February 2010. I find an undeveloped roll of 127 vest pocket film in a Kodak Brownie Super 27 camera, in an antique store in Manchester, New Hampshire. I buy the camera, and am curious as to what’s on the roll of film.
After searching the Internet for a company that claims they can develop the vintage product, I discover that Rocky Mountain Film Lab in Aurora, Co. claims to be able to do it. I send them the roll and a money order for processing.
Three months later, someone alerts me that there are dozens – maybe hundreds – of customers who are waiting years for film that has not been developed. This concerns me. After further investigation, I discover that Rocky Mountain Film Lab is running through some serious “issues” involving the Internal Revenue Service.
Monday morning, June 21, 2010. I give Steven Dock a call. He says he can help me, but he has to go to the office, and to call back in half an hour.
I call back in half an hour. Dock answers, and says he has to go through the inventory, and if he finds my film, he’ll call me back and let me know what has happened to the film, whether it’s been developed or not, and what procedures I would need to take after that.
That was June 21, 2010. By this time I have found another orphaned roll of Kodacolor-X and have sent it to Film Rescue International. They’ve already alerted me that they’ve received it, and that it will be processed with the next batch of Kodacolor-X film on August 13.
Wow… customer service… amazing.
I tell this story to follow up with this one.
Another person who sent rolls to Rocky Mountain Film Lab is a man named Joseph Kidd. I got in touch with him. He told me his story.
“Yes, I sent a couple of rolls of 16mm film to RMFL in July 2008. According to the website, the services would be performed in 10 to 12 weeks. I called a couple of times at the 10 week mark through the end of the year. I could tell that I was getting the runaround. In circumstances such as these where you believe the business is not being truthful, you need to create a record of contacts you’ve had with employees. Proving the content of phone calls can be problematic, and sensing the need to document my contacts with RMFL, I began sending letters by FedEx and email. The correspondences started out simply requesting a status, but after RMFL failed to respond even to that simple request, I genuinely became worried that I would never see my film or my money again. So, I ratcheted up the urgency of my demands. I filed a complaint with the BBB. Of course, RMFL ignored that, too. In my last correspondence, I enclosed a copy of a lawsuit I intended to file if RMFL did not respond. RMFL did not respond and I followed through on my threat. By this point, I was in no mood to play games. I wrote letters for two years without a single response, not even as a courtesy. I became intent on making it clear to RMFL and Steven Dock that perhaps they would get away ignoring other customers, but I would make it a point to be un-ignorable.”
And to his credit, attorney Joseph Kidd has kept the pressure on Steven Dock.
“In preparation of my lawsuit, I began researching RMFL and stumbled upon a thread of RMFL customer complaints on Photo.net. There I shared my experiences and read and listened to the complaints of others. As a law school graduate who practiced law for most of my career, I could file lawsuits on my own and work the system, but I could see through the stories and venting of others that most other customers would have no choice but to be victims of RMFL’s bad business practices. It became important to me to stand up for those customers in my own way by keeping them informed. They deserved to know the truth about Dock and RMFL. Dock wasn’t going to tell them. So, I did.”
And it’s not like Joseph Kidd sent his film to Rocky Mountain Film Lab without doing due diligence. He did the same thing I did when I sent my roll of Kodacolor-X to Rocky Mountain Film Lab – Kidd did an internet search and found plenty of companies that referred RMFL to people who wanted to have their old film developed. A Google search will actually show Rocky Mountain Film Lab as a sponsored search destination for developing vintage film.
“In the course of my research into the RMFL business, I found that he gets a lot of referrals from other businesses,” said Kidd. “He has been in the business a long time and seems to have built a loyal network of referring businesses. I certainly hope that this network doesn’t send customers to Dock with knowledge of his bad business practices; that may constitute negligence on the part of the referring businesses. If I were one of those in Dock’s network, I would think twice about continuing to refer customers to RMFL. I would advise those businesses to scrub their websites of any link to RMFL. Otherwise, they run the risk of being sued themselves.”
Now here’s the kicker. Steven Dock, the owner of Rocky Mountain Film Lab, is trying to reorganize under bankruptcy, to the point where he can continue to operate his business. That can’t happen.
Joseph Kidd gave me the address and contact information of the bankruptcy trustee, with the specific goal that this information be published and publicized. There are people out there who have waited YEARS for their film to be developed and returned. Let this be the first step for them in hopefully getting their stuff back.
Anyone who has film that has been held hostage by Rocky Mountain Film Lab can contact the following bankruptcy trustee:
P.O. Box 1169
Denver, CO 80201
Now it’s up to you. Write a letter to Ms. Zeman and explain to her that you have film that has been, for all intents and purposes, held hostage with Rocky Mountain Film Lab. You want the film returned immediately. Be polite in your letter. Now you may be required to pay for shipping costs, but let the trustee know that you’re willing to pay reasonable shipping if it means getting your film returned in a safe and expeditious manner.
Don’t want to write? Then call Ms. Zeman at the phone number listed. You will be transferred to a person named Margaret, who is handling all the claims regarding Rocky Mountain Film Lab. Again, be polite. Explain who you are, what films you have, feel free to elaborate on what those film rolls might contain (the last photos of your grandparents, family reunions, etc.).
You may also want to contact the attorney handling Steven Dock’s bankruptcy.
Stuart J. Carr
2851 S. Parker Road, Suite 720
Aurora, CO 80014
Fax: (303) 750-5544
Send Mr. Carr a letter as well. Hey, feel free to carbon Mr. Carr with Ms. Zeman.
Don’t bother talking with Steven Dock any more. You’d have a more substantial conversation with a Brillo pad. You need to keep your communications open with Mr. Carr and Ms. Zeman.
My thanks to Joseph Kidd for providing this information.
Let me know if this works for you.