A long, long wait to develop my film

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By Christopher Elliott

They’ve had Kyleene Smith’s undeveloped film for almost three years. Can they do better?

Question

A few years ago, I found some undeveloped 8mm movies that were more than 40 years old. They were of my family and I wanted to see if I could get them developed.

I knew that because they were old, I would probably have a hard time finding someone who could do it. I looked online and found a couple of different companies and read their websites. They both seemed reputable. I also went to our local camera shop and asked them if they could recommend any place. They recommended Rocky Mountain Film Labs in Aurora, Colo.

This was one of the companies that I had found, so since they had also recommended them, they were the one I chose.


I contacted them by email, and they informed me that developing my two cans of film would cost $91 and take six months to one year. In January, 2010, I sent them my movies and a check for $91 in the mail with a return receipt card. I never received the return receipt card back, but they cashed my check.

Lost in the reels

I sent several follow-up emails to check on the progress of the film, but received no response. When I called, all I would get was a recorded message stating that they were ‘restructuring’ and that things were safe, but were going to be taking longer than planned.

Finally, two years after I had sent them my film, I received a voice mail from a representative, saying that they were “waiting to get a batch” of 8mm movies before starting on mine, and that they were running about eight months behind schedule.

Since I sent the movies in, my father has developed an extreme heart condition and cancer. It is important to me that he sees these movies before he passes and we really don’t have any idea how much longer he might be with us.

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Last week I called again, this time actually getting a human on the phone. I was told they do have my film, but they are currently developing Super 8 film. I was told that they would start the regular 8mm film next and that I might get it by the end of the year, meaning they had my movies for just under three years. Can you help? – Kyleene Smith, Springfield, Ohio

Answer

Rocky Mountain Film Labs should have quickly acknowledged your emails and calls and sent you a receipt for your film. And, obviously, it should have processed your film when it said it would, instead of holding on to it for almost three years. But you don’t really need me to tell you that, do you?

The next time you have a special order like this, I would suggest contacting the business immediately before you send your order. Make a note of the person you’re talking to, and make sure you have a way of reaching that person by email or phone after you’ve sent your order. (Related: I couldn’t get a customs stamp — is a refund out of the question?)

Businesses often have a set of double standards when it comes to service. For example, they offer a toll-free number for prospective customers, but existing companies must use a regular phone number (or even pay per phone call, in extreme cases). You can’t let them get away with that. You’re just as important before your order as you are afterwards, wouldn’t you say? (Here’s our guide to resolving your consumer problem.)

My advocacy team and I contacted the company on your behalf. A representative called you and apologized for the lengthy delay. She said the company would do its best to process all of your film by the end of the year, but also offered to return your film and give you a full refund.

You took the company up on its offer of a refund, and will take your film to another developer. Good luck.

Did Kyleene Smith make the right call by taking her business elsewhere?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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