source of info and savvy, and that can compensate for the higher prices. But, if they're selling film and chemicals at 20 percent more than online, where's the advantage to me?

Al Kaplan
10-06-2009, 06:15
On small orders the shipping cost can kill you.

mfunnell
10-06-2009, 06:27
On small orders the shipping cost can kill you.Al, from here in rip-off Oz, I can assure that sometimes it doesn't. Buying Canon pigment inks (a full set) for my printer is an example. Shipping from New York costs more than the retail price (in NY) of the ink. It is still 1/3rd what the ink would cost me here. Given the initial fixed cost of shipping anything, if I can add something to the order I'm ahead of a game I'm already well ahead of. Film is one of those things that's very good to add (since once the initial "ship anything at all" cost is paid, film costs very little per-item on top of that).

You've no idea how everything here used to be marked to more than twice it's "natural" price - before the internet allowed for international price comparison and modern shipping (thank you, Mr FedEx, thank you Mr UPS) changed the game on international shipping.

Things you regard as natural (and that I experienced when I lived there) are only just now arriving in the land of Oz (and other places I've lived are much the same).

"We'll triple the price, because we can" used to be the normal way of things for anyone exporting to small and (what used to be) remote markets.

...Mike

wgerrard
10-06-2009, 06:32
On small orders the shipping cost can kill you.

Very true, and I try to avoid those. When I need a couple rolls of film, I do by locally, for example. Lots of rolls? No.

There's a lot of romance surrounding the notion of local shops, who have been in trouble for decades. Their real benefits have been outlined pretty well in this thread. How much of us is willing to spend to receive those benefits is a personal choice.

dmr
10-06-2009, 06:47
I'd just as soon give my money to a local shop, even if it cost me a bit more money.

A little bit more is fine. We have one remaining "real" camera shop here (Rockbrook Photo, three locations, one near you) and I do patronize them semi regularly. Things like a monopod, accessories, and they do seem to be somewhat competitive on many products.

However, they REFUSE to be competitive on film prices! I would stop in there much more often (one shop is right off an exit I pass by twice a day) and give them more film business if they were somewhat realistic. For the common stuff I shoot most (generic Fuji 200-400-800) they are about twice the price of the discount stores.

As I think of it more, I don't really think they want or need to be competitive on film. Film sales are small $$$, and it takes employee time and such. If they lowered their film prices, they would need to devote more employee time for far less margin. I can understand them wanting to steer the employee sales effort to items that are more lucrative.

Oh well ...

Al Kaplan
10-06-2009, 06:52
There have been a few times when I've bought something here in the U.S. at "local shop prices" and mailed it to other photographers elsewhere on the planet just because some shops here in the U.S. refuse to ship to some countries. In other cases it was a matter of just being a lot cheaper. Sometimes there's a non-photographic product that they can buy a lot cheaper than I can get it in the U.S. so we make a swap and don't worry about which one of us is getting screwed a bit because we're both saving a lot of money anyway.

Avotius
10-06-2009, 06:55
For the last 6 years I have done almost all my camera business at one shop, I even get my friends to go there and shop because I think it is very important to support local stores and such. Even though it is often 20-30 dollars more expensive to shop local I think its worth the money to have a face to talk to instead of a button to click online. Plus add to that online businesses here are notoriously good at tricking customers, like my one friend who bought a Zeiss 21 ZM lens online when I told him to buy local, but he wanted to save a few bucks and he got one with no warranty card, warranty sticker on box, and the back cap was off a voigtlander lens not the original Zeiss one...

The only time I use online photo related shopping is for the odd item, an adapter, strap or something like that which you cannot find easily.

mfunnell
10-06-2009, 07:02
We have one remaining "real" camera shop here (Rockbrook Photo, three locations, one near you) and I do patronize them semi regularly.Is that the one on 108th and Dodge (or maybe Center)? If so, I bought a camera there in '96/'97 when I was there for six-or-so months. As I recall, they were pretty helpful. If it's the same place then I'm glad to hear they're still in business.

...Mike

photogdave
10-06-2009, 10:08
As one who has unabashedly promoted supporting local business many times on this forum I am cheered to see many of you share the same view!
I'll agree with certain points in the original post, especially that loyalty has to be earned not demanded. I also agree that display items are display items. usually a retailer will have "one to show, one to go" or something similar so the customer can handle the product then buy a new in the box one if he likes. Sometimes the retailer is sold out of all but the display model and then it's up to the customer if he is comfortable with that. I wouldn't care less personally because I will be putting the equipment to much more rigorous challenges than a bit of fondling in a store.
But anyone who goes into a retail store to try something out with the full intention of buying online later is just being a jerk, plain and simple. Those people are only cheating themselves in the long run anyway.
Even worse are the cross-border shoppers who think they are so clever for saving a dollar or two when they look at a camera in Canada and buy it in the States. They're taking money out of our own economy and giving it to another country, then they wonder why things keep getting more expensive.
They think products that sell in both countries should somehow magically be the exact same price. Sorry guys, two different economies, two different markets etc.

wgerrard
10-06-2009, 11:20
Dave, it's true that different countries are different markets and prices can legitimately differ. They can also illegitimately differ. While I can't discuss film prices in Australia from a first-hand perspective, I do know that groceries here in the southeast U.S. commonly stock apples and other produce from New Zealand at prices no higher than local produce. Now, apples aren't very expensive, so maybe they sell for ten cents each in New Zealand. But, it does make me wonder why it's profitable to fly apples across the globe but film going the other way has to be tripled in price to be profitable?

Merchants can also take advantage of customers' assumptions that imported goods must be steeply priced. When I was in the UK, shrink-wrapped U.S. software was priced at a pound-to-dollar equivalency. I.e., if it cost $399 in the U.S., it cost 399 pounds in the UK. That represented close to a doubling in price. It turned out that much of the software "imported" from the U.S. was burned to CD and packaged in Ireland. In a similar scam, CD vendors were caught jacking up CD prices.

Local retailers are a good thing, but people will not support them unconditionally.

kshapero
10-06-2009, 11:31
get this:
In early August I was picking up some film from Dale Labs in Hollywood, FL from David Farkas. As I was leaving, he showed me a Leica M7 ala carte at a price to good to passup. I bought it a couple of days later. After a month it developed a problem requiring repair. He said he would send it to Leica to assure me there would be no cost. As I was leaving and a little forlorn, he went and opened his glass cabinet and handed me a new MP as a loan until my M7 was fixed. Never got that kind of service online before. Thanks Dave.

Jamie123
10-06-2009, 12:13
You can ask all the questions you want on the internet. Do you answer any questions? What is your contribution?

Are you asking me personally? If so, then yes, I do answer many more questions that I ask.

Don't get me wrong, I do believe that meeting real life people and having the opportunity to learn directly from them is a huge benefit. My point is that nowadays more people have access to this kind of information than they used to.
You can get invaluable information from highly qualified people who may hang out at your local store because they live across the globe.

Steve Bellayr
10-06-2009, 12:30
There are many small/medium stores that advertise on the net. They have excellent prices and are willing to give free advice when needed when purchasing. Also, their grading is consistent. Their prices are often lower than auctions.

Jamie123
10-06-2009, 12:33
By the way, so far I think I have received the best support from online merchants. Stephen Gandy answered all of my questions through e-mail mostly within an hour, even on Sundays. When I finally ordered from him he shipped the package on the same day. It was a Saturday.
Another one would be Doug Fisher. I inquired about one of his MF film holders and he was quick to reply with a very thorough answer. After a short back and forth about what holder to get he advised me to go with the cheaper version for my needs. Again, quick e-mail replies even on Sundays. Needless to say I ordered from him the next day.

My point is that online purchase doesn't always mean bad customer service. And I'd rather support a good foreign merchant than a bad local one.

Leigh Youdale
10-07-2009, 02:30
[QUOTE=mfunnell;1159483]And yet, Leigh, here you are in Sydney. Where a roll of Tri-X costs in excess of $12 per roll while it can be ordered from the States for less than $5.

That's appropriate, I guess. Probably all that Tri-X is worth anyway. Never use the stuff myself!

Actually, all that you say is true except I think the "market force" of B&W film buyers isn't sufficient these days to force major corporations into a policy switch on their pricing strategy.
It's a good thing that people have options they can exercise. As you say, in years past that wasn't possible.

Roger Hicks
10-08-2009, 02:28
There are some unattractive concepts surfacing here.

"I don't owe anybody anything"
"I can use up somebody's time and facilities without any responsibility"
"I want it NOW"
"I want it at the cheapest price"

Some think loyalty or mutual support is the way the world should operate.
Some think the individual is an island with no need to connect with community
Some are happy to use up a local resource without giving anything back by way of support.
. . . .

That's about it. Anyone else here a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts? Because the latest RSA journal has a lot of fascinating articles on 'social capital', mutual trust, and similar 'soft' aspects of the economy, and their benevolent effects on the 'hard' economy.

And as someone else said, it's just plain rude to waste anyone's time.

Cheers,

R.

john neal
10-08-2009, 03:35
Oh to have a local store to use!

While I agree with a lot of what has been said here - particularly in Roger's opening piece, I do wonder why there is not a good camera store within about 50 miles of where I live. When i was a kid with a box brownie, there were 2 or three within a 30 minute walk. Accepting that the local guy cannot compete on price and has additional overheads is surely part of what used to be called the "socisl compact"? If we don't use them, we are bound to lose them.

I have suffered from acquisition syndrome for the better part of the last 30 years (seriously - look it up), and have probably upset my fair share of shop owners / assistants, something I am not proud of by the way. I realised a couple of years ago that it's not all about having the biggest, newest, most expensive - it's not even about having something that is good enough and what you can do with it. It's about having fun doing it.

I have now found a store that I patronise, and I'm willing to invest the time and expense in a 100+ mile round trip, even if I don't buy something. The staff there are knowledgeable and friendly, and give good advice. Add to that the fact that they have hardly any new cameras, and it's no longer just about acquisition.

Like many people, I need to take more photographs, and spend less time worrying about gear ;)

wgerrard
10-08-2009, 07:07
One factor in establishing attitudes about local shops is the fact that many of us live in places where few shops are locally owned and those that are most likely are franchises. These shops have little loyalty to their town or neighborhood, so their customers have little reason to believe their loyalty will be rewarded.

My local and locally owned camera shop serves an entire region, not just a neighborhood or a town. It sells into what is essentially a niche market -- people who know or want to know at least a bit about actual photography -- and stays afloat because enough people are willing to drive to get there. Ditto for my shoe store, where prices are high and the staff knows how to fit shoes. It's worth it to me to pay that premium.

Now, most everyone else is buying cameras and shoes at malls and discount stores. When those stores vanish, customers will just go down the street to another one. Neither side has any real expectation of loyalty.

Al Kaplan
10-08-2009, 07:21
You used to be able to buy shoes in a variety of widths. Now most places just stock "wide", and even mail order places like Bostonian, King-Size and L.L. Bean offer little choice in widths. It's not just camera shops that are sliding down the slippery slope towards "one size fits all".

wgerrard
10-08-2009, 07:32
Al, I have what a podiatrist once called unhappy feet. I spent a good chunk of my life thinking shoes were supposed to be uncomfortable until an injury got me into that podiatrist. Since then, I wear prescription orthotics and know exactly what kind of shoe I need. The trick is that only someone really knowledgeable about shoes can identify and fit those shoes. I can't just go into a cheap shoe franchise and buy the first pair that feel comfortable.

Ditto for photography. It's only when people begin to wonder if their vacation and kid pix might be better that they start asking the questions that might lead them to a real photography shop.

Ricko of Fla
10-08-2009, 15:23
I believe in buying from a small local store for any product type. But I had a store that sold wallpaper, when customers could buy from a 800 number cheaper and not pay SALES TAX how can you compete. So buying local if you can, is a good for the community and your sole. But if you buy a Leica M9 for $7,000. and pay 7% sales tax. You think about buying from an internet store and not paying the sales tax. It.s hard not to buy from a internet store. I am grad that I am not in business any more. I feel sorry for all the small business in the world. (Walmarts of the World are killing the small business in the world)