Thursday, December 04, 2008

Interregnum for a Black Friday

Most of the Black Friday sales were advertised for days in advance so shoppers knew where to find the best bargains. Universally, judging from comments, the “bargains” elicited yawns more than yikes. As many commentators put it, “Is that the best they can do?”

My sentiments exactly. I was ready to shop but hadn’t found anything worth spending my hard-earned cash on, and so gave the online ads only a cursory glance as I started my day.

My Black Friday day.

4:30 a.m., five grafs into my next column, more in my journal, and an ad pops up on my screen. I study it, searching the fine print for discrepancies or stipulations. I can’t find any. It says for today only, 7-7 Pacific time, customers receive 40% cash back for any product from HP.

Any product. 

This catapults me into my research mode, reading reviews, finding examples, sizing images in Adobe Lightroom, my editing software. It’s all motion and emotion as I contemplate a 13”x19” semi-pro printer I’ve always wanted, one that will print superb black-and-white as well as color. Think of it: prints as cheap as $2.50, and this on Hahnemuhle or Moab rag papers. Of course there would be the other expenses, the paper, the inks, the little things that jack up the final cost. I’d have to learn about paper profiles and calibration and all that. A similar-sized print (or thereabouts—none of the large photo labs uses that size, the nearest being 12”x18”)—runs between $10 for regular black-and-white paper to $21 for fine art paper. The savings are enormous, even factoring in the initial costs. What a deal. What an idea.

Just for grins, say I save $16 for each fine art print. I’d only have to print 20 images before breaking even. When looked at that way, it’s a steal.

Were I selling images, it would be a no-brainer. But I’m not.

On the other hand, this would make marketing and selling my photos much more profitable. 

And the price is right. The printer retails for $550 so the savings would come to $220. That is a big, big deal.

Plus free shipping! And no tax!


It’s the very first time I’ve seen that printer for less than $500. That’s how big this is.

It’s not the way I wanted the day to start. Cloudy and cold, with the chance of rain or snow showers, Lori home this morning, a column to write, an easy glide into the inevitable loneliness of an evening minus my life’s companion, and now this agonizing rumination on printing, art and making money at photography. It was assuredly easier to order a Dremel tool. Or a 16GB flash drive, which I’m still looking for. But a printer? I’d all but given up on ever being able to print my own images, and here’s the opportunity of a lifetime. Literally.

Maybe the link is fraudulent. Maybe it won’t work. I guess there’s nothing I can do until 9 a.m. when it goes live.

Until then, I float, my words for the next column as flat as the light outside, as colorless, as gray. And I click the link to see what happens.


10:15 a.m. and the HP site is down. Hammered, no doubt.

The good news is that the link is legitimate.

The question is whether it’s really 40% off everything or only on selected items. If it’s the latter, it’s a flagrant scam. I’m getting peeved at the uncertainty. C’mon, servers, handle the load! Jerks.

Lori said I should buy it for Christmas. But think of the expense! It’s like many things in the hobby world, the upfront costs are daunting. Any (theoretical) savings come later. I must return to my column. I have to get something done today to prove my worth as a wage-earner.

Noon. The column sucks. I’m unsure if there’s any redemption or if I would be better to delete the entire thing and start over.

The link is still broken. How am I supposed to concentrate with this distraction? One question that concerns me is whether after this much time and effort, if the link opened and actually worked as advertised would I buy the printer or walk away. If there’s any chance of the latter, I should give up now and focus on work. Walk away and forget it. After all, I’ve resigned myself for the most part to never being able to do my own printing—it’s that “for the most part” that nags at me. If photography is about the final image (and it is), then by not printing my own images I’m relegating to a stranger the single most important part of the process, the thing people actually see, the image itself in all its glory. Is that what I want, or do I need complete control? (Without sounding like a control freak, naturally!) So: if the link works, what will I do? 

I wish there was a way to express the long, drawn-out pause following that question.

I’ll buy it. That’s what I’ll do. Like I said, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime offer. I’d be a fool to let it pass.

I just don’t want to get my hopes up only to have them dashed.

On to work! 


4:35 p.m. and still no go, though the last few minutes I’ve at least been directed to the site before the screen dims and a little popup windows goes “oops!” Oops my ass, just get me there and I’ll do the rest. 

I’d like to say I’m in a spending mood but I’m really not. Funny how a printer isn’t sexy like a new flash or lens, more a service thing, like getting your oil changed or a new refrigerator. But the idea of printing my own images and having total control—final control—is captivating, possibly because I’ve never had that ability. Strange that I can spend so much time in my digital darkroom and never finish the job. 

In desperation I call HP and ask if the offer is online only or if they would help a poor bugger like me. Nope, can’t. So sad for the trouble. 

I cook dinner and eat alone, knock down a beer, put the dishes in the dishwasher and clean off the table. Night falls gray and cold and I begin to understand that there will be no new printer for me. It’s strange how you can go from not thinking about something one minute to craving it the next. These past few hours have been an evolution and I’m not sure how I see myself at this point. Frustrated, certainly, perhaps a bit depressed. Maybe a smidgen happy that I’m not spending money.

A friend sends me a news article about a Wal-Mart worker getting lethally trampled by eager shoppers. My revulsion quickly turns to reflection and a sudden queasy recognition. 

I click the refresh button and wait a few seconds while it thinks, and receive the oops window.

I click the refresh button.

I click the refresh button.

This is my life, clicking the refresh button. 


Laurel Johnson said...

A veteran of World War Two I know calls "the website being down" the old Army game. (promise a lot and give you the shaft.) Of course it was down. Do you think they wanted millions of people getting a 40% discount off their products? That has happened to me innumerable times on short term discounts. Sorry about the OOPS.

Tom Parker said...

The "oops" display was a real killer. Companies should have the balls to say something witty, like "Tough shit, try again," or something like that.
I'm hoping HP will read this and feel sorry for me, and drop one in the mail in time for Christmas delivery.

Anonymous said...


Had to check out your site after you left such nice comment at mine. Love these pics, especially the ones from NM! Man, to have that eye and a writing talent; I am jealous. You get a link on my site for all that.