LESSONS LEARNED // LOSING EVERYTHING TO THEFT WITH NO INSURANCE
Last Monday I woke up on time FOR ONCE.
This Monday was unlike any other (minus the fact that I woke up on time, I never do that) I threw myself together, stumbled up the stairs and greeted my mom's dog Carl. After an empty conversation with him about the mail man and cheeseburgers I got in my car and headed to the studio for a day of retouching. Aside from the few curveballs that comes along with every Monday (slow drivers, having to stop and get an energy drink, hitting 12 red lights, etc) There was one curveball in particular that I've been afraid of significantly for the last several years.
I pulled into the studio, parked against the building, waited a few minutes behind the dumpster to scare Seth, and walked in looking forward to a day of retouching, headshots, and an ASMP meeting. I was pretty hyped for the busy day that was ahead and got to work right away.
About an hour later I packed up my shit and was off to my meeting. Only when I walked to my car the awful vision I'd pictured so many times became a reality.
My rear window was missing.
I've played this exact scenario no less than 100 times in my head and when it became my reality I honestly had no idea what to do. You know when you hear people talk about the moments in life when everything stands still and they go numb, or feel their heart hit their stomach? I didn't experience anything like that, What I experienced I can't exactly properly explain to you.
I walked up to my windowless car and held my breath as I looked through into the rear hatch. The night before I had a shoot that went a little longer than normal, and of course I packed everything I owned because one is none right? and of course I didn't unpack- why would I do that? I had a shoot the next day, and the day after. It's all good! I've left gear in my car a thousand times! what a f****** idiot.
Everything I had from camera bodies, lenses, speed lights, stands, super clamps, auto rig, etc. was missing, and as I stared blankly at the glass covered interior I whispered to myself:
After frantically walking at hyper speed, talking way too fast, scratching the hell out of my head, and trying to make sense of the whole situation I took what was left behind out and grabbed a ride to my meeting. The whole way there I tried to play out the whole scenario of "who could have done this?" "there's no way they could even see in there, my windows are so dark" "f***" "F***" F***" blah blah blah.
Now- If you know me you're probably picturing my reaction a little different. Maybe some "WHAT THE F***?!?!?!" lots of yelling, lots of F***'s thrown around, maybe a few things thrown around, and probably trying to blame this all on someone. I'm not too sure why I didn't get mad at the situation, but I can't really ever remember feeling any kind of rage or anger. The only thing I can say I've felt is a whole ton of confusion and my eyes water. But more so than anything what I felt (and am still feeling) is fright. When I thought about the fact that I didn't have insurance on my gear I felt the most vulnerable I've felt in a very long time. I've spent the last few years piecing together what I considered to be a very efficient and comfortable little arsenal capable of handling just about any project that would be thrown at me, and the worst part about this whole thing is that I just bought a ton of that shit. ugh.
But I'm not making this post to go on and on about my feelings or any of that, you already know I'm bummed as hell. I don't need to go on and on about that.
So with all of that being said-
Here's some helpful tips on how you can protect your things so you don't end up like me, and some tips on what to do if you're dumb enough (like me) to let this happen to you.
STEP 1 // DON'T LEAVE SHIT IN YOUR CAR.
At the end of the day- I wouldn't be writing this post if I had taken the extra 10 minutes to unload my car the night of the shoot.
"But I'm tired."
Are you tired enough to almost have a heart attack, replace a window and thousands of dollars of equipment? Not to mention make countless phone calls, dig up records, cry, and possibly miss out on work for a few weeks? F*** NO YOU'RE NOT. Grow up, unload your gear.
"But I have a shoot the next day too."
Understandable. Just don't leave anything of high value in your car. I'm not telling you to unload everything, just the things that can't be replaced right away such as Cameras, Lenses, Hard Drives, Memory Cards, etc. But just know that anything you leave in your car is subject to theft. If you must leave it- cover it. Black/White foam core can be useful for this, as well as blankets, etc. Keep your gear out of plain sight. Put your seats up, etc. The less that is visible the better.
But seriously, unload your gear. There's no excuse for negligence, especially if your livelihood is on the line.
STEP 2 // GET F****** INSURANCE.
I really hope I'm the only one who didn't have insurance on their gear. If you don't have it. Get it. I promise you it's well worth the few hundred dollars per year to protect your shit in an instance like theft. Chances are someone you know has a great rep- call them. Like right now. With the vast availability of plans starting at like $8.00/month there is literally no excuse not to have it.
STEP 3 // KEEP INVENTORY OF YOUR GEAR
Let's face it, the thought of taking a picture of every single item you have and writing down serial numbers is annoying enough to give anyone a headache. But when the time comes and you have to scour through boxes hoping you have a warranty card or serial number somewhere in that closet of yours you'll be so thankful you took the 5 minutes when you were unboxing to take inventory of your gear.
Most insurance policies will require this, So you'll have to do it whether you want to or not. Just keep a strong record of this. Back it up to a hard drive and google drive. If you lose this you might make a massive headache for yourself later.
There's several online resources for tracking serial numbers of stolen items such as Lenstag.com and Camerafinder.com Putting all of this information in your police report is also very useful. Even if you don't get your gear recovered- it will make it harder for the son of a bitch who ran off with it to sell off.
Aside from insurance and theft recovery this is just generally good practice. Keeping track of your assets and values can come in handy when unloading old gear, determining the value of your business, or even taking a loan. If you don't do this- start.
STEP 4 // ADD YOUR GEAR TO YOUR HOMEOWNERS / RENTERS INSURANCE
The most common piece of advice I received in the last week was "Check with your homeowners/renters insurance, they'll cover it."
Yeah, they will cover it. But only if they know you have it. After calling my homeowners agent I was told that even if everything was stolen from my home it wouldn't be covered because it wasn't listed on the rider for the policy. The same goes for Jewelry, collectibles, etc. Insurance is a great thing, but only when its used properly.
Along the same topic-
If you have coverage for your gear, and a rider on your home owners policy you might want to give them a call and see what exactly is covered, and what isn't. You may have gotten a policy 10 years ago that only covers $25,000 of gear but now you have $50,000 of gear. Stay on top of this, look over your policies and make sure you're actually covered. It may seem over the top- but you'll be thankful you double checked when you walk up to an empty car.
STEP 5 // BE GOOD TO YOUR HOMIES AND THEY'LL BE GOOD TO YOU.
I would have been genuinely F***ED without the help of a few insanely generous people. 2 days after my break in I had a shoot and would have had to cancel without a few homies loaning me their gear. The best part about this situation is that I didn't even have to pick up the phone. People flooded my inbox with offers to loan just about everything under the sun. Sitting in my glass covered interior reading those messages was one of the best experiences I've had in such a long time I nearly cried my eyes out! (okay I definitely cried my eyes out) It feels incredible to know that people are willing to stick their necks out and loan their personal gear to help out this negligent 20 something who just lost everything. Instances like this are the reason I literally can not be upset. I'm so so grateful and happy with the strength of the community I'm surrounded by.
If you ever want to know your importance in a community- go through a major loss. You'll be genuinely surprised at how many people are willing to help. I'm still jazzed out of my mind. Thank you all so so much from the bottom of my heart.
OKAY- SO YOU LOST ALL OF YOUR GEAR, PEOPLE HELPED YOU OUT A TON, SO...WHAT'S NEXT TRAVIS?
I'm glad you asked. Well- within about a week of the break in I've been lucky enough to replace just about every single piece of gear I've lost, had some incredible conversations with some really dope ass people, met some super awesome people, and learned my place in my community. There are a few really neat projects on the horizon and within the next month or two I'll be moving into my first studio. I can't even express how fucking excited I am for the rest of 2017. I knew this year was gonna be full of obstacles [and it already has] but I'm ready as hell to get things rolling and start producing some work that will hopefully be considered serious.
The last 2 weeks have been some of the toughest and most rewarding lessons I've learned in a long time, but I can't wait to make the rest of 2017 my bitch.
Before I jump off my apple box- I'd once again like to thank everyone who's messaged, called, loaned/offered gear, sold me gear, and sent their love and support. I've known for a long time that I wouldn't get anywhere in this life by myself but this experience has validated that point to the fullest. Thank you guys SO much. you have no idea how much the support means. I can only hope that I'll be able to give back to the community as much as some of you have.
oh yeah...and F*** thieves.