[UPDATED] Spending $15,000 at Adorama? Salesman: you’re “hardly worth it” and your “wife is a bitch.” Behind your back of course.

Update : having a very good exchange with Helen Oster of Adorama which I expected, given her deserved reputation for fast and attentive help. Will continue to provide relevant and continuing facts as best I can. Also wanted to add the following. Original post from 2/21 follows after.

[2/22/12 7pm]

I went back and forth about posting this. I could have written about the things that happened two months ago at that time. But once it went beyond me, I no longer felt “in person” conversations were sufficient. It also occurred to me that I had recommended Jimmy to others, in addition to pro/serious amateur/artist friends who drop serious money there, and I had an obligation to them, especially the first group.

I want to make it clear that I am writing about my experiences as factually as I can – while holding back names of people who have done nothing but be supportive – and on my own feelings. The one thing I won’t do is suggest a course of action for anyone. That includes both Adorama management and customers. While I really would like to recommend certain other salespeople there, I think it’s reckless because I haven’t worked with every person there, and others deserve chances. I wil make those recommendations, as I have in the past – because I do like to help those I think care and provide service – but only on a direct basis and not in “broadcast” form.

I went into the NYC store on 2/21, to mention the post to managerial staff and certain involved parties, to make sure they had a chance to deal with the situation or to object to any facts presented. Of course, they are dealing with the situation and have been in touch with me. I do not know what they are doing at this time; frankly, it’s an internal matter and I won’t offer an opinion. All businesses make missteps with customers, the point is to do right when they are in the wrong. I have a long history shopping at Adorama – some time ago I found a grey card I bought there in 1996 – and in the past, we have managed to solve any problematic issues. I am and remain a fan.

[2/21/12 4am]

You know, I spend a lot of money at Adorama.  I can wallpaper a room with my receipts.

Those receipts add up to a car, and not a cheap one.

I spend a good amount of time there and recommend the store to my personal students. With an exception or two, the sales people are nice, if varied in their level of techinical familiarity, and honest given their knowledge and the profit model of consumer electronics.  Unfortunately, this is about an exception.  One they are aware of and not dealing with.

So I write this story regretfully – it was going to be private initally, has been told in confidence to some of my friends, some of the highest-end, most accomplished photographers in the city, some with university teaching positions.  But since the story extends beyond me, since the conduct was observed by others at the store, done brazenly across the sales floor, I suppose there is no issue continuing the public trend.  Moreover, in this economy, captial expenditures are a major choice and a risk.  I think people should know whom they are dealing with, their character, when people make business choices that can make or break them.

One evening [EDIT: 8 Feb 2012, 6pm], a few weeks ago I had an issue with a used item I bought.  Mistakes happen, the rating system is more about cosmetics than function, I know this and life goes on.  I was standing at the used desk, chatting with Andy, who really is one of the nicest, fairest people you will meet.  He loves cameras as objects, as a craft, and has decades of experience to draw upon, and really works to treat people selling their camera equipment in the most honest fashion in the city – and I have dealt with just about everyone.  In any case, I moved on to looking at some used piece.   From across the floor, Jimmy Newmark, my former usual salesman, shouts out to Andy about pricing a Leica M9P and some lens, a $15,000 package.  Nothing unusal about that, except for decorum, perhaps.

Now, for the next five minutes, across the width of the floor, say 25 feet, a three, well, four way conversation is held.  Apparently, the guy was selling some equipment as well.  He was calling from his car and had his wife with him, but she was unhappy with the prices he was getting on his trade-in and was pushing for him to sell privately.  This continues for a bit and the call ends.  From his sales station, he recaps the situation as above, mentioning that he is a rich S-Y (Jewish slang for a Syrian Jew) and that he makes a fortune, real estate I believe it was, and that his wife was a pain.

A few minutes later, the call resumed, and some sort of deal is reached. Or it wasn’t. I stopped paying attention. Call ends.  Jimmy then left his station and came to talk loudly – standing next to me, initially – at Andy and other staff at the used desk.  I say “talking at,” because this wasn’t a conversation, it was a monologue, a rant. In short, he stated that the he’s a big guy, the guy drops $15K every year on a whim, but his wife is such a bitch, it’s not worth the hassle.  Nobody acknowledged him in any way; they just looked at him and walked off when he was done.

And it was a performance for my benefit.

Why do I say that?  Why am I so sure?  Am I just an egomaniac?  Well, no.  This conduct is expected of him – he routinely harrasses coworkers, and even a department head – not his though – acknowledged “it’s a problem.”  See, since May 2010, I’ve probably spent, well, I won’t say, but far more than $15,000.  Not an order of magnitude, but enough to make that purchase look cheap.    Most of that business went through Jimmy Newmark.  He does hard sell, which annoys me, but selling is his job.  Sometimes it grated on me, the childish humor; but sometimes it went way over the line : one example -

- he once convinced another sales rep that I returned a used piece just to rebuy it from him so that I would make sure he got the comission.  I was appalled at that.  Fortunately, I was asked “please don’t do that” by the rep. I say fortunate, because, having manners, they were hesistant to even bring up the matter, which was done commendably delicately.  I  asked the sales person to check my recent orders and show me the purchase.  When nothing was shown as bought/returned/bought the rep realized Jimmy was lying just to boast and makes them feel, well, bad.  I was ready to pull my business from him then and there, but as I said, the floor staff are decent people with an exception or two (obviously) and though it would mean more sales for them, asked me not to mention it or change my purchasing.  Though I was furious at the suggestion that I would undermine comissions -some of my close family draws their income that way- I did as they asked, because frankly, they have to be there and I understand the annoyance of tension in the workplace.

Later on, perhaps enamoured by some of my cuter friends that sometimes tag along or need to buy something for themselves, he sent me a friend request on Facebook.  I was hesitant, but I accepted.  This is not such a mistake.  I have former collegues that have remained friends years after I left a job.  Additionally, and more relevant, I have many friends who have an interest in photography – at all levels from those just starting to take interest to those whose commerical interests stretch the definition of “small business.”

I do a few things to avoid stepping on toes.  My friend list is private.  I don’t want a 22 year old who just picked up a camera to start messaging someone because they saw a piece of theirs in a gallery or museum.  Obscenity is controlled – I’m blunt and brazen,  but I don’t aim to hurt.  Bad technical advice is removed because it leads to silly forum type arguments and it confuses some of the beginners I tutor.  And certainly, no one is allowed to solicit sales on my Wall.  These very  accomplished people have allowed me to maintain some sort of nominal relationship with them – not on the basis of my reputation, because I’ve stayed invisible until recently – but on the basis of my work, or my approach, or knowledge of obscure equipment they too love, or the interesting camera slung over my shoulder.  It doesn’t matter.  I have little to offer them in business at this point and consider my relationships with them to be a privilege.  No sales pitches.  No spam.  Basic respect.

In the past, I have reposted something I consider a great deal from a link on Adorama’s page, or a direct link to the site for something I found.  Once, commenting on such a link, he asked something along the lines of “why didnt I say come to Jimmy?”  I let that stand, but told him personally the next day that while I have sent people to him, he cannot make comments like that on my page.  The reasons were explained to him.  He did it again.  I removed it and told him again, reminding him that this was the second time I had to explain a simple rule.  I rarely use privacy controls among my Friends, because I expect people I publically associate with to have some basic courtesy and decorum.

Then a third time, being a bored Jew on Christmas, I did some online shopping.  Aimlessly tweeted  about wanting a particular lens and a particular camera.  I’ve made this post public so you can see the rest.  In short, he immediately posted “I can sell you one.”  I was pissed.  Funny thing. Adorama is actually advertising the lens at about $400 over MSRP – and not disclosing that – thus violating NYC law.  He suggested “caveat emptor” applies to customers (it doesn’t, thus the basis of contract law), but then half backtracked after getting in an extended discussion.  He closed with a lone “Happy Festivus”  knowing full well that I’m Jewish, speak Hebrew, and don’t celebrate Christmas -not even going to parties- or anything not Jewish (American patriotic holidays excepted, of course).

December 26, I walk in, go to the used desk and while waiting to see something in the used display, he yells across the floor, “how’s it going, Adam.”  I merely reply, “you really do love to do things in public.”  Some time later, I find out that after I left the store that day he was publically saying (to the effect) that “I don’t need Adam anymore, he doesn’t even buy all that much any more.”  At this point I retell the story (in short) to several people at the store, including a department head and manager.  They know of the problem – not mine specifically – but with the employee. The next day, out of the blue, an “apology” appears privately, to the effect that I “misunderstood,” “he was only joking,” and “doesn’t speak for the store.”  Right.  The next day, a salesrep mentions that there was a huge staff meeting on the subject.  Three weeks ago, at dinner with a photographer friend, a NYFA selectee as it so happens, tells me about a huge meeting about a month before where his usual rep tells me someone nearly got fired.  I laughed and told him the story; he had the same reaction as every other photographer – annoyance with the idea of that happening and finding the “just a joke” excuse, well, a joke. Well, I guess the lesson has a four week expiry.

And a final note – the reason I haven’t spent so much lately?  [EDIT: "not so much" means a few thousand dollars.] Well, mostly because I’m forming an LLC to sell work (yes, finally) allocating money for lawyers and waiting for tax exemption before buying things more editing monitors, a spectrophotometer or two, inks ($1000 just to fill my damn 4900), and assuming all goes well, a Hasselblad X5 (one of those “if you have to ask…” purchases).  Two  months ago I was certain where I’d buy.  I haven’t stopped buying there, but I’ve noticed my purchases have been diversified a little more.  And I will say there are many wonderful people there -nearly all- people I love to deal with. But apparently tens of thousands of dollars isn’t enough, let alone fifteen, for customers to be assured of basic respect and not be talked about behind their back on a public sales floor.  So where will the next fifty and up go? We’ll see.



This entry was posted on ‍‍כ״ח שבט ה׳ תשע״ב - Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 at 04:39 and is filed under 'keit, 24 lies/sec, incidental, product, ruminations, tech, urbanvent. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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