After speaking with my attorney, I have been advised to make a public statement in regards to the online facebook comments made in the past week from a person who had booked with us and was rained out on the day of their shoot. The comments were about myself and my business~ Southern Grace Photography. He advised me to explain the situation so that there are no questions about my business conduct. He also advised me to take legal action for the slander of my business and reputation, but I assured him that that would be the very last action if the matter continued and that my main concern was my clients' opinion of me. Tho I know my current clients know and love me, I will write this to explain to each of you & any future clients who may be concerned by the negative online comments. I honestly am unsure of why this person chose to publicly twist this into something it isn't, but that is not within my control and there is nothing more I can do for them.
On May 4th 2013 we had scheduled a photoday for family photos along with two Pickens County Prom sessions in the middle section of the day. While this date was reserved for family photos, I was able to rearrange the schedule to house the two clients who requested prom pictures. When rain was in forecast I contacted all of my clients for the day and told them there was a possibility of rescheduling the photoday, we later decided on April 30th to reschedule the date due to 90% chance of rain. While the families were all fine with the rescheduling or refund of payment, I was unable to reschedule prom sessions so I offered a secondary location that I was able to provide on short notice, that would provide covering if it were to rain. The clients opted out as the location was not as large or as nice as the first. One of the clients asked for the reservation of a ranch in Hinton Ga. in which I told them there was no way for it to be reserved as it would be too costly for me to reserve the area for just one session and I would be loosing all money made and then some since I had given them a discounted rate of $125.00 off the normal pricing. The client was unhappy that a secondary location of their choice was not reserved and opted to go with another photographer who had already set a full day of prom clients and had obtained an indoor location. At this point I told them I would refund their payment on the following Monday (May 6th). In prep for our previously planned family trip out of the country I was extremely busy the following week with paper work for my children, my spouse & myself to travel, that the refund slipped my mind. This was an error on my end & I regret not sending it out directly, but our contract reads that our company has up to 30 days to refund payment to any and all clients. My family and I went out of country on vacation therefor we had no phone or internet access and as soon as we returned I sent out refunds for any cancelled sessions. Before I returned home the unhappy client had sent out a certified letter asking for refund, in which I didn't not receive since I was gone on vacation & didn't know it was from the client until online comments were made. Upon returning home & going to post office to pick up letter I was notified that it had been returned to sender. This client had not tried to contact my business once to ask about their refund, which I understand is not their place to check up on, but could have been handled promptly by one of my assistants had they chose to email or call versus mailing a letter, which I was never able to read.
Though payment has been refunded in full & apologies have been made, this client is extremely unhappy with Southern Grace Photography and myself. This client continues to state things on facebook that are untrue and very hurtful. I have not, nor will I say any hurtful words to this person or about this person. I feel as if I have conducted my business within the guide lines of the terms stated and though I regret not making the refund before I left the country, the refund was made within the 30 day period and was made in full.
At Southern Grace Photography I strive to keep my clients happy and I understand that my clients are the lifeline of my business. In the past I have had numerous clients transfer payments toward other sessions and we have ALWAYS honored our word, even if it was years later. I have ALWAYS refunded in full the amount paid to me in the event of rain & even in the event of last minute cancellation without reason as I do not feel the payment is mine if the job has not been completed.
This client has accused me of several things publicly my attorney has advised me to list each of these remarks and respond:
Stealing: I did not have plans of keeping the payment this client made and payment was returned in full within contract guidelines.
Been said legal action is the only reason I returned payment: I was not ever contacted by the client or anyone acting in their behalf in regards to this matter until the high school senior started posting on my facebook page. (June 2,2013)
Was said I cancelled day before without any option of secondary location: I actually offered two locations that were fully covered and was ready to photograph their session regardless of weather, but client declined the backup locations as they had made prior arrangements with different photographer.
Was said that vacation time does not excuse me from work obligations: I had 30 days to complete the refund (in which I did) and yes, vacation time does excuse me from work obligations.
Was said that I stated it wasn't worth my time or money to work with this client: I was being honest and had told them it would cost too much for me to reserve the large ranch for their session at their discounted rate and for only one session. I also told them I wasn't able to spend the rest of the day to drive around & continue searching for a location but would be glad to come to them if they were able to find a location they like better than the ones I had provided.
Was said I was "being smart" in my online comments to a minor and legal pursuit would be taken against me: I stated that with life and having a family to care for everyone is made to understand a bit more and that the age of this client explains why they were not very understanding.
Was said that I would not release the location that was booked in advance so they could "go look at it" & suggested that I wasn't being very un-informative or unprofessional: I do not release exact directions to locations until one to two days before our date, due to majority of our locations being private property and I informed this client it is simply to avoid countless people driving to the set and disrupting the property owner, in which they seemed to understand at the time. This reason is also to avoid from other photographer's being on our sets during photodays, it is not to keep our clients uninformed.
Was said that I was ignoring the letter they sent to me: I was out of the country & upon returning the letter had already been returned to sender.
Was said that I deleted this client from my facebook contacts because I didn't want the "truth" out there for everyone to read: I deleted this person & their family to avoid further conflict. This person chose to log in under their friends account and continue to post hateful comments on my facebook page after being refund was made and after they were asked to stop.
It truly takes every ounce of my being to not post the unending text messages between myself and this client as I struggled to find a secondary location, and the messages as I created a discount for their coverage, and the messages about the refund. I do know it will do nothing but harm & give everyone something to talk about or stir up trouble. I am in no place in my life to have room for gossip, or petty fussing. I am writing this statement for you all to read so that you know I didn't nor do I ever plan on taking advantage of my clients. If you have ever spent more than 3 minutes on a shoot with me, you will know that I enjoy my job and everyone of my clients. This client has never worked with us before and sad to say she never will get the fun experience we have when we all get together for photos.... so with that in mind, we will understand that her only experience with us was a bad one and it is expected that any and all things she has to say about us are negative. While there was another prom client who dealt with us that day and was extremely understandable when the rain came in, it goes to show that we just can't make everyone happy in life. I have always strived to do my best and I will continue to strive to be the very best I can. In the event that legal action has to be taken to save the reputation of my business I want it known that we tried everything in our power to resolve the problem and stop the slander in the best way possible without legal proceedings.
With all this said, I will not be responding on facebook to any negative comments this person says nor will I partake in any talk on the matter. When talking with my attorney he said 1 in every 100 people will be unhappy with something you do.. I have to say in the last 7 years I can only count TWO clients (including this one) that were unhappy with me... I have photographed hundreds of people in that time. Tho that is a great record, it does hurt to have even one unhappy person when I run such a tight knit business where I invest more than just hours of 9-5, Southern Grace is my heart and soul & every minute I spend working is a moment I could have spent with my family. While this is my business and I do rely on the income, I view my work as a blessing I have been given to share with others. I want to keep my gift and keep sharing it with you and that can only be done so long as I keep the love of my work alive. Each day is only what we make it and every experience in that day is only what we let it be... this challenge is ending here, I am choosing the high road and I know the love that is inside me for my work will not even flicker as I will not allow it.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and for looking at the big picture and not letting someone's comments and hurtful words alter your opinion of me and my business. All of us Gals at Southern Grace love you and thank you for the unending support and love.
Shew, glad that is all said & done... now let's get back to the fun part of this business and make some super fun memories! I'll be posting the details for the linen day tomorrow :) Ya'll have been counting down to this day ~ it's finally here again! Let's rock it out & let some feather fly!