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Julian D. A. Wiseman
Abstract: the only photo booths in Paris are Photomaton booths, which make it difficult to get a compliant photograph of a child. It takes many attempts, at €5 each. Indeed, it seems to have been deliberately designed to swindle parents.
Publication history: only at www.jdawiseman.com/papers/trivia/photomaton_ripoff.html. Usual disclaimer and copyright terms apply.
Photomaton’s booths for passport photos seem to have a de facto monopoly in Paris. Indeed, the Photomation Cabine Photo Easybooth seems to be the only model of photobooth in Paris. So if you are in Paris and need a passport photo, you will be using one of these. Cost: €5 for one set of five photos, all identical. Three pictures will be taken, you choose one and five copies of that one appear.
And if the passport photo is for a child, the machine is carefully designed to be a ripoff. It will take multiple attempts to get a good photo: for each of my three children a valid passport photo has taken €20. Readers will doubtless want to know how the ripoff works, for it is a cunningly designed swindle.
So how does the rip-off work, and how can it be circumvented?
As is usual in photobooths, the small seat is on a screw, so can be raised or lowered by turning it. But it doesn’t go high enough for a child of three years. Even with the seat as high as it goes, the child must kneel.
And with the seat anywhere near the top of its range, it becomes very wobbly.
On pressing the green photo button, the machine counts down for three seconds. There is no ‘Now!’ button.
So there is a young child, kneeling at the top of a wobbly stool which has a small seat. Such a youngster is unsteady and frightened of falling. Such a youngster wants to look down, in the direction of the impending fall, or sideways, to a wall that perhaps could be held. The child will not look forward, to the camera, more than fleetingly. And the countdown takes (a wonderfully judged—how much testing did that take?) three seconds, long enough for the child to look away. It is an exquisitely designed ripoff.
Photomaton: please do one of two things. Perhaps sue me for libel. (Make my day; destroy your business.) Or, nicer, less rip-off swindle, fix the problem.
Make the seat go higher, without becoming wobbly. Or have a second camera, much lower, and allow the user to choose whether to use the low or high camera. (The same result might be reached with one camera and some mirrors.)
Add a ‘Now!’ button, roughly where the right picture has been marked with a green dot and blue circle. Not a ‘3 seconds to look away’ button, even though swindling the customer is profitable. A ‘Now!’ button, allowing the parent to choose when the child is looking forward, even if only fleetingly.
But the reader surely knows that a profitable swindle will not be so easily conceded. Happily, there is something that a parent can do. The seat can be twisted such that it comes off completely. Do this. And bring your own seat: something sturdy, with four well-spaced legs. Having a sturdy seat on which the child can kneel will work much better. A child might even be willing to look forward for three seconds. When finished, reclaim your seat and re-connect the original.
|— Julian D. A. Wiseman|
8th May 2012
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