I feel for Cord Camera, which recently closed their area stores here. Now that was a good company.
The last time I went to Cord (about 4 years ago), they had a new operator who printed my 27 rolls of a spring desert trip about as badly as possible, magenta skies, too dense, even with an EI 2/3 stop more than box speed. I asked for a full reprint, but the manager wanted me to go through all >1000 prints at the counter and make notes on how to correctly print each one. She was always sullen and resented having to deal with customers, not just me.
Maybe it was a good company, but they needed better employees.
The last time I went to Ritz they were still printing optically. I had to return the prints and tell them to clean the printer lens, which was badly fogged on the outer surface and losing a lot of contrast.
Any store that relies on the margins from camera sales is not going to survive long, especially in the current economy.
I went to a Ritz in Maryland looking for some 35mm film, and see what they had for Nikon Lenses the clerk says....Oh.. Nikon and Canon dont make film cameras anymore and the Nikon lenses are digital only. He went on to tell me how they no longer make film and how anything you buy now is old stock...when its gone its gone.
TRUE STORY ! I could not keep my mouth shut...I asked where he got his info ..."why its common knowledge" he replied ! I guess the next time I see him he will say something like "You want fries with that ?.....better get them now...they are not making them anymore ! "
It's a sign of the times. The competition is extreme and if you're going to compete on price then customers can only get what they pay for. The reality is that the majority of the staff simply aren't paid enough to give a damn. If you're competing with say CVS at 20 cents a print you have a problem with quality. The chains, for example, don't, (or didn't) have to purchase paper and chemistry - they paid Kodak by the print. They don't have to pay for maintenance of the processors - they buy enough to get that free. It's like the Nikon FM10 - made to a price - not a quality level. So the downward spiral goes. Cheap[er staff, cut maintenance corners etc.
I had a small camera store and studio until a few years ago. You couldn't compete on equipment sales. You'd spend hours with people discussing the right camera etc with them - then they'd come back with the camera you recommended from Best Buy or whatever and ask you to show them how to use it! Plus the box stores would sell this stuff for less than it cost me to buy it. The $100 more that a camera cost from me was the entire gross margin - which on a $1,200 piece of equipment ain't a lot!
CVS would send people in to me to get jammed film out of their cameras. Then they'd take the film back to CVS for the processing.
My niche became B&W film and paper. I worked with all the school kids who would come in for supplies. Evaluate their technique etc. I'd even go to schools and repair and align their enlargers. Then the local Wally World decided to stock Tri-X and 5x7 paper at prices about 10% below my cost! Didn't stop people coming in for help and advice - stopped 'em buying from me though!
One summer my son worked in the photo dept. at Best Buy - he was written up for spending too much time with customers! Apparently his job was not to help customers - it was to sell them stuff!!
"It's "brave new world" out there and and seven days a week of 12 hour days fighting a losing battle just wasn't worth it. Guess what? I'm a part time commercial photographer now!
I don't see how this could be regarded a good thing. Even if I hated the store (actually I thought it was spotty but kinda okay) I wouldn't wish this outcome upon photography, on the general amateur population (which may not want to order via credit card online), nor ultimately the American taxpayer.
Let's see, where do we stand. Circuit city is bankrupt; BestBuy is rumoured to be not far behind. Ritz is gone. Options are disappearing. Not just for photography but for damn near everything.
This is not good in the long run... regardless of what you think of these establishments. They are not disappearing because of the issues mentioned above... they are disappearing because there are many ways to evade taxes by buying online and computers are cheaper clerks than.. real clerks. Hence online retailers are essentially subsidized with respect to their brick-and-mortar counterparts. This will change... but maybe not before people are buying groceries online. It's not good. Not good at all. And apparently most folks won't know that it's not good until the damage is irreparable and the purchasing options are down to B&H and Adorama.
This is all fine for those of us who can hop in the car and drive up to Manhattan and see firsthand what we are buying... but what about the 200 million other folks in the U.S. and beyond.
(N.b. I definitely have my issues with Ritz but I also am willing to complain to mgmt. and/or address the clerks with my issues... and in most cases they were immediately resolved. I think the local stores serve a vital function in the local photographic economy, that is my beef with some of the comments above.)
And the last time anybody here bought something from a REAL camera shop ?
Does Calumet count? I walked in and bought 40 sheets of 4x5 Astia about 10 days ago, although I then ordered 100 more from Badger Graphics because their price was about 20% lower. I see where this is going...