Horrible clients, now parents boarderline harassing

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by stacy_c, Oct 19, 2014.

  1. Hello everyone,
    I'm a first time poster but I have a very... different situation. For some perspective, I work with my husband and we run a very successful Wedding/Portrait photography business. He has been doing it for over 8 years and I've helped him for about 3 years. Before I took over the customer service aspect, a relative was helping him and she was not very specific in her contracts and wasn't so great at being clear with our customers about timelines, what we can edit vs cannot, etc.
    We shot this couple, and after they said they hated everything, insulted us, demanded that first, we show them every picture from their wedding and we give them every picture unedited and in RAW format, we finally came up with an ultimatum: we would send them their additional pictures in RAW and they would release us from any further obligation to them. They signed, we sent the DVDs and moved on.
    A couple weeks ago, the groom's father starts calling our relative (who no longer works with us) every day. Then he messaged us on our facebook. When I don't respond right away, he KEEPS texting me, messaging me, etc. I shouldn't have said anything, but I kindly explained that we weren't editing any photos because they were rude and they signed the agreement. He shot back about lousy service, etc etc and still wants us to re-edit every photo from their wedding. (which we are not doing - you don't get to bully us and insult us and then expect us to work for free)
    We have never encountered this before. We have never had any bad reviews. Our business is about 70% referral-based and don't really advertise. Unfortunately, before I took over, our contracts weren't very specific, and we usually accommodated almost any request.
    I am going to tell this groom's dad that I'm not discussing this further with him because the bride and groom have already signed an agreement releasing us from any further obligation to them. But how do I protect my business's reputation if he for example, leaves a bad review on the knot, wedding wire, facebook, or contacts the BBB, etc? We would like to expand but don't want this affecting us.
    Any input would be GREATLY appreciated. I've already thoroughly updated our contract because of these people because I absolutely do not want to go through this again.
  2. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    “Our business is about 70% referral-based and don't really advertise. . . But how do I protect my business's reputation if he for example, leaves a bad review on the knot, wedding wire, facebook, or contacts the BBB, etc? We would like to expand but don't want this affecting us.”​
    On the face of it and given the fact that you disclosed, i.e. 70% referral business and no advertising - if I were you I wouldn’t be concerned.
    I would leverage the referrals by marketing the business expansion to referrals.
    If and when necessary - I’d simply rebuff any bad review with THE FACTS, expressed in two or three simple sentences - or have an erroneous or any review based on FICTION, removed, if possible.
  3. Sometimes it's hard to keep your cool when dealing with a belligerent individual! However, when you get off the phone, and take the time to compose a rational response, you still have to take into account what you said in the heat of the moment!
    IMO, disclosing anything to the FOG was an egregious error - unless he was a signor on the original contract, but, at this point, I think it's probably best to take the tact that he is someone whom you were authorized to share information with, as clearly the client shared all this information with him already.
    As a result, I wouldn't put it to him quite that way. I think I would put it in more legalese terms:
    ie. (we) and our client have agreed to a formal, and amicable, resolution of the differences in opinion of artistic expression. We have completely fulfilled all (our) contractual obligations. As a result, any further labor performed would need to be done so under a new service agreement/contract. At this time, sadly, the client's expressed artistic opinions give (us) the firm belief that (we) would be unable to provide service which satisfied the clients. We would be very hesitant to enter into any contract where we did not feel we would be able to provide satisfactory service. You should contact us by email, telephone, or mail should you have any questions.
    WW is spot on with his suggested responses to online reviews. The facts are simple. You met the obligations of your contract, but the clients had an artistic dispute, so you gave them all the images, and the authority to edit them at their will - this was an amicable resolution.
    -while I don't think I would have done the same, what's done is done. I would be rewriting my contract if I were you right now!
  4. I misspoke, I definitely would NOT furnish a difficult client with all the RAWs. I hope you culled, and did not provide them with everything!
    If you did, you may be facing a much more serious threat to your online reputation then a series of bad reviews. ie. every misfocused, awkwardly framed, poorly exposed, gaping mouth, closed eyes, shot is subject to being posted online - and attributed to your company. While FB will take them down eventually, not all (or even most) web sites feel obligated to do so. - and once seen, certain things can not be un seen! And that's if you even see them in time to do anything about them.
    If you've given them this kind of ammunition, I retract my prior advice, and advise that you start kissing up! kidding of course, but it certainly would amp up the risk - ie. you may want to put some money away to consult an attorney.
  5. I would never release my work file to a client, no matter what business you own and operate. IMHO your raw images are in fact your working files.
  6. What's done is done, you can't un-release the raw files at this point.
    I wouldn't let the threat of a negative review influence any decision. If there were one, simply respond with the facts and by graciously wishing them all the best. Short and to the point so you look reasonable and sane and they look like rambling lunatic. Then have yourself a Corona/nice bottle of wine and move on. ;-) Also, only the couple can review on you WeddingWire so the dad's review would be taken down there in any case.
    Let the dad know, as has been suggested before, that your business relationship is o.v.e.r and that there won't be any future editing or communication. Then follow through and don't respond. Don't give him the time of day (it will take some self restraint because ultimately, you want to make people happy and give good service but know that some people need to be cut off) and do not respond. He will eventually go away. Bullies thrive on attention and living in your head rent free - however, you have the power to curb that behavior.
    In short, this too shall pass. Take the time to have your attorney revise future contracts. Best of luck and stop engaging with this bully.
  7. Just want to make it clear, we DID NOT release them all of the RAW files. We gave them the extra images they wanted in RAW. All that they included were duplicates of other images (which is why we didn't include them) and some other not really important reception photos. We would never, ever give them all of their images in RAW. We don't care about the RAW files. I care about them being such huge jerks.
    Okay,now to read everyone's responses :)
  8. ... then please further clarify, who did you give the raw files to: your client or the pesky parents?
  9. On second thought... it really doesn't matter. You need to re-read one of your statements and stand by it because it is correct: "I am going to tell this groom's dad that I'm not discussing this further with him because the bride and groom have already signed an agreement releasing us from any further obligation to them." You maywant to add something about he perils of his libel/slander in an attempt to shut down his bad mouthing of you.
  10. ... I'm glad to hear that you didn't give them all the RAWs... ;)
    Just to clarify, had you done so, and they posted 'select' choices (assuming that their release allows them to post images online) which were the worst imaginable choices, it would be neither libel nor slander. No, I don't think I'd open that kettle of worms yet (ie. don't even mention it to someone who is already upset with you). You've a perfectly reasonable and professional reason to decline further work from them. Simply do that, and monitor your reviews - responding quickly, concisely, truthfully, and professionally to any they post, and ride it out.
    I would only pursue it further if they continue with harrassing behavior. If so, you have legal options, but I would be very surprised if they became necessary to explore. The bottom line is that, should an individual dedicate themselves to destroying your online reputation, and is fairly knowledgable, you'll have a hard time preventing it. While you can react, prevention is nearly impossible. Taking reasonable precautions (like restricting their FB posts on your page), and monitoring are about all you can do.
  11. Thank you everyone for your imput! Sorry, I should have been more clear (guess that's what I get for staying up late stressing about this) We gave the additional images unedited and in RAW format to the clients earlier this year because we figured that was the easiest way just to move on. I had only met and spoken with the groom's father on the day of the wedding and our contract was with the couple. My husband point-blank refuses to edit any more images for them because they were so rude.
    In hindsight, I really regret even responding to the father, but once I checked our facebook and saw in one message he threatened to contact the BBB, I was quite worried. I am going to tell him that our contract was with the bride and groom and they signed an agreement that states at they will not ask us to edit any more images for them. This is what it says verbatim: "This agreement releases [company name] from any further obligation to the clients other than what is stated above. [it stated that we would send them the DVDs in RAW format] The clients agree they will make no more claims for photos or editing from [company name]."
    Thank you all so much for your help! I'm glad to know that I can dispute any bad reviews and I have revamped our contracts to include more protections for us. I mean this bride was too demanding. She asked my husband to photoshop out the groomsmen around her in a photo (which he did, for free). Won't happen again.
  12. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "I kindly explained that we weren't editing any photos because they were rude . . ."

    “I care about them being such huge jerks.”
    “My husband point-blank refuses to edit any more images for them because they were so rude.”
    etc . . .
    When the dust settles on this episode and You and your Husband are relaxed next Sunday fortnight - I suggest that you re-read your inputs to this conversation.
    If you choose to do that, and to do it with an open mind and from a purely objective perspective, I think that it will become blatantly apparent to you both that you (and your Husband) have made some business choices predicated upon your negative emotional responses.
    Making any business choice predicated upon any emotion that is negative usually always means a poor outcome for both parties involved: I think if you acknowledge this point and then learn from it, it will be the biggest positive that you can take away from this incident.
  13. When you make an agreement you want it to be the end of it, so you need to put a non-disclosure clause in it and whatever else it takes to prevent anyone from discussing it. That is what the pros are doing. I would tell you more about it but i can't ;-)
  14. I've thought about this scenario a few times and, ultimately, William's initial posting is the the best recommendation at this point. You can't be terrorized by this guy and let it cause emotional turmoil. The legal remedies have an uncertain outcome and are burdensome. If it was a business destroying matter, they would be worthwhile but I really don't think one review is going to bring the business down. People expect a disgruntled review. Those that don't may not be people worthy of dealing with anyway. A SHORT business polite factual account (with a passing reference that the person is not a client nor a paying party, if true, can be included) is a sound reaction.

    There are lots of articles on line on how to deal with threatening customers. Although this guy is not a customer and the articles mostly address emotional issues, reading some seems worthwhile.
  15. Stacy, first off it sucks, it stings, when you put so much effort and with 8 years of excellent experience
    to each and every wedding. I think all of us have wedding photographers dread these moments.

    You've had some excellent posts from everyone. As for the father I'd try to sell a jpeg CD. Hopefully that
    will get rid of him, because he can already get a copy from the bride and groom.

    If he still insists with having you edit, based on the latest contract you have with the bride and groom,
    charge him accordingly. $150 per hour? Sounds fair to me. Whatever your praclivities are. If you don't
    want to charge by the hour maybe $600 for a half day rate?

    As for the images remember you own them. No one else. You own the copyrights.

    You and your husband are probably caught up in some sort of a horrible plot, scheme, a machination to
    get your files for free and they probably have a family member or a friend that knows all about editing.
    So for this reason I'd try to find a way out of this mess and figure out a fast professional exit.

    Also program your brains that you are darn good photographers and forget about this 1 couple. It will
    take more to damage your fine 8 year reputation. If they post anything malign just get 20, 30, 100, of your
    friends post something about how great you are. Very few people file complaints with the BBB and if
    this couple does file have 100 of your friends and relatives post positive remarks. You will remain with an
    "A" rating.

    Can you keep us posted? Best of luck to you.
  16. "If they post anything malign just get 20, 30, 100, of your friends post something about how great you are."
    That's a great idea. They need not attack the attacker but provide accurate positive remarks (including the same subject matter the complaint concerns). I bet if some friends and others that know the work ethic will be glad to help if they know of the circumstances.

    Bob comes through again!
  17. Lol - Thanks John. We must remember that you are the "Hero," in this fine group!
  18. This is no different from many other encounters one can have in life … someone engages in a contest of wills for whatever reason and they won't let go … like a dog with a bone. It is the source of all kinds of unpleasantness in society … from "road rage" to nations slugging it out over ideological differences.
    Life is too short to waste a single second on trying to appease them … they do not want anything fair, they want to impose their will on you … nothing less, nothing more.
    Walk away. Don't speak to them, make compromises, give them anything, or make any consessions to shut them up … because it WON"T shut them up, nor smooth things over. Even if gave them everything they asked for they will still bad-mouth you … and probably ask for more , then more again … and still bad-mouth you.
    - Marc
  19. "If they post anything malign just get 20, 30, 100, of your friends post something about how great you are." - so you suggest they ask their friends, who weren't actual customers, to defraud future clients by writing bogus reviews? Why not ask previous couple to write reviews instead? What you're suggesting is highly unethical.
    Just let it go and move on.
  20. ... What you're suggesting is highly unethical. ...​

    I actually agree with this as you would be subverting the review process (and it's point in existing). It is a complete overreaction to a single (or even a few) bad review(s). While, technically, they could all be written so no lies were told, it is a highly ambiguous process, and to pad your reviews is both unnecessary, and completely unethical in my opinion (as well). In the least, it is highly unprofessional (IMO).
    I recall being burned by this once as a company had hundreds of awesome reviews on multiple sites which I glanced at before purchasing lens online - to be followed by a high pressure upgrade call, after which ( when I refused to "upgrade" - of course!), they then sent a cheap Sigma zoom instead of the lens I ordered (and paid for). That was how I learned, first hand, of the practice of review padding.

    Stick with the high ground. There are fewer pitfalls.
  21. "so you suggest they ask their friends, who weren't actual customers, to defraud future clients by writing bogus reviews?"
    Anyone qualified to know of the work and services can provide a review of those. There is nothing wrong making, as I described, accurate reviews. No one said or implied that reviewers should falsely claim they are a client if they were not. The 'suggestion' that anyone engage in defrauding future clients is unfortunate and lacks any evidentiary basis.
  22. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "If they post anything malign just get 20, 30, 100, of your friends post something about how great you are." - so you suggest they ask their friends, who weren't actual customers, to defraud future clients by writing bogus reviews?
    There is no suggestion of defrauding future clients at all.
    Nor is there any mention of writing “bogus” reviews.
    The key word in the sentence is “malign” which means: “to criticize in a spiteful, false and misleading way; to be harmful or evil in nature, effect or intent”.
    What is being suggested is that if the OP is maligned then it would be appropriate to have friends attest to what truths that they know.
    It is unfortunate that there has been a negative spin placed on the comment which clearly seeks to only have friends attest to truths - if falsehoods are told.

  23. Great comments John and William. Well done! Thank you gentlemen for your posts. This will help keep the
    OP's post in a positive work flow, allowing her to get rid of this headache, hopefully fast and without
    complications from the wedding party.

    Stacy, kindly let us know how this works out. Your situation will surely have an effect with other
  24. The 'suggestion' that anyone engage in defrauding future clients is unfortunate and lacks any evidentiary basis.​
    Absolutely, but it's still review padding.
    I have friends that I could ask to post a hundred reviews -whom I have never shot a frame of, and whose reviews merely indicated how great a person I am and how easy I am to get along with, or how honest I am, or a variety of other random positive things. Completely truthfully they could give me 5/5 stars (or whatever)! My rating would jump (if it wasn't already great), and the potential client who viewed that profile might never even notice the one bad apple in the barrel of 'good' ones. Never mind that my 'professional' DSLR has never left the green box setting, or my idea of good wedding photography is images in which a half nude bride is draped across the hood of a Testerosa (no, not really, but I've seen it!).
    The practice is still unethical, and unprofessional, especially if the reviews are solicited with the knowledge that they will be universally positive. The point of a review system is to solicit minimally biased, honest and forthright opinions, and a good review system would ignore ALL reviews posted by individuals who have pre existing, or unrelated (to the work) relationship with the reviewee - although obviously it would be nearly impossible to enforce.
    Equally obviously, my ethical views are a bit more... conservative... than the average, but IMO, soliciting reviews only from people whom you know will give you stunning reviews - especially ones whom you do not have a work only relationship with (!) - is highly dubious, and highly unethical. While no fraud may be 'intended' it is (at best) highly misleading - and a very short distance (as in just a few poorly chosen words) to actual fraud. If you are going to solicit reviews (just fine of course), only solicit them from ALL your CLIENTS.
    No. Much better (IMO) to simply respond to a negative review with complete honesty and candor, and be done with it.
  25. Please. Friends know you as a friend. Not as a vendor.

    More eloquently, what Marcus said.
  26. We kind of have to remember that that friends and business can be in the same circle of people. A network of friends. Because of this I wouldn't suggest to have your friends write something about you that you've never photographed nor any of their friends. Hope this doesn't sound too confusing.
    In short I wouldn't put a friend in the position of asking them to write something about me and they have no idea of what my experience is. Thats really not fair!
    However, in my world of photography, past and present clients are often my friends or have become my friends. For example I photographed Miss America, some non nude Playboy models, and several movie stars. Most of these jobs came from referrals from friends. Maybe I should have used different words? Something like - "Have 20, 30, or 100 of your friends in your photo network write comments."
    My best friend is not my photo partner, but a guy named Dave. I'm leaving off his last name. If you subscribed to the National Geographic most likely you've seen his work going back to about 20 years ago. We do a lot of traveling doing nature work, mainly here in the west coast. Sometimes our wives come along. Well he's a friend. He of course can surely write something about me without using those horrible words such as fraud.
    I'm a good guy, offering candid advice to Stacy and to everyone. If I've made some fellow readers upset hit me up with an email.
    I am asking all of us not to take my "General," comments as a form of "Fraud," or promoting "Unethical," behavior.
    I've been in this business since 1988. Photo's have appeared all over the place, such as books and magazines.
    I'm promoting honesty ONLY.
    I've been with Photo.net for a very long time. I think the 10 year mark will be up in a few months or maybe less. I strongly believe in this great website and I won't ever promote anything but complete honesty. In almost 10 years now I've made a lot of friends.
    Here's something cool! I've met up with several photo.net people! We've met up here in Los Angeles and at the yearly Los Vegas photo shows.
    Thanks for reading this. I'm here to help and I've also asked for help many times. I also have to add that I'm the very first person to say I'm not the best photographer out here in Los Angeles. I'm really good, but if I were the best I'd be shooting the centerfolds for Playboy. This is why having friends to use as referrals is a positive thing.
    I will sign off with this. Is it still OK to have your circle of photo friends write something positive about you? I think we are all on the same page and I should have explained myself better.

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