Retail Tales – Kodak Create-A-Print and Unintended Consequences

Create-A-Print ImageTo say the Create-A-Print (CAP) was important to us is an understatement. Our photo lab was going strong. Lots of happy customers and plenty of business. These were the late 80’s and early 90’s and film photography was very, very good. One particular day my favorite Kodak rep of all time, Roger Reed, Came to me with a proposal. “Sign an agreement that says you will only use Kodak Chemistry and Paper in your photo lab, and Kodak will give you a Create-A-Print free.”   Talk about a no-brainer! We were already using the Kodak brand and were very happy with it, and so were our customers. So it was installed!


July of 1993 we went live with the CAP. Pricing was debated. Since we had no lease payments on the machine our physical output costs were quite low. The CAP only used one size of paper, 11′ wide by 90′ long. So a 5×7 on the CAP came out of the dryer with 2′ of white on both ends that needed to be trimmed off. An 8×10 had about 1/2″ on each side. So with packaging our physical cost including a small bit for chemistry and electricity, etc. was about .80 cents each for an 8×10 size. We talked about where to fit the pricing on this. Do we figure it as a premium product, where the customer has complete control over the outcome and therefore would spend extra for that. Or do we price it lower as a more budget option for the customer. Gene Taylor finally made the decision for us. “Price it low so everyone can afford it and get them into the store to possibly buy other things.” So we did. A 5×7 sold for about $1.50 and an 8×10 for around $3.99. Unheard of low prices for the time. And we were swamped. Lines of people at the machine waiting for their turn. We had to post a sign on the CAP limiting people to a time limit so we wouldn’t have fistfights in the line. Even though the CAP was designed for customers to run it themselves, we found that a majority of them had questions on it, and needed our help. It was pulling our lab people out from their machines doing other lab work, so we hired a new employee just for the CAP. Mary came to us answering an ad. And was she good. A tall, good looking teenager standing by the machine ready to help you brought in even more customers! Mary was the ‘CAP Queen’. We talked about a tiara and a sash for her. (Instead she met and married another great employee and went on to even bigger things, like kids and their own business!) Mary was with us for years, one of my better decisions.

During one busy time there was the ever present line of customers. The young lady at the machine puts her negative strip in and up pops pictures of her while working. Everyones attention is drawn to the screen. I see the customers craning their necks, looking over each others shoulders to see the screen. Evidently our young lady was a stripper. She must of been updating her resume. Anyway Mary quickly intervened and discreetly took the lady aside.

My wife was helping at the CAP another day when a similar thing happened. A middle aged lady puts in her strip. She was talking about the great motorcycle trip she had just been on with her husband and all their friends. The picture pops up on the screen and it is all of them around a long table at lunch. 20, 25 people all looking to the camera at the end of the table. And all the ladies have their shirts lifted up showing us…well you know.

The CAP worked marvelously for many years. But near the end of 5 years, as it started to show its age from so much use, it started to get quite problematic. Lots of downtime while we waited for technicians or parts. Or both. I ended up giving it back to Kodak in August of 1997. We had a great 5 years with the CAP and it was almost singularly responsible for a huge growth cycle for the lab. And maybe for a marriage and 3 kids!


Author: espyworks

I will be working on a theme for this as I go along. But there is a strong possibility that this will have no direct stream, and just ramble aimlessly. And thats fun too!