Thursday, October 29, 2009

eugene & co.

Because I like to play a photographer on tv, I'm often asked the following question by friends and clients: "What kind of camera should I get?" And my answer always begins with, "Well, I am by no means an expert . . . ", and always ends with, "But you really should go see the guys at Competive Cameras." They've truly got the whole "expert thing" down to a science. And then I do my spiel about the greatness regarding all things Ramsey, Eugene, Van and Robert (and, if you're lucky enough to catch them, the lovely Mary and Gina).

With the holiday season right around the corner, folks will soon begin their holiday shopping (if they haven't already). And I know on so many of those Wish Lists is some sort of camera, be it digital, video, pocket, or slr. And yes, you might be tempted by those "free shipping" or "lens filter included" enticements that the big chains and online stores might be offering right now. . . . but don't be fooled. Because, at some point down the road, you will pay for the "free whatever" they offer. You will scratch that cheap filter. Sally will have accidentally poured apple juice on your camera. Or you might drop it while climbing over pumpkins at the patch, in the hopes of nailing the perfect shot. My point is, dear reader, when something goes wrong, you'll have to handle it yourself. With outrageous hold times waiting for a customer service rep (who, let's be honest, won't be much help, anyway). Or boxing up and mailing the camera back to the dealer yourself. And then you'll be kicking yourself that you didn't listen to little old me.

When you buy from Competitive Cameras, "Your problem is our problem." I can't tell you how many times I've heard Ramsey, the store's founder (and proud papa to Eugene and Gina) tell that to a customer. And I can't tell you how many times it's happened to me, over the course of a year.

By now, I'm a Competitive Cameras addict. I first walked into their store a year ago last month. And I think I've been back every month since. Sometimes several times a month. When we go to buy our next home, one of my "musts" will be that it's not too far from Competitive Cameras. I buy all my equipment from them: everything from batteries to the $2000 glass. And I am always beyond 100% satisfied with everything. From the purchase, to the excellent customer service, to the way the rest of the folks behind the counter treat me and everyone else waiting to be helped.

And be forewarned, you might have a bit of a wait when you go to see them. And that's because once someone buys from them, they keep going back. And they send their friends. And the store becomes a mecca for photographers, both the avid amateur and the seasoned professional. I've been in the store when someone walks in fresh off a road trip from Louisiana, just to buy something from them . . . while someone else in New York is holding on line 1. But your wait won't be long. Somehow, with the nonstop traffic into their store and the constant ringing of the phone from clients around the country, they help everyone. It's a fast paced environment, and I don't know how they keep it all going. But they do. And people keep coming back.

The place is family owned and operated. Ramsey opened the store almost 30 years ago. He and his wife Mary ran it, while their little children, Eugene and Gina, played and interacted with customers. 30 years later, Ramsey and Mary still greet all the customers. Eugene is now running the digital side and still interacting with customers, and Gina will sometimes moonlight behind the counter on the weekends. While talking to you about how many mega pixels you actually need, Eugene will also be telling his Dad what is on tap for the Family Dinner on Sunday. The charming Van and Robert round out the rest of the sales staff, and any one of them will take excellent care of you. Especially if you tell them that the Crazy Brownie Lady in Wylie sent you.

I will be honest, I had heard about the store for a couple years. But with two little kids, I was too intimidated to go there. I had barely gone professional, and I didn't think I'd have a place there. Three years later, I still kick myself. I ended up buying a camera at one of the major chains that I outgrew in six months. And when I finally did step foot into Competitive Cameras, with two little ones in tow, I was treated with nothing but respect and kindness. I know you're shaking your head thinking, "I don't want to shoot professionally. I just want a camera to take pics of my kids. I can buy online. Or from Wolf." And yes, you can. But they won't be any cheaper than Competitive Cameras. And you will never get the kind of service you deserve as a customer. Because, for Competitive Cameras, customer service does not begin and end with the swipe of a credit card. Six months later, when you walk back in to their store without buying a thing, you're still a valued customer. And the really great thing about Competitive Cameras is that everyone has a place there. Whether you're a stay-at-home mom, a college kid taking your first photography class, or your about to open your third studio in the heart of Dallas, Competitive Cameras is the photography store for you. Prices can not be beat, customer service can not be beat, and inventory can not be beat. And, most importantly, they will not try to sell you more than you need. I have never once felt high-pressure sales, nor have I heard them treat anyone else that way, either. They aren't looking to make X many sales a day. They want you to leave happy. And to come back happier.

The folks at Competitive Cameras, to me, are like the Great and Mighty Oz. Hiding behind the curtain, they are really the ones running the show. They outfit so many big studios and teach so many photogs so many things. They have stood behind me for the last year, patiently teaching and enlightening me. I can not thank them enough for the wonderful service they have given me this last year, and I know the next year will only be better. I hope you take a few minutes to stop in one day and see for yourself. I'm usually there on Thursdays. I'll save you a seat at the counter.

2025 Irving Blvd., #107
Dallas, TX 75207

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