Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Photo-Enlargement Trick

The Photo-Enlargement Trick.

"The Universal Press Advertising Agency."
How Christchurch Fouls Are Taken Down.

On more than one occasion the "Spectator" has deemed it a public duty to expose the machinations of companies, syndicates and individuals who, while keeping within the letter of the law, lure the unsuspecting public into the expenditure, of money, for which they receive no commensurate return. On this occasion we propose dealing, with a new phase of what without prejudice to legitimate trade, we will call the fraudulent Photo Enlargement Scheme.

There is at present in this town, in Cashel Street, which uses as a sign the cryptic words "The Universal Press Advertising Agency." To those in the know it stands for one thing, that which deals with the photo enlargement trick.

Some little, while ago, an advertisement appeared in a local paper, calling for applications for the position of canvasser, "Apply Universal Press Agency." Numerous applicants, desirous of any kind of labor, made their appearance, and were duly employed at the munificent salary of 25s per week. For that Rajah-like salary they had to be present at the office at 8.45 a.m. and after working during the day, were dismissed at about 5.30 p.m. On Saturday they worked but half a day. The usual palaver about "possibilities" and "higher" positions" were lavishly doled out by the employer. Subsequently the unfortunate men found that wet days were not paid for, 5s being deducted for each. Certain favored individuals were grudgingly granted a five shilling rise per week, upon the good results of their labors.

But it is not so much of the men that we would speak as of the poor victims of their zeal. We say poor, because the rich were not so badly off as will be seen by subsequent statements. When these men had accepted the positions offered them, they were told it was as canvassers for photo enlargements that their services were needed, and they were duly instructed with a certain "patter," which ran much as follows at each house at which they called:

"Good day, madam;" (it was almost invariably a "madam" as the husband was usually at work when they called), "I'm representing the National Art Company of Wellington. We are just about to establish our enlargement studio here in Christchurch, and with that object in view, we propose sending out a limited number of enlargements free of cost. These enlargements are 16 x 20, and they are crayon work, in black and white, being superior to the ordinary photography, as there are no chemicals in the crayons, consequently they do not fade like the ordinary photo. Now you might think this an extraordinary offer, madam but we find it is a better way of advertising than going to the newspapers. As you know, people read over newspaper advertisements, and they think no more of the firm, whereas, if we get our enlargements into the various homes, they will be there as a standing advertisement for our firm. All we ask is that you recommend our work to your friends and relatives, and if there are any orders forthcoming, we hope to get a percentage of those when we open our studio here. We are only making one call on a few houses, madam, and those who avail themselves of this offer have the privilege of receiving the first enlargement free of cost.

In the majority of cases the lady of the house concurs With the canvasser's remark that this is a better way of advertising, and she hunts up her collection for a suitable photograph (generally of a deceased relative) and shows it to the man at the door, who is not slow in showering compliments upon the photo as to how it would make up as an enlargement. Finally he succeeds in obtaining possession, and loses no time in pocketing it. Then conies the next stage in this marvellous sleight of tongue. He introduces a printed receipt with the remark that: "I will give you a receipt now, madam, for your photo, signed by myself as representing agent for the firm."

This receipt in some cases, but not all contains a printed wording to the effect that no enlargement will be delivered without a frame, which will be supplied from a guinea upwards. The last line "from a guinea"' upwards" was found to militate against getting orders, and the newly printed receipts did not bear any statement about the price of the frame.

All this introduction, so as to speak, most crucial point of the address having passed off successfully, the is begun, and we would call our readers' attention to the insidiousness of the whole pre-amble.

"Of course," says the canvasser, "we wish these enlargements to act as an advertisement as I before mentioned, and so we supply them framed. Naturally you can hardly expect us to give them for nothing, so our representative will call upon you in a few days with specimens of mouldings at reasonable prices."

Here then we see the modus operandi. A calm perusal of the "patter" (which, if not word for word correct, is vouched for as fairly accurate) will show any intelligent person that there is something behind it all. Let us deal with the facts seriatim -

(1) Why does the firm shelter itself behind a name of such grandiloquent terms as the "Universal Press Advertising Agency," whereas the canvassers are instructed to say they are representing "The National Art Company?"

(2) "We propose sending out a limited number of enlargements free of cost." The canvassers are sent into a certain "area" each day under a "ganger" or "inspector" (sic) who at other periods takes a hand at frame selling. This area is thoroughly canvassed, no house being missed by the hard-working canvasser as the returns for his allotted street are subject to criticism and likely a wigging from the head man in the office. Hence the "limited number" argument is absolutely a lie.

(3) The silly twaddle about the crayons is simply an absurdity calculated to bamboozle the ignorant.

(4) The comparison with newspaper advertising is another dodge to throw sand in the eyes of the public.

(5) Regarding the opening of a studio, it is possible that under certain circumstances a studio might be quickly opened, but it is a fact that at Hokitika (where framed enlargements are now being delivered by a man who is looked to as the head of this Christchurch branch) Blenheim, Nelson and perhaps many other places the same business has been done and no studio has yet been opened.

(6) The lie method in (2) is repeated later on to emphasize the fact that only a "limited number" can avail themselves of the offer.

(7) Three local ex-canvassers-testify that hints are dropped out to get the photos of "deceased relatives, if possible," and unless an enlargement with frame is taken the owner of the original photo finds it very difficult to, get it returned. Thus the people are almost forced if they value the original to take the enlargement and frame in order to get back the picture that is their own.

Now these canvassers found that to keep their position they were obliged to bring in a goodly number of photos. The foreman or ganger in charge of those who were "working" a district sees to it that no houses are missed. There was always a possibility, often realised, of a young canvasser receiving as high as 30s a week. As a consequence the men did their utmost to get photos and took them from all sorts of people who could never have afforded the price of the frame but were lured on by the "free gift" idea. Old Age Pensioner's and people who could hardly find enough money to keep themselves were. thus victimised and in some cases had parted with their most cherished possession, an old photograph.

The next man who appears at the house from where a photo has been extracted is the "frame-seller" with specimens of frames which an expert who has viewed them has said are of no commensurate value with the price charged. This is not to be wondered at considering that the wages of a canvasser, a frame seller, and a deliverer of the finished article besides the enlarger and the framer, and the syndicate's profit all have to come out of that frame. The frame-seller shows the mouldings and when one is selected he asks for a deposit. He will take anything and on many occasions has taken as low 1s on the, word of several people. The depositor signs a paper and from then on has bound his or herself (mostly herself) to pay the rest, and a Court of Law is bound to uphold the canvasser.

But woe betide, the unfortunates who are dismayed at the prices of the frames and see too late where "free gift" comes in, because they then have to try and get their photo back, and bitterly regret, the day they parted with the original.

Every one of the canvassers, if the experiences of several go for anything, are instructed on no account to give the Christchurch address of the firm, and anxious women are seen wandering about the streets looking for the "National Art Company." Occasionally a savage man or angry woman finds the office through the canvasser, who, having left the employ of the firm, has no qualms on the subject. Then there is a disturbance.

This, firm have, also descended on Lyttelton, and are now finishing their raid on Christchurch.

There are people who, knowing nothing of the price of frames and having a fairly presentable enlargement, and not being embarrassed by the expenditure of a pound or two, will not grumble, and others do not like the world to know how they were taken in. It is the unfortunate poor people and mostly women, who love their last records of a dead son or husband that we would help. To imagine that any firm can give away enlargements from house to house in this fashion for no thing should make everybody pause. But the world is very full of people mostly fools - as Carlyle said.
Grey River Argus, 21 May 1909, Page 1