When Harry was a wee, pudgy, adorable baby, we had his picture taken ALL THE TIME. I can remember more than one occasion where I would take him down to the mall by MYSELF just to get pictures snapped at Sears. And they always turned out adorable. And I always used one of those cheapo coupons where you get a bazillion photos for $5 or whatever. It was perfect. This carried on from when he was about 6 months old (the first time I sorta realized I could actually get pictures done… what can I say? I was a first time mom!) until he was about two or three. I would get pictures done almost every month.
But then we started getting frustrated with the wait time. We would make an appointment well enough in advance, but it never failed that we would spend 30 minutes (or more!) waiting in the little waiting area with the germ infested bead coaster and watching a movie on the tiny television. Waiting with a toddler sucks, if you weren’t already aware. We were there for Christmas portraits and finally had HAD IT. We never felt like the photographer took enough time trying to get good pictures. Once they saw we had the $5 coupon, they would take a picture until we were relatively sure we got the shot we wanted and that was it. There was little to no personal attention. It was very disappointing.
It was around this time that Picture People was getting going in our local mall so we started going there. It was a bit pricier, but the customer service, quick turn-around and attractive prints made it worth our while. And, over the years, we’ve gotten less professional portraits taken. Harry gets school pictures done and since Liam and now Evie came into our lives, there just hasn’t been the time for it. And, of course, Picture People packed up and left town.
I decided to bite the bullet and made an appointment at Sears Portrait Studio, hoping that enough time had passed that their practices had improved over the years. We found out within 5 minutes of arriving that no, they had not. At least, that’s what I believed when we were told that they were very busy, several appointments had run over and that our appointment had been “bumped”. She meant to call us, honest! She could see about fitting us in later. Let’s see, it was 1pm… how would 7pm work? We’d only have to kill six hours at the mall with a surly third grader and two wee children. SURE, WHY NOT? We told her we’d think about it and made ourselves scarce faster than you can say, “Not on your life, sister!”
But my story doesn’t end there. After mentioning on my blog about my less-than-satisfactory experience, I was contacted by someone at Sears Portrait Studio. They wanted to make it right for us and would we consider giving Sears Portrait Studio another shot? They didn’t even ask for details on what went wrong with our experience, just that they would ensure we were treated well. What did I have to lose? Our local studio contacted us (the manager called me on her cell-phone to set up the appointment and assured me she would be there to photograph us as well) and we made an appointment. I started to get jazzed, hoping that FINALLY I would have a picture of all three of my children.
The studio manager called again a day before our photo appointment to go over the details with us. She asked what the children would be wearing, what sort of portraits we were hoping to get and other details. Before we even stepped foot in the studio, I felt like a very important customer. And when we arrived, that feeling only deepened. We never had to sit in the waiting area, as we were whisked back for our session right away. The manager and another photographer were there on hand to help us capture our children (no mean feat when you factor in Liam). I was still doubtful that we’d be able to get many quality pictures of Liam, at least, but I was game.
In short, we were taken VERY well care of. Liam wasn’t good for more than about two photos in a row, but the women were more than happy to go at his speed and let him take breaks as often as he wanted. Though I was stressed about Liam’s behavior, the women never made me feel like I had anything to be nervous about. The mood was very calm and relaxed and I appreciated that more than I can say. After the session, the manager went over the photos with us, helping us make our selections and giving advice where she saw fit. Of course they tried to sell us their most expensive packages, I would have been suspicious if they hadn’t, but I never felt like I was put on the spot either. The ball was entirely in our court.
We ordered our pictures and were on our way. Two weeks later when the pictures came in at the store, we were given a phone call. A few days later, a framed portrait we were given as an incentive came in and again we were given a call by the manager. We picked the pictures up and they are GORGEOUS. They turned out even better than I had hoped and I am so glad that I decided to give Sears Portrait Studio another chance. If you’ve felt burned by them in the past, like I had, I urge you to give them another shot. While we were treated like VIPs, I could tell that a lot had changed about their practices in general and I will be happy to return there in the future for more pictures (I’m thinking Evie will need some 1 Year pictures!). And check out this beautiful framed picture we got:
Not just a gorgeous photo but HUGE.
To give you some idea of scale… sorry it’s so blurry!
Edit 12/9/2009: I’m going ahead and closing comments on this post. This post is well over a year old now, after all. The discussion has been very interesting and I’ve definitely understood everyone’s issues. While Sears made it right for me and my family, it would appear that they have quite a ways to go to improve customer satisfaction overall. I believe it can be done!