Re: new business model for Bob

Bob Webber <no17@...>

I have some knowledge of his business, but even at that it is a scrape in the barrel. I've helped him move his collections at a few shows in and out of the van to and from his tables, and helped him at his table now and then. That and some normal conversation has led me to the following response to an Internet site anytime soon.

GFL. What you see at (most) shows is less than a quarter of his collection. He had more at Gaithersburg this past weekend than he had at Naperville (shorter trip=more books). It was still not a quarter of the printed shots. The only place where most of the printed shots are to be found is at the Springfield, MA show in February. BUT, that is not his entire collection either. At any given time he has thousands of negatives he needs to get printed - and due to time or money he can't (or, better put, won't - he COULD, but his business sense won't let him). He purchased at least 2 new collections this year of over 30,000 negatives. That's in addition to the well over 100K negatives he already owned and over 10K he has access to. That does not include the slides. (And bare in mind these are estimates that are more than likely on the low side). Now, as one who has scanned my photos which is less than 5K, and some slides (less than 100 of 5K) I can tell you it is a back breaking and a boring job. Not to mention one that takes some time to get right. I know we are talking low-res thumbnails here 0 but -are willing to buy a clear photo based on a fuzzy scan? I didn't think so.

You say hire a teenager. To scan over 150,000 photos. And then put up a web site and ensure that those photos are not only put on the web site but also described accurately and the descriptions match the scan (and let's not forget that one of the more endearing qualities of these photos is the sometime lack of information on them - which means that teenager is going to have to know that that locomotive is a NYC Hudson in Buffalo or a ATSF PS-2 covered hopper - likely? I think not.

He HAS a catalog of prints, incidentally. It might not be in the order or in the manner YOU want it to be in, but it suits his purpose. As for the rest, that would mean purchasing and using a computer - for someone who has never used e-mail or any of the ancillary functions needed for such an undertaking. And he's more than happy that way. Let alone using on-line transactions. And remember, he does not use credit cards now. So going to this business model is not going to happen - soon if ever.

In terms of making prints - The print making business is not what it once was. Finding a place that does 8x10 b/w is hard enough - and to fin one that produces an image to a set standard is very hard in a confined area. And getting more expensive day by day. Naperville for him is a 5 day excursion - he drives to and from there in one day. My advice here - and it isn't criticism - is that you learn more about the existing business and owner before suggesting alternatives. Because this work model simply doesn't fit with his living model as I've seen it - but I may be very wrong too.

Why not ask if Martin will do the same? Seems his business would be a sure fit for this - more so than Bob's. I suspect that the answer is the same as always.

At 02:04 PM 11/7/2005, ed_mines wrote:
You guys who spend time with Bob (Bob's photos), why don't you get
him to start cataloging the prints as he has them made up and
selling them over the internet?

There are easy solutions to returns (men copying the prints and then
sending them back) - a policy of no returns. Almost anyone else
doing business with checks waits for them to clear too.

Bob's business model is different from most of the other guys
selling prints - he has multiple prints made up by a semiautomatic
machine and keeps them in inventory. He has a lot less of an
investment in each print, but traveling is a big expense most of the
others don't have. Sure they go to a few shows now and then, but he
goes almost every weekend and frequently travels for days each way
(Naperville must have been a 6 or 8 day excursion).

I've heard Bob wants to slow down and visit fewer shows; this would
be a good opportunity to cash in without going to the shows.

After each show someone fills up the books and must order additional
prints to replenish the supply.

I'm sure Bob could pick up additional sales if he hired a teenager
to catalog those prints and keep that catalog updated on the
internet. I'm sure after a year there would be 1000 plus prints on
the list.

Even guys who see Bob a couple of times a year would check the list.
Some of these new prints could be sold out by the time the get to go
through the books or the buyer could run out of money. How many of
you missed out on something you wanted at Naperville?

Bob's out of pocket expenses would be peanuts compared to the
lengthy trips. I'm sure a high schooler and whoever picks and packs
the orders would be happy with $10/hr.

Of course unscrupulous people could copy the prints, but they can do
that now if they go to a show and buy a print off the table.


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Bob Webber

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