Had I known I was going to start out my day completely aggravated after spending ten minutes cutting through the plastic of a $25 computer accessory, I would have bought a different product! It's just a USB port. It's not radioactive, it won't stunt a child's growth and nobody is going to die using too many of them!
However, it did remind me of buying fishing lures as a kid. I could never decide if the store had only one left on the display card, did that mean it was their best seller or was it the worst, since it was still there? Well, this Belkin port was the only one left, which after fighting with the packaging, I now realize it was there because everybody knew what I didn't - it would take two steak knives and a scissors to master the security your rocket scientists built into the spot welded plastic hermetic seal!
Here's the background: Scott Bourne's rant just adds to the frustration so many of us feel when buying new gear. Of all the posts he's written, this is one of my favorites. As I wrote almost a year ago, it's one thing to complain about the challenges we all face dealing with the rocket scientists at the corporate level, but it takes a true artist to describe them. So, if there was a Pulitzer for reality and sarcasm, Scott would sure be my nomination.
I know there might be a few of you who read this before, but since SCU's readership is constantly growing, I thought I'd share it again. Feel free to add more frustrations of your own and maybe we'll have enough for an updated post!
I’ve been using serious photo gear in a serious manner since the early 1970s. It didn’t used to be this bad – I don’t think. But it seems like the notion of customer service is completely foreign to many camera companies and their related brothers and sisters. So here’s a partial list (just five stupid things in no particular order) that photo-related companies do. I don’t expect these companies to change for the better, but at least I’ll feel better after venting a little bit. Sorry for the rant but at least some of you must feel my pain!
Stupid Thing #1 DO NOT...
Require photographers to enter their camera serial number to obtain a copy of their camera’s manual or other camera info online. STUPID! Why is this necessary? Why does the camera manufacturer care if I already own the camera? Do they think the manual possesses some secret information that will grant me the codes to the Death Star? If so, isn’t that secret information available to the thousands who DO own the camera and who could look at the online manual anyway? What if I am simply interested in buying the camera? Wouldn’t they want me to have access to all the information I need before deciding? Maybe I’ll read the manual and be convinced that I need to buy that camera. Wow – we wouldn’t want to do something that would potentially sell more gear would we? And what would stop me from calling my buddy with a Nikon D3x and asking him for his serial number so I could look at the manual? This is one of the silliest things the camera companies do and it should stop – but it probably won’t.
Stupid Thing #2 DO NOT...
Require photographers to sign in with an email address and password to access basic information about products and services. Okay here we go again. It’s almost as if they are afraid we might somehow sneak into their website and buy something! Don’t create barriers to business. Don’t make it hard for us to contact you. Don’t make us give up personal information just to find out whether or not we want or need what you’re selling. Open the gates. Let us in. We probably want to give you money. You want money don’t you? Why would you do ANYTHING that would make it hard for us to give you money? Get rid of the passwords folks. This isn’t a bank transaction. We aren’t asking for access to the vault at Fort Knox. We don’t even want to know if Donald Trump’s comb-over is real. There are no government secrets. We just want to see how your camera flash sync works, or how many watt seconds your new flash head is, or how much RAM your new software program requires, etc. Really. Take the bullet out of the gun Barney Fife. It ain’t no big deal!
Stupid Thing #3 DO NOT...
Package products in such a complex manner. I recently ordered a camera battery and just about had to call in a full-fledged nuclear strike to get the darn package open. I have actually had to have stitches before when cut by the plastic that some companies use to ship their products in. I understand that some companies package for retail and want to reduce loss to theft. Two points to ponder. If I order it from Adorama or Amazon then it’s coming to my house AFTER I paid for it. No need to force me to get a blow torch to open it up. Second point…if you make it so hard for me to open the package I might just buy something else. So you miss the sale anyway. STOP IT! Use common sense packaging. It’s better for the environment, it’s easier on the customer and it’s less expensive to YOU!
Stupid Thing #4 DO NOT...
Make it hard to register my product under warranty. Okay – so you sold me this thing. You included a warranty card. You want ME to fill it out. You give me about one inch to include the 400 words necessary to get the information to you. You put the serial number in four point black type on a black camera body, hidden in the most obscure place possible. Couldn’t you just pre-stamp the warranty card with the number that matches the product in the box? It would be a good loss prevention tool since you have gear stolen prior to it reaching the customer. Of course we’re not done yet. You ask all sorts of personal and marketing questions that have nothing to do with the warranty. In some states these practices have been ruled illegal but you continue to act in this fashion. How about just making it easy for me? The warranty card has a bar code or a simple key code on it that I enter at your website with my BASIC contact information such as Name, Address, Email or Phone. That’s it! Then you ASK NICELY if I want to participate in marketing research or additional marketing programs. I reply according to my wishes but if I say yes, you have a serious, committed customer instead of someone who resents you for making them jump through all those hoops just to get the warranty YOU PROMISED THEM before they bought your product.
Stupid Thing #5 DO NOT...
Sell us on more megapixels. STOP IT NOW! I beg of you. We’re NOT that stupid – okay at least HALF of us are not THAT stupid. We know that cramming more and more and more and more and more and more megapixels on to the same size sensor is NOT giving us better image quality. It IS making us buy bigger memory cards, hard disks and faster computers. It is wasting more and more of our time while we download files that are least 1/3rd larger than they need to be. Why not stick with 12 or so megapixels and concentrate on great sensors that gather lots of light without aberration? That’s what we want. Really. Megapixel madness does NOT serve your customers. It serves your marketing department. How about a pact? You promise to stop this madness, at least on the prosumer level and above cameras, and we’ll tell all of our Uncle Harry’s that the $199 point and shoot with 400 megapixels will make him a rock star photographer…deal?
I could go on – and that’s the bad news. But I’ll stop because I like to contain my rants to a page or so. At the end of the day so much around us happens for no reason. Worse, most of it happens because it’s ALWAYS been done that way. It would be nice if some enterprising company in the photo business gathered up some key clients, suppliers and staff and just started asking questions like: “Why do we do this?”
Ah – at least I can dream! Thanks for listening to my rant.
Photo Credit: © slasnyi - Fotolia.com