In Ilford's defense--the processing machine division was spun off into another different company a few years ago. The same technicians and everything--just a different name, and the contracts got a little bit cheaper and the service is better for the most part--only sometimes it harks back to the Ilford days of old--which had pretty spotty service.
I don't think they have much of a footprint in the US anymore. They were based in NJ for a long time--and made the chemistry for the US up there as well. Now it's shipped from England. You may have noticed the packaging changed a few years ago? This was an improvement actually--because I'd be surprised to find anyone working in a camera store or any dealer type area that doesn't have complaints about their old packaging. I think practically every order of chemistry we used to get (machine)--a good number of the boxes had some problems from leaking containers. Just this week, in fact, I tossed out an odd-jug of Fix I'd set aside a couple of years ago and forgot--the seal had busted in shipping and it had sulfided out....I can remember signing for orders after inspecting the boxes for shipping damage--and then unpacking the sets of chemistry (you used to have to order dev & fix for the machine in separate sets of 2 jugs each. a hassle, if one set was bad--you wind up with odd leftovers)--and finding maybe half a set had leaked out into the box--but you couldn't tell without opening the package. and since you can't return chemistry....
one time we ordered about a half-year's worth of paper from a contract vendor. The first shipment came and all the paper boxes were split open. So, we didn't sign for them & called the vendor. We wound up tossing this paper and they resent the order in better packaging. This order came with boxes inside all busted open as well. The boxes were split at the sides and you could see the black plastic bags. maybe they were okay, maybe not? At any rate---I'm talking about a 1500 dollar order or somethinglike that, so you figure it needs to be right. We tossed it--they resent it. Three times we did this song & dance--thinking what a bunch of idiots at the vendor--turned out to be partially their fault, but alot of the packaging came to them that way as well.
what are you gonna do? not much. when it comes to dedicated b&w machines--Ilford was about the only game in town for the past few years and those machines are widely used. I've heard similar stories from labs as well--machines down for days & weeks at a time--parts backordered, prints not being made because of backordered paper etc. There's a studio in my town with one of these same machines--and it's been down off & on and they don't have a contract. One of them was complaining to me recently how expensive it was just to get someone to talk to you on the phone.
You just don't hear about this stuff on these forums, but in reality, I've seen better customer service coming from Kodak--even with their machines, which coincidentally are history now as well.
----edit---funny: today, one of my coworkers was telling me about some conversation he had with a fellow from another lab. seems they were commiserating about the lack of response. This lab has been trying to buy an Ilford processor for a few months now, but the company won't return their calls. So--they go to one of the largest dealers in the state, and they can't get a response either. The machines are still in the product catalogs--it's only been in the past week or so that the rumor mill has been that they've quit making them. At any rate--it's too late for this lab--and even if they could get one, the sale has been blown more or less by the lack of response.
If you look at the totals of our contract--which is like an insurance policy on the processor. IF you add this up--it comes to more than $16,000. Then--add 100 bucks a month minimum for chemistry costs. That's almost 12 thousand dollars or more in chemsitry. Then--the amount of paper--which has been all Ilford for about half the time we've had the processor. No wonder the sales reps don't come by anymore--there's no sale to be made. It just perpetuates itself year after year.
It all adds up--- It shouldn't matter in the end how big or small the purchase is as to how you're treated as a customer--but you would think----that with 20 grand or more going back, that they'd return a phone call?
maybe it's a sign of things to come.
Opinions expressed in this message may not represent the policy of my agency.