12 May 2006

Getting lazy

Some time ago I bought a lens, on someone else's behalf, on eBay. When it arrived, it had undeclared faults which made it useless to the person for whom it was bought.

What to do? I bought another, similar lens for my the intended user (most eBay sellers are open, honest and keen to trade fairly; one bad experience doesn't change that) but I still had the dud one. I raised the issue with the seller, suggesting we work something out; he wasn't interested. I tried the complaints procedure, without any success.

So, after leaving it on the shelf for a while, muttering darkly to myself, I put it back on eBay – with a full description of the faults, trying to be honest about what it was useful for and what it wouldn't do. It sold within minutes, and feeling very satisfied I posted it off to the buyer. But ... then I began to worry. Had it really been suitable for the buyer's purposes? I had no wish to recoup costs by disappointing someone else. Today I dropped him an email to check.

Yes; he was happy with it. And he had opened it up, to fix one of the faults very quickly and simply.

Hmmm ... now why didn't I do that, myself?

A few weeks back, a friend (Martin Edwards – check out the wonderful things he does with a Horizont panoramic camera) asked me to talk to his students about photography under combat conditions – something I knew at first hand during my misspent youth. One of them asked about equipment; I said that a set of jeweller's tools was one of the most essential items, and showed them a camera rebuilt in the field from three wrecked bodies and two damaged lenses. As I blithely said and did that, the faulty eBay lens languished unrepaired on a shelf at home.

I can come up with any number of good reasons for not opening up the lens. For example, the seller who refused to discuss terms after not mentioning the faults suggested, before dispute proceedings started, that I'd caused the faults myself ... so to open it up would have undercut myself. But, the truth is simpler than that. My days of rebuilding equipment in the field are now twenty years past. In those two decades I've civilianised (which is a good thing); I've also become soft and lazy (which isn't).

Time to take myself in hand, I think.

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