Retainer Refund Thoughts

Discussion in 'General Shop Talk' started by elsaspet, May 2, 2008.

  1. elsaspet

    elsaspet TPF Noob!

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    Retainer Refund Thoughs
    My hubby and I had a little disagreement today.

    Here is the deal: Bride had a wedding scheduled for May 31st. They had a bad breakup, and she had to cancel. She asked NICELY if it was possible to get SOME PART of her retainer back.

    I informed her it was unlikely that I could rebook her date at this late hour, and that I did not normally refund retainers for cancelled weddings. However, I told her, we are not heartless to her situation, so I would refund HALF of the retainer.
    (We have done absolutely nothing for this girl besides a sit down meeting and booking). I had also not recorded any other dates that were interested in her date.


    So I called the hubby, who was none too happy. A contract is a contract, and I should have consulted him first before sending my reply. (The last half is probably true). He wanted to keep the entire retainer, but I felt really bad for the bride, and her situation. I wasn't greedless. I kept a lot of money for doing absolutely nothing in a very busy month. I would not have starved. But hubby rightly noted that we had already lost thousands of dollars for a wedding that would never be.

    But at the same time, hubby is very stedfast in his point as well. It was a large retainer on a large job, and now we are refunding some to this bride. If we do that, to be fair, we should do it for all brides who cancel. But more than that, it is money out of our bank account. He hates to see it go. He likes seeing it all add up. [​IMG] And needless to say, it's coming out of the money we had already planned on for the new house. I get his point. I do.

    I need some strong opinions here. Maybe I'm being a doormat. Maybe I was right. I really really really don't know the correct answer here.

    If you cound answer back in a Yes or No format and why, that would really help us a lot. Thanks in advance.

    Many Hugs,
    Cindy
     
  2. Jim H

    Jim H TPF Noob!

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    Cindy,

    Not sure what equals a yes or no .. so i will rephrase it ....

    Yes ... you were right in refunding

    No ... you were wrong in refunding

    A resounding no. You answered your own question when you stated the words: contract, cancel, and busy month. The reason you got a retainer/deposit was to lock in that date - so no one else would be booked. Will you able to get another bride for that date less that a month away? If so, will it be as profitable as this one?
     
  3. elsaspet

    elsaspet TPF Noob!

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    Thank you Jim,

    Here is the deal though. May has 5 weekends. We were booked for all 5. I nomally only allow 3.

    I keep a log of who inquires about what dates. If I'm booked, I note it and pass it to another photographer I trust. There were no other inquiries for this date, so it's not as if I passed on another assingment.

    So basically, even with the refund, I'm sitting on a grand+ for never having done anything other than meeting with the lady.

    I want to stand my contractual grounds, but I can't imagine the beating she has taking on vendors. Prolly upwards of $10,000. And on top of that, her fantasy lovelife just crashed......
     
  4. Antarctican

    Antarctican TPF Noob!

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    ^^^ Based on that (no other inquiries for the day so you didn't technically turn anyone else down to protect her date, and you're still keeping half of the retainer), I'd say you were right, and human, to refund part of the retainer. I'm a bit of a softie, and the poor girl has already had her world turned upside down with the bad breakup so close to the wedding date. That said, I'm not a professional photog., so my opinion should carry less weight than that of pros. I'm just assessing the 'human' element


    The refund in this case does not set 'a precedent' for future cases, in my opinion. You have a contract and it's entirely up to you whether to stick to it on this particular point.
     
  5. AprilRamone

    AprilRamone TPF Noob!

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    I do totally see both sides of this situation. But, I feel that you did the right thing. Especially since you didn't have anyone else request the date that she had. I'm also sure she is very grateful and it's just good karma.

    That being said, if you had turned down other prospects or they were just being a flaky couple it'd be different. And, I disagree that you have to do it for everyone since you did it for her.
     
  6. elsaspet

    elsaspet TPF Noob!

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    :hugs: In my eyes you are a pro, but I'm absolutely wanting advice from both photog and person in general.

    Thank you.
     
  7. elsaspet

    elsaspet TPF Noob!

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    Like Minds April.
    I have two other "relationships gone bad" files on my desk. If I can rebook, they get all the retainer back. So far I haven't been able to. And for those two files, I have turned down numerous other jobs, so no refund to them. That was the major difference in my mind.
     
  8. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I agree with that...if you are able to rebook (and with a similar or larger package) then you can return the retainer. That should be standard policy (IMO).

    As for 'special circumstances' like this...I guess you need to take it on a case by case basis. On one hand, you don't want clients walking all over you and you certainly don't want to get a reputation for that. But, we are all human and we need to have compassion for others...from time to time.

    I would be OK with you returning half of the retainer. Think of it as money that is put into the 'Karma Bank'.

    Worst case scenario, you get a weekend off and only get to keep half the retainer.

    Best case scenario, she is very grateful and tells everyone she knows that you are not only a great photographer but a great person as well. You get several referrals from this...and maybe she books you again when she finds another groom.
     
  9. kellylindseyphotography

    kellylindseyphotography TPF Noob!

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    I really liike Mike's thoughts on the Karma Bank. Thats how I feel too.
     
  10. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    It's a good idea...it's just too bad that you can't buy food or pay the rent with karma :lol:
     
  11. Aggressor

    Aggressor TPF Noob!

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    I'm with Mike. The financial impact of this event may be painful now, but you can't underestimate the power of a goodwill gesture. Think of it as an advertising expense.

    I actually dealt with a company who, when trying to rectify an issue where I was charged for services not delivered, gave me a very hard time by attempting intimidating tactics, refusing to provide me a goodwill credit until indisputable evidence was presented to them that demonstrated who was in the wrong. I will never do business with this company again and I have told anyone who is considering using them to not use them either.

    Had things been different, I would be telling everyone what a fantastic company they are and I would tell everyone to consider them next time they need those kind of services.

    It's not just good karma. It's good business. Don't change your contract, though, because this is your basis for negotiation. However, for situations similar to this where you have done the cost-benefit analysis, you may that bending your contract will go a long way.

    Does it set a precedence? Perhaps, for situations such as this... But then again, for them to get this deal, they'd have to call off their wedding. In that case, they have bigger things to worry about that a credit from their photog.
     
  12. The_Traveler

    The_Traveler Completely Counter-dependent Supporting Member

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    Me too.
    It didn't really cost you anything because you didn't turn away other business.

    The contract issue is, in my eyes, a non-issue. That's to protect you, not to enrich you un-necessarily at someone else's expense.

    Giving back the deposit is the 'right' thing to do.
     

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