Why no price lists for image processing?

I’ve made an observation that many image processing centers do not have price lists available for potential customers to view. This is not limited to copy centers, but also to photo finishers as well. I’ve seen some that advertise prices and the rare ones that spell everything out, but I’ve dealt with many that refuse to have a price list that I can peruse and make an informed decision for purchasing their services.

When I ask to see a price list, the response is usually “What do you want to know?”. If I knew, I probably wouldn’t be asking!

And now the Questions:

Why do image processors (copy centers and photo finishers) not post their prices? Is it to limit comparison shopping, or some other reason that is taught in the MBA program at Harvard? (I know that there would be a price scale depending on the number of copies made, but this can be printed as well.)

Should I trust an image processor who can’t (won’t) print a price list for me to reference?

I think this is because their services are highly dependent on what you give them. If you just want copies of a photo or prints from a negative, those things are cookbook operations and they’ll quote a price. If you need an old photo restored, a ex-SO airbrushed out of a photo, etc. these operations depend on the source.

For example, I’ve done some Photoshop work removing people from images. Depending on the background of the photo and how the people are placed, this can be a five minute or a five hour job. If I were doing it for money, I’d quote you an hourly rate and give you an estimate for a specific task.

This is no different than any other service that’s labor intensive. For example, call a painter and ask how much it will cost to paint your house without telling them how big your house is or how much woodwork you have. I don’t think their refusal to quote blanket pricing necessarily implies that they’re unscrupulous.

and I agree that that sort of pricing and dependance is reasonable.

The problem I have is with the local photo shop (Black’s) has no listing for prices for bringing in your roll of 35mm film to be processed and what the cost difference is between one-hour processing or 5-day and then what the cost is for having doubles made at the same time, or what they would cost to have a whole roll reprinted at a later date, or whether an index card is included or how much extra it would cost.

The same is true at photcopy shop. They could make up a list of what it would cost to have a colour photocopy made of a picture based on the number of copies you want and the type of paper used.

The thing is, I keep finding the shops that don’t have the price list. I go in and ask to see one, and they say “Well, what do you want done?” I tell the person and they just make up a number and see whether I’ll pay it.

With straightforward film developing, the price usually depends on the number of pictures that come out. You know that shot you took with the sun behind your subjects, so all you got was a big white spot? Or the one where your thumb covered most of the field of view? They won’t charge you for those. Unfortuneately, they don’t know how many such shots are going to be on a given roll, or even how many frames were on the roll in the first place (there’s usually two or three extra).