I’m an avid buyer of online things; being able to find the best deals for stuff, and snipe auctions and bids for things that I want. For most things, I’d always opt to buy a product online because of the cheaper price associate with “warehouse businesses”; compared to the premium as a result of “shopfront businesses”. But there are some things that I would much rather buy in-person, even if it might cost more - products where customer service is crucial.
There are several camera stores around the Sydney CBD (Australia), the main ones being Ted’s Cameras, Georges and digiDirect. In this post I just wanted to share my experiences with these stores.
The digiDirect store in Sydney is quite small. I only pick-up small / consumable things from here. I’m sure the staff here are knowledgeable but I’ve never really asked. Often digiDirect has slightly cheaper prices than other stores which is nice.
I have a gripe with Georges. Without sounding too harsh - I wish that their customer service were better than they are.
Two stories. The first is with upgrading one of my Tamron lenses. On the Tamron Australia website, Georges was listed as the only central Sydney store that offered a free “TAP-in Console” service to upgrade the firmware of Tamron lenses.
I brought my 70-200mm (A025) into the store on 18th January 2021, however they did not have the console for the Canon adapter :(. This was disappointing as it was literally the only store in Sydney, unless I trekked to Campbelltown, or Gosford… However, they did offer to order the TAP-in Console, and notify me when they received it. At the time of writing this post (10th March 2021) they have not yet gotten back to me.
I guess you can’t do much when things are backlogged as a result of global shipment delays, but I found it poor service to not have the Canon adapter despite being a listed vendor.
The other story is with upgrading yet another of my Tamron lenses, which required the manufacturer to upgrade the firmware themselves - in order for it work on the EOS R models. I also sent this in on 18th January 2021, and was told that I would be notified when the lens is ready to be collected back in the store.
After waiting patiently a little under two months, I called Georges up to inquire about the status of my lens service. They then proceeded to tell me that they’ve been waiting for me to give a thumbs up to agree with the repair costs. Firstly, the service request had already contained my approval for any associated repair costs; so I don’t understand why they were waiting. And secondly, Georges never contacted me to notify me of this status. That’s two months worth of financial inability, despite the fact that my lens could have been returned much sooner - if they had bothered to contact me.
To me, that’s quite a disappointing impression on George’s technical support department. However the storeperson I spoke to was quite friendly and well learned, so I’m not fully against them. And then again, stores only take the initiative to contact you when you owe them something…
Compared to Georges, Ted’s Cameras is a completely lovely experience. The Sydney showroom is large with a plethora of cameras, lenses, tripods, and imaging stuff that you’re free to try out. The staff there are very knowledgeable and friendly, but most importantly - Ted’s demonstrates excellent customer service; through their in-person staff, their online sales chat, and especially their follow-up service.
I had gone into the store sometime in February 2021, wanting to have a look at a mirrorless camera and a video tripod - I was served by a staff named Minh. No kidding, he stayed with me for almost three whole hours, taking out a whole bunch of different tripods and letting me go ham on inspecting every little part of them (Gotta get that 🌟 f l u i d ✨ movement). Despite the tripod being about $20 more expensive than what I could have gotten elsewhere, I decided to buy the tripod from Ted’s - out of appreciation for their excellent customer service.
Upon arriving home and testing the new tripod, it seemed that the tripod head had an issue (Note to self: Test the product you own at the store before you leave). The next day I called up the store, and explained my situation. After a lack of complicated or lengthy diagnostic dialogue, I was told that they would set aside a replacement tripod head for me to switch with. That’s just amazing.
Obligatory diagnostic conversation aside, I was really appreciative that I wasn’t treated as if I was a baby (Now cast your mind towards computer manufacturer support services who ask you to turn off and on the computer to “fix” technical problems). After recognising that I was knowledgeable (enough), they went straight to the useful conversation of switching out the tripod head for a spare one.
Ted’s is what I would consider the gold standard for customer service; staff who are each more than capable of doing a great job; and the company’s efforts as a whole to maintain a high level of customer service.
In another event, I was looking out for my friend who wanted to purchase the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 (~$700 AUD) to pair with their Canon EOS RP. Looking at online classifieds, most sellers were listing their 35mm lenses for around $500-600. One seller listed theirs for $400, but ended up a no-show after agreeing to meet up.
Although it wasn’t listed on their website (probably because there was only one in stock) - I called up Ted’s, who informed me that they had a second-hand 35mm for $450. Wow!
It even came with one year of warranty, how good is that!