Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Vent

I think I'm done buying photographer Groupons or Living Social deals. There are obviously lots of sides to every story, but this is my blog and I'm pissed off so...



I bought a Living Social a few months back for a family portrait session. It was cheap and local. I spent a month planning outfits and looks and styles. The photographer called twice to reschedule, finally settling on a time that, while not great, only overlapped Syd's nap by an hour or so. I was still excited and happy. We all got gussied up, headed down to the studio, and waited. For forty-five minutes. The photographer, who was not the person that I had been told would be taking our pictures but someone else, was "at another shoot." The poor woman at the desk called him several times, only to be told, several times, "Five more minutes." Meanwhile, my kids, while cute, are getting antsy. Just as we're getting ready to reschedule, the photographer rushes in from his "other shoot" though strangely, he doesn't have a camera with him. I'm still trying to be polite and the desk lady assured me that if the pictures didn't turn out (since Syd is now bored and WAY past naptime, and this isn't the photographer we'd booked) she'd make it right, so off we went. The shoot was fine. Not great, not super fun, but fine. Beautiful backdrops. He's totally smitten with Syd and takes a ton of pictures of her. The kids start to melt about 45 minutes in so we call it a day.


Two weeks later, several hours before my viewing appointment, I get a call asking when's the soonest I can come in? I'm literally blocks away, so I drive down. I'm excited to see the shots and for some reason I want to be accommodating. I'm escorted to a conference room and sit with the photographer I originally booked, who's learning how to show pictures. A lot of the shots are good. I don't love any of the ones of me, C looks awesome in a few, and there's a few amazing shots of the kids. For $25 I'm totally happy. So we start to go through, and I know that I'm entitled to one print, and that I want a couple prints of the kids. The photographer is very animated and gushing with praise for how cute the kids are. We compile a set of "keepers" and then get to the sales. I ask several times for prices and I'm put off (foreshadowing). Finally, after being shown many "beautiful pictures" of my "amazingly photogenic children" we come up with the "have to haves." Still no prices. FINALLY, I bluntly say, "How much is this all going to cost? I can't really look at more until I know what I'm spending." To which they reply, "With the deal we're giving you, it's going to be about $850." Y'all, this was for 4-5 prints. I hit the breaks and told them that it was WAY out of my price range. But by now I'd been talking about these "beautiful shots" and "captured moments" and "I just can't believe how well they photograph" for an hour, and the pitches had worked. I agonized and tried to rescind, but the photographers (yes, two, now including the guy who'd taken the pictures) offered me an "amazing, we never do this but we really respect your situation" deal. We took off most of the prints and they chopped the price to less than half. Plus they offered a payment plan. So it was way out of my budget, but still a "great deal." I didn't feel great about it, but I was out of arguments. I left three checks, called C from the car, debated for 20 minutes canceling the order, then left. (In hindsight, I should've listened to my gut. And my husband.)

That weekend we had our reunion pictures taken and it was so fun and relaxed. The woman was sweet and didn't push the kids. We had lots of time and variety. Even though Syd had a black eye, the pictures were awesome. They showed a family who was laughing and having fun. The smiles were real and the kids were dirty. The pictures were a genuine reflection of us. After I saw those pictures (that I paid much, much less for) I started regretting the price of the original pictures. The pictures were still awesome and beautiful, but I started to worry that every time I saw them on the wall I'd also see the price tag and remember feeling pressured and torn. I wanted to look at great pictures of my kids and have a good feeling. But what's done is done. Except.

They didn't cash the first check. Then they didn't cash the second check. And I wondered if the universe was sending me a sign. I'd been debating canceling the pictures for two months, and here they were, not taking my money. So I finally worked up the nerve to call. I called and spoke to the photographer who'd sold me the pictures. I vulnerably explained my situation. That yes, the pictures are beautiful but they were really more than I meant to spend, and since you haven't cashed the checks can we cancel the order? I'm sorry and again, the pictures are great. It's not you it's me. She said that it wasn't an option, since the checks were gone (?) and the pictures had already been sent for editing. Okay, I get that and I should pay if they've already started the order, though I was told that wouldn't happen until after my final payment. She then goes on to say that I should just explain to my husband (who I never brought up) that these were going to be heirlooms and besides, I deserved them. Again, I explained that it wasn't my husband but it was me, fearing that these pictures would represent financial irresponsibility and not a sweet memory. She then said, and I quote, "Maybe you need to go see Dr. Phil." "You're welcome to go to Picture People and get the same pictures every one has for half the price." "These are pictures of your children! (You heartless, sorry excuse for a mother who obviously doesn't feel like her children are worth x dollars)" After that she insinuated that I needed a drink. "Don't worry, Sweetie. Two days after you hang the pictures up, you won't worry about the price at all."

Both checks got cashed that day.

I was still trying to be fair, knowing full well that I can get a little neurotic and crazy, especially when I feel like I've overspent or been irresponsible. However, I was also starting to feel a bit patronized. But I again figured, what's done is done. It's not a completely outrageous price and I learned a valuable lesson about sales pressure and sticking with a budget. I've wasted more money on stupider shit. Then I see that they've posted this article on their facebook page. Really? REALLY?

This is the second photography deal I've bought, and both have ended up being bad experiences. The first acted like I should feel sorry for her because of how busy she was. The second acted like I should be grateful that she was willing to spend her time and talent on my little family. I get that these types of deals can cost the business money, but the point is to build clientele. You put out a good deal, get them in the door, and later they come back and pay full price. So don't treat the customers like peons just because they didn't pay full price the first time. If the goal is to have customers come back, act like it. And don't treat me like some silly little woman. I make decent money. I am a very loyal customer. But I come from a long line of women who hold grudges. And I can tell you that even if we live here for 20 more years, and every one of my kids' friends have their senior pictures taken at this place, we'll be going elsewhere. I could've handled the hard sell. I could've handled the weird money management. But at least pretend like you give a shit about my business.

Have you had experiences like this? Am I being dramatic or would you feel the same way? How do you handle bad business experiences? And would you hang the pictures up?


6 comments:

Laura said...

Wow... just wow. I don't even know where to begin and this issue is close to my heart as well. This kind of business operation makes me LIVID!!! Even though I am the world's biggest dealhound I quit groupon/living social cold turkey at the beginning of the year. Regardless of what it was (food, health & beauty, services) I ALWAYS got the underlying vibe that I was less than a customer to all of these vendors. Not to mention the fact that there was always either a major upsell involved or regular discounts no longer applied (i.e. at Popolo's pizza you can get a Large pizza on special for $12.99 or get a Groupon worth $20 for $10 and but must pay the $24.99 "regular" price for the pizza, so you end up spending MORE with the Groupon!!). I finally had enough and stopped getting them all together and have been so very happy. I no longer have expiring Groupons that must be used nor do I feel like a subclass customer. I also usually find that with just general coupons and promotions on websites I can pretty much get the same deals as a regular customer as I could when using Groupon/LS.

As an aside, being in my line of work it is my professional opinion that this is just bad business. The fact of the matter is that these business are taking a "hit" to offer these kinds of deals. That is why most of them have a hard time disguising the fact that they are annoyed by offering their product or service at a cut rate price. However, if they had any business sense at all they would realize that the whole point of doing something like that is to gain clientele!!!! The point is to get them in the door and hopefully they will become repeat customers and spread the word to their friends. In theory they should be incredibly accommodating and treat these customers like gold!! If some of these business owners would shift their view from it being a "loss" to offer these discounts and instead looked at it as an "advertising expense" I think they would have a better attitude and better results. I mean, why even do it in the first place if you are just pissing people off?? They are doing the opposite of gaining customers and in your situation I would not be above making this known in online reviews, etc.

You are too nice and too brave! I probably would have just done the cowardly thing and cancelled those checks without calling them. It's unfortunate that now you will look at all of those pics and have this memory to go along with them. I'm sorry you had to deal with this at all. Thanks for sharing your experience and if you haven't done so (or at least do it once you receive your pics) email your blog post to them and also past it on their FB page ;-)

Phoenix Rising said...

What the --- ?? I have several friends who are Professional photographers. Talented. Gifted. Amazing. And they would NEVER treat you like that. First of all, they would've had to have been run over by a train to cancel/reschedule/show up late. That's just poor business practice on their part.

But what's done is done. Learn from it and move on. We all have our "grrr... I wish I would have handled that THIS way instead" moments. Don't let it tarnish the photos. The photos, I'm sure, are BEAUTIFUL. The people who took them, not so much. Cast them off and be done with them.

I'm sorry you had such a crappy experience.

Also, anyone who has to leave a 25 page dissertation on their blog explaining the theory behind their prices has issues.

imaya said...

Wow talk about a bad business. I would probably write an email explaining that it isn't their prices but the belittling treatment. I would not withhold their name on my blog, write a bad yelp review & let them know I was using social media to call out their bad business practices. Emphasis on it not being about the money. Then I would hang those expensive prints and make a joke about how that is a $100 print and laugh at the ridicousl price & smile at the cuteness of those photogenic darlings.

abba said...

WHAT??? What a prolonged package of crap! I agree, write a complaint. The grudge gift is not enough satisfaction. Scamming and/or patronizing is insulting. Love your pictures and let them be socks of shame that you will laugh about . . . some day.

Meg said...

Yes, yes: write a Yelp review! I would want to know if someone had been treated this way. I can't believe that she said those things to you--how insulting!! Their customers need to know that this is happening.

Hang the photos. Your kids ARE beautiful and even though this experience sucked it shouldn't rob you from enjoying looking at them. It can be a tale to tell once you get some emotional distance from it.

Becca said...

Wow, that is awful!! I agree that it's time to write a bad Yelp review. That woman was WAY out of line, patronizing, rude, dismissive, and totally inappropriate.

But enjoy the pictures, if you can. You have a beautiful family!