My worst nightmare just came true. Eight rolls of exposed film have gone missing. They are lost in the mail, possibly forever. This is the challenge of shooting film: once it leaves your hands, it’s out of your control. You just have to trust that it will all work out. And while most of the time it does, there will be the occasional screw-up.
Three weeks ago, I packaged and mailed 11 rolls of film to The Darkroom just as I always do. I tracked its delivery online and the day it was due to arrive, USPS stopped updating the tracking number. This is odd, I thought, but I still had faith. Then I get an email from The Darkroom asking me if I was planning to send them the remaining 8 rolls from my order separately. What do you mean? I asked. There should have been 11 rolls. Apparently, only 3 rolls made it. The other 8 had somehow never arrived. It seems that my package must have been damaged in transit (or, God forbid, someone stole my film!) and only part of my shipment made it through. Ironically enough, the 3 rolls that made it were all slide film.
Then, just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I discover that my second shipment of film has gone astray! I sent another 11 rolls of film to The Darkroom a week after the first package and tracking this shipment on USPS has revealed a problem. For some reason, USPS has forwarded my second package to God knows where and have claimed that I had made an error in the address. Not bloody likely! I used the shipping label printed directly from The Darkroom’s website. There was no error on my part. So now I have no idea if the second package will make it to The Darkroom or if I’ve lost another 11 rolls. Sigh. Once is bad luck, twice is incompetence!
Out of sheer frustration, I called Canada Post and filed two complaints—one an insurance claim for the lost film and the other an investigation into the whereabouts of my second package. I’m still waiting for an answer. I have lost all faith in Canada Post (and USPS) and don’t expect any kind of resolution on their behalf. Even if they pay out on the insurance claim, my photos are lost forever.
However, there is one silver lining in all this. Throughout this entire ordeal, The Darkroom has been amazing! They have answered all my questions and even offered to speak with USPS on my behalf. They have a great relationship with their local post office and will let me know if the missing 8 rolls ever turn up (it’s happened before where loose rolls have made their way back to The Darkroom after getting lost). And they will speak with the postmaster to look into the whereabouts of my second package. Hopefully, it will be found and rerouted to The Darkroom.
So what have I learned from all this?
First, package your film so that it is as strong and damage-proof as you can make it. This will also deter anyone from tampering with your package. And make sure that both the destination and return addresses are big and bold so that there is no confusion.
Second, I will no longer trust Canada Post and USPS to deliver my film safely. I will send my packaged film through FedEx from now on. They may or may not be any better, but I can’t risk another issue with the mail.
Third, The Darkroom rocks! Their customer service is second to none. They have exceeded all my expectations in helping me to resolve a problem that did not originate with them. I can’t say this enough: They do a quality job from start to finish and have never disappointed me. I will always send my film to them.
The photo above is not the film I lost, although a roll of Fuji Sensia was among the missing. It’s just a photo of some expired film I purchased six months ago.