Dealing with Difficult Customers.

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ShutterCliq's Website was spawned from a Facebook Photography Group that is full of people at various stages in their businesses. There's 35 year Veteran Photographers and people who are just getting started, and all stages in between. The beauty of this, is that there are threads started that contain INCREDIBLY useful information for all photographers. We have tried to capture some of the incredible content and advice offered up so YOU can use it in your business.  

The thread you'll read below has a nightmare situation for a Wedding Photographer.   Names have of course been removed to protect the photographers identities.

What a way to celebrate our one year anniversary of being in business.. With our first complaint. We had photographed a wedding a week ago on New Years Eve and knew that the bride and her mom were both going to be difficult.

We walked on eggshells all day trying to make sure we did everything they had wanted. It turns out that we missed a shot of her father handing her over to the groom on the altar because I was moving to the area where the priest had asked me to stand for the entire ceremony after photographing her and her father coming down the isle. I feel terrible about it and the bride and her mom are making me feel worse. They are making it out like we ruined the entire day and everything we did all day was nothing.

Now I am scared of what she might do to us. I apologized but it was worthless. I have this worst case scenario in my mind where she brings us to court and we lose everything. I am sick to my stomach. I should have never booked this wedding to begin with because I got a bad feeling from the start about them.

  • No judge in their right mind would give it them. So long as the rest of the day is on the money and has been what was promised. Even more since you were doing what the priest said to do and since you have to play by his rules, thats that. Are you a member of PPA? If so, run it by their legal folks. If not, get a lawyer on retainer. You should already have one but most of us wait till we need one :)
  •  She hasn't mentioned anything about court but I have it in my mind as a worst case scenario. I would put nothing past them.
  •  I've been reminded recently that it is impossible to please everyone all of the time. Some people seem to endeavor to find fault in whatever it is that you do. Keep your head up.
  •  I remember you were talking about this before the new year, my motto most of the time is to "plan for the worst and hope for the best". I would get a lawyer now and have a game plan ready to go at a moments notice. So when they decide to tag team you in the office with threats, you can pick up the phone in front of them, call and say "execute" and hand the phone to them. At that point, stay out and let your mouthpiece handle it. If it gets that far, there is nothing you can do to "make them happy" as they dont want to be happy. You can get them to shutup and you can get them to sign a non-disclosure so they have to stay quiet about how unhappy they are or they think they are. Yes, it's hard ball and not very nice but it does solve the problem and keep them from bad mouthing you to be mean.
  • A couple of words of advice...document every thing you say to her and she says..save emails..and write down notes dates and times about everything...above all ...keep your cool...level headed. Don't agree to any demands with out 'thinking' them over...Good Luck!
  •  I've been there. I can tell you from personal experience that a judge (it would be small claims court) looks to see if you fulfilled your contractual obligations, period. Since there's nothing in the contract that states that you will take that specific photo AND the rest of the job was reasonably well executed, you're in the clear. You will explain that you try to capture all the elements of a wedding, that, being only one of them, and because you're in a church, for a wedding not just a photo shoot, and have to follow the rules, you do the best you can to capture it all, but you can't run down the isle and disrupt the ceremony just for that shot, plus, you were following the officiant's directions... Something like that. I often find that if a client goes postal on you over a small thing, it means that maybe they were not as confident in their photographer as they should have been, otherwise they would have understood the situation. You can point out the othergreat shots you were able to capture. I don't think this client will sue, maybe offer a free family session with an 11x14 when they have a baby as a gift. Now, did you apologize in writing? I hope not. This is a tricky area, you can explain what happened, and express your disappointment that you were not able to capture that moment, but without admitting guilt, it wasn't your fault. This is where good client communication skills are important. You don't want her to have an email from you saying "I'm sorry I didn't take that shot for you" You should be saying (In a nicer way) "I'm sorry I was not able to take that shot for you due to whatever valid reason". The one area where this kind of unreasonable client can hurt you is if they decide to post something bad about you in Wedding Wire, Project Wedding or another on-line forum. Brides look at those! You'd have to contest it, that probably won't work, and / or write a rebuttal. You should always encourage your good clients to write nice reviews on these forums, that way when you have a bad one, it will be among great ones... I hope this helps. Good luck!
  •  Usually- what they really want is to know you are sorry- document an apology with explanation- then offer something- a small parent album- or a 16x20. Have something ready for them to sign when they accept it. Your contract should keep u safe. You will win even if it does go to court- especially when you are the one who is reasonable and kind. All good advice above too. I was part of a team on a wedding like this once. The only "kiss" shot was mine from the balcony. She got a bunch of free stuff, then finally the company had to tell her they were finished. Good luck!
  • Be careful with apologies, you didn't do anything wrong and they can be used to document that you admitted to not doing your best. Also the "gift" should be a token of your appreciation for their business, and not something as substantial as a parent's album. Offer hart felt explanations, an apology admits you did something wrong. Hold your ground and be professional. Don't let this "little thing" grow in your client's mind by your acting as if you ran over the ring boy with your car on the way to the reception...
  • Use the word "regret" not apologize....
  • Regret is better than "I apologize"...
  •  I'm with you both - do not admit liability, especially if there is none.
  •  Another thought...(only because it has happened) but be carefull with offering "free stuff" to make them feel better. Let them 'suggest' what they think is 'fair' and then counter. Too often these people raise a stink, just to see what they can get for free. And when this issue has been presented to me...they asked for a lot less then I was going to offer...We tend to offer the 'farm' to try to make them happy. again..be careful and good luck.
  •  I am in a similar situation. An ex-client of mine felt print rights and even copyrights were just a given without compensation. The contract spells conditions out clearly, however her and her step-mother have begun a systematic harassment campaign through the internet, on Facebook, where they are obviously attempting to slander my business, defame us, cause emotional harm and financial loss. I have since sent a Cease and Desist Letter, but to no avail. They say they will take me to court. I welcome their Lawyer's communication and will say to you, if the situation goes to the extreme mine is headed in, limit communication, and as is the consensus from the above mentioned comments, remove "sorry" from your future correspondence repertoire. We all have limits to liability. This person cannot take away your business. This is a disgruntled client. Is there a clause in your contract indicating not being held liable in the event of missed shots due to causes beyond your control? As you, I held my reservations from the beginning and chose to take on a wedding despite my similar bad gut feeling. I wish you all the best.
  •  For this reason I have this clause in my agreement     3. SPECIFIC IMAGES. The Studio and Client further agree that the Studio cannot be held responsible for any specific image that may not be delivered. Client acknowledges and understands that Photographer uses a highly stylized photojournalistic approach to the Assignment, with few prearranged or posed shots. Any failure by the Studio to deliver any specific image shall not be a breach of this Agreement, shall not result in a refund of any money paid by Client to Studio, and Studio shall not provide any other remedy to Client.   Granted, I've never been in this situation but I'm hoping that if I ever were, this clause can cover my behind.

Nightmare situation no doubt! Has this ever happened to you? If so, how did you deal with it? Comment below and let us know.

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