Non-Customer Sagas and other adventures....

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MovieStuff
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Non-Customer Sagas and other adventures....

Post by MovieStuff » Mon Apr 13, 2015 10:11 pm

I don't normally talk on any forum about my dealings with people but this latest saga has got me stumped. About three weeks ago, someone - we shall call him John Doe - contacted me about buying one of our Retro-Pro units. I spent the better part of an hour talking with him about his intended project to transfer all of his family's home movies. He said he was strapped due to recent health issues so I offered him a break, free shipping, etc. I also explained that these units hold their resale value well so he should have no problems turning it on ebay once he finished with it. He was happy and said he'd put in his order within a day or so. Time goes by and the next time I hear from him, he's bought a used unit off ebay. This doesn't really bother me because the way I see it, 20 people may bid, only one will get it and the other 19 might come see me. He's on a budget so, if that works for him, that's great. Everybody wins. No hard feelings ever. I've dealt with this situation for over 15 years.

-HOWEVER-

He starts asking me all kinds of operational questions, making it clear he hasn't read the instructions. I tell him where the instruction link is on the website (it's pretty obvious, even if you just browse the site unsupervised). I also explain that, because he bought the unit from someone else and it hasn't been inspected by our shop, I am limited in the degree of help I can offer. I think this is reasonable because, if I don't know what shape the unit is in, then I could be wasting both our time. I might be trying to solve a technical problem when it might just be user error or, conversely, I might presume user error when, in reality, the unit is malfunctioning. And, of course, from a purely business/ethics standpoint, he's not my customer. He's the customer of the person he bought the unit from. This last point might seem petty but I've collected over 10,000+ customers over the years; any one of which paid good money to not stand in line behind someone that paid nothing and refuses to read the instructions.

Now, in talking with him, he suddenly becomes aware that the unit he purchased off ebay isn't the 15fps unit we spoke about but, rather, the older 2fps unit we no longer sell. This is when things go sour. He wants to upgrade but we no longer upgrade and it would be too expensive even if we did. He goes back to the original seller and she contacts me. I was sympathetic to both of their positions so I offer to take a look at the unit free of charge if she pays for all shipping. As we all three are in Texas, that should be chump change. But, I said that I would report my findings to both her and John Doe. If the unit is okay, then she's off the hook for repairs or refund and I would be able to then address his various questions because I'd know what shape it is in. But if the unit had problems, then she might be faced with having to issue him a refund. So she declines to have it inspected.

In the mean time, he is still sending me emails and asking questions that make it clear he has yet to read the instructions. Again, I provide the location of the link.

This morning he writes me this series of snarky emails about how difficult I am being, how difficult the unit is to use (really, I'm not kidding) and that there is zero documentation available in how operate the unit. He then basically threatens to go onto forums to trash talk about my bad attitude, how fragile the unit is (really, again not kidding) and his generally bad customer experience with me unless I agree to help him. In response, I remind him that he is not my customer and that I offered to take a look at the unit for free and I once again tell him where to find the instructions which, frankly, the seller should have provided.

Of course, by now he has tried to use the unit without reading the instructions so I have no idea what shape the unit is in. More emails back and forth, same complaints, still not going to the instructions link, apparently. A huge waste of time. But basically, what I am getting out of all this is the following: The seller doesn't want me to look at the unit because, if I officially say there IS a problem, then she might have to issue a refund. John Doe doesn't want me to look at the unit because, if I officially say there ISN'T a problem, then he can't get his money back from her at some point in the future. Yet both parties want to hold me responsible for its operation without me being able to inspect it.

Needless to say head is spinning. Sheesh.....

Roger

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Re: Non-Customer Sagas and other adventures....

Post by carllooper » Tue Apr 14, 2015 8:23 am

Nice write up Roger. Completely understand your position.

This buyer won't, of course, get much traction on this forum.

I don't know what else you could do for him. He wants instructions but won't read the instructions. Perhaps he's illiterate. But if so he should find someone other than yourself for that particular problem. There's only so much you can do over the phone. At some point people who take ownership of a machine have to take some sort of responsibility for that machine. There is a saying that goes that an artist never blames their tools. This is because originally artists made their own tools - so to blame a tool would be to blame oneself. In the industrial age this becomes more complicated but the saying still has merit.

Tools are not magic wands (even if we make them appear that way). A tool is only as the good as the person who wields it. And if that person doesn't want to know how to do that, there's not much else one can do. Machines are not magic wands. They do break and one has to treat that as natural and normal thing. And do something constructive about it rather than raging at the gods.

C
Carl Looper
http://artistfilmworkshop.org/

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Re: Non-Customer Sagas and other adventures....

Post by S8 Booster » Tue Apr 14, 2015 11:28 pm

could the buyer be "Magic Alex" by chance.......?...??

very very difficult situation but as i see it not for you apart from the problems the buyer tries to burn mark on you.
it is definitely a seller/buyer case which you carry no responsibility for.

wouldn't worry about the reputation at all if i were you.


Shoot....
..tnx for reminding me Michael Lehnert.... or Santo or.... cinematography.com super8 - the forum of Rednex, Wannabees and Pretenders...

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Re: Non-Customer Sagas and other adventures....

Post by Will2 » Fri Apr 17, 2015 6:52 pm

Everyone wants something for nothing or at least for less. If you take the risk of buying something off eBay you ASSUME THE RISK. If the unit was not as advertised (i.e. it was said to be 15fps and was really 2fps) then he has a case to get his money back. If it didn't say then it's his fault for not asking.

If I was him, I would PAY YOU to inspect the unit and make sure it was functioning properly, THEN re-sell it on eBay or simply do the transfers a little slower and then resell it. Paying you $100-$200 to get it working at 100% is more than fair. If you offered to inspect for free (+shipping) is still totally fair. I'm sure any used unit can benefit from some small adjustments so still $100-$200 for this seems more than fair. If something major is broken then you can make him aware at that time.

I've sent Beaulieu 4008 cameras off to Bjorn in Sweden for a check up that wind up costing more than I paid for the camera itself, but I know it is working flawlessly when I get it back; better than new. Having a professional adjust a piece of equipment like this is more than worth it.

Of course, you're dealing with regular consumers that are used to Sony camcorders not working and just bringing it back to Best Buy for a full refund after using it on their vacation.

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Re: Non-Customer Sagas and other adventures....

Post by jrcasey1960 » Fri Apr 17, 2015 9:49 pm

You might accuse Roger of anything I don't know about, but being "difficult" and "unfair" would not be among them! I think he goes above and beyond in terms of valid customer support. Sounds like he was more than willing to go above and beyond in this non-valid case as well. I would never dream of pulling something the ebay purchaser is trying to do. Then again, I consider myself somewhat normal, although some might debate the point.

I've had my machine for almost 10 months now with heavy use and no problems. It's a wonderful device and his work on improving it over time is impressive. I really wish every hobbyist could have one!

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Re: Non-Customer Sagas and other adventures....

Post by MovieStuff » Sat Apr 18, 2015 4:15 am

Thanks for the kind words, guys. I'm pretty thick skinned so, for the most part, this sort of stuff doesn't bother me on a personal level. But we do no advertising and when you work hard to try and maintain a decent reputation this sort of thing can be tiring, from a purely business standpoint. Sometimes you just don't know what the person wants or the level of perfection they expect from a budget priced unit. I had a guy a couple of weeks ago that had bought one of my original WorkPrinter Jr. units back in, like, 2002. So he's had this thing for 13 years and, according to him, he has had it running just about 24/7 because "it's so damned slow". Anyway, it finally stopped running. From his description, the center bearing on the projector has finally seized up, which really can't be repaired without replacing the entire projector. When I told him we had not sold that particular unit in more than a decade and no longer supported them, he went nuts. Now, I realize that value is relative to how much money you have but he actually said, "I paid a lot of money for this thing and my business depends on it." I was as diplomatic as possible but pointed out that he only paid $650 for it 13 years ago and that, if it hasn't paid for itself by now, then he needs to raise his prices. But, beyond that, I felt any mechanical device that has ostensibly run for 113,880 hours without so much as changing a belt before finally breaking down is hardly a rip off. But that's just my opinion. :)

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Re: Non-Customer Sagas and other adventures....

Post by JeremyC » Sat Apr 18, 2015 2:45 pm

Well Roger if the guy with the old Work Printer Jr is so disappointed that your unit has worked flawlessly for only 13 years he can always try another manufacturer to deliver a plug and play unit in time to keep his 24/7 operation going, one that his staff can (because his is a 24/7 operation then he must have staff) master straight out of the box. I'm sure your competitors won't be put off by his story of how your unit operated for such an unacceptably short time.

However, from my perspective in the broadcast industry I would like to know your secret as I would love to find a camera, recorder, matrix, vison mixer, etc that was built to operate for the same unacceptably short period of time.

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Re: Non-Customer Sagas and other adventures....

Post by Craig05 » Sun Apr 19, 2015 6:26 am

Roger,

I just wanted to add for the record that my personal experience of your customer service was first-rate. If a customer decides to purchase a used machine off ebay, then they should expect the risk of an imperfect machine. Seems like this guy did not do his homework, especially not noticing the ebay seller was selling him a 2fps unit (instead of the newer 15fps units). Thus it is not surprising he is having problems with your very good online instructions about the Retro units. Reading is a key requirement to understanding. Your online reputation is golden on this forum. I did my online research about your MovieStuff company before my Retro purchases (including the hundreds of posts on this forum)... was very impressed with your long commitment in building high quality film scanners. Your Retro units are brilliantly designed and easy to use.

Cheers,
Craig

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Re: Non-Customer Sagas and other adventures....

Post by MovieStuff » Sun Apr 19, 2015 3:46 pm

Well, I'm no saint and, like anyone else, if I'm pushed hard enough I can lose my temper and get testy. But it takes a lot because I am always mindful of how pervasive the internet is. Like I said before, I don't advertise so I only have my reputation on the net for driving customers to my door. But I also think that some people depend on that as a kind of latent threat; the idea that, if they don't get what they want, no matter how unreasonable, they can hold the specter of public ruination above your head. I blame ebay for this mentality, frankly, which is why we have never sold our products on ebay. The feedback system is seriously flawed and doesn't take into account items that have a limited use. People that buy a telecine unit off ebay to scan their home movies may finish with it in a week or less. They can then force a return by threatening negative feedback and I'm sure that many do and, as you know, ebay and PayPal are zero help when it comes to disputes. I think this kind of mentality has seeped into other internet based transactions because it takes so little effort. Don't need this camera after recording your vacation? Just do a charge back on your credit card and claim you aren't satisfied with the performance of the item.

Some companies deal with this in a remarkably passive way. When we were developing the Retro units, we had a guy contact us from Hammacher Schlemmer, which is a kind of Sharper Image catalog but without as much of the high tech stuff but still a neat resource for gadgets. Anyway, they really, really wanted our scanner for their catalog but we could never come to terms. They have a lifetime return policy. Seriously. You can return an item to them at any time in the future, no matter how long after you bought it, for a full refund. No questions asked. I explained that was a non-starter because people would simply buy our unit, transfer their movies, then return it to them for a refund. Forever. At best, I'd probably only sell HS a handful of units because every unit returned to them is another unit they would not need to buy from me and, of course, they wanted wholesale pricing. So I would effectively be giving them a wholesale, bulk order discount up front ostensibly based on a large quantity of future orders that would never materialize because of their insane return policy. It might work for their business model but not mine. More importantly, it would undermine the movie transfer businesses of my other customers. Imagine if you could simply "borrow" a film scanner for free? It would have been irresponsible of me to sell through HS.

Anyway, I appreciate the support. Our products are hand made and mistakes do happen. I make mistakes, myself, and try to rectify as efficiently as possible if the customer will allow me to address their concern. But some people just can't be satisfied and that's just life, I guess.

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Re: Non-Customer Sagas and other adventures....

Post by doug » Sun Apr 19, 2015 6:53 pm

Your head must indeed be spinning, Roger :ymsick:
Though I've never used one I too have heard glowing reports of your units from people here in the UK.
It is a dangerous precedent when someone not even using ebay can be affectively maligned in this way. And I'm sure many ebay users have had bad things happen as well.
I had a bad experience selling some seriously outdated films on ebay, to someone to use for their wedding film believe it or not :D in a few days time. Despite my warnings that they may not even arrive in time to the country concerned. Well, this small transaction turned into a nightmare. Negative feedback accusing me of being a thief and threatening messages as well. But part of the whole aggro was the experience of trying to complain to ebay about this abuse. Absolute waste of time and energy. HAL computer, all is forgiven ! So I can imagine anyone outside ebay with a problem like Roger's must feel totally helpless. It's good that people seriously in to movie apparatus can ignore all that madness and find out the facts from forums such as this one.
As for my ebay nightmare, and the anguished hours of getting nowhere, the negative feedback was quietly lifted one day by the buyer, so maybe his wedding did some good.
Doug
www.filmisfine.co

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Re: Non-Customer Sagas and other adventures....

Post by supa8 » Wed Apr 22, 2015 12:24 pm

God. Both the buyer and the seller are tools. For god's sake, what was your man expecting. You have been helpful enough in all fairness.
My heart goes out to your spinning head Roger ;)

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