Dear Kodak…. Stop holding my pictures hostage
Update: 8/13/2009 - Posterous‘ co-founder Garry Tan had a similar experience to mine and as a result created a Ruby script to download all Kodak photos in bulk. See his comment with the script here (use at your own risk! )
Update: 6/16/2009 – Read my summary post of the results and final observations.
Update: 6/15/2009 – I wrote a piece about my experience for Advertising Age’s DigitalNext blog.
Update: 6/15/2009 – My photos have been restored! Kodak PR rep says Kodak is “still working” on the bulk storage problem and recommends this as a way to grab my photos.
Update: 6/2/2009 – This story has been featured in a Consumerist blog post, which I have to say, has the best feedback and comments about the issue so far.
Update: 6/1/2009 – My story has new been featured in a post on a econsultancy.com called “Kodak risks major PR fail after purge of the free” – read it here.
Update: 5/31/2009 – Kodak has deleted all 3000 of my photos. See reactions from my story from people gathered at BarCampNYC4 here.
Once upon a time, we were buds. Back when I first had a digital camera in the late 1990s (an Olympus 360L, with a whopping 1.3MP picture depth, that cost me $299) I, like everyone else with a digital camera, needed somewhere to store them. On the recommendation of my brother, I tried out a little photo sharing site called Ofoto, which had the novel idea printing your digital prints on good old-fashioned photo paper for just 29 cents each. No longer would I have to develop dozens of meaningless prints to find the ones that I wanted (I was also sporting an Kodak Advantix camera at the time, and the ability to do “HD” style prints was exciting enough, but the One Hour Photo bills ran to $19-24 dollars – for a bunch of pictures that I didn’t really want), I could just pick the prints I wanted, and they were delivered to me in record time (I seem to remember Ofoto’s penchant for delivering photos in record time – usually no more than 2 days after I ordered them with standard shipping). And the best part, I could store as many photos as I wanted for as long as I needed to – indexed, put into sets, and shareable with friends who sometimes even bought prints of their own. This was well before I was aware of Flickr, and before web storage was cheap and flexible. But I figured it was a good compromise. I begged off flirtations with Snapfish (later bought by HP) and didn’t really care much for any of the other alternatives.
Fast forward a year or two, and Kodak purchases Ofoto, and I figured, well, this is great, because it means my little Ofoto shop won’t go out of business. And so it went. More photos uploaded, more sets created, more memories shared. I built up a library of nearly 3,000 pictures there. All sorts of occasions – weddings, parties, softball games, vacations – the usual sorts of stuff that builds up over 5 or 6 years especially when digital images are easy and cheap to create.
Around 2006, I found the now “Kodak Picture Gallery” to be behind the times in it’s abilities to share and show my photos – and I weighed Flickr (bought by Yahoo) and Picasa (bought by Google) against each other in the battle for the place to store my photos, and finally last year, I upgraded to a Flickr pro account. But I never worried about my “Ofoto” pictures – they were still there, and I’d have time to start to migrate them later.
And then I got this e-mail. Let’s break down my favorite marketing speak from the e-mail:
“It’s long been our policy that Gallery customers make an annual purchase in exchange for unlimited photo storage and sharing. However, without a minimum defined purchase amount, some customers have ended up spending as little as 15¢. The result: Our loyal customers who regularly shop the Gallery have essentially been subsidizing those who don’t.”
Really? Then how come as a customer since 1999, I’d never once heard of this policy. It had never been communicated to me once – until I got this nastygram with big red letters about how you were going to delete my photos. I’m a loyal customer, recommended you to friends, and the fact that my photos were still there should TELL you that. Loyalty isn’t always the amount of purchases I make in a given year – it’s also that fact that I’ve bothered to stick around so long. (Also, I’m happy to return the Kodak Zi6 that I’ve raved about for months, in the backwash of the Flip MinoHD launch, which I got as a birthday present, and got at least two other people to buy as a result. I thought it was a game changer for Kodak, a product that finally got it right. Guess I’m not loyal, huh?. But I digress.)
Fine. If the “problem” that Kodak is trying to address is the fact that I’m a cheapskate and “loyal” people who use the service more than I do, I’m happy to move my photos off your service and give the space back to “loyal” people.
So, now, my thoughts are, “My pictures may be deleted? Seriously? Why? Ok. Well, obviously, I don’t want that. So what are my options?”.
I did a little digging. I discovered that there are three options to get my full-resolution photos back:
- I can download full-resolution photos for all of my pictures for free. I do enjoy the marketing spin, dripping with irony, on the help item for this:
“Get FREE high-resolution downloads of all your digitized photos—anytime, anywhere—a benefit no other company offers for free. Because your photos are yours, you can trust us to stay out of the way of you using them however you see fit.”
Oh really? Whew. Well, I’ve only got about 25 sets of photos, this seems like a few hours of work tops. So how do I download albums of high-res photos. Well, apparently, you can’t.
“Currently, you cannot download an entire album of your original high-resolution images at once. You can only download original high-resolution images, one photo at a time.”
The bold face is quoted from the help item. Ok. I have 3000 pictures stored there. There’s no way I’m doing this one at a time. That could literally be days of effort. What are my other options?
- I can buy an archive CD. Ok, fine. Just to be done with this, I’m debating actually PAYING for my photos held hostage. How much could the CD possibly be? Well, it turns out, a lot.
- I can pay the $19.99 storage fee for another year out of fear of losing my photos. Which, frankly, after the options you’ve offered for me before, just isn’t a viable option now. I’ve build definite brand disillusionment after this whole experience, and I’m not going to give you any of my money.
$70 BUCKS? You can’t be serious. So, again, you’re charging me $70 to allow me to archive my photos that I’ve stored with you.
So, Kodak, are you serious? I have 3000 photos and now you’re telling me the only out I have for free is to download them all ONE AT A TIME? This is bush league. I’d be perfectly content to give your storage back and never give you another penny of my money if you gave me a legitimate option. But now I’m left to wonder, is this the example you want to set in a world powered by user-generated content? For a company trying hard to reinvent themselves in the digital age? In an environment where you’re losing market share to newer, nimbler and smarter companies? To be the one to put doubt in customers’ minds about storing things in the “cloud”?
The choice is yours, Kodak. And I know, with this issue, I’m not alone.
Update: Some selected tweets of people who are as frustrated as I am….
“kodak (ofoto gallery) deleted photos of my life I had for the last 15 years. They win biggest online asshole award.” – @jaztuck
“Kodak Gallery (ofoto) wants $19.99 or its going to erase all of my images. Nice welcome back. Fail.” – @gillee
“hey kodak gallery…suck it. I’ve deleted you before you can delete me. My photos now live on Picasa, I’m sure I’ve ruined your day.” – @RoseBirdLA
“Is Extortion good for customer service? Kodak seems to think so. They have threatened to delete my photos unless I spend some $$$ soon!” – @jrork
“Just paid ransom to keep old digital photos alive in Kodak Gallery after their threat to delete. They really suck now.” – @prmolly
“Amazing in a world that’s approaching free storage that Kodak Gallery is telling me I have to spend $ w them or they’ll delete my photos.” – @jonbischke
“#Kodak new policy: must spend $20/yr or they delete online photos. Not customer-oriented policy. #Fail pls RT” – @christinepilch
Updated (6/2/2009): More feedback driven by the Consumerist article:
“@terilg I had film fotos on kodak gallery w no other digi copy. Paid $30+ 4 archival disks when I got deletion email and am done with kodak” – @manamica
“What can go wrong when a company abandons freemium business model? Kodak is feeling the backlash. http://budurl.com/2zv5 – @daveyarmon
“Warning: Kodak Photogallery (formerly Ofoto) deleting photos if no recent purchases. They deleted several thousand of mine without warning” – @mchesner
“Unbelievable. RT @consumerist Kodak Gallery Holds Photos Hostage, Then Deletes Them [Online Photo Sites] http://tinyurl.com/mubqtm” – @terlig
“Kodak pr fail – alienation of users” – @jennibeattie
“this would irk not at all if I hadn’t written a paper on how Kodak should be more like Flickr: http://bit.ly/LrJMt from @econsultancy” – @sabina_vs_world
“RT @Econsultancy Kodak risks major PR fail after purge of free http://bit.ly/LrJMtThe end of free love? (my blog 4/20) http://bit.ly/157xh0 – @ddudgeon