Friday, 29 February 2008

A tale of two camera shops

Oh dear! No posts for a week. Unfortunately, my other half has been quite ill with the most appalling toothache and neuralgia for the last couple of days since visiting the dentist. She's currently waiting for a referral to another practice for some specialist work, but the dentist poking about earlier in the week has obviously released something needing major pain-killers and first division antibiotics...

I bought a used Benbo Trekker from a very nice man in Wansford (courtesy of eBay) to supplement my other tripods (Manfrotto and Slik), specifically because of its low angle abilities. My other tripods have Calumet's Manfrotto clone ball heads, and my Manfrotto monopod has a Manfrotto tilt head. All use the same quick release plate. This means I can leave my camera bodies and longer lenses with QR plates fitted all the time, so it cuts down considerably on fiddling about with screwing the plate to the camera or whatever. So, obviously, I wanted to use an existing head on my new Benbo. Problem: the Trekker has a 1/4" thread, my existing heads are 3/8". So I needed an adaptor.

So on Wednesday, I Went into to Camera World in Chelmsford. Had to wait because the only assistant on duty was trying to sell someone a Nikon... No problem with that apart from the questionable taste of the customer! When the assistant was free, he instantly understood what I wanted, apologized that they didn't have it in stock but could order it in. Unfortunately, it would have taken too long to arrive as I need it for a shoot midweek next week. Good customer care and polite and we parted amicably.

Try Jessops, I think (remembering the wise words of a former boss: "Blessed be he who expects nothing, for he shall not be disappointed."). Walk in. Photographic section is deserted (well, it was about 3pm). No customers in shop. Stock thin except for consumables for P&Ss. Couple of people fiddling with the minilab, no-one obviously serving or ready for custom. Young Person eventually comes over when I'd been standing waiting at the counter for a full minute. I explain my request. She looks at me as though I'd spoken to her in Serbo-Croat, and apologetically says she'll have to ask. Goes into back room. Comes back and asks me if I mean a quick release plate. I explain again. She goes back into the back room... for some time. Eventually she comes out and says they don't stock the item. I still don't think she knew what it was I wanted, and had simply been told to say that to get rid of me. What was deeply annoying was that I could see Mr Back Room through the door when she opened it. It would hardly have been much trouble to come and talk to me direct. The Young Person was perfectly pleasant, but had obviously not had much training... so I don't blame her personally!

It seems to me that this typifies Jessop's attitude and current problems. I can remember when even my more obscure and incoherent requests were understood by a knowledgeable staff who were actually interested in photography! How sad that seems to be revolutionary in their modern empire. I had a similar experience in one of their Cambridge stores a few months ago (I think that particular branch has now been axed as part of their cost-saving plan).

Walked in. Looking at tripods. Staff at far end of store chatting. I keep trying to make eye contact, as I want to ask a question. Clearly, they're much more interested in their own conversation than in selling me something. Someone eventually wanders over. It's the manager. By this time, I have been waiting a good five minutes (I checked my watch). They did have what I wanted last week, but they sold it, and wouldn't get another for several days... Obviously, I went elsewhere and got what I wanted - from stock.

Jessops, it seems to me, and to many other people, have completely lost the plot as far as the enthusiast/pro market is concerned. Given what seem to be generally higher than average prices, I wonder if they have a future. How sad that is...

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