New Year, New Clothes, New Camera, New Debt

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Couldn’t help thinking this last week when I saw some of our customers come in fondling their apparatus…every single one of them was in there to see if there was something new they could buy ( bless them ) and if they could get it at way below cost because it was a religious holiday and they know the name of one of the owners of the shop ( curse them).

I doubt that one in 8 was impelled by any real need – they were just there because we’re one of the places you go when a Purchasing Holiday is imminent.

The manufacturers of photo equipment seem to be currently sitting on an unsold mountain of it – and are trying to create buying landslides by providing cash-back offers for lenses and cameras. Some companies like Fujifilm make it easy – buy a lens, get $ 200 back. Some companies like Canon make it hard with strange combinations of purchases needed to activate that money return. We’ve started to make a loose-leaf folder for our staff with as simple an explanation of these deals as we can write, so that we can appear at least a little intelligent and marginally honest over the phone. At the close of business on the 24th the folder was 12 pages long…

The real financial eye-opener for me was a few years back when I was put in charge of folding account statements and licking envelopes to send out a month’s statements to the account customers. I was amazed at the debt level that some of them had reached while still changing equipment and buying new gear. I compared my own finances to theirs in the photo game and concluded that there were a lot of straw men out there. Years have passed, accounts have switched to electronic billing, and I don’t see what they are up to – but I would be willing to bet a Christmas pudding that they have not changed.

My own experience in my first professional business was different – I owned my gear and used it constantly…eventually wearing most of it out. Replacements were made when required but not to keep up with fashion or with the expectation of new miracles. I got value from my money spent, and did not pay finance companies or banks extra fees at all. I am so very glad I did it that way.

I am also very grateful that my role in this second professional business is limited to selling hard goods to people who want to buy them – not trying to sell images, concepts, artistic work, or flattery to people who do not want to buy it. Give me real over unreal any day – except in the matter of toy cars and dinosaurs and glamour girls.

In those cases I can cope with any amount of fantasy…

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