Magazine Article


It Is Now Official: Digital Replacing Film

Our columnist finds a Kodak Picture Maker at Wegmans and, thankfully, a chair to sit in while he works. (photo by Joan Lansky)

A work station is fine for the employee to use for picture restoration and other artsy projects. It’s not customer friendly and definitely not a replacement for a kiosk. I missed the fun of cropping, zooming and coloring all by myself on the G-3, Aladdin and PictureStation and could not do that on the work station. These folks took away my toy.

Turn Around Time: I’m afraid we, as an industry, are locked into the concept of one-hour processing. No doubt a carryover from the time it really took an hour to process and print a roll. When I asked on my survey how long it would take to get my two or three prints, I was given the Pavlovian response: "One hour." Only Eckerd delivered the prints to me in just a few minutes.

Is it a conspiracy to keep me in the store for an hour? Is it a way for the employee to not have to drop the cell phone and go to work? Is it just habit? Whatever. If I were still in the lab business I would want to demonstrate to the consumer that my system was equal to the task of digital speed and could deliver a reasonably sized order back in 15 or 20 minutes.

Would a customer be more inclined to come back to my kiosk again knowing he/she could get prints returned in a few minutes; or, if he/she felt trapped for one hour, with no shopping to do, or having to make a return trip to the store for the print pickup—like in the old days of film?

Pricing: I found three price levels in the stores I visited. Wal-Mart was the leader with 24-cents per print from digital; the supermarkets and drug stores were all 29-cents for a 4x6; and the independents somewhat higher. Ritz, for example, was 35-cents, though club members would pay 33-cents or 29-cents for orders of 25 or more prints. One indy charged 49-cents, the other 45-cents.

Kinkos, with the Sony PictureStation and on-board thermal prints, was the highest in the area at 59-cents for a 4x6.

Having prints made to a CD had less consistent pricing. Kinkos offered the service for $4.99; Ritz for $6.99; the supermarkets and drug stores as low as $3.99; and one of the indy stores priced a CD for $14.

Conclusions: As mentioned, this was my first try at using a kiosk in a real world retail setting. To be honest, I was very surprised at the differences I encountered. I expected to have pretty much the same experience at a Fuji Aladdin or a Kodak G-3 or Sony no matter where I used it. Not the case at all. What could have easily ended up as a commodity service—simply transferring digital images to prints—turned out for me to be a variety of experiences, a few good, many bad.

As we shift into digital mode, on-site labs should take heart in knowing there is a great opportunity to separate oneself from the competition by taking the hassle out of the kiosk process and making it a positive experience for the customer.