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Slides on the Skids in the Marketplace

Question: I’m an amateur photographer who uses many rolls of color slide film, especially on frequent travel trips.

It seems to me it would cost about the same to manufacture slide film as print film, yet slide film like Kodachrome or Fujichrome sells for about twice the price of print film like Kodacolor or Fujicolor. How come?

Can this have anything to do with the fact that you have to pay later for prints from print film, while slides are very cheap to process? And you never see slide film on sale, only print film. I think I see a conspiracy in this whole business.--B.S.

Answer: Conspiracy? No, not really. Marketing strategy? Right.

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You’re nibbling around the heart of the matter, according to Ron Baird, a photo specialist for Eastman Kodak in Rochester, N.Y., when you suggest that the price difference between slides and print film can be traced to manufacturing costs.

However, Baird says, you’ve got it backwards. It’s the slide film that’s expensive to manufacture because of the difference in the emulsions used on slides and prints. There isn’t that much cost difference in the processing itself. With a slide you get a positive image, and the cost of processing is the same whether the frame turns out to be a blank or is fully developed.

Marketing Strategy

And why you find print film on sale far more frequently than you do slide film, according to Mike Siegel, a marketing-communications specialist with Kodak, boils down to a simple matter of marketing.

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“Slide film is really a very small percentage of our market,” he says. “The vast majority of our customers prefer print film simply because it’s a lot less trouble to look at them--rather than hauling out a projector and a screen.”

We might also add that hauling out a projector and a portable screen is one of the fastest ways in the world to panic a roomful of guests who hadn’t really planned to settle down to view a 2-hour travelogue on the scenic wonders of your vacation trip back to Indiana.

“When you launch a sales promotion,” Siegel says, “the dealer has to order X rolls of film in addition to his regular order to get the special price. So the promotional film has to have a broad market for it to pay. If, in order to get the special price, he has to order, say, an extra 100 rolls of Ektachrome, he’s not going to do it--that might constitute his normal sale of slide film for a year.

“We’ll occasionally have promotions, though,” Siegel adds, “that will include all our film products. But, it’s true that you won’t see too many slide-film-only promotions.”

No conspiracy. With sales promotions, you go where the market is. And that’s with print film, not slides.

Q: Concerning your recent column about the woman who can’t figure out her husband’s finances: Why don’t such women read and study and question their Internal Revenue Service returns? If the husband and wife both sign the form, then she’s responsible for what’s on it, even if he prepared it. Many wives remain ignorant of the family’s finances. They not only should ask questions, they’re crazy not to.--A.K.

A: I couldn’t agree with you more, but the plight of the woman in the earlier letter wasn’t a matter of not wanting to know more about her husband’s finances; she desperately did want to know. The problem is that she is married to a macho, 17th-Century throwback with the sensitivity of the Great Barrier Reef.

Sure, she can get a sense of his finances if they’re filing a joint IRS return requiring her signature--assuming (which we can’t) that he lets her see anything on it except the blank line to be signed.

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Another reader suggested that the husband surely doesn’t take his checkbook to bed with him and that it might prove a bit of educational reading for her.

Another suggestion: She should see a lawyer and force a disclosure because, under the Community Property statutes, it’s a fair bet that half of everything they own is actually hers.

The lawyer should also insist that the husband prepare a valid will.

All of these are good suggestions, but in the case of this woman, she is completely cowed. She didn’t say anything about physical abuse, but in reading between the lines, there could be the possibility of it.

Campbell cannot answer mail personally but will respond in this column to consumer questions of general interest. Write to Consumer VIEWS, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.


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