Driving Customers Away

Looking forward to a ride to photograph in Monument Valley later in the month, I started poking around on the Web for a source of color 220 film a couple of days ago. I typically shoot 120 black and white in medium format, but Monument Valley is all about color, so I wanted to pick up some color film (there is no medium format color film in my cooler). I wanted 220 rather than 120 if I could find the right film, since I will have to send the film out for processing and the cost of processing 72 frames of 220 film is several dollars less than 120 film. 

On Monday I came upon the ad shown here on East Coast Photo’s (ECP) Web site, and knowing that the Fuji film would fit my requirements, I placed an order for the five-roll box. This morning I received an email from ECP that informed me that my order had been cancelled. I was a bit puzzled. Expecting that they had run out of that particular film, I checked the ECP site, found an alternate film to order, then phoned ECP Customer Service.

When a human finally came on the line I said, “I received an order cancellation this morning.”

“What is the Order Number?”, a woman slurred in a semi-thick, near-the-Hudson-River accent.

I read off the number.

“What is the problem?”, She asked.

“The problem is that it was cancelled.” I said. Could it have been more obvious?

“Well, we’re out of that film right now.”

“Okay.” I said. “I want to order a different film, instead.”

“We’re out of all of it.”, She said. “We don’t have any film.”

I let the phone line go silent for several seconds. “Really? There is plenty of film advertised on your Web site.”

“I don’t know what the Web site says. We don’t have any.”

I let a few more seconds click by, since it was an 800 toll-free phone number. “Well, I’ll just take my business elsewhere. Thanks.”

There were so many things wrong with the scenario that I stopped counting at #5.

1. There were several hundred types of film offered for sale on the ECP Web site. None of them had an “out of stock” notice.

2. My order was processed and Visa card information collected without a problem – another point where an “out of stock” message could have led to order cancellation by me or ECP.

3. It is quite easy to remove pages and entire categories from a Web site, even if it is only temporary, but the Film category had not been removed. Web sites have administrators, but this one apparently doesn’t. It is a train just running uncontrolled down the tracks. The engineer is either sleeping in the caboose, or jumped off the rolling train a few miles back.

4. The name of the business is East Coast PHOTO. What the hell???

5. Perhaps the company is located in Brooklyn.

That will be my only experience ordering from East Coast Photo.

I turned to a supplier that has always been reliable, B&H, and placed an order for some Kodak Portra 160.

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