Hello, My Name Is Peggy

“Did you check that the cable is securely seated?” The slightly exasperated Service Tech says over the staticy connection.

“Yes.” The Passer says. “Just like you asked me to check it ten minutes ago.”

“We’ve gone through the entire Checklist.” The Service Tech says. “It should be working.”

“It should be.” I say and sigh. “But it isn’t.”

There’s another series of commercials besides the one with Russian man called Peggy.  In those commercial the Service Rep asks blatantly stupid questions and makes clearly offensive comments in response to anything the hapless person calling to complain has to say.  Our Service Techs are stereotypical numbskulls who have a hard time solving any of our problems and almost always end up at this solution-Ok, we’ll send you another one.  They will never send us a NEW one, as there is no such thing as a new five year old laptop, twenty year old printer, or thirty year old set of studio strobes and power packs.

The Company is slowly, ever so slowly, replacing antiquated equipment with newer equipment.  This new gear all goes to the FNGs, while us Old Timers continue to work with tools that would be easily recognized by generations of Assembly Line Portrait Photographers.

Part of the problem is a complete and total lack of any ownership.  It’s The Company’s equipment and none of us care much if it is torn up during transport or day to day use.  Some people have been known to leave it rolling around in the back of a pickup truck and didn’t even bring it in out of the rain.  So maybe I should be amazed that any of it works at all-EVER.

It’s a light day, but people are showing up for their Appointments.  I started shooting right before the Passer’s computer crashed.  There is some problem with the Monitor, which is one she has just received from The Home Office by overnight shipping. It doesn’t work, and it has screwed up her computer.  Not good.  I keep shooting as the Passer calls Tech Support.  An hour and half later I am still shooting and she is still on the phone listening to some of the worst On Hold music around.  They decided to send her another monitor.

During this time a couple of people have decided to go home and asked that we call them if we get up and running again. I say sure and let them leave.  It is now just a matter of getting the laptop setup and selling off the laptop instead of the monitor.  I would have gone for this solution at least an hour ago myself, but it is not my call.

The PreSeller calls and wants to know what is going on and why people are walking out and so on and so forth.  It is no big deal-really.  We have a light appointment sheet and only three people decided to leave and come back later.  The rest decided to stick it out and are still waiting.  In an hour or so, we are caught up and all is once more right with the world.

Then my Computer makes that annoyingly happy Ding that means something has disconnected. Bloody hell.  I have just finished with the sit I am shooting, but the computer has stopped talking to the camera so I can’t go get the next sit.  I check the Usual Suspects.  Connection at the Camera-no that’s fine.  Connection at the Computer-no that’s fine.  Power cords-ok.  I am about ready to toss the whole thing out the window when I notice an idiot light that should be glowing red is not on.  I shake the connection where the long wire hooks up with another long wire-and it is loose.  I pull it apart and shove it back into place.  The light comes on and the little Ding sounds again as the connection is re-established.

These things happen all the time.  Like, everyday all the time.  I have long since stopped calling The Company’s Tech Support line, unless I need to have something replaced.  I have grown tired of being told things like: “Just restore the default settings.  Look around.  There has to be a restore default settings button somewhere.”

I’ve been working with this same basic set of equipment for around five years.  I am now familiar with the Usual Suspects that cause Camera failure, Computer failure, or a combination of both.  After fifteen years of being an Assembly Line Portrait Photographer I am also familiar with a few other things.  Power packs that blow up, light heads that explode, and shutters that crumble in upon themselves making the taking of portraits a tad more challenging.  Actually broken equipment is not something the Wiz Kids at Tech Support try to talk me through, they just ask me where to send the replacements.

The real problem is that even now, Assembly Line Portraits is a business run on a time table.  We have appointments, and it works best if everyone shows up at or near their appointment time.  If we get backed up just a few sittings, then we are in for a long day.  So sitting around waiting for Tech Support to tell us they really haven’t got a clue for an hour puts us several sittings back-or puts us out of business for the day.  Oh I can still take portraits and The Company will tell them they can look at the proofs online, but that does me and the Passer bumbkus.  There is no commission if there are no sales, and very few people order online.

One Company I worked for had the Tech Support go home at 5 pm, even though we shot until 9 pm.  They were also closed on Saturday when we were working on Saturdays.  They would then have a fit when a Shoot was shut down due to equipment failure.

Some of my fellow Assembly Line Portrait Photographer have decided that they will never call Tech Support and they will keep using equipment even if it is held together with duct tape and bailing wire.  I have never been turned down when I ask for a piece of equipment-things need to be replaced once in a while.  Then the problem is one of The Company not ticking the returned item off a list somewhere.  More than once they have demanded I return something that was returned months ago.

Of course, it could be worse.  The Company really could have outsourced all the Tech Support to someone in the Arctic Circle.

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