Tuesday, February 2, 2010


One of the problems with buying a new home is that at some point in the future everything begins to break down, usually at the same time.

Our home is 20 years old and things need to be replaced, repaired or updated. We've tried to stay ahead of the curve on these issues but it can get away from you very quickly. When we started the work on the basement we decided to be proactive and replace the water heater before it decided to die of it's own accord.

A broken water heater is the first homeowner disaster I faced in my tiny condo. I came home from work one day to find a flood of water in the kitchen and dining room. The water heater had broken and all the contents were soaking the floors.

I'm amazed when I think of that place because it has occurred to me that the entire condo would fit in our three car garage. I don't remember it feeling cramped. It was a nice space for one person and certainly an improvement over some of the apartments I'd lived in.

Every disaster increases your knowledge and my second learning experience was when I noticed the floors in the living room were damp. The mystery was that the dampness was only in a narrow area under each window. DUH.... the windows needed to be caulked on the exterior of the unit. Who knew? Certainly not a 26-year-old single woman.

Unfortunately for me, the same breakdown rule applies to my collection of cameras. When I got back into photography about 7 years ago, I started buying some cameras and now, one by one, they are breaking down. As I've mentioned many times I'm a big, BIG fan of low-tech. The old film cameras, with heavy materials and few moving parts, are the workhorses. But the digitals provide speed and low cost operation. Working with film can get quite expensive.

In the middle of putting our daughter through college I managed to scrape together money to buy a Nikon D70. At the time, my camera was superior to those being used by the photographers at the newspaper where I worked. I was in heaven. With a large memory card I could take 1,000 photos. I became more selective after I realized that upon returning home I'd need to deal with 1,000 photos.

I also bought a mid-range digital Fuji to take on vacations and a small point-and-click to keep in my handbag. The cameras have been trusted friends but their life and their workings were ticking away. The salesperson at the camera shop warned me that the Nikon would be incredibly expensive to repair, up to $400 for the simplest repair and $75 for a simple cleaning. Of course he was pitching some type of extended one-year warrantee plan. The chances of the camera breaking down within a year were slim and the cost of the camera was dear and my budget could not accomodate the cost.

Of course, the expensive Nikon was the first to develop a problem, six years into it's life. It has been sitting in it's camera bag for many, many months as I dreaded the idea of repair. There was simply no wiggle room to support a $400 repair.

Then one day I accompanied the Farmer to a doctor's appointment. While he had his ears checked, I read magazines in the lobby. In the back of a National Geographic Adventure (or travel) publication was an ad for a camera company based out of nearby suburban Chicago town. The touted themselves as being the choice of professionals, that they repaired cameras and had them back to you in 3 or 4 working days.

That sounded expensive.

The ad included their website address, which I scribbled on a scrap of paper. It certainly didn't hurt to check them out. I was surprised that they offered a free estimate. You describe the problem and they estimate what the repair would cost. To my amazement the estimate was only $100 and to my further amazement that included cleaning.

The Best Boss Ever always told us that in order to be successful you need great customer service and you need to EXCEED your customer's expectations. United Camera has certainly achieved both of those goals. For $10 they send you a shipping kit. This arrived two days after deciding to have them repair the camera.

It includes a shipping box, peanuts, bubble wrap, pre-paid UPS sticker and instructions.

I packed up the camera and dropped it off at a one of those pack-and-ship offices. The next day I received an e-mail that they'd received the camera and confirmed that the fix would only be $100.

That was Friday. Yesterday (Monday) I received a follow-up e-mail that my camera was on it's way back to me. Unbelievable service.

The Best Boss Ever also told us that a happy customer will tell 4 or 5 friends about their experience but an unhappy customer will tell up to 30 people. I've always strived to tip that scale in the opposite direction, telling everyone about a good experience and always, always, complimenting employees and businesses on a job well done.

I am now a huge fan of United Camera. The little Fuji has now given up the ghost and he'll be sent off to United in the very near future.

Got a broken camera? Check them out.


This post is all about repairing things and extending their life. Have you had to repair anything lately?

Do you live by the old saying....

Use it up
wear it out
make it do
do without.


chocolatechic said...

Yes I do live by that.

The difficulty is trying to get Superman to even begin to consider to think about the wee poem, let alone live it.


I'm looking into the United Camera, as I know I'll be needing to use them eventually.

Karena said...

Hi Suzanne. Great story and advice. This is an A1 company to provide this kind of service.

Thirkellgirl said...

I have a sampler in my dining room that says that! I made it using odds and ends of embroidery floss so it's very colorful and cheerful. :) Thanks for the link, my 35 year old (yikes, I'm old!) Minolta needs some tweaking and I've been afraid to let anybody near it so it's been sitting for a couple years.

Lisa D. said...

I've not heard that saying, but that's exactly what I try to live by and teach my children. Especially when they come home from school after learning about global warming and being green - never mind changing the light bulbs, how about only buying what we need, how about not replacing something that's perfectly fine just because we're tired of it not because it's worn out. Sorry, just a pet peeve of mine.
So glad you found a good repair company. I have a 6 year old point and shoot camera that got rained on and is now water damaged. The repair place around here said it made more sense to replace it rather than repair it, but I still have it because I just can't bring myself to throw it out. I have replaced it, because I had already planned to upgrade to a better mid range camera (can't afford anything like the Nikon D70 yet - someday!), but the small one was handy sometimes.

Marilyn said...

That is AMAZING!!!
One of my most cherished possesions is the camera that belonged to my Father. It hasn't been used in fifteen years and I have no clue as how to even load the film. But even without film, it holds some of my favorite memories.

Vee said...

We adhere to that old adage around here. Wow! You've been a fount of information lately. I'm bookmarking this one.

Adele in NE MN said...

Repairs!!! In the last year I have repaired my kitchen faucet, which is 15 years old, the company sent new parts free!
Also replaced the door gasket on my Maytag dishwasher which we bought in 1987, so is 23 years old. It's life is winding down, as I have to run full cycle to get clean dishes, instead of just economy cycle.
But, if you want a laugh about appliances, I have a good one. In 1973, we purchased a 3 door side-by-side fridge from Wards. In about 1990 we replaced the compressor. In 2002 we bought a new fridge, because we wanted a more energy saving one, and we were sure that the old one was going to die at any moment. Well, the new one is great, we love it, but we gave the old one to friends who needed it, and it is still running and working beautifully for them.
I don't regret getting a new one as the savings in energy has now paid for the fridge.
My parents married during the depression, lived in a depressed economic area, raised 8 healthy children, mostly on what they grew or harvested and hunted off the land. They lived by that motto, and and to some degree most of us do, too.

Kerry O'Gorman said...

As the old war propaganda would say..."make do and mend"!

Deb said...

"Use it up
wear it out
make it do
do without."

YES, I live it! What a great post. I just had a similar experience with an appliance repair parts place, but it didn't start out well, but ended well.

I chuckled about the water heater, because I did the same thing just a few months ago. Mine was 16 years old and the lifespan from what I know is only 10 years, so I replaced it before it bit me in the butt.

Love your blog.

Jody Blue said...

Feel you house/camera repair pain. 110 year old house is always a work in progress and 5 year old camera starting to hiccup.

Ruta M. said...

I've just repaired a pair of sheepskin boots, (like Ugg boots)bought cheaply at a carboot sale. It wasn't till I got them home that I noticed a split in the rubber sole, not a problem when wearing them as slippers but not too good for outside. I used some flexible rubber from an inner tube found on the beach to make a patch stuck on with superglue. I also put a big patch on one heel where they were coming unstitched due to me taking them off by stepping on them, yes my mother used to tell me not to do that. I have also repaired my old washing machine, lawnmowers and vacuum cleaners until the motor on my dyson burnt out which was terminal.

Anonymous said...

Nice post.. I'm sure lots of people will find this camera repair info useful. My little Canon SD450 is 4 or 5 years old and I hold my breath that it will survive numerous more years. It's just been a little work horse for me and also has movie mode which my bigger camera does not.

The Blue Ridge Gal

The Milkman's Kid said...

Great blog and advice. I am new to blogging and would love to know how you get great graphics (at the top of your page) and your "signature".

The Milkman's Kid said...


I love your blog and posts! I was wondering how you get the graphics and "signature" ?

Good Buy Consignment said...

I have a camera that needs serious repair - thanks for the United Camera tip! I found you while I was looking for a picture of a rocking chair and you had the cake topper picture I was curious about how that connects to a rocking chair... so here I am. I wanted to say that I LOVE the pictures of the dessert party - adorable serving dishes, love the green leafy plates and pink gingham napkins SWEET! I am inspired and will be making some homemade additions to my own cake plate addiction - so AWESOME. Also, I just found your friend - Life in Red Shoes last week and I was surprised to stumble across mention of her on your blog by way of google images. Small World.