I've heard, read, or received some wonderful Kodak stories in the past 32 hours or so, many positive, a few negative, and some just so "Kodak" they're funny. One that made me laugh came in as a comment from Hugh Crawford:
I spent two days trying to buy some Kodak film, 70mm Pan-X. I got shuttled around between the Pro Sales, Industrial, Government, and Aerial Photography departments. The only people who could sell the film were in Aerial Photography Sales or Government Sales, but Government Sales had to have a government purchase order (cash was no good), and Aerial Photography Sales couldn't sell me film unless I had a some sort of FAA certification, because, in theory, the camera the film was for was part of an airplane and, if you were installing the film in the camera, you were doing maintenance work on the plane and had to be a pilot or an aviation mechanic.
Heh. That's Kodak, all right.
I had a trick that worked for me when it came to prying information out of Kodak employees—I'd wait until about 4:45 Rochester time on Friday afternoons to call. People were ready to go home, anticipating the weekend, feeling relaxed, and sometimes they'd let their guard down and let slip a little tidbit of information. Nothing major, mind you—just a little more than they would have told me any other day of the week. I got one or two nice nuggets that way.
I remember once I had a certain technical question for Kodak that was a bit delicate because it glanced obliquely at proprietary secrets. Again, nothing big—just something about an ingredient in a print developer or something like that.
I placed several calls and no one knew the answer. Rather than get frustrated, I just decided that just that one time, entirely as an experiment, I would dispassionately pursue the answer as diligently as I could—just to see how much work it actually took to pry the information out of Kodak corporate culture, which was, truly, very formidable in its time.
A number of calls and a day later, the glimmer turned to a glow that yes, there was one person who did know indeed the answer. A few more calls lead me to that person's actual name (victory after victory). It took several more calls over several days before I finally got to talk to him. My heart was beating a little harder than normal as his assistant put me through.
He was very polite and mild, but clearly being cautious. He explained that he hardly ever talked to anyone outside of Kodak. I posed the question to him, and he qualified the state of his knowledge of the answer. Eventually we decided that, yes, he did indeed know what I wanted to know. And, yes, he could tell me.
But then—right as he was beginning to spill the beans—he stopped short. "I'm not entirely sure I have the authority to tell you this or not. I don't know that I don't. But I don't explicitly know that I do." Or words to that effect.
We spent several more minutes discussing whether there was anyone with the authority to give him permission to tell me the answer, and, if there was, who that person might be. After considerably more thought, he decided he didn't know who that person was, but he had some ideas. I couldn't get him to give me names so I could continue on my quest from my end, but he promised he'd look in to it and get back to me.
Never heard back, of course. Game, set, and match, old Kodak.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.