I made a foolish resolution last year. My goal would be to buy American products, and I would buy them at a locally-owned store if possible. My idea was this. I wanted to help America get back on its feet again and help spur the lagging Phoenix economy. I wanted to do this even if it cost a little more.
I knew that buying American was next to impossible. Few of the products I like are made in this country. Products like cameras, computers and cellphones. So early on, I trimmed off half the resolution. I would concentrate on buying local.
Take my attempt to buy an ultra-light tripod for my camera at a Phoenix photography store on Camelback Road.
It is a small store, locally-owned I presumed, in a large and attractive strip mall in an upscale part of town. It claims to have been serving Phoenix since 1954. It has another store in Scottsdale.
I no sooner walked into the shop than the salesman pointed me to what he described as a great deal. A slightly defective tripod. It was marked down from $144 to $88. “I almost bought it myself,” he said. Normally, his comment would have raised a red flag in my mind. But I was determined to buy local, and the top-of-the-line tripods were beyond my reach at $225-300 at another locally-owned store.
The tripod’s defect was a missing screw, he said. What the screw was used for he had no clue. A customer, he said, had noticed it while shopping. The salesman put the tripod through the test. Everything seemed in working order. So I bought it for almost $100, tax included.
On setting it up for the first time, I noticed the paint on the “quick release platform” was chipped away. This was not a new tripod with a screw missing. It was a used tripod. The salesman had concocted the screw story to deceive. It was still a useable tripod at a price I could afford. Although rankled by the lie, I decided to keep the tripod.
And just for kicks I went online to see what I could have really purchased this same tripod for on Amazon.
Amazon listed the price for a new Slik Pro II 3 Way at $95. No tax, no shipping cost. In other words I could have had a new Slik tripod for $5 less than I paid for a used one.
But the thing that galled was the blatant dishonesty. For making a few extra bucks, the camera store lost a customer. I will not go back there again. And it makes you wonder. Why is it that short-term gain means so much? Why is it honesty and building a long-term customer base means so little?
I think it largely comes down to this. This camera shop, as small as it is, is too big. The owner is too far removed and has lost control. He has allowed a salesman or manager to run it, a hired gun probably working on a commission. This salesman is now dictating store policy, a policy which likely goes against the grain of ownership. It is the bane of small business. Trying to grow and losing quality control at the same time.
And a postscript. The tripod was made in Thailand.