Family unmemory: Highway robbery at the photo studio

With hair combed, pants pressed, coordinated outfits, and smiles glaring, the Naden family, ages 4 months to 83 years, opened the door to the photography studio; the ten of us shuffled through the entrance.

Once inside, the din was deafening and people lingered in every inch of the waiting area; this was the holiday family photo experience.

Our collective excitement held firm despite our coziness; we chatted and kept happily busy until our name was called. Nothing would dampen our family photo time.

“Are you the Nadens?” a young lady inquired as our clan passed the time.

“Yes,” our collective families said synchronously.

“OK, follow me,” said the photo worker.

For the next 45 minutes, we took various poses under the lights and flash of the camera. The kids became restless. The adults became hungry and tired. Our cheery photo taker became very cognizant of the clock. The next appointment was looming.

Cash register
Knowing the final damages is a good thing.

Who remembers waiting to get your photos in the mail? Nevermore. We received instant gratification, or maybe humiliation (Do I really look like that on camera? Why did I close my eyes? Why am I so hunched over?) by viewing the photos digitally on the spot. In the past, you could review your sometimes shameful poses in private. Now, we got to view our glitches as a community. Groan.

Our young lady clicked and scrolled us through various pictures on the big computer screen. We picked a few, deleted many, and watched the grand total ebb and flow as if it were a cruise ship floating on the Pacific.

As I quickly realized, photos are a volume sell. The more you choose, the lower the price. As the number dwindled, I wisecracked: “If we keep clicking, will you pay us?” Our cheery salesperson went dark and shot me a gruesome stare. Open mouth, insert foot. My lack of food was making me cranky and irritable.

After finalizing our photo options, our photo lady walked us up to checkout. Wow – that was easy; until we heard the total: $101.23. The other family members gasped when they heard equally large dollar amounts.


We had selected about 10 photos. Were these pictures encrusted in gold, or was there a mistake? Was this a complex photo Ponzi scheme gone haywire?

Our now-grumpy photo lady called over two managers to find pricing answers while we tried to entertain 4 children under the age of five. The distracted managers appeared dazed and haggard. If they were our ‘answer’, I felt hopeless.

Eventually, we reluctantly paid the incorrect totals, but then were told, “I think there’s a mistake; can you come back in two hours when we are a little less busy?” The once-patient line forming in the waiting area was turning into an angry mob.

We went into this photo establishment with high expectations. This was our first family photo in years. We coordinated nicely with the various outfits. But then, the final impression crushed everything.

Thankfully, we finally paid a more ‘reasonable’ amount for the photos. By then, however, we were sour and turned off to the place. We felt violated that we were forced to pay an amount that was ‘way out of bounds’. If in the area, I’ll steer clear of this place for family photo fun, and I’ll encourage others to do the same.

Maybe next time we will all huddle around the dinner table and have a neighbor come over to snap our picture. BONUS: I’d have plenty of snacks nearby to slay the crankiness. 😉

Until next time,
Dan Naden

How can two businesses be SO different in dealing with their customers? Go there now.

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