I have a huge pet peeve with retailers that still ban photography in their stores. Shopping needs to be a fun and engaging experience. If I’m so attached to your brand that I want to take photo’s for my social network or blog, you should encourage me to do so.
It’s particularly ironic that many stores with a no photography policy are in the photo business. Did you know that Apple retail has a no photography policy? Apple must know that this kid makes music videos in their store using the store provided webcam and internet connection, and that these videos have over 1,000,000 hits on YouTube! I’ve had a Apple store manager (politely) inform me that “technically we don’t allow photography in our stores.” I asked him if he encouraged shoppers to try the cameras built into the dozens of laptops, phones and iPods in his store; of course he did! It’s great that people want to play in the Apple stores, and Apple should be embracing that level engagement, not trying to stifle it. Happily, very few Apple employees try to enforce this policy.
What if I’m using my camera phone to build a shopping wish list? Am I allowed to take a photo of the movies available at the video rental store to send to my family member at home who is helping me pick a title for that night? Many products now feature a 2D barcode on the packaging and shoppers are encouraged to use their camera phone’s to take photo’s of the code to be redirected to a mobile website for further info (such as the Microsoft Tag on many of it’s mice and keyboards). Best Buy even puts QR codes (another 2D barcode) on signs in the store and encourages shoppers to use their camera phone to visit a a YouTube video that’s linked to the code. I asked the BestBuy store manager in this particular store, and he sheepishly admitted that they too have a no photography policy. Best Buy spends millions of dollars on display fixtures to make sure that shoppers can use all the demo cameras in the store.
I know that hard working retailers are not in love with the idea of their competitors visiting their stores and “borrowing” their best ideas, and I certainly appreciate the sentiment. But frankly those unscrupulous competitors are still going to get their shots, with or without a policy. I would never steal anyone else’s intellectual property, but I do take thousands of retail photos for use in audits, lectures, blogs, etc… I own a variety of stealthy photography tools, but I rarely bother to use them. It’s simply not realistic to expect over burdened retail staff to be the camera police, when virtually every shopper that walks in the store has some form of camera or camera phone on them.
Shoppers that want to take photo’s in your store are your best customers! Quite treating them like they are trying to steal your soul, and embrace the era of the social network.
What are your thoughts?