Several weeks ago I posted -- and several have read -- about how Dwayne's received two rolls of Kodachrome for processing, but claimed that one film cartridge was empty when they received it. They even had a special sticker on the return envelope "Film Cartridge Received Empty" - as if it were so common that they needed special stickers for that purpose. After having communicated by email with the lady who, it turns out, is the head of customer service, and not getting beyond the response that I must have sent in an empty cartridge, I called and asked to speak with someone above her in Dwayne's hierarchy. I was put through to a man named Grant. Let me say right up front that we had a very cordial discussion, in part because I wasn't bellicose. We had a calm and fruitful conversation. I explained that there was no way I'd have sent in an empty roll -- too experienced, too careful, too attentive. Something must have happened at Dwayne's. In response, Grant walked me through the process. First, the film is mechanically extracted from the cassette -- I interrupt to ask, does the machine somehow go in through the felt light trap and grab the end of the film? No, Grant replied, the machine mechanically opens the cassette. (I immediately imagine an Inspector Gadget-type arm with church key in stainless steel hand.) The film is then attached to the end of a roll of other films from other people so the whole strung-together length can pass through the machine. When the mechanical opener pops open the cassette and does not find any film in the cassette, it signals an error to the operator that an empty cartridge had been detected. The use of the mechanical opener answered a question I had been pondering. Along with the properly-developed pack of slides I'd received from the one roll that was not "empty", I had received a film bobbin with the tape still holding a little bit of film, but one of the two round discs that act as guides to hold the film into the roll was missing. Makes me think that rather than unrolling the film off the bobbin, maybe the machine rips off the disc, thereby letting the film spiral off the open end when the spool is held vertically. Or maybe the missing disc was a clue as to why my film went missing. I didn't ask Grant for specifics on this point -- I may take this up with him later. I asked if it were possible that my film had actually been received and opened properly, but as it was attached to someone else's film, perhaps my slides were sent to someone else. He said it was not possible because the packaging unit would have wound up with more slides to package than non-faulty rolls had been processed. I have hope he's wrong. Grant then did what the customer service manager had not: he admitted there was another possibility, though remote. He said that perhaps 3 or 4 times per year, the mechanical opener says there is no film is in a cartridge when in fact there is. This film is not attached to the master roll, but remains in the machine and is disposed of. Grant also explained why they have stickers printed up to say film cartridges are received empty -- because they get many of them. Seems that a fair number of people try to get that 37th or 38th frame out of a roll, and wind up ripping the film off the bobbin. You'd think the photographer might notice that when they open the camera, but there are a lot of inexperienced camera users out there, I guess. In the end, it was clear that Dwayne's did not have my slides laying around, but I was satisfied now with their explanation of what might have happened. Maybe one of my rolls was one of the 3/4 that gets mistakenly discarded. I sent Grant a photo similar to what they'd find on my missing slides (the subject was quite unique) so if they turned up, he'd know they are mine. Grant offered to send me fresh roll of E-6 film, which I declined but with thanks. So while I'm sorry I lost my film, I left impressed with Grant's willingness to discuss the issue -- even admitting how things can go wrong. I will use Dwayne's again because he responded to my concerns in an honest manner -- of course, for Kodachrome there's no other choice. Too bad I didn't get the full story without having to move beyond their customer service operation.