Let me preface this post by stating that I have no affiliation with Vistek and that I gain nothing by promoting the company (although I wouldn’t mind a kickback).
I’ve been buying photo and video equipment like a crack addict for about four years (and like a meth addict for even more). I’ve shopped at a variety of stores including online. I am located in Canada (yay!) and particularly in Toronto, Ontario. There are two main companies with brick and mortar locations in my area; Vistek.ca and Henrys.com . Now of course there are actually a large number of other stores that I’m familiar with within 50KM that I could include in this post but I’d rather keep it between the “titans”.
I’ve shopped at both of these stores a lot. And I mean a LOT. I’ve had good and bad experiences from both and even great ones from both. However only one of these locations has given me the feeling that they give a shit about me. Spoiler alert – it’s Vistek. And you know what, it may even just be down to the particular manager or salesperson I’m dealing with, maybe it’s not even the company at all. In either case I think I’ve decided that I will actually exclusively shop somewhere (a decision I never thought I’d even think about making) and that’s Vistek.
I’m in the process of acquiring a lot of gear for various projects. I’m buying a lot. Probably a lot more than most professionals in the area. So you may think that’s why I’m enjoying getting some better treatment and that it’s also likely the reason I’m getting better treatment, but it’s not. I’ve asked for quotes from a number of companies for lenses and cameras and lighting and you name it but only one company seems to give me the quote I’m looking for without having to negotiate back and forth for ages, if at all. The US based online stores are enormous and very well stocked, but they don’t give two poops about me. If I spend 50, 000 dollars at their store they say “thanks” and that’s about it. Whereas Vistek has been working hard to help me save where I can, and honestly, it’s a lot more difficult for them as the Canadian margins on retail can be a lot lower than the relative American ones. So when Vistek quotes me 8% less than any US retailer for a set of CP.2’s I take note. This company is trying… and it’s working.
Another thing to point out is that maybe I haven’t shopped at other stores enough to earn their VIP treatment. You know what I say to that? Screw that. I am a professional spending butt-tons on equipment all the time. If you don’t want my money because I haven’t shopped with you before, that’s fine with me. I’ll take my business elsewhere. I’m not offended, or insulted in any way however I am also not interested in paying a **new-client premium**. I’m a serious buyer and am tired of being treated like anything but.
Anyway.. let’s discuss why in particular Vistek has impressed me of late and perhaps why Henry’s hasn’t. Henry’s is widely known as a consumer store but they do carry a large line of professional equipment as well. They have a lot of stores and definitely a lot more than Vistek. But I find their employees to be just generic retail employees, with maybe a photography hobby. This of course isn’t a universal statement but just something I generally find to be true. I’ve, on many occasions, had unfulfilling discourse with Henry’s employees and also often overheard them flat-out give completely terrible and incorrect information to customers. Their website is OK at best and a lot of information on it is inaccurate. I feel like Henry’s is doing it’s best to work as little as possible to maintain business. Getting special orders from them is a nightmare and despite them having so many stores it’s very difficult to get anything quality unless you go to their main store in downtown Toronto.
Vistek: well I bet you thought I’d praise the Vistek employees but where they tend to make up for in experience and knowledge they kind suck balls at customer service (at least in one particular situation). I’ve had a Vistek employee refuse to give me a discount because he “bets he spends more at Vistek than I do”. He doesn’t. But the notion was incredibly insulting that I was only going to be discounted if I spend more than him. Although I will add that despite that jerk most of Vistek employees are alright. However ultimately it is retail and you’ll deal with someone who’s a little clueless. Currently I prefer to deal with a very select group of salespeople at Vistek and specifically always want to talk to a manager. Knowing who these people are is a matter of actually talking to them. But the managers have really proven themselves to care and that’s when I start to get really happy.
Vistek also carries a more diverse line of professional gear. Not only that but when I need something that they don’t even have/carry they can usually accommodate. Most cases in about a week I can pick up my random item that basically no one in Canada has ever sold (big win). They have a lot fewer locations and that kind of sucks, but they’re very capable of putting together orders without you ever having to step into the store. Their online selection of products is fairly diverse and I’ve really come to realize that before I look anywhere else, a conversation with one of my peeps at Vistek is usually the smartest thing to do. Buying online or direct from manufacturer can be awesome but you do have to pay import fees, duties and shipping. With a little patience I’m able to get those random things from Vistek and what’s more is that they handle the shipping/import fees. Perfect! Redrock, Kessler, Zeiss, Schneider, Teradek and many others are all brands that I’ve shopped online from in the past that Vistek carries and is finally willing to play ball with in terms of pricing. For a while it never made sense for me to shop at Vistek for those brands but of late I think Vistek is realizing they can’t offer something at a higher price just because they have a store when I can get it direct for way less from the manufacturer.
My recommendation is this: if you’re a pro in Canada, start a relationship with Vistek right away. Even if you’re not buying anything at the moment.. you’re going to be sooner or later. Say hi, speak to a manager, build a rapport. If you don’t feel like you’re being heard talk to someone else (that’s what I’ve done). It’s a great feeling knowing you’re going to get around XX% off of your purchase and that you can actually have someone help you with your buying. Of course you should still do your research and I can’t promise anyone anything as far as your dealing with Vistek. This is all just from some years worth of experience.
When it comes to pro gear, I’m going to be shopping at Vistek exclusively from now on.
**New-client premium: Having to prove yourself to a retailer before you can earn any negotiating power.