Sparkles & Stretchmarks: A UK Parenting & Pregnancy Blog: Ripped Off for Newborn Photography

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Ripped Off for Newborn Photography

As some of you may know, before I had Tyne I worked in Customer Services for a major high street retailer  where I was a member of the management team, dealing with escalated customer complaints (basically when an agent couldn't resolve the problem initially, it was my job to take the escalated complaint and resolve it)

So I have a good understanding of how a customer should be dealt with  - which is why I find bad customer service to be completely unacceptable.

Nothing bothers me more than a company who is quick to take your money, but completely uninterested and unwilling to assist when you encounter a problem with their product or service.

And this is EXACTLY the attitude that I recently encountered with PIXIFOTO.....

How it all began....

For those who don't know, PIXIFOTO are a company who apparently specialise in baby & child photography - they operate pop-up shops in shopping centres and superstores around the country, and are most often found running their studios within Mothercare stores.

This is where my unfortunate encounter with Pixifoto began...

While out shopping one day with Tyne and my mum, we walked by a Mothercare store in New Mersey Retail Park, Liverpool - outside was a sign displayed stating "Photography Sessions FREE today only!"

I had wanted to have some photos taken professionally of Tyne, and so we went in to enquire...

The girl inside informed us that all the slots for the day were fully booked, and so she was unable to offer us a free session as there were no more of these "Free" days coming up in the foreseeable future but she could book us in to have a session in a few days time for £10.00

This sounded reasonable, so we booked in. I chose a time slot when I knew Tyne would be fed, awake and happy.

The Day Of The Shoot....

A few days later, we arrived for our photo shoot - we were surprised to find another family in there, seemingly only just having started their shoot.

We were left to wait for around 45 minutes for our photo shoot to begin - by which time, Tyne was hot and bothered under the studio lights and was starting to get hungry - so really not an ideal situation for a photo shoot!!

But we bit our tongues and persevered. The photographer took a series of photos of Tyne - I went along with all of her suggested poses, and informed her that I had seen a set of Angel Wings props that I'd like her to use - I wanted a black and white image of Tyne naked, laying on his tummy wearing the wings.

She put the wings on him and took the photo - fine.

After the shoot, we were told to come back for a "viewing session" in an hour or so.

No pricing structure.....

We went for a walk around, and returned an hour later - our "viewing session" consisted of us standing in front of a computer while the assistant scrolled through thumbnails of the photographs.

After she had scrolled through them all, she asked us which ones we wanted to buy. No mention of price had been made at all - so I asked how much the pictures would cost, what the size options were, etc.

The girl seemed, in my opinion, not to have any idea of the pricing structure and so after a few minutes of bluffing - she called over the photographer who took over the "Viewing Session".

Again, I asked for prices and size options - I was told that they are unable to quote a price until I had stated which photographs I wanted as their packages are bespoke.

Erm?!! Fair enough if you offer bespoke packages but who on Earth wants to commit themselves to stating which photographs they want to buy without having ANY clue as to the price of them first?!

I told her that I couldn't state which photographs we wanted without any clue as to how much it would cost -  again, she told me she simply could not give me any prices.

Reluctantly, I pointed out the photos I liked best - around 15 of them. She told me this would cost £525!!

I was obviously NOT prepared to pay £525 for some photographs and I told her this. She asked me what I was expecting to pay.

I said I had hoped to pay around £150, and that I wanted a canvas or a large framed image.

Confusion and Crashing Computer.....

She then started telling me to "remove some" photos and she would see what the "computer quoted" - so she scrolled through and I told her which ones to remove.

After a few photos were removed, she would say "Oh thats too many, the price is going up instead of down....add four more back in"....."Oh now we need to take more off, take two off...." etc etc....this went on for around 20 minutes, all the while the computer kept crashing and she kept having to reboot the system and start from the beginning.

I'm sure you can imagine how confusing this became!! By the end of it all, I was extremely confused as to which images I was left with!

I was then being hurried along as the next couple were waiting for their viewing session, so I was encouraged to pay up my £155 - as I put my card into the machine, the girl told me that the payment was not refundable - I, confused and frazzled with a crying baby!, agreed and punched in my PIN number.

I was then presented with a print out confirming what photos I had chosen and hurried out of the store.

When I got into the car and settled Tyne, I looked at the print out - I was horrified to see that for £155 I had ended up with NO canvas or framed prints as I had requested - instead I had ten small photographs all of the same size and one slightly larger.

Making my complaint....

I was very unhappy with this, and with the whole photo shoot experience, so I came straight home and went on to the PIXIFOTO website to lodge a complaint.

As I did this - I noticed a large advertisement stating their "Pixi Promise" to shoot all Newborn babies for free. At no point had this been mentioned to me when I had originally enquired about the free photo shoot!

I emailed my extremely long and detailed complaint through, and waited to hear back from them.

The next day, I had a response stating that the customer services team took complaints such as this very seriously and they would pass my details on to "somebody" who would contact me shortly to discuss the matter.

Waiting for a response....

I waited for 4 days and heard nothing - so I emailed again.

Again, I received a response - apologising for the lack of previous contact and assuring me that the area manager would call me shortly.

Two days later I still had no contact - so I emailed again.

Again, an apology and a promise that the area manager Faye Cunningham would contact me.

Still waiting.....

TWO WEEKS later I had still had no word from anybody at PIXIFOTO - and so my Mother called in to the store and spoke to the duty manager who informed us that she was unaware of any complaint and would personally contact the area manager Faye Cunningham and would call us back to inform us of what she said.

Disappointing photos....

Whilst there, we were informed that our photos were ready. A surprise, as we had not been informed that they were ready for collection!
So we took them home - I was not very happy with the quality of the photos, particularly the angel wing shot I had most wanted as I realised when looking at it that the wings were not even opened out! (Something you can't tell from a tiny thumbnail on a computer screen!) - when people look at the photo, they ask me why he has a feather on his back!!!
Not something you expect from a "professional photography company".

Still waiting....

The next day, the duty manager called us (At least somebody at PIXIFOTO keeps to their word!) - she informed us that she had spoken to Faye Cunningham and that she would be calling me shortly.

Two days later, still no phonecall - so my Mother returned to the store and spoke to the manager on duty again. This time she requested the number for Faye Cunningham - after a lot of deliberation, they gave us the number.

Contact at last.....

After another 2 days of calling and leaving voice mails, we FINALLY received a call from the elusive Faye Cunningham herself (albeit after leaving a voicemail informing her that if she did not return the call within the hour we would be going straight to Trading Standards....)

Considering the complaint had, at this point, been going on for almost a MONTH I expected at the very least an apology from Ms Cunningham, as the area manager.

Imagine my surprise when not only did she not apologise once during the duration of our phonecall, but she also:

*Admitted to not even having read my emails or having any knowledge of the nature of my complaint whatsoever
*Tried to palm me off by telling me that she been in hospital for the last two weeks (Erm...not my problem or my business, and not an excuse for poor customer service - was there no acting area manager during her hospital stay?! And if she was unavailable, why was I repeatedly promised that she would contact me?!)
*Admitted that she was calling me whilst driving (I'm hoping she was at least using a hands free!!!) .... which may go some way to explaining her, in my opinion, lack of interest in my complaint, abysmal customer service skills and unbelievably bad attitude

Having spent a month chasing this, I really did not want to have to go in to all of the details of my complaint all over again - so I asked if it would not be possible for Ms Cunningham to read my original complaint email and call me back when she was familiar with the case - she refused to do this and insisted that I told her the problem there and then.

So I did - which took around 20 minutes, thanks in part to her constant interruptions and excuses....

No apology.....

As I have already stated, she did not offer an apology. 

This is something that even somebody with the most basic customer service knowledge would have done within minutes of taking the call.....

Instead, she focused on the fact that I had collected the photos....

I told her that yes I had collected them, because I had paid  £155 for them and after numerous emails and phonecalls over the course of 3 weeks I had not had a response from anybody - so of course I collected what I had paid for.

Ms Cunningham informed me that this meant they could not do anything at all about my complaint, because I "could have copied the photographs".

I informed her that my complaint was made on the evening of my photo shoot, less than 4 hours after it took place - before any photos would have had any chance to be printed - so it is not my fault that their exceptionally poor approach (in my opinion) to customer service meant that it took them a month to deal with my complaint, meaning I have since collected the photographs. If they had responded to me promptly, I would not have had the pictures.

NO refunds in ANY circumstances....

Again, Ms Cunningham repeated herself over and over - and then began to refer to PIXIFOTOs No Refund policy - stating that from the very minute the payment is made, there are absolutely no refunds given.

So - despite the fact that I had been misinformed as to what I was paying for, despite the fact that I received poor quality photographs - I was not entitled to a penny of my money back.

So PIXIFOTO are, in theory, able to take your money and run no matter how unhappy you are with your products - EVEN if they tell you that you're paying for 5 canvas prints and you actually receive one small photograph - according to their policy, you are not entitled to a penny of your money back.

Interesting, don't you think?!

My phonecall with Ms Cunningham ended when I asked her if she intended to do anything whatsoever about the problems I had experienced.
She informed me that there was "nothing she could do".

I thanked her and informed her that I would now pursue the case through Trading Standards.

Going to court....

I have since been in touch with Trading Standards who have informed me that I must send two written letters to them via Recorded Delivery, outlining an acceptable response time - after both letters have been sent, if I receive no reply or am unhappy with the response, I can pursue them through the Small Claims Court.

I will report back with my progress in this case.

I realise that £155 is not a lot of money but that is not the point - originally I did not want a refund, I wanted a reshoot. 
Imagine if I had paid the original £525 quoted and was left in this situation?!!!

Now its about more than the money - I think it is disgusting that a company offering newborn and child photoshoots is so ready & willing to take the money of parents, and yet are completely unwilling to resolve any problems experienced.

I am also disgusted that a company such as Mothercare allow such an unscrupulous company to trade from within their stores, preying on their customers as they shop!

More unhappy customers....

While discussing my bad experience with PIXIFOTO on Twitter, I was contacted by  many other disgruntled customers who felt that they had been ripped off, mislead about what they would be receiving for their money, and left with poor quality products..... One very interesting message came from a former employee of PIXIFOTO who informed me of the dreadful working conditions she encountered during her time with the company....

This person does not wish to be named, however she did provide me with these photographs - showing the filthy silks used to drape over newborns during shoots, which she brought home herself to wash.


Lovely?! Very hygienic in the hands/mouth of a newborn baby... 

AVOID!!!!!!!....

In short, I would strongly advise ALL mothers against using PIXIFOTO for your photography sessions - Max Spielmann are currently running a photo shoot plus canvas, large and medium print and 2 photo mugs offer for £30.00 - nice clear price structure....and Faye Cunningham doesn't work for them!

Have you had any experiences with PIXIFOTO yourself? Or experienced bad customer service to this degree? What did you do about it? As always, I'd love to hear from you!

22 comments:

  1. That is dreadful, I bet they aren't even qualified photographers, how they think they can get away with this is a joke. My wedding photographer specialises in baby portraits and charges £150 which Includes a photo session of up to 2 hours, your favourite photograph chosen on line, professionally printed to 10X8 size & a high resolution disk of around 20 beautifully edited images.

    I would much rather have the individual attention of one photographer. Poor people are getting ripped off by these 'in store photographers'

    I really hope you get your money back!!

    www.bumpbabycandme.blogspot.co.uk

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  2. Bloody hell! I had a couple of photoshoots with pixifoto when Stacey was little and it was nothing like this. It sounds like they've gone right downhill. I'll be steering well clear of them. I might look into taking Ozzy to Max Spielmann though.

    Lou xxx

    Confessions of a Secret Shopper

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  3. Blimey hun that is terrible, what a complete and total waste of everyones time and money. I think £155 is a lot of money in my opinion especially given how much work you have had to do yourself to get this far, most people would have given up, so well done for sticking to it and your mum and I hope you get somewhere with trading standards, what a truly awful experience xx

    http://beautyqueenuk.blogspot.co.uk/

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  4. This is awful! I get so annoyed with poor customer service - I have worked in it too and it isn't that hard to get right. I'm impressed you are pursuing it. I have had a run in with PC World recently and I got to the point that it was making me so angry I gave up (for the sake of my health) and accepted their extremely insulting gesture of goodwill. Hope you get a good outcome x

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  5. http://justalittlebitunique.com/2013/06/13/littlewoods-customer-service/
    That's horrible, don't let them ignore you and think they can just get away with it, would like to know how it this turns out, keep us updated :) I hate poor customer service! I blogged last week about poor service from littlewoods, xx

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  6. Oh my gosh!! What a horrendous company, so many things are wrong with this I don't know where to begin?! I would be complaining regardless if it's that amount of money, in fact £150 is quite a lot of money in these days. Fingers crossed you get something back hun.

    Hels X

    http://babybeautifulmummy.blogspot.co.uk/

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  7. Oh my goodness, I'm so angry reading this!!! I was considering using them for C's 1st birthday cake smash - NO CHANCE! I'll be going local! x

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  8. bad, bad, bad biz practice putting profit, pounds and greed over custom. you have a strong case here and will win for sure!

    best,

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  9. Wow that's disgusting Hayley, I can't believe how shocking their customer service is, you're definitely doing the right thing taking it further, good on you! xx

    Beauty by Emma - Beauty, Mummy & Lifestyle Blog

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  10. This is disgusting!
    I was in the same mothercare about a year ago with my mate and her son, got harassed by this woman taking pictures said the exact same thing "if you bring him him, we can do such an such for just £10!"
    Thankfully my mate turned around and said no!

    But to tell you £10 and then on the day say it's £500+ that's disgusting. Where does the £10 come in to it!? You sitting your child down, oh £10 for that please. Makes no sense.

    The fact they ignored all form of contact for so long and only when you went in to the store again did they bother with you, again disgusting.
    The area manager really needs to be demoted to an assistant or sacked, the line about being in hospital was a blatant lie, no area manager can go on holiday or on the sick without passing their duties to someone else. If they're on a day off they still have to answer calls / emails - it's their job, but hospital visits or holidays that role goes to the acting area manager, no question about it!

    It's good you've got this all written down - and hopefully have times and dates when you spoke to each person / sent each email, they won't have a leg to stand on.

    The price is disgusting too, £150 odd for a few badly taking pictures. That is a lot of money to lose, especially when you were told it would be £10 only. You're a mother too, so to lose that much money will be hard - baby things aren't cheap. Their No Refund policy needs looking into as well, if you're not happy with your purchase as long as you have a receipt then refunds should be given. They clearly know their photographers are rubbish and photos are over-priced so know everyone would be demanding refunds. Ridiculous.

    This has made ME angry and it's not even happening to me, I do work in customer service though, so like you know HOW a customer should be treated and the right procedure to go through when a customer complains and this is definitely not it.

    My fingers are crossed that you don't have to suffer too much more from this company.

    Juyey xx

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  11. This is awful and such a rip off, I don't see how they have the cheek to treat their customers like this. I have seen them many times in my local Mothercare and actually thought about getting photo's of Sophia when she's born, but I defo wouldn't now.xxx

    http://emilysmummyandbeautyblog.blogspot.co.uk/

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  12. I have worked for pixi for 3 months so far and it really does bug me that they let so many people go away with negative feelings. I myself work as a freelance photographer outside of working hours so inside the studio i treat my customers with the same respect. Now complaints wise i would never recommend the area managers, the area you want is human resources of the Photo Corporation, the head office is in northampton, i recieved my training there and the ladies in the complaints department are lovely.
    I feel like I should apologise on behalf of the company but the company is so disorganised and terrible with training, my customer service skills come from years of working in retail and with my own work. They will employ any old person even if they dont have skills in photography... this annoys me as i struggled to get paid work after graduating and one of the girls i work with is also a freelance photographer, we work this job to pay the bills. We have a new starter who has never picked up a camera let alone handled a new born baby. Apologies for remaining anonymous but if anyone would like to contact me I am more than happy to supply an email address at request. Again sorry to those who have had bad experiences, we aren't all that bad i promise!

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  13. I worked for Pixi for 3 years, also as a rare team member with photography qualifications. My experience of working there was absolute hell, no effort was ever good enough and the pressure and unrealistic targets placed on employees were absolutely disgusting. Many staff members were often off with stress and were indeed bullied by said area managment on a regular basis, without anything actually being done to stop it. As with your experience, we were told not to give any idea of pricing structure, only to drop the bombshell at the end after our customers had already been forced to create a 'tailor made' package. Your experience of complaints not being followed up is all too familiar, as an employee I always did the best I could to get matters resiolved only for it to be thrown back in my face by higher management and head office, and left to deal with at times threatening and irate customers trying somehow to vent their frustration. The companys policy seems to be aimed at getting people in and out as quickly as possible, using a 'one size fits all' approach, using dated and dirty props even if the customer objects and guilt tripping new parents into buying overpriced poor quality photographs. The equipment is never cleaned or maintained, as the staff literally do not have time to do so, and I wouldnt want my child putting towels etc in his mouth knowing that they have probably been puked on a dozen times already. Overall respect for staff and customers is completely lacking all together, I am shocked that there hasn't been other articles on this matter. I hope you have plenty of views on your blog as everyone should know to AVOID this place like the plague. I completely sympathise with your experience and sincerely hope you get this situation resolved.

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  14. Any update on your court case?
    Since your experience, the Aussie side of the company went into administration, after the UK side was sold for $1 to the owner's son. Many Aussie customers and staff are out of pocket as a consequence, while Mr Watt continues to profit over here.

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  15. Just to add to that
    http://www.pixifoto.co.uk/our-winter-sale/

    Is the "Winter Sale" offer now offered the same as your collection? If so, people need to be made aware of this.

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  16. I just had one done today read my left let and 8 photos is 140 theres no way im paying that its a joke or one photo is 20 whats that all about the women never told me this and you cant get the cd less you get three pictures which would cost me 60 then 29 for the cd I don't have q money tree iny garden its a joke

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  17. I worked for Pixi for year. I am not sure how they are still allowed to trade tbh. The marketing schemes are cheap tricks. You are trained to intentionally mislead people and dance around the subject of price. Yes you can take only the gift portrait but it was our job to make you feel as guilty about it as possible. Show you all the other pictures that have been edited to make them look decent and then tell you you can only have the horrible tacky photo of your child slouched on a coloured "silk" with the bright light shining on the background. I used to take a couple of extra shots of the gift portrait so the customer had a choice but if my bosses found out I would be in huge trouble. The competitions that they run are also a sham the main prize is rarely given out if at all and we are told to ring all the entries and tell them they won a runner up prize of a free sitting. They are truely shameless and I am actually ashamed to put my time at PixiFoto on my CV. As for anyone wondering if there are 'real' photographers that work for Pixi well there are but they are few and far between and are not welcome. PixiFoto prefer there employees to learn how to take Pixi style portraits they do not welcome creativity or thinking outside the pixi box. This is why they still pose children in flower pots with flowers on their heads like they did when the company started in 1971.

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  18. Hi there :) I also had the same experience & was practically bullied into buying $300 worth of pictures with a crying baby - when it was very clear to them that I was only there for the free print & could not afford more. I was wondering what the outcome was - did you get a refund?

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  19. I am so appalled by the standard of this company. Working there for only 4 months from what I saw was disgusting and I felt so bad for these families I would purposely lower the price or convince them to go for the freebie, (i would receive such a bollocking from my boss but that's how I feel) the silks and props and awful after babies puking on them (which most of them are not cleaned), and the treatment of staff was just disgraceful, been giving ridiculous targets to hit and constantly badgering people to come in or telling them to walk around for hours. I developed bad anxiety from asking people by getting negative responses I only know now how annoying it must be to be forced into it. Everyday was a battle as my stress levels were so high I would go home crying every night cause I felt so guilty. I was constantly talked about by other staff members and they would make me feel uncomfortable when talking to customers as they would jump in and feed them with "Loose Jargon" to corner them to pay more by asking them to choose what pictures they like before leading on the prices and the dodgy price drop when you get to collection price. I am so glad to see the back of that place I may be low on income but I'm much happier.

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  20. AVOID if you can - waste of time & money!

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  21. I took my daughter for a photo shoot at Boots, it was a horrible experience. After standing in a long time, my 18 month was so tired at the time of her shoot, pricing at the end of the shoot was all over the place - at this state, while you are trying to make the best decision, you're been rushed to select from a very bad bunch of photos. I complained like the original poster and was meet with a very NEGATIVE noncustomer SERVICES. I will not use them and would never recommend them - try using another photographer - these are special photos mums want of their beloved and PixiPhoto cannot deliver and frankly do not care.

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  22. I just went today to collect my photos which I payed £250 for. I was so excited to see them all so when the lady handed me a evelope and said here's your photos I thought well where are my large collage ones. I left anyway in abit of a rush and took alook inside to find the 10 8x10 photos and no collage pictures. So I phoned pixifoto and said I have 3 pictures missing, the lady said no it's all digital you have to pay £15 per picture if you want them. I am so confused by this as when I got the pictures taken and the lady edited them and told me to take a look.
    At first she said 800ish, I thought no way could I afford that so I took frames, canvas off and taken pictures away I got it down to £250. The lady showed me the 10 photos and the 3 collages bearing in mind one of them photos is a complimentary one. Not once did the lady say I would only receive the 10 8x10 pictures and not the other 3. So I have paid £250 for 10 pictures. I can't believe it!
    I then got my partner to ring them and just see if maybe they've made a mistake but no whoever she was was very rude and said that we shouldn't of even received the 10 photos that that was a mistake. Which they oviously don't have a clue because they give me a date a few weeks back for when I would go and pick up the photos.
    I am so angry by this and even more that nothing can be done about it. I've emailed pixifoto but I'm not expecting anything good to come from it. They are a total rip off and I will be telling everyone I know not to go near there ever!!!

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