Ritz Camera Files For Bankruptcy

Ritz Camera, an occasional and colorful character on our blog (scam confessions! feedback bribery!) has just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

From This Week In Consumer Electronics:

In addition to Ritz Camera stores, the chain owns Wolf Camera, Kits Cameras, Inkleys and the Camera Shops, as well as the Boater’s World chain. The company’s lenders had ordered it to boost reserves, and the company’s boating chain had been hampered by previously rising gas prices, Ritz said in an affidavit. The chain also said it was pinched by a reduction in photo finishing revenues.

Update: A reader, Karl, writes in to point out that Ritz Interactive, the online component of Ritz, is not included in the bankruptcy and will operate as usual. On their press release they say, “We will continue to work with them as a distributor, but we source through multiple distributors, so we have other options.”

“Ritz Camera Files Ch. 11″ [TWICE] (Thanks to Klay!)

RELATED
All of our Ritz Camera posts
(Photo: goosmurf)

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  1. concordia says:

    This is actually kind of unfortunate. I’ve only had good dealings with Ritz and their B&N stores were handy for picking up the random photographic doodad on short notice.

    • downwithmonstercable says:

      @concordia: Same here. This leaves Best Buy and a handful of smaller chains that didn’t have near the selection Ritz did, nor the free classes they give when you buy stuff with them.

    • working class Zer0 says:

      @concordia: My experiences with Ritz have been good. Knowledgable and helpful sales people and decent prices. Hope they can hang in there.

  2. Ezra Ekman says:

    Well, it’s about time. I used to be very loyal to Wolf Camera, which was bought by Ritz. It was all downhill after that. Wvery experience I’ve had with them since they became Ritz over the last four years or so has left me with an impression ranging between “used car salesman” to “fraud”.

    If you’re going to sell things for more than anyone else (all the while claiming to match prices, then manufacturing demonstrably false reasons of why you can’t), refuse to honor or perform extended warranty work, sell used/returned/defective items as if they were new, and lie about what a product does or what the customer needs in order to make a sale, you’re not going to last.

    • FooSchnickens - Full of SCAR says:

      @Ezra Ekman: Which is exactly why I stopped using them after the acquisition. They even went so far as to fire the manager at my local wolf store because he went out of his way to honor the “old codes” of customer service.

    • gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

      @Ezra Ekman: my mom had a CD lying on the counter the other day, in an envelope with Ritz/Wolf/some other company ritz bought logos on it. i think there were 3 or 4 – my thought at that point was “how the hell are they successfully marketing 4 different names for the same store?”
      i guess they weren’t.

  3. Skater009 says:

    Go away already :)

  4. Joshua Davis says:

    It’s rather unfortunate now the only store I can go to for camera equipment in my town is Best Buy which is a total rip off. They may have had bad customer service, but at least Ritz Camera’s white label products were pretty competitive.

    • ZenMasterKel says:

      @Joshua Davis: When did it become trendy to hate on Best Buy? Seriously, out of the dozens of Best Buy stores in my area, I’ve only found one to be poorly run, and I’ve only had one bad experience in there. What B&M store is run better than Best Buy? Certainly not Frys or Circuit City.

      I understand that Amazon and Newegg have better selection and cheaper prices, but I’m not buying a 52 in LCD from them, and I like to be able to walk into a store and buy what I want right then and there. How is BBY a total ripoff?

      • johnva says:

        @ZenMasterKel: Their prices are outrageous, and they often carry electronics stock that is several models/generations behind what is available online. Immediate gratification is nice, but not even close to enough to justify Best Buy’s pricing. Don’t believe me? Go price out something there, like RAM modules, and compare it to prices online.

      • quail says:

        @ZenMasterKel: I can’t stand the upselling BestBuy does with their warranties. When I say, “no”, I prefer the subject dropped but they keep hammering and trying to persuade me to buy their warranties. Plus their staff is a mixed bag of expertise. When I bought my last camera there the clerk helping me had no idea about the use of a skylight lens filter and claimed they were out. Found it myself the next day in their store but wish now I’d given the money to an online retailer.

  5. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Just out of curiosity, what happened to the camera in the picture?

  6. rickinsthelens says:

    Last night my wife watched “The L Word” and there was a scene of a woman printing a photo. I looked at my wife and said “no one develops pictures that way anymore.” What once was a large scale hobby is now relegated to only a small number of hardcore enthusiasts. That they are in this position is really no surprise as the business model no longer works in a digital world. They now can line up with the carriage makers and buggy whip manufactures as formerly succesful industries.

    • Geoffrey Sperl says:

      @rickinsthelens: That’s just not true. There are still thousands of amateur and professional photographers who still won’t move to digital because they don’t think pictures look “right.”

      Heck, I know people who still primarily take 35mm black and white shots.

      Sure, the majority of us are using digital (and spending the money we would have spent on chemicals or processing fees on getting more and more storage for our computers), but there will always be people using, and developing, film. It’ll eventually become rich weirdo territory, but it’ll still be there.

      • xenth says:

        @Geoffrey Sperl:Sure, it’ll still be around but it was the average consumer keeping them going. Without them, they are doomed.

      • quail says:

        @Geoffrey Sperl: I love my 35mm SLR. It does provide better overall pictures. But the cost is too high and getting higher. Add to that the fact that when you send your film out anymore you have to know what the developer does to get you your pics. Most scan the negatives and print from that. You’re no better off than using a digital camera if that’s the case.

      • theblackdog says:

        @Geoffrey Sperl: I thought they stopped making black and white film and silver processing chemicals.

  7. Lin-Z [linguist on duty] says:

    This is where I work…should I be concerned, consumerist?

  8. kwsventures says:

    Another one bites the dust. … Next. ..

  9. EdnaLegume says:

    I’ve had nothing but horrible service every time I walked in our local Ritz/Wolf. The last time I even spoke up to the sales person. She couldn’t care less.

    My experience was similar to that of several friends too.

    So long Wolf I won’t miss you.

  10. youwantedahero says:

    I find this sad, as I’m actually a former employee of Ritz Camera… and the way that a lot of people have the impression things happen there was not the way my former store operated AT ALL. Re: the price match thing, of course we would match prices, but we wouldn’t do it with Costco or Sam’s Club, it had to be an advertised price (meaning we had to see it on a circular or in a newspaper) and the other store had to have the item in stock. Which is not altogether unfair, or much different than other stores do it. The store I worked at had a HUGE HUGE emphasis on customer service, of course we were supposed to sell, but the way my boss believed to do that was to teach the customer what they needed to know and help them pick the equipment that was right for them. In fact, I can think of several occasions where I pointed someone toward a cheaper camera or one that carried no S.I. (sales incentive: you make a few bucks off of certain cameras and accessories) because it was better for them and I knew it would make them happier. Plus we were the only place in town that developed people’s dirty pictures. ;)

    That being said, I can’t say I’m surprised. The rise of digital definitely hurt them, and the fact is that they operated way way too many stores (I know at one point there were something like fifty of them in the Seattle/Tacoma area, which is just dumb).

    • valthun says:

      @youwantedahero: I worked for them shortly as well, I was a printer so I didn’t do too much on the sales side. But when required I would just pull out what the customer wanted in most cases, and I usually found myself lost. It was funny that the printers and the sales teams were generally treated as two different teams. Of coarse I didn’t have to worry about sales quotas being on that side.

      I liked the store I worked at, before I worked for them and after I left for a job installing photo machines.

  11. Joyce Godsey says:

    funny i don’t have one GOOD story about this company. the only thing i CAN say was that it is convenient to have a store where you can walk in and buy things like tripods, batteries and things. if they were gone, i’d have to buy everything off the net. and usually when i need it, i need it NOW. but as far as their customer service, they stink.

  12. nbs2 says:

    As bad as service may have been at the far flung locations folks may have been to, their HQ location was even worse.

    I have a camera that I won from them, so paying for the expended warrenty was easy enugh to justify. Paid off when the focus stopped working. But, when I took it in, the lady didn’t understand that I also wanted a quick cleaning – something that could be performed in house in 2 minutes, not something that “will take a couple of weeks because we would have to send it away again.”

    Proper or not, I blame the failure of Ritz on the Governor O’Malley and P.G. County Chief Executive Johnson, along with the legislative delegation from District 21 in Maryland. It’s a miserable area to have a business as it seems the state and county are intent on driving business out rather than bringing it in.

    • theblackdog says:

      @nbs2: That’s because Ritz isn’t run by one of Jack Johnson’s cronies, so of course he doesn’t want it in his county.

  13. MFfan310 says:

    The Ritz Camera store here in Fort Wayne closed in 2005… it never even upgraded to full-fledged digital photofinishing labs. How’s that for upkeep? (The old Ritz space in Glenbrook Square is now a Lady Foot Locker.)

    Surprisingly, the local camera shop, Sunny Schick, is still around… a case of David beats Goliath, perhaps?

  14. allthoseships says:

    as a former Ritz employee of 4 years, this is not a surprise to me. towards the end of my tenure there, corporate decided to get rid of a lot of member benefits, but they didn’t lower prices. the stores i worked at always had top quality lab work, we always made sure that we did a good job with the equipment we were given. but when they introduced the photo books & photo gifts, we were appalled. the machines produced HORRIBLE quality work that looked no better than a home printer, so why would anyone pay the same price for what Ritz does, when they can just get Shutterfly to do it & it looks amazing? i agree that having your photos printed has died out & most people are starting to prefer photosharing sites, Ritz tried to jump on this, but they didn’t develop their website well. i wouldn’t doubt that a good amount of this has to do with the fact that the Ritz family all works in corporate even though they have no idea how a business should actually be run. it’s sad to me because i still have a lot of friends that work there. but that’s what the company gets for not listening to their customer issues & not listening to what their employees have to say. at least my area still has a few local photo/camera stores in business. otherwise there’s always B&H!

  15. jdsmn says:

    Remember everyone, this is a chapter 11, which means they will remain in business (for the meantime anyways), not a 7, which means close shop and sell everything to pay creditors.

    The only time I have been in a Ritz I bought my last camera, and I was happy with the service. I ended up there after online price shopping. I always had the perception that they were more expensive then dept stores, and I was wrong. I hope they can survive.

  16. jwissick says:

    Amen. They deserve it. Real bad customer service.

    I hope they go under.

  17. Anonymous says:

    So what happens to my extended service plan? Is it a worthless piece of paper since Ritz is self insured?

    • Anonymous says:

      Ritz is NOT out of business yet so therefore your protection plan is still valid. Just because they are chapter 11 does not mean everything changes. It means they are REORGANIZING right now. It means they could get rid of non-profitable stores and stuff along those lines. So before you and everyone else starts jumping the gun, take a deep breath. You’re still covered. If it was a chapter 7 then I’d say be worried but right now it’s not so chill out.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I went in there the other day to try to get some passport pictures. They were extremely unpleasant about it. I asked what they charged, and this terse and bored guy said “Yeah that’ll be $32 for six.” I said “Who needs six passport pictures?’ He looked at me like I was an insect and shrugged. “I dunno.” I walked out, down the street, and got two perfectly good pictures for $9.99 and now I have my new passport.
    Screw ‘em.

  19. ceez says:

    how digital killed the developing film

    so are they going to have expensive canon slr for dirt cheap~!??!

  20. huginn says:

    Jeeze, and I thought the customer service I had there was just an isolated incident… Think again!

  21. Azagthoth says:

    The first time I dealt with Ritz was to buy a new SLR for my wife. After they took my money and promised great service they red stamped a “No Returns, As Is” on my receipt without telling me.

    Second time was to get some pics developed that a professional had taken. We had a copyright release signed, but they wouldn’t give us the prints without keeping the release. Not a copy, but the actual release. We declined and the manager started yelling at us about how he could get fined $10,000 for developing them without a release.

    We haven’t been back. I may go by and do the chapter 11 dance around the store tonight though.

    • MikeGrenade says:

      @Azagthoth: That’ll show those minimum wage college students. My hero!

      • Azagthoth says:

        @MikeGrenade: Actually the manager there has been employed for ~10 years. And who cares if they are in college? They made poor decisions dealing with me as a consumer, now I will point and mock them for being employed by a failing company.

  22. yagisencho says:

    Worst SLR lenses in the world? Quantaray, Ritz Camera’s store brand. And it all goes downhill from there.

    I do buy the occasional accessory from Ritz though, so I’d hate to see them go out of business completely.

    • Sparkstalker says:

      @yagisencho: Eh, they’re a mixed bag. The throw-in 70-300 I got when I bought my XTi is surprisingly sharp. The autofocus is a little weak, but overall, I’m pleased with it.

    • MikeGrenade says:

      @yagisencho: Some of the Quantaray-branded lenses are actually Sigmas (And Tamrons I think). So there are some good ones in there, but for the price you could get the name brand and support.

    • GothGirl says:

      @yagisencho: Almost all of there lenses are actually Sigma’s …. and usually are less than the real Sigma

  23. madanthony says:

    Hmm. A photographer friend of mine would occasionally go to Ritz because he could usually con them into cross-processing film for him, which would give some interesting effects. The people who ran the machines usually didn’t notice that the film they had wasn’t what it was supposed to be….

    • intellivised says:

      @madanthony: Most real/local or indie stores will cross process if you just ask. Big chains don’t like to do it because their machines have been idiot proofed and x-processing your film throws the chemicals out of whack from what I understand. No big deal for experienced developers – an absolute nightmare for your average Wal-Mart employee.

    • pandroid says:

      @madanthony: When I worked there, we’d occasionally cross process for people… though we’d wait to run it through until the end of the day. I doubt that “they didn’t notice” because the machine makes fairly hideous beeping noises if you try to cross process. Chances are your friend actually took the time to get to know the employees at that store, and they went through the extra effort for him.

      I had a manager at Ritz that had previously been a manager at Walmart, and she said the difference was astounding. Walmart cleans out their chemicals once a month… Ritz guidelines are to clean once a week.

  24. Anonymous says:

    I think by selling boats, and pottery (mufungo.com) they lost track of running the photo business. The customer service (!) from India wasn’t a good idea either with the poor phone connections. List price on their web site was an insult with B&H and Adorama around.

  25. tankertodd says:

    Too bad. We bought a camera from Wolf recently and they were competitive. Five years ago, not so much.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Well, I work at a Ritz Camera. First, the posts that say “glad you are going out of business” gee thanks. You know, people work here! These are our jobs!

    Second, so far, its chapter 11. Business as usual. No changes, no discounts (you vultures!) Just extra cash flow and protection from debts to reorganize, cut the fat, and get things back in order.

    Third, as for customer service, it really depends on the people and the location. Overall though, the job is average to ok on the pay. If you go into the store and are respectful of the associates that work there, you will most likely get great service. However, if you go in and end up being a jerk or treat the employees like crap, you can bet that that fairly under paid employee will not care to help you one damn bit.

  27. tcp100 says:

    I buy a LOT of camera gear, and try to avoid Ritz as much as I can – but sometimes it was the only place in town where you could get more than a UV filter. (Best Buy? Please. I will NEVER buy a camera at Best Buy again – and suggest the same to everyone else.)

    Most of the time my experiences at Ritz have been less than stellar – really starting when they started having this strange obsession with selling “BIG PRINTS!” as their marquee product. Do people really print that many poster size prints? I thought it was a really bizarre tactic.

    Anyways, prices were always lousy at Ritz – they made you think you were getting $300 worth of “extras” to make up for the $300 you could have saved going to B&H, but it was usually some lousy software or print coupons.
    I bought my Canon 10D there – but have been going B&H and local ever since.

    However, there is one exception.

    The Ritz store on Forest Hill in Bon Air, VA has an absolutely stellar manager. She’s great with customer service, a great help, and very friendly – not pushy. I told her I wish they stocked more stuff – since I’d love to buy my stuff from her. Unfortunately, since the store isn’t in a ritzy (ha ha) area, she only gets castoffs and low-end junk.

    The problem, as it seems, is with management at Ritz. They clearly do not get it.

    The camera market is ten times as competitive as it was 10 or so years ago, with every soccer mom in the world buying a Nikon or Canon DSLR. You cannot expect to shill crap Quantaray lenses (telling me they’re “made by Sigma!” Hokay.) and cameras at MSRP and expect to survive.

    Sorry Ritz. Sucks to see you go, but you had it coming.

    • battra92 says:

      @tcp100: I think part of the problem is people are perhaps finally learning that it’s not the equipment but the photographer but that would be optimistic.

      But really I mean, how much gear does one person need? I know pros who haven’t bought any new equipment in decades as well as some pros who bought a Digital SLR four years ago and don’t need the newest and greatest. With the economy as it is, camera gear isn’t as much of a penile replacement as it once was for some.

      Which is fine by me. I just wish that there was a reliable camera repair place around so I can keep my small collection of gear under control.

    • MikeGrenade says:

      @tcp100: Uh… Some of them really ARE made by Sigma. Quantaray is just a merchant. However the price is still unjustified.

  28. BMRFILE says:

    I’m glad the big giant chains are falling left and right. Ritz had it coming, with all the scams that they were running to prey on consumers, while employing some of the dumbest people out there to run their stores. They have a print and development service, yet their prices cannot even begin to compete with Costco or Rite-Aid.

    I hope this brings back mom and pop stores…stores owned by people who actually give a crap about what they’re selling.

  29. battra92 says:

    I love Ritz but B&H and Adorama were just that much better

  30. Rachacha says:

    No Loss. There is a Ritz Super Store about a mile from my house. In the beginning days of digital photography they were very helpful and knowlegable, and I rewarded that with buying a camera there even though I found it cheaper at another store.

    Recently I went to get a passport photo taken, and it took the photograpger 45 minutes to get a shot that was somewhat useable (even though it was still blury), and another 20 minutes for him to print out the photo. I did the same thing at home for another family member in under 10 minutes!

    I went there again to get a high capacity battery for a camcorder. I came armed with the manufacturer’s part number and my camera, and when the clerk could not find it, he tried pushing the low capacity battery on me saying that they don’t make a high capacity battery. Canon, NewEgg & B&H all disagree with this statement.

  31. shmoos says:

    I was in the local Ritz store last week and the clerk was not only pleasant but very product knowlegable.

  32. Charlotte Rae's Web says:

    I look there and buy at adorama.com

  33. Anonymous says:

    Maybe this recession will be restart of the small ma and pa shops. Ex employees going to work for themselves to actually give exceptional customer service. The big companies are too big to downsize fast enough. Come on everyone, let’s take back what we used to have in the country before the corporate boxes took over our cities!

  34. jp7570 says:

    I guess this isn’t really a surprise. But this is the result of poor management by the corporate leaders at Ritz. A weak economy only revealed their vulnerabilities.

    First, it sure seemed like there were too many Ritz (and Wolf) locations in the same market area. In my area, there are four Wolf Camera stores in a 2 square mile area (located in small inline retail centers). They became as ubiquitous as Starbucks and Blockbuster Video – and we all know how well those two are doing.

    Second, it is a shame but the photo developing process is a dying business model. Yes there may be thousands of hobbyists and amateurs, as well as some professionals, that claim that print (and/or slide) film is the superior format. I won’t argue the pros and cons of that. Rather, just look at the MILLIONS of people using digital format. Film will probably be around until Fuji, Kodak, and others stop making it. It will be a small niche market and Ritz/Wolf cannot sustain itself on the “1-hour developing” service or providing developer chemicals and supplies. (And doesn’t Walmart still offer film developing? Just another way they continue to erode their competitors’ market share.)

    Third, I never found great prices at either Ritz or Wolf. You could go there to see a product in-person, but when you compare it to online prices (Amazon, B&H, OneCall, etc.) it was difficult to justify the added expense for Ritz/Wolf.

    So, let’s see – too many locations, reduced film-based revenue, and a relatively high pricing structure? Ritz/Wolf’s business model no longer works. They need to reduce their locations (maybe by as much as 50%) but make each location more of a destination for all things photographic (many of their stores are small); they need to stress service as well as low prices (classes as well as sales); and they need to recognize that retail has mostly become a web-based world and they need to adjust accordingly (meaning price matching).

    Having BB around doesn’t necessarily mean you have to shop from them either. While I have not had any negative experiences with them, I take them at face value – a big-box retailer designed to move mass quantities. Caveat emptor to all that enter any big box store.

  35. acquisitionimperium says:

    Ritz and Wolf have always been overpriced. They’re relics from a time past when good camera equipment couldn’t be bought almost anywhere.

    For at least the last 5 years I have always been able to find DSLR, SLR, and point-and-shoot cameras for less at other stores. Once I even found a camera at one of those normally overpriced independent electronic stores for less than Ritz was selling it.

    Ritz is also guilty of that oh so charming and deceptive practice of listing items “On Sale!!!” and charging regular price or more.

    So, while I feel badly for the wage-warrior employees, I have to say I’ll be glad to see a poorly run company leaving the strip malls of America. Companies need to learn that they have to change with the times; bankruptcy doesn’t “sneak” up on you. Also, Boater’s world has good stuff at decent prices.

  36. dazzlezak says:

    Several years back thedy took a $50+ million dollar loan from Kodak and then used it to buy other merchandise.

    Karma…

  37. Anonymous says:

    well this really sucks because their damage protection has gotten me 4 brand new cameras in the past year. I know there are a bad ritz and wolf cameras out there…but there are also good ones. Where there are employees who actually care about the customer and not getting a sale. I am fortunate to have found one like that. Sadly, there are a lot of stores out there that dont give a shit about there customers and that is the reason the company will go down. Not because of their slightly higher prices … its all about customer service and i think they need to realize that. Im sure we all agree on that.

  38. Anonymous says:

    I am so sad. I worked for Ritz Camera for 16 years and had the time of my life. When I left in 2001 it was a different company from when I started in 1987. When I started it wasn’t even 200 stores strong. I loved and believed the way they did business back then. As I grew with the company I learned about management, people, and respect for what someone has achieved in life. I wish the Ritz Family the best and have nothing but respect and love for them and thier families.

  39. Anonymous says:

    I think a lot of it did have to do with the poor way they treated their staff. I worked for one of the chains they bought out. I was with that chain for 7 years before Ritz and worked for Ritz for 8. Most of the original store managers were gone with in a year because their salaries were cut in half and they were told to put in double the hours. I became a store manager during that switchover. What I saw wasn’t pretty. Over the course of the next five years they targeted the highest earners (which also happened to be their most knowledgeable people) and put so much pressure on them to increase business without option for raises that most quit. Then they hired cheap labor and those of us that were left around were expected to teach them 10 years of technical knowledge in weeks. I can’t tell you how many times I put in for raises for my associates and was told to give them the “you make your own raises with proper sales speech.” If someones numbers were down they were to be tracked with a paper trail of ticky tacky details until you built up enough that they could be threatened with being fired so that they quit so Ritz didn’t have to pay their unemployment portion. In this industry you either need to have the lowest (not just competitive but the lowest) price or the best knowledge and customer service to make up for it. Extensive knowledge and great customer service doesn’t come cheap and they shouldn’t. People will pay more if they feel it is worth it. Replace 10 years worth of knowledge and experience with 10 weeks of slick willy training and your customer can tell. Now this may not have been the case in all areas, but it was definitely what happened in our district. In my stores I was only able to keep the numbers up by working 70+ hours a week (for $24,000 a year) I left when I just couldn’t put up with what I was expected to do to good sales people and excellent people in general.