The shoppers are few and far between this year. I think most people have put the brakes on the kind of reckless holiday shopping we've seen in the past. Either that or everyone has moved their shopping online. It's so easy now. A few clicks and then, like magic, a truck pulls up to your house and disgorges all manner of new products, clothes, shoes, TVs and....stuff.
What I really liked about shopping for cameras back when shopping required getting in the car and going somewhere was the fun of having a sales person present you with the camera you thought you might be interested in and getting to hold it, heft it, cycle through the shutter, look through the finder and browse the menu. You could see if a button fell in the right spot for your unique hands. You could see if the menu made any sense to you at all. But best of all you could get a feel for the camera. Did it feel just right in your hands?
Did it exude that feeling of precision manufacturing? Did it have a certain comforting density and solid feeling of strength?
Now people order cameras without a real idea of exactly what they'll be getting. The workaround is the assurance that if they are not 100% pleased when the camera arrives in a brown box from UPS, Fedex or Amazon, and they can put their hands on it, they can easily send it back to the online retailer for a refund. With the loss of most bricks and mortar camera stores this process of buy and return, buy and return, has become the new normal.
I have an acquaintance who seems unaware that every camera he sends back can no longer be sold as new. He's diminished the value of at least a dozen cameras and/or lenses in the last five years. He'll get excited when a new camera is launched. If it's insanely popular he puts his name on as many waiting lists as he can and pounces on the first dealer to offer him a camera. He'll use it for a week or so and find some obscure setting that doesn't function the way he thought it should so he packs everything up, gets a return authorization and sends it all back. I try to tell him that this is not the way buying cameras should work. He lives in Austin. We have retail options on the ground here. But that backfires as well. He sometimes does go to the camera stores to play with a camera which he then decides to order online because it will be a few dollars cheaper. Or he buys the camera from the local dealer knowing that he'll return it for a refund in a week or so, after shooting a job or a project. He thinks it's okay as long as he keeps the packaging and doesn't fill out the warranty cards.
But the best sales people stop working with him when they realize that most transactions with him are a time suck and ultimately turn out to be unprofitable. He's the person for whom retailers invented the 20% restocking fee....
I hope we somehow break the fever of always shopping online and return to the practice of auditioning gear in person and then supporting the local merchants by buying from them instead of an out of state, online seller. It can be a much more fun way to acquire cameras. And a time saver. Especially if your hands-on experience leads you to a better choice (for you) than the camera you might have decided to order based on some YouTube video done by someone who knows less than you. Especially about you.
Me? Yes. I buy cameras. But I mostly do it through a local dealer. I like to put my hands on stuff. I like to audition the real thing. Sometimes I get superstitious and ask if I can come into the warehouse and pick the exact camera I want because I like the serial number. Silly stuff. But fun.
I understand that many, most?, people live far from a traditional camera dealer and have no ready access to handle a prospective choice first hand. It's the nature of the changing world. But I would love it if people were a bit less scam-y about their purchases. Every Fuji X100V that someone buys and returns is one less brand new X100V that a truly deserving photographer can buy.
Just a few more images on the day before the day before Christmas.