"My minister (accountant, plumber, landscaper, dog groomer, doctor, window washer, etc.) does some photography and he says you should have done [this or that] differently."
Okay, this is the one that hastened my retirement from photography full time. I had done senior portraits for a young lady, and the girl's mother came in and told me all the things I did "wrong". When I asked her how she figured I did them "wrong", that's when she said, "Well, my minister does a lot of photography and he said these things could have been done better."
I had to stand there and count to ten...then 15...then 20 before I answered.
"You know, I own a Bible but that doesn't make me qualified to lead the sermon at your church this
Sunday." I walked her over to the wall that had my Master of Photography Degree and my Craftsman of Photography Degree on it and said, "Please take a look at these two degrees awarded to me by the Professional Photographers of America...do you know what they signify?"
She replied she did not. I answered, "This means I know what I am doing. Less than 1000 photographers worldwide have both of these degrees. This means I have FORGOTTEN more about photography than your minister will ever know. I'll tell you what: you tell your minister when he has both degrees, he can critique my work. Until then he needs to keep his comments to himself."
I then asked, "Why did you select ME to do your daughter's senior portraits?" She replied that I had an excellent reputation and her daughter liked her friends' portraits that I had taken. I then said, "Exactly. So why are you taking advice from your minister? Why didn't you have HIM take your daughter's senior portraits?"
The daughter was visibly embarrassed. I said to the mother, "I think it would be best if I just return your money and you can have your minister take your daughter's senior portraits, because right now I cannot tell you how much you have insulted me."
The daughter went ballistic! She told her mother, "You had better apologize to Mr. Bohne right now! I LOVE those pictures and I want them for my senior portraits. If you have pissed him off so much that he won't make my senior portraits I will NEVER speak to you again!"
The mother apologized and asked if I would please take her order.
Dear readers, please understand that if you are involved in ANY creative endeavor, you will face criticism...most of it from people who don't know the first damn thing about it! Again, I caution you, do NOT get into a pissing contest with a customer, because you lose - regardless of the outcome. Remain calm and discuss things in a professional manner, but don't take any crap. If someone is not happy, tell them one of two things:
1) "I am very sorry you were not pleased with the portrait studies I did for you. I will be happy to do some additional poses at no additional cost to you. You may order from both sessions, but please understand that if you decide to order from poses from the first session, an addition session fee will be added to your order." By adding this last sentence, you will KILL 80% of the requests for additional poses. By the way, NEVER say you will do a "retake" - in my opinion, it says you have done something wrong.
2) "I am very sorry that you have lost confidence in my skills and expertise as a photographer. Please allow me to give you a full refund, and you may select another photographer." I normally would use this response when the customer had been a royal pain in the ass, and I didn't care if they ordered from me or not. Again, many times this causes the customer to backpedal. If they say, "Fine, I'll take the refund," then give it to them with a smile on your face and wish them the best of luck with their next photographer.
I would actually send a thank you card to these people. I thanked them for giving me the opportunity to be their photographer, and I regretted that I did not measure up to their high standards. I hoped that I might be of service to them in the future. And about 4 out of 10 called me back a month later and asked if I still had their session available for them to order from. It seems they weren't happy at the other studio, either. Hmmm, imagine that! Yes, I would make the order, but they would forfeit any specials or discounts they would have received. No exceptions.
Now, in a few instances I had a third response. There were cases where customers made a scene (with other customers in the studio), used foul language, or made disrespectful comments about me or the studio. I didn't give them any choice. I gave them a refund. Most of the time this was NOT what they wanted. They were thinking if they complained, I would give them a discount or free photographs. Oh, dear...they picked the wrong studio for that gambit, I fear!
I had one lady who made the mistake of pulling this stunt 2 weeks before Christmas. This was during the film days. I had photographed her and her siblings and their children for a gift for Mom & Dad. She was just a total flying bitch, complaining about the poses, the background, not enough of this, too much of that, etc. My sales consultant came back to my office and asked what she should do. I told her to give her a full refund.
She handed her the check and said, "Mr. Bohne apologizes that you were not happy. Here is a full refund, and he hopes you have a Merry Christmas." THEN THE REAL FIREWORKS STARTED! "These were going to be Christmas presents for my parents!" she sputtered. "What am I supposed to do now?" she yelled.
My sales consultant simply replied, "I don't know. Have a nice day!"
Of course, about 40 minutes later one of the other siblings came into the studio hat-in-hand to apologize. "Steve, the rest of the family is mortified. PLEASE let us order these for Mom and Dad. They have wanted this photograph for such a long time. Please don't disappoint them. My sister thinks if she makes a fuss, she will get a discount...she swears it works most of the time."
I told the woman that I would take the order. However, the first woman was not to place the order, she was not to pick up the order, and they would NOT receive the special that they came in under. I said, "Once I refund money, any additional business is at full price--no discounts, specials or coupons apply." She replied she understood completely, thanked me very much, and gave me the order. Her sister's shenanigans cost her and her siblings an extra $125.
Understand that some people are so unreasonable and insulting, we don't want them as customers. I did a young man's senior portraits many years ago. His mother picked the photographs up, and was delighted with the results, and placed a very nice order. She told my sales consultant, "His father and I are divorced--I am just back in town to make sure my son had proper clothing for his senior portrait. Can I keep the originals out another few days so that he might order? He is responsible for purchasing the yearbook photograph." She told her she could, and asked her to tell her ex-husband to please call for an appointment to place his order.
Well, "Wild Bill" comes in a few days later - without an appointment- and with a reception room full of people, he proceeds to go on a rampage...
"These are the WORST photographs I have EVER seen! They are LOUSY! Doesn't your photographer know the first _ _ _ _ _ _ _ thing about his job? These poses suck, his expressions are terrible, and the clothes the photographer selected for the kid to wear are stupid [gee, I didn't know I selected his clothes!]. Where is the owner? I need to speak to this dumbass right now!"
I walked out to the reception area and asked if I could be of assistance. He was about to repeat himself when I said, "Please, Mr. Customer, I've heard your concerns. In fact, I think the people at the Subway across the street heard them as well."
"Well I wanna know what the _ _ _ _ you are gonna DO about it?"
I had a refund check all made out. I took the originals from him and said, here is the refund for the session fee, which your ex-wife explained was paid by you. Please feel free to take your son anywhere else and have the portraits taken by someone else."
He nearly had a cow! "But...but...the yearbook deadline is two weeks away! How am I going to get his picture in the yearbook?"
I replied, "I really don't know...and I really don't care. Besides, after your earlier statements, I'm surprised you would even consider putting one of these lousy photographs in the yearbook. Goodbye and have a nice day." And with that, I turned on my heel and walked away.
He started to launch another tirade, but my sales receptionist stopped him cold. "Sir, your business here is completed. I will ask you once to leave. If you refuse to do so, we have 911 on speed dial, and the City Police will be here in just a few minutes to escort you out." The man left, and you could hear him a block away as he called us everything BUT Christian!
Now before you think I am a total ass, I sent a photograph to the school for his yearbook since his mother had such a nice order. But make no mistake about it: if the mother had not placed an order, there would have been no yearbook photograph sent! I always told my employees to let a customer vent, then express regret, and then see if we can help them be happy. But under NO CIRCUMSTANCES were they to deal with ANY customer who became profane, threatening, or abusive.
Never forget: this is Photography for Income. Enjoy the summer while you can...it's slipping by fast. See you next time!