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Monday, April 28, 2014


I was asked to help out on a commercial shoot as a gopher/assistant so I had to scramble to put a kit together. My last commercial photography shoot for a catalog had me bring everything I could think of but then I had to bring strobes and softboxes and I was the lead photographer. As an assistant, the photographer or lead videographer would have all that stuff and they DO the shooting. The assistant is really more of a grip. So leave your DSLR and shooters stuff at home.

This is what I brought with me along with a positive attitude, sense of humour and a thick skin (hey gopher get me coffee!)
  • Screwdrivers; Phillips & Flat Head – standard size
  • Screwdrivers; Phillips & Flat Head – fine size for camera repair
  • Hammer - metal and rubber head
  • Adjustable Wrench
  • Pliers
  • Scissors
  • Work gloves (Mechanix style)
  • Zip Ties
  • Hex Keys / Allen Keys (Imperial)
  • Hex Keys / Allen Keys (Metric)
  • Sharpies
  • Dry Erase Marker with small dry erase board
  • LED Flashlight
  • Super Glue
  • Hardware kit with ¼”-20 nuts, bolts and washers
  • Measuring Tape (Soft, Hard, or Laser) really needed for pulling focus
  • Marking Pen
  • Camera Tape (non-marking)
  • Duck Tape
  • Velcro straps
  • Compressed Air or Blower
  • Lens Tissue
  • Lens Cleaning Fluid
  • Assorted Office Supplies: Pen, Pencil, paper pads, stapler, Clip board, Post-It Notes, Markers, Clipboard in a LowePro Pouch
  • Leatherman or Victorinox Multi-Tool
  • Advil, Immodium, Hand Sanitizer, Rolaids, Kleenex and a first aid kit
  • Sandbags
  • Garbage bags, Zip Lock bags
  • Screen Wipes
  • 50 foot extension cord
  • Camel Hair Brush
  • Batteries (Assorted)
  • Power Cube Taps
  • AV Adapters (Assorted)
  • Assorted BNC to RCA Adapters and cables
  • Microfiber Cloth
  • 2 way radio with a hand microphone (FRS type)
  • Space Blanket
  • Garbage bags
  • Zip Lock Bags
  • Carabiners from Niteze and Petzl
  • Grip Clips
  • Manuals in pdf format on tablet
  • Rope and 550 Paracoprd
  • Lighter
  • Laptop and or tablet
  • SD/CF Card Reader
  • Miscellaneous Computer Cables
  • Cellphone and tablet chargers
  • Headphones
  • LCD 7 inch monitor with battery packs
  • Point and Shoot camera (Nikon V1)
  • Sewing Kit
  • Folding tool
  • Voltmeter and AC Outlet Ground tester
  • Golfers Umbrella
  • 20 x 10 Tarp
The Toolbag Case

I am not rich like Joe Mcnally so having the Think Tank Logistics Manager ( ) is out of my budget, however if I was doing this on a regular basis or as a professional then that would be the way to go. Cinebag and others also have purpose built equipment to make life simpler. A great shop in Toronto is The Source These wonderful people supply everything needed in the film industry including Canada Goose jackets for the California movie stars.

I did use my Think Tank Roller and a Stanley rolling toolbox and a Pelican Roller.

One thing I did forget was a folding stool, a thermos, sewing kit, a change of clothes (we went out for dinner later on in the day) and golfers umbrella. One thing that I think would be more important is some kind of 12v power supply with an invertor or even UPS system but normally I would expect the production truck to have this but in this case that truck was someones mini-van. 

if I forgot anything , please feel free to let me know. Oh yeah a stepladder of sorts could be handy

Do I need Insurance when I travel in Canada?

We all understand that if we travel outside of our borders it makes good sense to obtain travel insurance that includes health insurance beyond just luggage and flight cancellations.

I have always assumed that our provincial coverage such as OHIP, will cover me outside of the province. That is a wrong assumption.

One of the biggest costs that could be incurred is ambulance services. Ground ambulance can be a few hundred dollars whereas air ambulances can be thousands of dollars.

So consider the fact that if you get injured while skiing in BC and need to be airlifted to Toronto, OHIP will not cover those costs.

You are having a pastry in Calgary, and crack your tooth on a hidden walnut shell, the emergency dental care is not covered.

An easy way of getting this coverage is using a premium travel card that includes this insurance in your purchases. The other standard alternative is through the various travel insurance offerings by the banks and different insurance companies.

Sometimes, it is cheaper to do it direct with the carrier than just clicking on the box while buying an airline ticket or travel package.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The HP Call Center Experience was truly Awesome

I have been having issues with the HP printer cartridges and either the store is selling old ones or there is a quality control problem

After the 3rd defective cartridge I figure I should make a call to tech support

Call answered within 2 rings and agent was live in less than 15 seconds

Exchanged info and gathered the serial number info and was told its out of warranty , but not to worry I can still assist as it may be a ink cartridge issue.

After a couple of "please make a photocopy", "please print a page", shut it off and wait, unplug it and wait 30 seconds, "please print again". The tech support girl did a desktop log in and walked through the printer settings.

No issues and all seems well but the "incompatible cartridge error" has disappeared.

She offered to replace the cartridge and ship one out via UPS

She then flipped me to her supervisor who relayed all the details, confirmed my info, provided case and order numbers and how to track my ink cartridge journey on their website and finally asked "anything else we can assist you with today?, thanks for choosing HP"

An email popped up in my inbox with all the details

now what can i say about an awesome customer service experience...just awesome. Think back several years ago when HP service was horrible. They obviously listened to consumers and acted on improving the experience and now I am a victim to continuing to buy HP ink and help increase their stock price

The Sperry Topsider Call Center Experience

I have a defective boat shoe product from Sperry Topsider so I contact the call center since I paid almost $200 for the shoes

After 7 calls to a busy number i finally get through

Press 3 for returns

Press 2 for returns of a defective product

The message tells you to mail it to their RMA address in the USA and choose 3 styles in case they decide to replace it. I basically have to ship it using a tracking code at my expense. This will cost me $20 and I am not sure if I need to pay return shipping.

International callers need to press 2 where a thank you message comes on and then a disconnect

I call back and end up pressing 8 for further help

The message directs me to a website that can answer all my questions but the website cannot hence my voice call for customer service assistance

They apologize for the service due to a high phone call volumes

Press 1 to leave a voice mail or send us an email to

I leave a voice mail with a return telephone number and i also send an email

I do not get a call, I do not get a return email

24 hours later I try again but this time I wish to speak to a live agent

I call again and I try calling though the regular customer service queue and after 22 minutes in the queue I am disconnected

I call again and after 18 minutes of waiting I give up

I try again and go through the return menu prompts and while listening to music i check my emails and voice mails to see if they called as promised from yesterdays activity. No such luck.

I keep checking the website and cannot find and warranty information whatsoever.

Their call center is open 8am-10pm EST during the week and 9am-8pm on weekends. That is a good sign that they are staffed for taking calls.

After another 17 minutes, I finally get through and am told I need to fill out paperwork and send the shoes to the united states for evaluation. If I am lucky, I get a replacement pair, if I am not then I paid $20 to ship them for evaluation and will still have a defective pair of shoes.

I am promised an RMA form by email within 5 minutes of the call.

Here is what i got:

Dear John,

Thank you for contacting us in regards to your defective merchandise.  We apologize that your experience with our product has been less than satisfactory.

If you are not able to return the shoes to the original place of purchase, please attach:
-       A picture of the defect
-       A picture of all of the information listed under the tongue section of the shoe
-       A picture showing that you have cut the tongues out of the shoe (straps for sandals). This is a requirement of our auditing department to guarantee the shoes are out of circulation.

Please also complete the form included below.

Please note that we do have a return policy arrangement with all retailers for assistance in in potential manufacturing issues.  *** We do not currently ship outside of the US, except for Canada, APO or FPO addresses.
Once we receive the completed form and pictures, we will send a replacement in the same category and value.

International Customers (Excluding Canada)
If you are an international customer, we can send a replacement to a US address or, if a receipt is provided, send a check for the purchase price of the shoe. If a receipt is not available, we will send a check in the amount of the value of the shoe. The check will be in US dollars.

Please note all replacements are final. Acceptance of a check will close the claim.


I would rather they repair the shoe but they are not set up to do this. what shall I do?

so a few days later I still have not received and email or return telephone call as promised from the original call. If I relied on their customer service staff responding I still would be waiting.

Quick Travel Business Tips

Business travelers are a hardy bunch and are always full of tips and tricks to simplify their airline commute.

1. Get a NEXUS card for faster security checks and shorter lines. You wont need to remove your laptops, belt, shoes or little shampoo bottles.

2. Choose traditional security lines with an eye to avoid families, old people or those that look like they have never traveled before. They will slow the line down as they will wear a belt, shoes, not remove laptops and shampoos and be confused when asked questions.

3. Bring a carry on and pack more in less space. I like to use pack it cubes by Eagle Creek. It also keeps everything in its place.

4. Get cash in small bills for tips. The USA does not have loonies and toonies.

5. Carry a small medicine cabinet with OTC pain medication, Rolaids, Immodium, sleep aids and some bandages. A small tube of an antibiotic ointment will be useful as well.

6. CHECK CHECK CHECK your flight connection times between flights. Assume at least an hour if possible because if you have a 30 minute window at O'Hare you will miss a flight. A 10 minute delay landing and a traverse from one terminal to another adds another 15 mins and you just missed your plane. This is why a carry on is handier and faster as opposed to checked luggage or Gate Checked.

7. Gate Checked Luggage can slow you down and may result in the Air Canada toss where they drop your bag 30 feet to test its wheel strength, zippers and prizes fro baggage handlers if they destroy anything inside. Multiply your score for cracked tablets, cameras or hidden duty free alcohol bottles.

Check out Seat Guru for carry on sizes and most CRJ planes have smaller dimensions so be aware.

8. Take photos of all important and emergency documents and store it in a cloud app like Evernote

9. Be nice to airline staff, they travel all day and can be just as harried and stressed as you are having to deal with some of the worst passengers ever. "I would like a low sodium tomato juice with a slice of lemon and 1 medium sized ice cube as well as a not too hot coffee with one milk and one cream and 1.5 sugars but don't stir it"

10. Having trouble with the weight limit imposed by airlines today so they can gouge you for more $$$. Invest in a carry-on jacket with lots of pockets and carry heavy stuff in those pockets. Do not laugh I saw a guy wearing this and he was all smiles.

11. Carry a small kit that includes 12 feet of paracord (think clothesline), some duck tape wrapped around a 35mm film canister, some paper clips, a bull clip, needle and thread, and sonme extra batteries for your electronics.