Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Picture Is Worth... A Lot, Apparently

We ventured to Oklahoma City yesterday to get our pictures taken at a studio I will not name (unless you email me - I'll tell you in private). I did not pick the studio nor did I make the decision to have our pictures taken. My mother in law decided she wanted pictures of my wife and I as well as her grandchildren, my nephew and nieces.

The photo shoot itself was not bad. Most of the pictures turned out well. The wife and I really liked one of ours, I liked another one (she didn't - something about her bangs) and the others we staged well but there were problems with expressions, position of glasses, etc. The pics of the grandkids were similar. The work was fine, the photographer was nice, but it was what happened after that really shocked us.

I have been to a photo studio semi-recently so I knew we were going to get a sales pitch, they were going to try to upsell us, and they would do some fancy talking such that we didn't realize how much money we were spending. I also knew that outside of a package, photos are sold by the "sheet" and the sheets are priced such that people like us think hard about just how many copies we need of each picture.

It didn't go exactly as I thought it would. The person who took our pictures was the one selling to us. She really needs more practice at it. What I expected was that she would sit down and go over the packages, starting with the largest (almost $400) and working her way down, limiting poses and reducing picture count along the way. She started by going through the pictures with us, showing all of the poses, including some with optional changes such as sepia tone, Christmas cards, frames, etc. What bothered me about that part was that she kept saying, "this is cute," or "I did this to it, which I think is cute." Sorry, I'll be the judge of what is or is not cute.

From there most of what she said was negative-speak, "we can't do that," "no, I'm sorry," "it doesn't work like that," etc. It really shocked me. My mother in law was obviously getting agitated at being told no at every turn and this girl just wouldn't stop. Here's a hint: If you're saying you can't do something, turn it around and offer something you can do before the customer has a chance to get agitated.

We convinced them to let us buy two promotional packages - one with the wife and I and one with the grandkids - that was limited to a single pose each. We had to get a little snippy and remind them that we had booked two appointments for just that reason and it shouldn't matter that all the pictures are in the same folder to get them to do that but they did. We had a coupon for one package at $7.99 and we bought the same package for the other picture at the regular price of $9.99 (despite the photographer trying to tell us that the regularly priced package was different that what was listed on the coupon - it wasn't). We chose a nice picture of my wife and I sitting on the floor with presents around us and a shot of the grandkids in sepia tone. My nephew doesn't usually let himself get in front of the camera so my mother in law also bought a single sheet of wallet prints of him alone for $19.99. This brought us up to $37.97.

Being a digital couple, my wife and I inquired about a studio CD that included digital versions of all of the shots from the session. We quickly declined when they said they wanted to charge us $200 for it. I kind-of understand that because, since they include a print/copyright release, anyone they sell this to is never coming back for more prints.

The photographer went to ring everything up and after about a minute came back to tell us she had forgotten to include the $5 subject fee per package for having more than one person in the shot so that brought us up to $47.97.

I wasn't keeping tabs on the total in my head so when all was said and done I asked my mother in law what the final total was. "It ended up being seventy-four something."

"How did we get to $74?"

"Apparently, there's an 'enhancement' fee [for the sepia print]."

Sheesh. I knew it was going to be hard keeping the price down but I didn't realize that we were going to get nickel-and-dimed to death. I don't go to studios for pictures much but the next time I do I don't think I'll be going back there.

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