Local Camera Stores, it’s time to change your business model…

This week I bought a new camera. Having been a Canon SLR user since 2003, I know a thing or two about Canon Digital SLRs and photography in general. I found a smoking deal at Circuit City, buy the camera online, get 10% off instantly and you can pick it up in the store the same day. That means I got the Canon 40D Digital SLR and a 28-175mm IS lens for $1350 instead of $1499. $150 bucks is $150 bucks right?

Shortly after picking it up, I decided I really wanted the grip so I headed up to the local Tall’s Camera store to pick one up. Now first let me say that the price on the grip wasn’t unreasonable. It was $199, and that’s technically under Canon’s retail so no biggie right? When I asked for the grip from behind the counter, the salesperson asked what camera it was going on. Fair question, he was just making sure I was getting the correct grip right? No bigs. The next question was, “Really, where did you get it?”

Now when I said Circuit City, you would have thought I said I traded some kiddy porn to a Nazi for it. The salesperson launches into this “Oh really, and will those zit faced kids be able to teach you how to use it?” routine. I was kind of taken aback. First, why does he assume I would buy a $1,500 camera and have no idea how to use it? Second, who’s business is it where I bought my camera? I just want the grip at a fair price.

The fair price is where the rub comes in. The local camera stores, and honestly all of them in my experience, charge Canon retail for pretty much everything. If you like the feeling of paying too much to support a local business, I can dig that, but the idea that these stores provide some service and support that you can’t get from B&H Camera online is bullshit. Excuse my language, but it’s time to change your business model.

I checked the price of a dozen lenses in three local camera chains, Talls, Kits and Camera West. On average, the store price was at least $100 more than B&H. In many cases it was almost $200 more. Should I expect this local shop to give me $200 worth of training that nobody really needs to know how to work a lens? And if it screws up, do you really expect them to do anything other than send it back to the manufacturers just like you would?

I am looking at outfitting this new camera with a compliment of five lenses for a grand total of about $2,000. If I bought exactly the same lenses at Camera West, the total is almost $3,000. No way, Jose.

So times have changed. Internet businesses are often the first place to look. A small percentage of people develop film and the large majority of those that do, do it at Wal-Mart and Costco. I know there are plenty of people who need help with their equipment, and if you do it in the form of a class or one on one lessons I can totally dig the concept.

This mythical “support and experience” that the mom and pop camera store provides is just not accurate. The really sad part is, it seems like the cheaper the item you are looking for, the more ridiculous the markup. $40 for a UV filter? The same one I can buy for $12.99 on Amazon.com?

It’s time to take a hard look at your approach. If your business exists on the premise of screwing your customer in the name of small town goodness, it’s time to lock your doors and and get a job developing film at Wal-Mart.

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