Washington Monument

The Death of Customer Service

This may sound like I'm whining, and it is because I am. I've had a really bad day. I've lost something that may be hard or impossible to replace and it wasn't my fault. It was a company's fault, but too much time went by and they have washed their hands of the matter.

I bought a videotape of my graduation in 1999 from Chappell Studios along with a bunch of pictures. The pictures were ok, so I assumed the tape was. I looked at two minutes of it to make sure they didn't send me a blank. I wasn't going to sit through the whole thing again, I was there for the original. It would be something for the future.

Big mistake.

So I finally get around to checking it out recently. Guess what? It's not MY graduation! I contacted Chappell and they politiely told that there was nothing that they could do for me. I had a 6 month warranty that had expired and they didn't keep tapes after that. Nothing they could do.

So you ask, "When is now?" 2004. Ok, don't roll your eyes. Did I expect a full refund? No. Did I expect next day service? No. what I expected was some type of solution. Go to their website. They specialize in "Graduation Photography". Not ad campaigns. Not pictures of your '83 Trans Am for the classifieds. Graduation photos. Once in a lifetime events.

How many times did you lose a photo or have it destroyed? Do you think they have that type of call occasionally? I'm betting so. If you were in that business, don't you think you might keep stuff a little longer than 6 months? How much does it cost to store a video tape or a negative? I would think that they could charge for that service and make a profit. Maybe not a big one, but the customer goodwill would be massive.

Once in a lifetime events. Lifetime is a funny word. It implies a long time. But sometimes it isn't. Two of the people that would have been in my "Keepsake" have died. One from a car wreck and the other from cancer. I didn't know them well, so I haven't talked to their families in a while. If their's was wrong too, I wouldn't want to be part of that conversation.

I had headshots taken the other day by a local photographer. I asked them how long they kept the negatives? They responsed, "For warranty purposes, we keep them for a year, however, we store the negatives for life". Now I know what "For Life" means. It means until they can't pay the rent. And quite honestly, I don't expect to be able to go to them in 30 years and be able to get my pictures again. But this man knows that when he is met by a greiving mother who lost all her photos of her recently departed child, he will have an answer for her. And it wont be "Sorry, your warranty has expired!".

May I also point out, that while their legal responsibility to to my sale has ended, their copyright on the tape keeps right on chugging. If I were to copy another graduate's tape, I could be fined up to $100,000 dollars or sent to prision. It's one of those odd injustiices of life. Wouldn't you think that a company that enjoys the protection of the Federal Copyright Act would work to provide some level of customer service for the life of that entitlement?

Some of you will read this and think, it's smart business and they are just covering their ass. And your right, to an extent. In this litigous society, if you give an inch they sue you for a mile. But by the same token, what does it cost to go a little further than you're expected? Not something you advertise or go out of your way to mention.

Just so you can have an answer to that mother's question.


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