Hey fellow forum'ers. I'm a long time lurker and i've bought some great equiptment from users on the board but this is my first time posting a thread. I've recently had a truly awful experience doing business with Borrow Lenses.com and I wanted share it with you all to take into consideration when shopping around for lens rentals. So without further ado...there goes.
For the past year I've been working on a documentary project in New York based on the life and work of fashion photographer Davide Sorrenti who passed at the young age of 21 and sent ripples through the world of fashion. Throughout the process, I've been shooting on Canon DSLRs and had been relying on the rental company Borrow Lenses which I had seen positively reviewed online and heavily advertised on photography/film sites that I visited.
At first things were great. I rented a kit for the weekend that included two Zeis Canon mount primes, a data recorder, a wireless lav microphone, a few batteries, and an intervelometer to shoot timelapses. The total for the kit came out to about three hundred dollars with two day shipping and handling. The first rental went without a hitch, and I found the Borrow Lenses team helpful enough.
Now keep in mind that these are three day rentals that I was ordering, so I was having them arrive on Wednesday the day before we left (I got to the Savannah College of Art and Design, we have Fridays off, so I was leaving with my Director of Photography for New York Thursday evenings straight from class at 5pm).
After successfully renting the kit from Borrow Lenses on our second trip I thought I'd go with the rental house that I knew expecting things to go smoothly. The package from Borrow Lenses came Wednesday evening, and producing/directing this movie solo, I was running around franticly trying to handle last minute logistics, meaning that I wasn't able to check through the kit until Thursday afternoon after class. It's just how it worked out.
Upon opening the box, I was surprised to find two extra lenses included in the order. Not only were they undocumented on the packing order, they were the incredibly expensive Zeis CP.2 Canon Mount Primes which each retail for about $4000.00. That's right, I opened the box and found $8000.00 dollars worth of lenses and the rental company had no idea that I had them.
While I'd love to say the idea of keeping them didn't cross my mind, it did for a moment, but then I took a walk and knew that I had to return them. It was the right thing to do, and I still feel that way now in spite of what would ensue. It's what I would hope any other human would do for me if put in the same predicament.
It's about 3pm at this point, we're running around double checking equipment, getting our packs together, and I'm stuck on hold trying to get a hold of Borrow Lenses to let them know that their missing lenses were safe and sound. The first person I contacted, someone in customer support was floored that the lenses had ended up in my order, as they had no trace of where they had ended up. He told me that he'd have to contact his manager, and that he'd give me a call back.
As we were on the way to the airport, I realized that I'd be out of touch in the air and would miss their business hours, so I gave them another ring, slowly wading my way up from several customer reps to their manager. When speaking to the manager, he was incredibly pleased to hear that not only had the lenses been found, but that I was honest in returning them. They literally had no way of finding out what had happened to them.
I jokingly told him that as a poor film student, I thought that was an incredibly cruel test to put me through. He then told me that in the past when something this rare had happened that they had compensated their customers for being good Samaritan and returning the missing equipment. He asked me what I would like in exchange for shipping the lenses back and my troubles. I told him a bit about the project, that we were strapped for cash as it was trying to make a feature length documentary while still in film school with interview subjects based in New York City out of Savannah, Georgia. I told him that if it wasn't too much to ask I had to go back to New York two more times to collect interviews, and that I had been renting a kit that cost three hundred dollars. I asked if there was any way they'd give me the two rentals for free.
While six hundred dollars may seem like a lot to ask for, lets put it in perspective. The lenses they lost, depending on whether they pay retail or buy in bulk, together cost between $7000.00 to $8000.00. This is the largest lens rental company in the country, and six hundred dollars is thirteen point three percent of the cost of the lenses I was returning, which they would have been forced to replace. This doesn't take into account the amount each lens would make over the course of its life through rentals for the company which does quite a bit of business.
He said that sounded fair, and that when I returned the lenses we would take care of the reward. I was incredibly enthused, knowing that we had stretched our incredibly modest budget six hundred dollars more and could use it to pay for expenses in New York to fit in more interviews such as taking cabs with our equipment, etc.
We get to New York, everything goes great, we take advantage of the new slack in our budget (lets be honest, in NYC $600 is a few inches of slack), and we get back to Savannah. With the lenses in the mail I give Borrow Lenses a ring to let them know that they were coming back safe and sound, and I inquired into how the reimbursement might work. The customer rep tells me that I'll have to speak to the operations manager to figure anything like that out. I'm a bit confused but I tell them sure, and proceed to wait on hold until i find out that she's in a meeting and will call me back.
A while later I get a call from Lisa, the operations manager of Borrow Lenses. She tells me that yes, she sees a note in the order that I had found and returned the lenses, and that they were all very thankful for what I had done. Great. Then she tells me that she was a bit confused as to why I thought I was "entitled" to compensation for returning the order. I tell her the events as they unfolded, and asked if in the past they had compensated those who had returned lost equipment. She said that they had, but that the manager wasn't authorized to tell me this, and that she had the final say and could offer me fifty dollars.
That's 12% of what I had been told I would receive before, which was 13.3% of the value of the lenses I returned. That's right, to thank me they were going back on their word and offering me a gift card worth 1/160th of the value of the lenses I had returned, and 1/12th of what I had been originally offered, because **** it, they had the lenses back, what did it matter if they kept their word.
I told her I was really truly upset about the situation, and I asked her to speak with the manager and hear straight from him what he had told me. She puts me on hold for a bit, and comes back saying that the manager had admitted to offering me compensation, but that we had never decided what it would be, and this is the kicker - told me that I was "lying" to her.
That's right folks, here I was being called dishonest for returning two $4000.00 lenses that were completely lost to the rental company. Now my honesty was up for debate.
I'll be honest. This was the point at which I lost my composure. She told me that the most that she could offer me was $200.00, and that was all she was willing to part with. I told her that I was so disgusted by the way I was being treated, so angry being called a liar, that she could keep her $200.00 dollars. I told her that i thought it was a truly terrible thing to bait and switch a poor college student who had been a loyal customer and returned their lenses. It wasn't even the money, it was the principle of what had happened that left me furious. I didn't curse, I didn't raise my voice, as plainly as possible I tried to explain this to her, at which point she interrupted me and told me that I was a liar, and hung up on me.
That's right. She hung up on me.
I make peace with what's happened, they're a company, they don't care. There's not much I can do. I move on.
Fast forward to this afternoon. I have one last trip to New York this coming Thursday. I'm looking at Borrow Lens' competitors, and I think, even though I don't expect a friendly staff anymore, i've used them before, I'll order through them, however begrudgingly.
Thanks my Aunt and Uncle, I had a few hundred extra dollars to spend this trip after they helped me with my budget problems from my earlier fun with Borrow Lenses. I put together an order, it comes out to $600.00. Everything goes great, I get my confirmation, I move on with last minute pre-production, when I get an email.
"From: BorrowLenses.com to Me
Due to the last exchange we had with you regarding a mistaken shipment, we won't be proceeding with the most recent order you placed on our website. The hostility that was directed toward us during that exchange is not something that we wish to re-visit. Per our Lease agreement, paragraph 8, we are declining your request to rent, I have cancelled your order and voided the authorization that was placed on your card.
Borrowlenses.com verification department
P.S. Like us on Facebook for Facebook-only specials, discounts and giveaways:"
So having rented from Borrow Lenses three times now I can tell you that I have been caused a great deal of inconvenience, had to jump over budgeting hurdles based on the faith I put in their good word, been lied to, and was actually called a liar multiple times on the phone by Lisa, head of operations.
I'll leave you with my response to the email I received today, and my sincere hope that you take my experiences into consideration when dealing with Borrow Lenses in the future. There's a lot of alternatives out there and I think that honestly and values go a long way in this world, especially in this industry.
"Charles Curran to email@example.com
I'm incredibly disappointed to hear that my order has been rejected. While I understand and will look to your competitors for rentals for my future projects I think that the way in which your company handled the situation was extremely unbecoming and reflects very negatively on the values your company holds.
Please as a point of reference remember that the dispute came about after I had honorably returned about $7000.00 dollars worth of lenses that you sent to me without any documentation inadvertently. Despite traveling to New York to shoot a documentary, I called your company half a dozen times two hours before my flight to help you resolve your error, and our disagreement came about regarding the mixed messages I received after being told that I would receive a few free rental packages for my honesty, and then was told afterwards that a $50.00 dollar voucher would suffice.
I don't expect you to see things my way, but from a poor film student who budgeted his project based on my faith in your good word, I hope you can empathize even a small amount as to why I might have sounded hostel upon finding out that you didn't intend to honor your original offer.
- Charlie Curran"