Bride wanting Refund after hearing from VENDORS

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by d_d|35, Nov 25, 2012.

  1. I recently got a phone call from a Bride I am working with that she has been hearing BAD RUMORS about my business from VENDORS. She expressed to me that now she is unhappy and does not want to work with my business as her photographers for her wedding. The reason being is because she is unsure and thinks that I can not provide the quality of images that she is looking for and the quantity of images she is seeking.
    Her wedding is not till Fall of Next year but the summer of 2012 she had signed a contract and paid her non-refundable deposit to hold her date for next year. In her contract it stated that we would provide a complementary Engagement Session (Which we included in almost all our packages for our brides to get a feel on how take photos and our editing styles).
    We did the engagement session in Late September at two locations of her choice. I showed her images after the session from my camera and she was excited to see them and told me that she liked what she saw so far and could not wait to see the final edits. I sent her sneak peeks that were fully edited and she got super excited and posted them directly to her facebook page. To me when a client shares your work on their facebook page and makes it there cover photo and profile photo it means they like it well not only like but love it.
    For free sessions I usually only give 10 images to the couple in color and black and white. I sent her 10 images as stated in an email that I sent her and she loved them. She did send me an email asking for more and I sent her more images about 17 more to be exact. I also provided them in color and black and white. After I gave her the other images I did not hear back from her until I received the phone call just recently about her wanting to cancel the agreement and get her deposit back.
    In my contract it does state that the agreement is non-refundable and that if a client wishes to receive their deposit back and cancel the agreement that they must do it with-in 7 days from the date the contract was signed. There is also another area for withdrawal (cancel of agreement) that states In case of withdrawal that a $100/hr for photography services and $50/hr for any other services (consultations, drive time, editing, etc.) fee will be billed to the client.
    If the client stated she loved her engagement photos and was please with the quality of images should I give her , her deposit back because of what vendors are saying about me and my business? My local wedding community is known for bad mouthing professionals of all types and spreading rumors about them just to gain more business for themselves. I would really like to know from other professionals in the group about what I should do and how I should handle this situation.
  2. You should first find out from her what comments others are making. If possible, ask her to do this in a letter/text/e-mail (just so it's an emotionally detached list that offers no interaction). Once you know the concerns, meet with her face-to-face to rebut each of those points and to emphasize how much she liked what she has already seen - the true measure of her likely opinion of the wedding day pictures.
    Two other big issues, though, are: 1. How much was the retainer (I hope your contract specifies that word instead of "deposit") she paid? Could you extend yourself and give back half? If you're a busy photographer, it's likely you'll pick up a wedding on that day anyway; 2. If the woman's confidence in you is irreconcilably shaken, your chance of wedding day success - in here eyes - is slim, no matter how good the pictures actually are, and no matter how many of us on this forum praise them - her perception just might be hopelessly skewed. So, it might be to your advantage to move on.
  3. I would attempt to do a face to face meeting with her to find out what was said, who said it, and then show her work from past weddings - bring 2 - 4 complete weddings for her to look at.
    If she is still convinced you're not going to deliver quality that she expects, I would suggest the following: Inform her that you will provide a 100% refund of the retainer, providing you book another wedding or similar paying gig on the date of her wedding. If you are unable to book another event/wedding for that date, inform her that you will provide her with a prorated refund - the retainer amount less the amount you would normally charge for an e-session with 10 images.
    If other vendors are indeed so cutthroat and vicious in your area, you should be able to show her your work and have it speak for itself.
    I'd suggest also speaking to a local attorney - especially if you know (for sure) who the vendors are that are spreading falsehoods about your talent and business. There is a fine line between opinion and slander / liable. If other vendors are spreading falsehoods about your business and it costs you revenue, that may cross the line.
    Also - rise above the bad behavior of the other vendors. Don't stoop to their level of spreading rumors and falsehoods about their business. Let you talent and images speak for themselves and market yourself above the fray of the bottom feeders.
  4. I agree with what David and Curt have said, have a face to face and get to the root of this and then follow the advice given above. If you can find out for sure who said waht and what they said, then you have a demonstrable case that these comments have done you harm, go after them through an attorney.
    Finally as Curt mentioned, your contract must state that it's a "retainer" and if you use the word deposit, then you have no choice but to refund the money less your outlined expenses, that's the law since you can not hold her (the balance less already accrued costs) to services you have not yet provided.
  5. I suspect that there is something else going on. If the bride was happy with the engagement photos then the story just doesn't make sense that other vendors are talking bad behind your back enough to convince her that the quality of photography that she has seen so far isn't what she will see on the wedding day. I'll bet that Uncle Harry told them that he has a camera and can save them some money.
    Re: deposit vs retainer... I'm sure Curt is right about the legal difference. Given the other words in your contract it would be a real bastard of a judge to ignore the intent of your contract because of a word. If the word "deposit" was used without any other additional verbiage, then maybe but...
    I'd meet with the client. You need to be at peace with her before the wedding. If it seems irreconcilable I'd recite the contract, remind her that she signed it, formally terminate the contract, and suggest she takes you to small claims court if she wants to try to recover the "deposit".
  6. The Deposit vs. Retainer question is a good one - and those two words can mean the world of difference in whether or not you have to refund money.
    If your contract says "Deposit", in the eyes of a judge or court, she may have more of a case to get a full refund, with the term meaning more of a "down payment on services to be performed or a partial payment for services to be performed." Whereas the term "retainer" tends to be accepted more of as a "I'm giving you this money so you don't accept other work on the date I need you for"
    If you haven't changed the wording in your contract yet, do so now. It won't help with this client, but it may help in the future.
  7. ... and when you meet with the client, have ready an itemized accounting of the effort you already expended on the engagement shoot. Make sure that she remembers signing the agreement that allows you to deduct the amount already invested and delivered.
    In the end it might be just as well to terminate the deal. Given the timeframe, you should be able to get a new job for that day.
  8. The meaning of "retainer" varies from one jurisdiction to another. In California, for example, the state supreme court has
    ruled that where the word "retainer" is used without any qualification, it means a REFUNDABLE amount.

    "In sum, don't use the word retainer for the deposit unless it is refundable, and include a provision in your contract such
    as: 'If Client fails to perform, liquidated damages shall be charged in the reasonable amount of $____.'"

    I am not a lawyer and my opinion is not legal advice. However, I have been a legal translator for 25 years. It is my
    understanding and experience that a contract must represent a meeting of the minds on the photography and the client.
    Both must know or be reasonably be expected to know the plain meaning of the words used in the contract. ANY words
    that clearly express the terms and conditions of the contract may be used, unless some statute or pertinent jurisprudence
    requires a particular word to be used.

    Generally (but not always) both parties and a court will understand that the clear and unambiguous expression "nonrefundable deposit" means that client cannot retrieve it so long as the photographer is ready, willing and able to provide
    the contracted services. Thus a cancellation by the client is a breach and the photography is not require to make any full
    or partial refund of the "nonrefundable" deposit.

    In some cases, however, because of jurisprudence or recognized trade or professional practices (especially in the real
    estate and housing rental areas), a deposit may not be “non-refundable” merely by labeling it as such. To keep a
    defaulting buyer’s deposit, the seller must satisfy the statutory requirements for liquidated damages.

    Therefore, to be safe, regardless of the terms used, it is a good idea to include a provision for liquidated damages in the
    event of breach, which would usually be in the same amount as the deposit or retainer.
  9. The difference between 'deposit' and 'retainer' varies with jurisdiction (as said above), but more importantly, can be 'interpreted' subjectively - regardless of the jurisdiction- unless there is specific language defining the terms of refunds - if defined, those terms typically trump any 'bias' toward the word's meaning. As David suggests (and I agree completely), those terms should be a complete refund (less itemized expenses and/or incurred costs) if you can rebook, and none if you cannot. The only downside is that you may be asked to provide evidence that you attempted to rebook (I would suggest a CL ad once a month) that specific date. It never hurts to go above and beyond.
    If refunding a contract with an included engagement session, if the engagement session is already completed, that engagement session is a specific, itemizable cost (and should be deducted from any refund). How much do you charge for an engagement session (in relation to the 'deposit') by itself?
  10. Agree completely with deducting the appropriate fee for work completed. Then follow whatever procedures you need to
    refund the rest and get rid of them.
  11. Thank you to everyone for your response on this matter I am going through. I have spoken to the bride and have offered to show her weddings I have shot and also have offered to provide past clients as references. I did find out indeed who the professionals were that were saying things about my business and what they have been saying. Let's just say that what the others in my community are saying are that I am a dishonest professional and that I can not provide quality work (when I have provided outstanding work for the professionals talking about me).
    The Bride still does not want to work with me even with the quality of work and references and reviews presented to her. I also forgot to mention that I even offered to travel to her (she lives 3 - 5 hours away from me).
    With the situation becoming bigger and bigger I have asked for help from my lawyer about what to do about the matter and about my contract and the issue with the deposit/retainer. I do however have a question about using the word retainer in my contract. Because a lot of photographers in my area do not use that wording and instead use the wording of "50% non-refundable deposit" (example wording) I have only seen the word retainer used in contracts in my area that are venues.
    But once again thank you for your advice I really appreciate the response I have received and will take each one in consideration when speaking to my lawyer on what and how to handle this situation. I will make sure to let everyone know what the final outcome is once everything has been settled.
  12. The wedding business can be very sleazy. You need to have a tougher skin about this type stuff and network with other
    vendors and photographers that are on the up and are trustworthy to the best you can determine. It's good that you
    consulted your attorney for the fine print, but if you know for sure who dealt you a blow, you need to do something about.
    They will surely deny whatever you say and possibly cause you to become quite frustrated, but they need to know how
    displeased you are with their antics. When you yourself are networked with quality vendors it's easier to hold these rebel
    causes at bay with their nonsense because your acting more as a team than an island. Happy trails.
  13. DD -
    You did the smart and correct thing by getting your lawyer involved. I'd ask what amount they feel is fair to refund based on your contract, location and the situation. Then send a check via certified mail to the bride detailing any and all deductions from the deposit.
    As for the wording - If a lot of photographers in your area started jumping into the ocean at high tide - would you join them? Probably not... Just because no one else uses the proper wording doesn't mean that you should not. Again talk to your lawyer, ask her / him which wording is better for you, in your state.
    For the vendors that are doing this to you - assuming they are either photographers you've second shot or apprenticed for - I would again suggest a conversation with counsel and perhaps a friendly (or not so friendly) cease and desist letter. The Lawyer can come up with the wording - stating that you have proof that they have falsely accused you of blah, blah, blah...and if they do it again - you will take them to court, etc... Slander is serious business - which is why most honest photographers will not specifically name other photographers or companies, but instead will speak in generalities - ie "They" "Their", etc... The truly good ones and honest ones won't even go there...
  14. D D

    This is a difficult call for me. I went to see your work, before posting but nothing was posted, meaning images.

    My take on venders is if someone asks me about a DJ or something and I didn't know of them, I'd say just that. If I happen to know the vender, unless they did something wrong, like calling the bride and groom their wrong name I tell the couple they are in good hands.

    So not knowing the whole story here I'd give them back their $ and rebook this date, you have 9 months or so. I wouldn't worry at all about the pics being posted on facebook, or any other site. Refer future clients to this site and let them see how good you are.

    You really need to post the engagement sitting pics and some past wedding work. I'd also wonder why you are so worried by a few bucks, unless you only book a few weddings a year and this is your full-time job. I usually make this lost money on 1 reorder. Often my reorders are higher then the cost of the wedding.

    At every wedding I will take close ups of the flowers, the DJ, photos of the bride and groom and give a few 8X10's to whomever I work with. Needless to say I also give a few cards out.

    Anyway, I'm lost until I can see your work. At least in the Los Angeles area I've never heard of companies bad mouthing me.
  15. I am surprised by the vehemence the wedding community has toward you. I know I've only had/seen bad experiences a couple of times with other vendors, and while I may discuss those experiences w/ clients, I am reluctant to go into names - generally, if it comes up at all, it is more along the lines of amusing anecdotes ;-)
    To badmouth another vendor, especially one whom the client has already contracted with, causes a huge amount of stress to the client. That strikes me as completely unprofessional - unless you have specific, personal, knowledge about a specific individual/business (and the expectation of further bad behavior by that person/business). Given the level of 'accusation', and the apparent uniformity of it, I have to wonder if there isn't something else going on here.
    Clearly the others involved in this do not agree with you (about your honesty, or your capability, or attitude?). Is the bad mouthing surprising to you (like, out of the blue)? Regardless, this client is lost to you, take the high road, refund what you feel is fair and walk away so you can deal with the vastly larger issue.
    Keep in mind, that sending cease and desist letters, or maybe even suing for libel or slander is a worst case scenario. It won't mend any fences, or win you any clients, and you can be sure that the guy who gets the letter is going to be complaining about it on FB the next day. Within a day or two, it'll be the talk of your entire local wedding community - and it won't be friendly talk! And you think you've got problems now?
    Instead, preferentially, I'd call them personally, and set up a meeting. Have a discussion with them about what they said (or more specifically what they feel you did), and try to stay un-emotional. Avoid tit for tat and personalizing. It won't be easy. Ask them how they would address the situation were the roles reversed. Come at it from the direction of 'fixing' the problem (and tell them that). Take notes. Sincerely thank them at the end of the meeting. By the end of the meeting, a reasonable pro should see you as trying to genuinely remedy the problems. Remember, pride has no place in the business of a business.
  16. I think there is something fishy about this "vendor" business. Methinks there is more to it. At any rate I would find a competent attorney and ask him what slander and/or libel "per se" is. In my state if one person slanders or libels another as to their business practices it is slander/libel per se, or "on the face of it." Normally one has to prove s(he) were damaged financially to win slander/libel suits. But not with per se slander/libel. It is deemed to be obviously damaging to the victim and monetary awards can be handed out by the court without you having to prove it cost you "X" dollars. These people are bleeding your lifeblood.
  17. Attorney's - If you go this way, just go to Small Claims Court for under $5000. Going with an attorney may cost you more then all of the trouble of just a few bucks here. If the judgement goes in favor of the B&G you may get stuck with paying both attorney's plus the B&G's fees for harassment or something, plus their refund. $10,000 could be your cost. If you win the money goes to your attorney. $400 and up is the average rate here in Los Angeles. I'm involved in a $1,000,000 lawsuit. If I win I'll probably take home 25 cents or something close to that. Why you may ask yourself? This case is on it's 14th year. The money has to be given to the lawyers, all of the medical bills, and 1/3 alone goes to the lawyer. After everyone has been paid I won't get much, if anything.

    Please don't do this until you can lead us to the facebook site or something.

    Wayne, you are a good guy. I don't see how a vender can make an opinion unless they have a team consisting of several venders that may meet once a month and give out referrals to each other. I'm still lost here and would enjoy seeing the pic's on the facebook site.

    Thats all I'm asking, before I can help D D
  18. In the end, the images you make will stand on their own.
    My advice is to use this time to self critique your work/website and see where you can improve. Possibly let others on this forum look at your work and with a fresh set of eyes see not only where you can improve, but what steps to take in order to take you to the next level.
    Last week, I was comparing the work of many of the photogs in my area. I compared their websites, their pricing, the quality of their images as far as lighting, composition, and posing. While checking out their FB page, I stumbled upon a local photog who was in the midst of a dispute with another local photog. Pro #1 was defending himself on FB openly about a claim of unprofessionalism on his part. The complaint was a cheap shot done via online review by Pro #2. Pro#1 was clearly the better photog but his website had few images, fewer models, which made him look second rate. Looking at his website it would be hard to have confidence in his work.
    I wouldn't pay her a thing until you rebooked the wedding. also, I would use this as an opportunity for self examination. Again, your work will speak for itself... the end!
    I have spoken to my Lawyer about the matter and well they have advised me to do the following:
    Since in my Contract it states that if the client wishes to cancel the agreement and receive a FULL refund (of their non-refundable deposit) that the client must cancel the agreement with in a 7 day time period that the agreement was sign. If the client wishes to withdrawal from the contract after the 7 days the client will be billed $100/hr for photography services already provided and $50/hr for any other services (such as drive time to and from location of shoot, consultation, editing of photos, mailing of disc etc.).
    I am to write an email to the client with the contract attached with the areas highlighted that states the above. Then list out all the expense that have occurred and the amount she will be receiving back. Also within the email state that I have done x amount of weddings and that each wedding we have done have nothing but positive feed back and the review my website and other portfolio sites.
    As for what to do about the other professionals there is not really much I can do at this point as it is he said this and she said that gossip going on. If it does indeed later become a huge issue and many of my other clients begin to want to withdrawal from their contract then further actions will be taken.
    I also checked on the wording of my contract and if I should use the word retainer or deposit. My lawyer has stated that since I have a clause in my contract stating that if a client is to withdrawal from the contract after 7 days that they will be billed it does not matter what wording I use. They stated yes retainer would be a better word to use but since your contract is clear and states what would happen in a client should withdrawal from the contract that I would be okay.
    So pretty much the advice I have received from this forum was very helpful. I know many of you would like to see the session to see the photos and if you still want to please send me a private message and I can send you a link to the preview images we have posted.
    Once again thank you to everyone in this group. I appreciate each of you responding to my forum thread and offering advice on what I should do.
  20. It is very simple: someone else is paying for her weddings photos and she wants the money back to spend on something else! When someone has already receive proofs and it is satisfy with the what has been shown to her then no bad-wording will take the customer away from you so easily! Get a letter from her with the facts as proof! So if vendors really are working against you then can get a lawyer to proceed!

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