Many of our customers ask how we're able to consistently get exemplar vehicles within a few days. Truth be told, sometimes it's easy and sometimes it's a real bear. Having four photographers around the country is the first trick, as one of us usually has something local. But, the internet telling you there's a car close by and actually getting access to a car are two different things.
This week, we were asked to get a 2001-2004 Ford Focus ZX3 (two-door hatchback). When it first came in, I thought it'd be one of the easy ones. I was wrong. All three shooters checked in reporting they either didn't have a good match around, or couldn't meet the deadline. Being in Los Angeles, I had several good matches within an hour of the office (seven to be exact), so I printed out all the sale ads and started making calls.
Choice #1: 15 minutes away and in good condition. Craigslister. I texted him earlier without response, and now called, but no answer. Left a voicemail...never heard back. He probably thought I was a scammer.
Choice #2: 40 minutes away. Dealer. Friendly contact, but the vehicle is in their storage lot, no can do.
Choice #3: 30 minutes away. Dealer. Called twice but the dealer's phone system automatically hung up.
Choice #4: 30 minutes away, big dealer. I find it's best to just show up at big dealers, as permission over the phone is rarely acquired for non-LEOs. I showed up, and the woman who helped me was very helpful, but the vehicle was no longer there. Shucks.
Choice #5: 25 minutes from my current location. I'd emailed the owner earlier in the day, but didn't hear back. Called this time, made contact, told her my story, and then....she hung up. It happens. On to the next one.
Choice #6: 30 minutes away from my current location. Craigslister who requested text-only contact, must be a millennial. Texted him, offering cash in exchange for 30 minutes with the vehicle. No reply.
Choice #7: 30 minutes from my current location. Aftermarket wheels, which isn't optimal, but I'm way past optimal at this point. Called the dealer, who was very friendly, but the vehicle was not on the lot, and wouldn't be back for three days. Deadline being tomorrow, this won't work.
At this point I was considering either raising the price of requests to $500 or stopping the service altogether! I grabbed lunch and found a good match on Autotrader 45 minutes away from my current location (1.25 hours from my office in total). Having worked with this dealer before, I figured they'd be helpful if I compensated them for their trouble...and fortunately they were, a serious relief. Lucky number 8.
After about 45 minutes of preparing for the hunt, and 4.5 hours on the road, I finally had the photos of the Focus I needed to create the requested model.
So, that's how we get the exemplar requests on time. Sometimes it requires a whole bunch of time and persistence (and sacrificing highly-billable hours). Below is the compilation of ads I ended up with and my notes. Thankfully, they're not ALL this tough.
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Louis R. Peck, M.S.M.E.