Every spring, lots of couples excitedly make wedding plans---hiring caterers, cake decorators, disc jockeys and floral arrangers. But in this Call For Action report, Betty Sexton has some important advice: Before you open up your wallet, be sure to do your homework.
Before they said, “I do,” Sue and Troy Ellsworth went to a bridal fair to choose a professional wedding photographer. They say Jerri Siroski of JMS Photography promised them memories they'd cherish a lifetime. But the Ellsworths say, their memories aren't happy ones. "He told me that night, ‘Within two weeks you'll have your proofs,’ Two weeks later--no proofs. Five weeks later--no proofs. We were really nervous at that point," says Sue.
Six weeks after the wedding, Sue says she finally received the proofs from Siroski. But she was horrified by what she saw. "I was hoping as I was turning the pages that something good, you know, would come. As I was turning them and I was, you know, teary-eyed. It was just awful. That's why we hired this professional. He was supposed to be able to have the family all in one location---a great photo---and they weren't. They were not professional photos at all and it was really disappointing."
The Ellsworths paid Siroski his total fee upfront---$1,700. For that price, Sue says she was supposed to receive wedding invitations as well as a full day of coverage. That also included a keepsake album with her chosen photographs. "He told me, “Don't worry, don't worry. Just choose 24 that you really like and we'll go from there.’ We barely could choose five, to be honest with you."
After returning the proofs and choosing some photos, the Ellsworths say they voiced their quality concerns to Siroski. That’s when they were told they now must sign a waiver. “He wants us to sign a disclaimer---verifying that we are happy with the photos and we won't take him to court," says Sue.
At this point, the Ellsworths filed papers to take Siroski to small claims court. He later returned KKTV’s calls and said he had been out of town. He also said he thought the best way to settle things, was to go before a judge.
But Magistrate Daniel Winograd looked for another solution first. "I'm going to ask that you do something else. And that is that you take a few minutes to discuss the possibility of settling your cases."
He suggested both parties meet outside the courtroom with a mediator, so they did. Then, about an hour later, the Ellsworths came back in with their photos, as well as a promise from Siroski to pay them back $1,200.
Magistrate Winograd says when both sides show up, at least half of their cases are settled out in the hall. And he likes it that way. "They generally will walk out happier with the result and with the result that works better for them, than if I simply say, “Well, here's the rule of law and applying that rule of law to these facts, here's the result I come to.’
The Ellsworths say, even though they're still unhappy with the photos, at least they're getting a partial refund. Siroski says he believes the settlement went well, and he admitted that even professionals make mistakes. He says he definitely owed them something.
If you're looking to hire someone, whether it be a photographer or a plumber, do your homework. Check their track record with the Better Business Bureau or ask for references. It could save you in the long run.