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An unappetising takeaway

Just over a couple of weeks ago, Michael Zahn at NZ Camera Hire approached by email for a hire on Saturday 6 November.

As the hirer, Rohit Shokiin, was a new client and the gear worth c$100,000, Zahn took information about the hirer’s ID. This included Shokiin’s driver’s licence details and the number plate of the vehicle in which he came to collect the gear.

Zahn supplied gear including a Sony F55, Fujinon lens, and tripod.

Shokiin, who claimed to be shooting footage for a promotional video for his own company, said he’d like the option to continue to shoot on Sunday 8 if the good weather held. Late on Saturday 7, Shokiin extended the hire to the next day.

When he didn’t return the gear on Monday morning, Zahn attempted to contact him several times, both by text and phone call. Later in the day he sent a message to say he would contact the police unless he got a response.

He received a reply from Shokiin by email, saying that he had lost the camera during the shoot on Sunday. Zahn replied to request that the other goods be returned, so the paperwork could be filed with the insurer.

Zahn received no response and contacted both the police and the insurance broker, Crombie Lockwood. The police, Zahn says, were less than helpful, regarding his loss as a civil matter since the goods were under a hire agreement. Legal eagles will know that speeding ticket is a civil offence, but the police are rarely shy about

Crombie Lockwood, insurance broker for NZ Camera Hire and plenty of other industry businesses, was a little more active. The assessor has an investigator working on the case.

Although the NZ driver’s licence Shokiin provided was a genuine licence, the address on it was not Shokiin’s. Nor was the number plate on Shokiin’s vehicle; the plates had been stolen. The phone had been switched off.

Effectively, there was no way to track Shokiin further, although SCREENZ understands that he’s left the country.

Sadly, NZ Camera Hire wasn’t the only place suffering five finger discounts. Auckland’s White Studios also suffered losses in the same way, although as yet SCREENZ hasn’t been able to confirm exactly what equipment was stolen.

SCREENZ understands that Shokiin may have also approached Rocket Rentals, but been put off by something in their hire procedures. SCREENZ also understands that he secured two cameras on HP agreements from a major retail chain shortly before the weekend of 7 and 8 November.

The Crombie Lockwood-appointed investigator is looking into both NZ Camera Hire and White Studios’ losses.

Meanwhile, both businesses continue to operate more or less as usual, although less happily. Zahn noted that it was worth reminding others who hire out gear to check that their equipment valuations were up to date.

The lenses Zahn lost were bought and insured for $45,000, and now cost $41,000 – the lower amount being the one the insurer will pay out. The tripod cost and was insured for $8000, but now costs $13000.

Obviously Zahn is unable to hire out gear he no longer has so, until the insurance is settled and stock available from manufacturers, he continues to suffer losses.

Just to rub salt in the wound, the theft by Rohit Shokiin wasn’t the only loss NZ Camera Hire suffered this month. The same week, another hirer paid by credit card but provided a false address. The hirer took a Canon 5D body, which also wasn’t returned.

There aren’t any formal procedures in place in the NZ industry for what information has to be recorded from potential hirers. Crombie Lockwood is looking into establishing some best practice guidelines. As a major supplier of hire gear internationally, Panavision has such things in place. Next week, we’ll talk with Panavision’s Paul Lake about what could be done to help avoid more of the same.