Crusty old camera (or watch) repairmen

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by The Bill Mattocks, Sep 2, 2003.

  1. I'm just checking to see of others have had the same experiences with
    camera or watch repairmen that I have had...

    I collect old cameras. I also collect old mechanical watches. In
    both cases, they usually are in dire need of a CLA at the very least.
    Sometimes the cost is prohibitive, but sometimes I am willing to spend
    the money because I really want to use the camera (or the watch). Not
    economical, but a personal choice. Hey, we all have quirks, mine is I
    like to shoot pictures with ancient mechanical rangefinders, and wear
    vintage American mechanical watches.

    In both cases, I often find it difficult to talk a repairman into
    actually doing the CLA. I try to frequent local businesses (I live in
    Albuquerque) when I can, but I find that no matter where I go, the
    result is usually the same.

    Here in Duke City, I find that the local repairmen (camera and watch
    alike) seem to be cut from the same cloth. Cranky older guys who take
    one look at my dusty treasure, pronounce it 'junk' and refuse to CLA
    it. They tell me "It's not worth the money."

    I have to sweet-talk them and convince them that I *really am* willing
    to spend X dollars to CLA the camera or watch, and even then, they're
    searching for ways to avoid actually taking the job. They'll
    complaint that they're afraid they won't get paid - I offer to pay an
    estimated cost up front. They'll complain about lack of parts - and I
    offer to provide several identical models that they can cannibalize if
    required. They complain about the lack of documentation, and I offer
    to provide tech/repair manuals I've purchased or downloaded off the
    net. They say it will take 8-12 weeks, and I tell them I'm fine with
    that. When they finally run out of excuses, sometimes they actually
    take the work. Other times, they just refuse, even if they have no
    more reasons why not.

    I had one guy actually drop my vintage Olympus RC camera in his trash
    can in front of me, telling me I'm better off buying a new camera. I
    had to grit my teeth and gently cajole him into giving the thing back
    to me, trying to avoid the impulse to jump the counter and throttle
    the old fart.

    One local camera repair shop has been 'in business' for decades here
    in town, if you can call trying to avoid all work as 'in business'.
    Everytime I come in, the guy is sitting and chatting with a local cop
    who drops by all the time, so it's not like he's backed up with work.
    I've actually managed to have him CLA a couple of cameras for me, when
    I can manage to arrive when his assistant is in instead of him.

    If I had a lick of mechanical ability, I'd do the work myself, but
    every attempt I have made has resulted in disaster. I accept that I'm
    all thumbs when it comes to mechanical devices, and am willing to pay
    someone else to do the work. How hard is that?

    What is it with these guys? I don't have to plead with my auto
    mechanic to get my car repaired! They take my money cheerfully and
    fix my car, even though the car is old. Sometimes they tell me that
    cost is likely to be an issue, but they don't refuse to work on it if
    I am willing to pay.

    I've never run into a service industry like this - where the people
    providing the service are outright hostile to their customers, and try
    to avoid actually taking a camera or watch in for repair if they can
    possibly avoid it!

    Anyone else, or am I the only one who has noticed this?

    Best Regards,

    Bill Mattocks

    PS - Here's an old camera repair joke I heard:

    A guy decides to donate some old clothes to charity. In the process
    of cleaning out the pockets, etc, he comes across a camera repair
    ticket from some thirty years previous. Apparently, he dropped a
    camera off for repair and never picked it up. Chuckling at himself,
    he pockets the ticket and forgets about it again.

    A few days later, he happens to be driving through his old
    neighborhood, and amazingly, the old camera repair shop is still
    there! On a lark, he stops, goes inside, and presents the ancient
    repair ticket to the shop owner with a straight face.

    The camera repairman peers at the ticket for a moment, consults his
    records, and announces "It will be ready next Tuesday."
    The Bill Mattocks, Sep 2, 2003
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  2. The everyday fixes don't require time, effort or thinking as much. And
    that's sad. Especially when the guy can just take his time with it.
    drhowarddrfinedrhoward, Sep 2, 2003
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  3. The Bill Mattocks

    ROBMURR Guest

    No experience with watch repairs but here
    in Atlanta there are about 6 camera repair
    shops that have no problem taking any
    camera in for repair to do a CLA...
    Peachtree Camera is a family owned business that does work by mail
    if you are interested.
    ROBMURR, Sep 2, 2003
  4. I think there are a few reasons - but largely it's probably a fear of the
    unknown. These people probably know very little about the camera/watch you
    want repaired - hell, you might actually know more than them - but they
    can't just say 'I haven't a clue how to fix that thing'.. No, they try to
    dress it up with all manner of excuses so that you go away and they haven't
    admitted that they're not as clued up as you think they are. Next time,
    maybe you should ask them to explain exactly why they are reluctant to work
    on a particular camera/watch. However, maybe you should take it somewhere
    else if they're so keen to get rid of you.
    I've actually had some trouble here. Last year I decided I wanted to get rid
    of the rust on my old Peugeot 305 and respray the entire car. Now, you'd
    figure I'd be able to find a reputable place to do the work - but it was a
    lot harder than I thought. Without fail, almost every single person I spoke
    to told me that my car wasn't worth respraying as it wasn't worth much
    money. Each time, I told them that I wasn't interested in how much the car
    was worth, I just wanted to get it back to a decent condition. They all gave
    me excuses or told me things like 'get the parts and I'll think about it'. I
    eventually realised that these people were used to dealing with older or
    more expensive cars (one guy I spoke to had just finished a ground-up
    rebuild of a Ferrari 308 at the time) and they just weren't interested in
    respraying an 80's banger. One body repair shop recommended someone who
    might do it, but they even warned me that he was 'a bit picky' about the
    sort of cars he worked on. I guess these guys get enough work as it is
    without having to mess about with a car they don't even like.
    I ended up respraying the car myself.

    Chris Barnard, Sep 2, 2003
  5. The Bill Mattocks

    John Miller Guest

    You're not alone, but heed a crusty old guy's hard-earned advice: never
    argue with someone to get him to take your money. Instead, spend that time
    and effort finding someone who wants (and deserves) your business.

    John Miller

    brain, n:
    The apparatus with which we think that we think.
    -Ambrose Bierce, "The Devil's Dictionary"
    John Miller, Sep 2, 2003
  6. The Bill Mattocks

    Nick Zentena Guest

    Assuming the people you go to don't sell new cameras I'd think they are
    worried you would be better off with a new. I've no trouble finding service
    for older cameras. Now I go to the sort of people that fix older cameras and
    not to those that are geared to fixing new. They tend to be better at fixing
    the old and have little trouble finding parts.

    Think about it. The average person walks in with junk drawer camera. Wants
    it fixed. Gets a bill that exceeds the price of a new camera. They freak. I
    can see the average repair place not wanting to deal with these people. You
    need to find a local place that LIKES old cameras.

    Nick Zentena, Sep 2, 2003
  7. The Bill Mattocks

    randee Guest

    Can't speak to cameras, I've run into the same problem myself; altho a
    local repairman did tell me about a good place im Mesa (Az.). Can't
    remember the name now but they advertise in one of the camera exchange

    Re: watches, there are some people that will work on the AMerican
    watches, particularly railroad grade watches. Some advertise on the
    NAWCC journal, and I think one or two respond here occasionally. If the
    post office is close to you, probably just as easy to send the watch to
    somebody for service. Contact me off-line if you want a few names out
    of the NAWCC magazine.
    randee, Sep 2, 2003
  8. I can't say for sure. I have never had a problem.

    I would guess that after many years of having people bring in a camera
    or watch to be repaired, only to be disappointed at the results after the
    repair would turn any repairman off.

    I can see many being shocked at the cost of a repair, complaining that
    the repairman was trying to rip them off, after all how could it cost $50.
    to repair a object that only cost $100 new.

    How many people have left something for repair, and when they get to
    talking to others and find that their precious is only worth $2.75 today,
    never return to pick it up or pay for it.

    How many get it back only to find out that a cheap camera of 30 years
    ago does not have batteries available for it, that it does not take great
    photos (uncle Fred was a great photographer and would have made good photos
    with a pin hole camera and they expected the repaired camera to take photos
    just like the ones uncle Fred's.) or that the 25 year old watch does not
    keep as good time as the $10 digital their son just bought. Then they bad
    mouth the repairman.

    Yea, I can understand.
    Joseph Meehan, Sep 3, 2003
  9. The Bill Mattocks

    Tony Spadaro Guest

    Tony Spadaro, Sep 3, 2003
  10. The Bill Mattocks

    The Baron Guest

    I probably am one of those crusty old repairmen. For many years I
    thought people didn't want to repair something that cost more than it's
    value, but I was wrong, many do, especially if it belonged to one of their
    family members.
    I no longer ''appraise'' customers timepieces, just give them a price.
    They sometimes ask but I don't volunteer any information. I also take the
    money up front, this eliminates problems later on.
    My colleagues don't like to work on ''junk'' as they call it. If
    someone wants a Big Ben alarm clock to run, then I don't care if it takes
    three used movements to make one working. If the customer wants to pay me,
    then I'll take their money and make them happy.
    The Baron, Sep 3, 2003
  11. Yes, there are a few places that are highly recommended that I can
    send a camera to - but you'd think that wanting to give my business to
    a local shop, the guy would be willing to take my filthy lucre. Sigh.
    I guess they don't want my money.
    Appreciate it, but that's what I do now. The local guys I've tried
    just aren't competent. I now have a nice Fortis automatic that the
    movement sloshes around in the case - all I sent it in for was a CLA.
    I have another old Hamilton with a nice, new, JAPANESE QUARTZ MOVEMENT
    - I had sent that in for CLA as well. They guy was shocked that I was
    upset he had tossed my Hamilton 747 movement. Not worth cleaning and
    timing, he told me. The quartz is much more accurate, he told me. I
    threatened to sue him if he didn't get my mechanical movement back -
    he tossed me out of his store. I travel for a living, I never got
    around to suing his worthless butt.

    I was a NAWCC member for many years, donated to the museum fund as

    Best Regards,

    Bill Mattocks
    The Bill Mattocks, Sep 3, 2003
  12. You've got a good point there. It is amazing that in a service
    industry (one that is slowly dying as well), there are guys whose
    income depends on the level of service they provide - and they refuse
    to do so. What a world.

    Best Regards,

    Bill Mattocks
    The Bill Mattocks, Sep 3, 2003
  13. The Bill Mattocks

    Bob Fowler Guest

    <big snip>

    I feel your pain... I had a repair shop tell me that an MD-12 "wasn't worth
    fixing" when all it needed was a power switch. I wound up doing the repair
    myself (and saved a bundle too).
    Bob Fowler, Sep 3, 2003
  14. I can understand that, but I tell them to give me a realistic estimate
    - I'll pay up front. Give me a high number that it might go as high
    as, and I'll decide yea or nay.

    Good lord, I've paid $110 for a CLA on a Canon FTbN, not worth the
    money, certainly, but I wanted it done and was willing to pay. I
    didn't squeak, I knew up front what it might cost. As it turned out,
    the local shop I dealt with that time just shipped it off to someone
    else - so I would have been better served to do that myself. But we
    *have* repair guys here in ABQ, they just don't seem to want ANY

    Best Regards,

    Bill Mattocks
    The Bill Mattocks, Sep 3, 2003
  15. Thanks, I appreciate it! I have also heard good things about Mark
    Hama, isn't he located down that way?

    Best Regards,

    Bill Mattocks
    The Bill Mattocks, Sep 3, 2003
  16. The Bill Mattocks

    Steve Rayner Guest

    I used to find that a lot of people didn't like the idea of paying a deposit
    in advance. Far too many people would not pick up a watch, or other repaired
    item when it was ready. It seems to be a problem all over this area. The
    cost, and effort required to place a mechanics lien on a small item in order
    to seize it, is simply not worth the effort.

    Steve Rayner.
    Steve Rayner, Sep 3, 2003
  17. <snip>

    Best Post In Thread!!!

    Bill Tallman
    William D. Tallman, Sep 3, 2003
  18. <snip>

    How many people do you know who are collectors? Of the people you know,
    what percentage of them are collectors?

    If the answer to these questions indicate that you mostly hang out with
    collectors, be appraised that the rest of the world are not collectors.
    Repair people service non-collectors, by and large, and gear their business
    practices accordingly.

    What you need to do is to inform any repair person with whom you would do
    business that you are a Collector, and that you require the piece to be
    treated as a valuable Collectable. That will quickly differentiate you
    from the rest of their clientele, and you'll be treated accordingly. If it
    does not, then remove yourself and your watch/camera from the premises
    without further ado.

    I would guess that if you do this, you will eventually run across a crusty
    old fart who will be more than willing to regale you with a description of
    their own favorite old timepieces/cameras, and mostly from the point of
    view of serviceability and robustness.

    Communication, if established from the beginning, solves these sorts of

    Bill Tallman
    William D. Tallman, Sep 3, 2003
  19. The Bill Mattocks

    The Baron Guest

    I think this is why paying up front makes the most sense, as the repairman
    you don't lose. If a customer doesn't want to pay, they can go somewhere

    I have had one ''mind changer'', (on low end goods) and will never have
    The Baron, Sep 3, 2003
  20. I had a similar experience with the authorized Canon repair shop here in San
    I took my Canon 100mm f2 USM in there because it had ceased to AF. I knew
    the cause, it got hit by a considerable wave and was drenched. I handed it
    to the counter person, not telling her what the cause of the problem was,
    she took it back to the repair person. Moments later, she returned, and
    said, "It's impact damage, and since the lens is out of production, (it
    isn't) it's unrepairable." I asked her or the "repair person" to point out
    the evidence of impact (the lens is pristine outside) but she couldn't, just
    repeating what she was told. So I just walked out. Don't these guys want
    to make any money? Do they just try when they can bilk the mfr. for
    warranty costs? Took it to another shop, where it was repaired without
    question, after a long wait for a new motor.
    Skip Middleton, Sep 3, 2003
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