Unhappy Customer

Discussion in 'The Professional Gallery' started by AprilRamone, Jun 6, 2006.

  1. AprilRamone

    AprilRamone TPF Noob!

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    Hey all,
    I had this customer about a month ago who really wanted to do some photography in her neighborhood. So, I went to her and discovered that the little "park" they had down the street had basically no trees, bushes, or foliage of any kind to disguise all of the new construction and houses. I did the best I could, but there are houses in the backgrounds of the park pictures. I suggested that we move to their front porch since it kind of had an Americana feel to it. But, the mom wanted to first go check out the fountains in the neighborhood. Well, we walked a few blocks over to where the fountains were and discovered that they weren't turned on. Then she told me that the neighborhood was having a group photo session and they had to go and do that. Right in the middle of MY photo session with her daughters. So, since I'm new and don't want to be too picky, I was patient and waited about 20 minutes or so for them to go and do that. Finally they came back to their house and I attempted to finish up the shoot on their front porch. But, at this point, I felt really rushed because they had a playdate scheduled and their little friends had arrived and of course the two girls were not in the mood for any more picture taking.
    I actually thought a few of the porch shots were pretty cute and I really thought the mom would be pleased with them. I sent them to her and called a couple of times to make sure that she got them and that everything was ok.(she never responded) Then I got a phone call from her yesterday saying that they weren't what she expected and that she didn't like all of the houses in the background.
    I didn't know what to say to that really.
    What would you guys have said? I HATE the fact that someone wasn't pleased with what I made for them:(
     
  2. bitteraspects

    bitteraspects TPF Noob!

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    you cant please all the people all the time. im a very "forward motin" kind of guy, so when i fall into that situation, i take waht i can from the situation and move on. i just did my first wedding a few days ago, and because i was nervous, i was impulse shooting. out of the hundreds of times i closed the shutter, i only got a handfull of shots i liked. but, sometimes you just have to take what you got and move forward with the understanding that next time youll do much better. (or avoid those shoots all together. ;) )
     
  3. Alison

    Alison Swiss Army Friend Supporting Member

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    Tough call. Since you advised the Mom that the location wasn't the best and she still wanted those shots you could just move on and use the porch shots for your portfolio. Or, you can offer to reshoot in a location that is more photograph friendly. Customer referals, esp for young children can be a great source of business. It sounds like the timing was bad, and if the family was otherwise nice to work with I might offer to reshoot in a different location. Otherwise I would just move on.
     
  4. Sharkbait

    Sharkbait TPF Noob!

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    Yep, about all you can do is explain that the surroundings were not very photography-friendly, and offer to re-shoot at a location of your choosing.
     
  5. Christie Photo

    Christie Photo No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    ALL good advice... and well put, Alison.

    I never do re-shoots. Once in a while I do "additional photography." :wink:

    I would make it clear this time (in a diplomatic way) that if you're to be responsible for the results, you must have control of the major apects of the job... including the location and not having to compete for time with another event.

    Good luck!
    Pete
     
  6. elsaspet

    elsaspet TPF Noob!

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    I'm sorry that this happened to you April, but as with most bad things, you can turn this to your advantage in the future by having learned something the hard way.
    Unless it's somewhere you are familiar with and approve of, don't ever shoot outside of your comfort zone. The family has probably been to the park alot, and love it because the kiddos have fun there, but they don't have your artistic eye. You knew the houses would be a distraction. And you were right. She simply couldn't see with your well trained eye.
    Having said that, when you have some spare time on your hands, go out and find some cool stuff that is close to your home. Check out the lighting at various times of day. Take a friend and take a few practice shots. (For instance I find fountains to be beautiful, but a real killer in people photography). Arm yourself with 5 or so killer locations.
    Then (and this is the hard part) take control of the interview and shoot. Give them some options, but be firm in letting them know that the locations you have given them to chose from ARE THE BEST for the photography job at hand. Tell them that you need x amount of time to accomplish the job. Tell them you need x amount of time to process the job. Even though you are technically working for them, YOU are the one who should be calling the shots. (pun intended) After all, they are hiring you for your wisdom of all things photography. If they could do it themselves, they certainly would.
    Personally, I would offer a redo, but this time on your turf with your rules.
    You want a happy customer, but you also need your own artistic license. After all, that's what they are paying you for.
    Good luck, and let us know how it turns out.
    Hugs,
    Cindy
     
  7. AprilRamone

    AprilRamone TPF Noob!

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    You guys are all absolutely right. I kind of knew something like this would probably eventually happen since I advertise that I'll meet where they would like to meet (I usually try to suggest my own places or tell them to pick a place with lots of shade and interesting backgrounds-gardens, cool architecture or whatever) and I have toyed with the idea of only offering to meet at specific places, but every once in awhile clients show me some really cool spots near their houses that I would have never found on my own.
    I've already tried calling back to remedy the situation, but suprise suprise she's not returning my phone calls once again. I'll probably hear from her next month! lol
    We'll see what happens!
    Thanks for the advice everyone!
     
  8. markc

    markc TPF Noob!

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    Did you at least get paid?
     
  9. AprilRamone

    AprilRamone TPF Noob!

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    haha...yes, I definitely got paid. I always try to make sure I get paid the day of the shoot so in situations like this, I won't get stiffed. When the words "it just wasn't what I was expecting" came out of her mouth I sort of just knew that she probably just doesn't like my style. Because the good shots were from the porch which was a great location, and she didn't seem to even be really into those. If she contacts me again, I'll probably just offer to try to take some more at a different location.
     
  10. mysteryscribe

    mysteryscribe TPF Noob!

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    Now there is an interesting point in the last couple of posts. What do you do when your customer hates the pics and you have their money.

    1) Act real concerned but keep the money.
    2) offer to reshoot the pictures until they are happy, even if you can't make them happy.
    3) return the money and wish them well

    or some other thing entirely.
     
  11. AprilRamone

    AprilRamone TPF Noob!

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    Well, I most likely would never just return their money just because they didn't like them. Photography is an art and art is subjective. If someone commissioned an artist to paint their portrait, and they hated it, I don't think it would be reasonable for that artist to just return all of the money. They worked hard to create that work for that client. I think the client has some responsibility in choosing who they decide to hire for these sort of things. They should really check out the photographer's style to make sure it's what they like and want in their own photographs.

    But, I didn't feel comfortable just "acting" concerned (I really was concerned though lol) but at the time, I just wasn't sure what she wanted exactly. I have tried to contact her but I can't seem to get ahold of her so at this point, I guess I'll just wait and see if she's up for working with me on figuring out a way to make her happy.

    And also, in this case, I know she was pleased with some of them because she specifically said that she liked some of one of her daughters (the one who was in a better mood, suprise!)
     
  12. mysteryscribe

    mysteryscribe TPF Noob!

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    If she likes some but not all, that is to be expected in any shoot... Some people say they love everything, but they don't really... So if she got value recieved, I don't think you owe her anything.

    I was thinking of the girl who came to me to have her portrait made for a business card. She had a gypsy shag haircut. When I shot it, the back light made her hair look as though she had just gotten out of bed and not combed it.

    She hated them, I hated them, she said. Let's redo them."

    That was at the proof passing session. I asked if she planned to get a hair cut, she said why no. Then I said let me return your sitting fee... Nothing would have been different. I would have been shooting her twenty times for the same sitting fee. It just seemed the better part of business to let her go somewhere else.

    I could have killed the back light and cut down on the amount of shag, but it was before digital. There would have still been bits and pieces of hair flying everywhere. For a fifty dollar picture for her business cards, it was cheaper to give her back the sitting fee.

    I got a lot of business from those types of customers. It was word of mouth mostly. I prefered that her word of mouth not be that "She" thought I was being unreasonable.

    That said I had a wedding customer ask, "If you shoot the pictures and I'm not satisfied what?"

    I explained, "If I find them acceptable and you don't. Then I would encourage an arbitrator....If they are not acceptable through an act of God, you get your money back period". Film days remember. "However I will not pay to restage your wedding and do it again." She had seen people's court.

    "So if you get no pictures at all you refund my money?" I nodded. "Well good the last photographer I spoke to said picture or not there was no refund. If she came out and spent her time, She excepted to be paid, even if nothing came out." The days of film and roses. Needless to say I got the job not the lady who wouldn't guarantee her work.

    In the absense of a refund policy written into the contract, it is subject to a small claims court ruling. In some states that means it goes for the customer no matter what.

    Still I made very few refunds... I had one girl who thought she should get a partial refund because the pictures made her look fat. I didn't do it. My rule was no partial refunds. It was all or nothing.

    I was curious though to see what the thinking was these days. I don't plan to go back into the business, but I was curious anyway. Every customer is going to tell everyone who sees their pictures, who shot them, and more importantly what the customer thought of the photographer. It was always hard for me to know where to draw the line.
     

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