When buying something becomes a strategic endeavor.
I never pre-ordered anything before. I simply wasn’t aware that when popular electronic devices first come out it can be a really long time before there is enough available for regular retail sales until tracked the launch of the Sony A7III.
Although I was a firmly entrenched Blackmagic user, the original Pocket Cinema Camera that I was using … let’s admit it, had limitations. So I thought about getting an A7III for more general filming and stills. So I followed the camera’s launch and waited for it to go on regular retail sale — where you could just order it and have it sent to you right away like normal – – but it took months and months and months just for the pre-orders to be filled. Then months more of backorders. I couldn’t get my hands on this camera even if I wanted to.
So when the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K (BMPCC4K) was announced in April I decided that I would jump on it and make my first pre-order.
What is a pre-order? It’s just what it sounds like: you make a commitment to buy a new product before it’s manufactured and on the open market.
Why pre-order? To get whatever you want before everybody else.
How do pre-orders work? First come first serve, in theory.
The BMPCC4K was opened to pre-orders in mid-April, and I placed mine on May 1st through B&H. B&H is a massive brick and mortar and online electronics shop. I figured that because they were so big and prominent that they would have some additional clout with Blackmagic Design and would get their orders in first.
This ended up beign the exact opposite of what actually happens.
When the BMPCC4K started shipping in the middle of September there were not enough units to go around, so the distributors would send small batches to all of their stores incrementally.
So a big store like B&H — who had thousands and thousands of pre-orders — would only be able to fulfill on the very first orders they had, which meant that almost everybody who ordered from them would have to wait.
Meanwhile, small retailers — who maybe only had a few pre-orders — were able to fulfill 100% of their orders almost immediately.
This created a situation where people who placed pre-orders for the camera with B&H in April and May were left empty handed while some people who placed pre-orders with smaller retailers much later — sometimes mere days before distribution — were getting theirs. This pissed people off, as was evident on the Blackmagic forums, and the word got out that if you want to get your pre-orders ASAP to use small retailers that nobody has ever heard of before.
I took this lesson and at the end of September immediately placed a second pre-order with a retailer in Wisconsin called Safe Harbor. I was #5 on their list. I also placed a third pre-order with another small retailer as well. This may have seemed like overkill, but I was set to leave the USA in mid-October and I wanted to get this camera before hand.
I then waited. I called the retailers almost daily — “Did you get any in today?” I waited. I moved up to #1 in line with Safe Harbor as I was boarding the jet for Europe.
The camera didn’t come in time.
I really wanted this camera for a slate of film projects that I was planning …
On my first day back in Prague around five weeks ago I made a last ditch attempt to get one. I called up Blackmagic’s local distributor and asked if they had one that I could buy. The guy just laughed at me in a “yeah, right,” kind of way — everybody was trying to get this camera. Then something interesting happened. I don’t know what it was — maybe I sounded uber-disappointed, maybe he just felt like being nice, but he then said, “I have one on the floor that I can give to you if you can come in today.”
I packed up the kids, called an Uber, and went right over there.
When I arrived I met the guy that I talked to on the phone.
“I made a mistake,” he began. “I didn’t have one available on the floor.”
He then paused, allowing enough time for my disappointment to shine through.
“But,” he continued with a smile, “I can give you one anyway.” He then went into the backroom and came out with an unopened box — a camera that was supposed to have been sent to one of his retailers, not sold to me on the floor.
I handed over my card without asking the price. I didn’t care at that point. I got one, and that’s all that mattered.
While I learned a lesson on pre-orders from this ordeal, what’s perhaps most interesting is the last part of the story. Scarcity creates a feeding frenzy, and alters the consumer’s mentality from “Do I want this camera more than other cameras” to “I need to get this camera at all costs.” Suddenly, purchasing a product becomes a competition; it becomes something that requires strategy, wit, and persistence. It also makes the purchasing experience oddly fun. I am unsure if this is by design — by intentionally releasing a deficient number of units — but from a marketing standpoint it works. It makes those who get a product early feel oddly privileged, proud of themselves.
I felt sort of embarrassed as I rode in the Uber back to my apartment after successfully getting the camera, and I made a concerted decision not to make a YouTube video bragging about it, as is common practice in the vlogging world that I am nominally a part of.
I would just unbox it without any cameras pointed at me and start working with it, as I would any other piece of equipment. However, I will say that the early results have been impressive: