Did the Giant Fall?
B&H Photo has been my “go to” place for my camera gear for… well, for as long as I can remember. Officially known as B&H Photo & Electronics and located in New York City, B&H in my opinion was the gold standard in online camera gear purchasing. I have to admit I have never actually visited the mecca of “all things camera” however when I needed to purchase anything to do with photography or video B&H is where I would start. Be it something as small as a battery for 1964 Pentax camera or a major purchase of the newly released Blackmagic 6K cinema camera B&H was there for me.
Their website is the gold standard in finding information on almost any product. Like me, many people will use B&H’s website for looking up the specs on a product. Even outdated products will many times still be listed on the website. The product will be marked “discontinued” but the specs and Info are there for anyone to reference from.
Then came the Covid-19 virus crisis and like all things around the world life was severely dampened as we all headed in to a lockdown. With NYC being the epicenter of the virus crisis in the USA it was understandable that B&H would have to close its doors and it did. However, customers could still order online and pick up orders at the side door.
For me it did not take long to see the ripple in service to come racing across the surface.
First let’s go back to how it used to be to order from B&H. Now I will be writing about my own personal experience in shopping and ordering online but I know the experience was very much the same for many people. I live in Hunterdon County New Jersey, I’m located on the westside of NJ about 4 miles from the Delaware River, I can drive to B&H in 1 hour and 10 minutes (with moderate traffic). But, why would I want to ever drive there when I can place an order online and it would sometimes arrive the very next day with standard shipping. Yes, back in the day if I placed an online order in the morning before noontime often (not always) it would ship the same day by UPS and I would see the box at my door the next day by 3:00pm. And yes, I did say that was standard shipping. Obviously, logistics played a lot into this and I always reveled in the fact that while many things in life suck the one thing, I could always count on was getting my purchase from B&H lightning fast. I would always joke that “it was as if the B&H guy had ESP and was waiting outside my house with what it was, I was going to order.”
Well those days ended when B&H started to use FedEx Ground and it was a sad day for me. Where I live, I am about a 15-minute drive from the UPS terminal in Hamilton, NJ however, the FedEx Ground terminal for my area is located in Bethlehem, PA about 1 hour away. Needless to say, now shipping can take at least three days.
So now, here we are after several months of the virus crisis and the B&H shopping experience is far from a pleasure it once was and seems to be getting worse not better. Recently I placed and order for an office chair. It was listed as “In stock ready to ship.” Everything seems good, I get the confirmation email and then nothing. It just say’s “order processing” and a week goes by. Yup, 7 days. Then I email customer service and low and behold the order ships about 2 hours later. Then the next day I get an email saying “your order shipped yesterday.” This is pretty much how it is now when I place an order with B&H and yes, I have to admit I have started placing orders for gear with Amazon that I could buy at B&H. However, Amazon is not the best place to source certain kinds of camera gear from. Amazon has a sketchy reputation when it comes to things like memory cards and other photo & video related items. With B&H I have never ever felt that the product I was buying was not authentic and that it was the actual product it was labeled or packaged to be. I can say for 100% sure I received Sandisk SD cards from Amazon that were not the same as the ones I received from B&H. I could go on & on about this subject to the days end but, let’s just say B&H sells authentic products.
B&H has a great reputation with photographers of all levels. Yes, I was an armature when I found B&H many years ago and one of the things that really steered me to them was that fact that well-known famous photographers shopped there and spoke highly of the service and ability to get good gear quick. I have heard a story of a studio assistant running across town on her bike to get a much need piece of gear that broke in the middle of a shoot. Thanks to B&H she grabbed the flash head and returned to save the day. Actually, heard that story from a photographer giving a talk at the B&H event space. So, this was another great aspect of B&H and that is that they have produced so much online content that I have always taken advantage of.
How about meeting some of the people that work at B&H? While I stated earlier that I have never actually visited the store, I have always made it a point to at least say “hi” to the people working the tables at events outside of seminars at the Javits Center or the Philly Convention center. Again, always nice and pleasant conversation.
Today however, there are no seminars everything has given way to the online virtual seminars and B&H’s website has many mainstream products that say “back ordered.” Currently I have been waiting to purchase a camera slider from B&H. It is a well-known brand and other online dealers have it but the B&H website says “more expected soon” and it has been over a month. The New York Post released an article on May 1, 2020 describing the well-known camera shop as taking a very hard hit due to the virus crisis.
I want to see my favorite camera shop come back to the life it once had. I want to see our country come back to the life we lost before the China virus swept the world. I hope it is soon.