“You had a pretty good week last week.” The Manager says and nods in my direction. “Why don’t you tell us what you did so we can all do better this week.”
“I took a variety of poses, used a variety of props, and got a variety of expressions.” I say and smile at the unsmiling faces of my co-workers.
The truth of the matter back then was, as it is now, I was given Good Shoots by the Manager. My current Manager used pretty much the same old song and dance at this week’s meeting-So Golden Boy #1, tell us how you did at that Good Shoot I gave you last week? Great! Now Golden Girl #1 tell us how you did working beside Golden Boy #1 at that same Good Shoot last week? Super! Now if the rest of you slackers would just fall into line everything would be great for the whole District!
The list of the Chosen Few remains the same as it has been for the past few years. The same people are given work and the same people are either left to sit at home or sent out to crap Shoots and scolded for not running a $1000 Sales Average. The Manager, of course, says these were not Good Shoots, they were just Average Shoots that had Great People working them! Uh, yeah, right.
Assembly Line Portraits is the Art of the Bait and Switch and the Hidden Sale. The Manager was so proud of her Golden Children and their expert sales techniques. For Example:
Say you have a Portrait you want to sell. The Portrait by itself might cost only twenty dollars. But the successful Passer with get over a hundred dollars for that portrait. Retouch it. Frame in. Upgrade to it Canvas. And make sure it’s part of a Collection or Package made up of other retouched, framed, and upgraded portraits. I like working with Passers who are good at this, but I have never been good at it. It takes a bit of practice to tell people with a straight face that it will cost five hundred dollars for five portraits-cash, check, or charge?
The trick, of course, is never telling the Subject exactly what they’re buying. Tell someone a frame cost $50 and they might decide they can pick one up at Wal-Mart themselves. Tell them it cost $50 for retouching and they might decide they don’t look that bad. Tell them the Canvas upgrade cost $120 and suddenly paper looks just fine. But just give them a nice clean total and they will reach for their wallet.
Some people don’t last long in the Assembly Line Portrait world because all of this smacks of dishonesty. After all, our ‘Customers’ just came in for a free 8×10, didn’t they?
We’re now having Weekly Meetings, which might be helpful for the handful of people who are working, but they are pretty damned dull for the rest of us. Not to mention that it’s the same damned thing I’ve been hearing for the past 17 years. Be nice to people, don’t say negative things, get the Subjects to spend as much money as possible. All well and good-unless you’re working the usual kind of Shoot I am sent to. People without money won’t buy no matter how great a closer you are.
Back in the old days when I was The Golden Boy I kind of liked the attention and it was easy enough to make up a few things that sounded good when the Manager asked for me to speak. But it’s all bullshit. So much of a Shoot’s success or failure has nothing to do with the Photographer and the Passer. But there’s no Meeting material in that kind of topic. The Photo Manager has to spin some tale where what the Photographer does is ALL that matters.
I went to buy a TV not too long ago. I bought it from the random guy that walked up and asked if I needed help. He didn’t do anything special, he just happen to be there when I was ready to buy. But if he had a good week, then I’m sure his Manager pointed at him as a shining example of a successful salesman.
Summary of every Assembly Line Portrait Meeting-
Photographers: Take Better Portraits!
Passers: Sell More Products! Portraits are a small part the product list-so be sure to feature Retouch, Frames, Canvas, Collages, Key-chains, Calendars, Bookmarks, and anything else we can get a good mark-up on.
PreSellers: Book More Accounts! It doesn’t matter if we were there six months ago, we need Shoots!
Managers: Keep your Favorites working and try to starve out and run off everyone else. Be sure to tell them that you are not trying to starve them out or run them off.
CEO, CFO, Etc: Put all the profits into offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands and make sure none of the front line people ever find out how much money the Company is raking in while they work two weeks a month and collect Unemployment for the better part of the year.
Usual Assembly Line Portrait Messages: Always make the Customer feel super special and exceed their expectations! Never say anything negative, even if there is some reason to say something negative, just smile and say yes. Setup and take portraits, even if the room is too small. Smile at everyone, even if they all walk in and say I’m just here for the Book. Run a hundred dollar sales average, even if you’re shooting in a poor location and no one has any money-There are no Bad Shoots, only Bad Employees!
And so on and so forth.
Once upon a time I would get a Good Shoot and make some real money. Last year I got to travel a bit and see a few fun places and take some good travel pics, but I didn’t work many Good Shoots. And yet the Manager is still amazed that I’m not as positive as I could be. Go figure. I’m sure she’ll have some more sage advice for me at next week’s Meeting.