Sunday, August 16, 2009


As anyone who knows me or who has read this blog most likely knows (because I never shut up about it), in June of 2008, I took a four-week, cross-country road trip. I took a lot of photos, not just digital, but also film. I just like film. This trip, I only took film photos because I no longer have a digital camera. Anyway.
So, for some reason, I didn't make time to get the film developed at East Brunswick Shop Rite during the whole entire two months that I was living in New Brunswick. Oh I know, because it wasn't on my way to work, my commute sucked, and I couldn't bring myself to make a twenty to thirty minute round trip when I was so stressed out about moving and packing and all that. Anyway.
When I moved to Morristown, developing the film was near the top of my To Do List. I decided I was going to get it developed by someplace REALLY good. Even though I'd never had a problem with Shop Rite, my road trip pictures were really valuable to me. I think they were even more so because I was so miserable in my new life and it was the opposite of my road trip. My road trip was like being free; my new life made me feel trapped.
So after about a month of deliberation, I brought them to a small, family-owned camera shop that looked like a nice place. Part of what took me so long was that the shop closed pretty early on weeknights, and it was hard to get there after work. I worked a lot of Saturdays, too, which made it even more difficult.
The website said that developing was $4.00 a roll, for single prints. It was $4.99 a roll at Shop Rite for double prints, but I didn't really want doubles, and wouldn't it be nice to support a local business? Plus I wasn't sure if the Shop Rites in this part of New Jersey actually developed film, or did a good job, or wouldn't lose my film.
A few days later, I put on my skinny jeans and my fringey boots and my UBC sweatshirt (my uniform for going downtown) and walked down to the photo shop. I had only brought five or six rolls to the shop, not all of them, for some reason. Boy am I glad I did this. I'm also glad I brought my Visa with me.
I expected the developing cost to be $20 or $30. I could not hide my shock when the order rang up as $69. The cashier was a handsome, blonde-and-gelled-haired, blue-eyed guy in an Abercrombie jacket. I was too shy to question him about the price. I just handed him my credit card, my hands shaking a little, and walked to a coffeehouse next door. I ordered the smallest, cheapest cup of Fair Trade coffee, since I had just forked over seventy bucks for my photos.
Still, I was filled with happy anticipation when I opened the envelopes.
I was dismayed. The photos--my photos--of the Grand Canyon and California redwoods and Washington Park and the Painted Desert and Shenandoah National Park....
They were awful.
They were dark and blurry. It looked like I had underexposed the film and shaken my hands a whole lot. (These two things usually do not go together.) It's true, the trip was the first time I'd used a fully manual SLR in a few months, so I could see forgetting how to read a light meter and keep my hand still for the first roll or so. But you'd think after a couple of rolls, I'd catch on!
The next day, a little after 5, I called the shop from my desk. I could tell it was the handsome guy who answered; I recognized his voice. I felt like I had to be brave--like this was equal to some really scary task--to question the bill. I asked him why five rolls of film came out to be more than sixty dollars. That's like...more than $13 a roll. He said, "It's four dollars per 35mm roll, plus XX cents per shot." (I assumed this meant, XX cents for everything over 24 or whatever the standard is.) "Right, so how does that come out to $13 a roll?" He had to go over the math with a me a couple of times before I wasn't $4 + (XXcents * 5 photos) or something like that. It was $4 + (XXcents * 27 photos). That's how it came out to be $13 a roll.
"Oh....okay...thanks..." I hung up, embarrassed. I had just revealed myself to be an ignorant poor person.
Eventually, I realized I'd been ripped off, not only because under any circumstances $5 a roll is outrageous, but also because the film had been badly developed. I don't think I really underexposed and underfocused those shots. So, at this small, friendly-seeming camera shop in Morristown, I was overcharged for bad service and then felt bad about it.
I feel like this is some kind of symbol for my entire Morristown Experience.


LS said...

Next time, mail the rolls to York Photo. Great service, fast, and if you have digital, you can upload from your home computer. And they do cheap enlargements.

Sorry about your photos, that is horrible. If you still have the film, get prints somewhere else.

And the best thing in Morristown is empanadas, not stores aiming to the rich and ignorant. You are not ignorant, they just used you. Sorry gal. Now go over to our blog for a laugh, I posted something for you!

Sarah said...

Thanks, I should see if I can mail them the negatives. When I'm in NJ I plan to look for them. I don't know too much about film so I have been asking people if the negatives are ruined, too, or if they're film...and a good developer will get them right. You're the third person to tell me this.

LS said...

I know that York doesn't charge you if the film is bad, at least not last time that happened to me. Just e-mail them and find out.