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!


Retail Tales – John Denver

Jenny and I are celebrating an anniversary. We are at the Tower Restaurant in Snowmass Village, CO. The bar in the Tower is a happening place in the late 80s. There is a magician slash bartender who puts on a great show and the bar is busy. We have a nice dinner and then go into the bar area for a drink and some entertainment. Sitting at out small table we notice a scruffy looking guy at the bar giving the regular bartender a very hard time. We don’t pay him much attention and start to enjoy our drinks. Jenny asks our waiter if John Denver still owns the restaurant. He says yes, and then puts his finger to his mouth in the ‘quiet’ motion and nods his head over his shoulder to the bar. It is John Denver at his worst. Drunk, obnoxious and angry. We watch John for awhile, finish our drinks and leave. This evidently is not uncommon for him at the time.

John Denver

John did many things for good and was an amazing entertainer. His life was cut short by an airplane accident in ’97. Sometimes the life perceived is not the life lived.

Retail Tales – Jerry Grote plays Tennis

It is the mid 80’s. Geno had a lot of friends from his early baseball playing days. One of them was Jerry Grote. This particular summer he stayed in the Gunnison area and helped out at the store a bit. When you look up ‘competitive’ in the dictionary it shows a picture of Jerry. So one weekend four of us decided to go play some tennis. Jerry, me, Mike McGinnis and Bill Bloomquist. We are playing along, talking smack and generally having a good time. Jerry decides it is time to ramp up the game a bit.


First he starts betting on the outcome of the next game. We choose partners and the game commences. About halfway through the first set he unleashes a verbal tirade on one of his opposing players. I forget if it is Mike or Bill right now. Anyway he just is brutal. Yelling at the top of his voice brutal. He is purposely getting into his opposing players head. Psyche out.  And it continues for the rest of the game. And we win solely because the game needed to end as fast as possible before someone starts a fight.

Later I ask Jerry about his attitude during the contest. “Just wanted to win, thats all” he says with a shrug. Testosterone and competitiveness, a lethal combination.