I think back to the doubting-Thomases of 25 years ago. They weren't so sure my lab could do a roll in an hour and they hung out just to make sure I could meet the commitment. Well, now its 25 years later and I wanted to prove to myself that the one-hour upload promise could be met. I put it to the test.
I picked an image from my desktop folder and, using the Fuji web locator, I was directed to the Ritz store at Free Raceway Mall in my neighborhood of New Jersey. It was simple enough to upload the image and fill out the form to order three 4R prints, with border, at 29-cents each. One cool feature for Ritz was that I had to pay with my Visa card to complete the online order. Unlike roll film, Ritz gets their money even if I never show to pick it up.
I noted the time was 12:14 p.m. on a Sunday.
A few minutes later I received an email from Ritz acknowledging the receipt of the order, assigning an order number, confirming the order details, my name and address, and the total price of the order. (Sorry Rich Tranchida, it was only 92-cents. But, hey, this was only a trade trial.) As to pick-up time the only commitment was: "Available in as little as one hour."
To get to the mall by 1:14 p.m. I had to get moving. Arriving a few minutes early, I lingered until the precise time. The counter personnel were busy with customers and I didn't want to wait and give the lab folks more than the exact hour, so I walked to the rear of the Ritz store where the lab was located.
The young lady at the lab, Ashley Hutchinson, didn't even need my order number. Once she heard it was an online order she knew exactly where it was. She said it was the only one she had that morning. The firm, cardboard envelope had a printed label on it showing my name, order number and detail, and total cost. (The artwork on the Ritz envelope had a graphic showing six different digital media devices with the note: "It's all just film to us.")
I asked Ashley if many folks did uploads, "Yes." Did many come back at the exact minute as I did? "Well, not too many," she said very politely, but probably thinking something else.
She did say that she had customers who go away on vacation and upload each night, the images they want printed so they could clear their media cards for the next day of shooting. "When they come back, they pick up a big bag of prints."
When I returned home, I found another email from Ritz, this one telling me that my order was ready for pick-up. It meant nothing to me as I had already rushed to the mall and had my order. But for normal people it would serve as a reminder to pick up the order.
All-in-all, I would say that not only did Ritz pass the test but I think the concept is a wakeup call to:
• retailers who do not yet have the capability for their customers to upload to their store;
• the home printing industry which has probably peaked as the retail folks are finally getting it together by offering more options to consumers at far lower prices.