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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

First time this happened in 20 Years
Sam Santilli, Photographer, Photo Editor
Philippi | WV | USA | Posted: 9:17 AM on 08.04.15
->> In the 20 years I have been in the sports photography industry, what happened at the end of a baseball tournament we shot this summer, was the first time this situation has ever happened to my company. Hopefully it has not happened to yours.

We were shooting a state level Little League tournament, Sales on the teams getting knocked out early were terrible. Due primarily to rain, rain, no internet, bad cell coverage, not being able to get pix online, loosing two tents to storms, rain, etc, etc. The final four teams did sign up for team deals, which salvaged us from being in the red. Over all, we broke even, not my goal for a week's work. But these are the risks of having a business.

The "happening" came at the end of the championship game. The loosing team, which had signed up for a team deal the day before, sent the team mom to our sales tent after the game. We have worked with this team mom in the past, and will probably see her son's team next year at the next age level. Her team lost by 10 runs and the game was over early due to the mercy rule in LL.

She asked for their money back. I asked why, and was told they lost and did not want pix from a loosing effort. Funny, the four games we shot of them they went 3-1. I was happy to give her the money back, hoping that next year they remember our professionalism. Post tourney sales online with other teams has been OK, but 0 from their team.

My only concern is....what does this say to the kids? "You lost, no pictures for you!" (Imagine Soup Nazi voice) I know this was an emotional time for the players, coaches and parents. And I know what it means to fail and not reach your goals, I do that almost daily. Hopefully this is not a trend with the next generation of parents coming up.
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Michael Proebsting, Photographer
Barrington | IL | USA | Posted: 11:33 AM on 08.04.15
->> "I was happy to give her the money back, hoping that next year they remember our professionalism."

I disagree. All this does is open the door for the exact same thing to happen next year as if this happens again. The precedent has been set that you are willing to shoot games, but give money back when asked if the team loses.

I had a parent want their money back because "they didn't like the look on their kids face" on all (200) images on a CD they purchased.

I am all for good customer service, but there is crossing a fine line when you are being taken advantage of.
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Sam Santilli, Photographer, Photo Editor
Philippi | WV | USA | Posted: 12:31 PM on 08.04.15
->> Michael, do you have a written statement on nonrefundable items you give to the customer? If so, could you please share that thru email with me?
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 12:44 PM on 08.04.15
->> What does your contract language on the order form say about refunds? I agree with Michael that giving it all back sets a bad precedent. A 50% refund would have been reasonable, explaining that you already committed to time and expenses that can't be refunded. They give up half their money and you giving up your profits seems equitable.

Several years ago when I started doing swim league championships I made the costly mistake of taking requests for photos of parents' kids competing, shooting, posting, and getting less than a 10% return on orders. The next year I only took orders that were pre-paid, but made another mistake -- not putting a time limit on the parents ordering prints. I was having to go back into my archive time and time again for over six months as orders filtered in. The third proverbial time was the charm. My contract now reads that parents have 30 days to place their order or their pre-paid money is forfeited. I still had a few stragglers that I fulfilled orders for, but I still have three sets of parents from last year who never asked for their pre-paid prints despite me sending several email reminders.

It all comes down to what we do is a business first. Photography is just the type of business we do.

At the very least you should have kept half and said it would be applied as a down payment for next year's event.
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Kevin Krows, Photographer
Forsyth | IL | USA | Posted: 2:13 PM on 08.04.15
->> A pre-sale, where you do all of the work, that is conditional upon a victory? That doesn't seem right.

The dots are just not connecting .... as least for me anyway. That lady has a lot of guts to ask for her money back. I'd give her the money and swear to myself never to shoot her team again, period.

The best defense you have against people who do things like that is to not shoot for them. You're an honest guy out trying to make a living and make parents and kids happy. Right? And she has the nads to ask for the teams money back because they lost? Doesn't that tell you something about her integrity?

Just my opinion. Probably not shared by anyone else so don't beat me up. :)
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Michael Proebsting, Photographer
Barrington | IL | USA | Posted: 3:25 PM on 08.04.15
->> I don't have a written contract. My business model for youth sports is a flat fee per player, paid in advance of the shoot and each player gets a CD with the images on them.

Call me old school but I think it is just plain common sense that if you fulfill your obligation of a photo shoot that the customer can't come back and use a lame excuse like the outcome of the game as a reason YOU should not be paid.
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 4:42 PM on 08.04.15
->> Sam and Michael...

On a related "business" note, how much do you charge per person, how many photos are on the CD you supply to the parent, and at what size/resolution?

For swimming, I charge $30 per kid per event for one high-quality 8x10 ink jet print. If the parent wants their child in two events -- such as butterfly and free -- then they pay $60 and get one print from each. I shoot the races the kid is in, do an image select with minimal Photoshop correction; post them in a Photoshelter gallery; send the link to the parent; they make their choice and email me the file name of the image they want; whereupon I do some Photoshop magic to make the finished photo sing and mail them the print. The $30 covers the print, sales tax and postage.

Invariably, many parents like more than the one image they pre-paid for and order more at $30 each or bigger sizes for more money. From the pre-paid orders and extra post-orders I averaged $1,400-2,000 in net monies from the two-day event.

If I were to apply this to say little league baseball, a parent would pre-pay for their child in a game; I would shoot him/her at bat and fielding; post those; and fulfill the one-print order. The first time I did this one parent who pre-bought one $30 print ended up ordering 10 more at the same price each because I had the kid doing all sorts of things.

Personally, I don't give out my image files because that is lost money. If parents want to post on Facebook they post the URL link to my gallery photos, thereby driving the traffic to my website which has resulted in new jobs and sales. Earlier this year a parent wanted to use a swim photo of their daughter from two years ago in a yearbook ad. I said of course, and "licensed" one-time usage. If I had supplied a CD that additional income stream would never had happened.
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Michael Proebsting, Photographer
Barrington | IL | USA | Posted: 4:52 PM on 08.04.15
->> Everybody has their own model. Personally I want no part of anything after the CD's are burned. I don't want to deal with order fulfillment.

By giving people the files, and telling them how much "value" there is with the files is why I can clear $400-$500 per game......guaranteed. If someone does not want to pay $25-$30 per kid, (The average amount per player to equal $400-$500 per game) then there is absolutely no reason for me to expect these same people are going to order ala carte.

I tell people to expect (10-15) images per player. so (20) kids @ $25 each is $500, and 10-15 images per kid is 200-300 images total. If they want a quick posed individual and or team shot included, no problem.

I can do this multiple times a day at a baseball tournament, works for me.
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 4:52 PM on 08.04.15
->> Addendum...

By keeping control of my image files I was also able to create multi-photo swim posters for two parents. I did layouts via InDesign and sent them PDF proofs -- with the word PROOF all over to destroy any value from them printing it themselves. After some tweaks, one ordered a 16x20 for $100 and the other a 20x30 for $150 that they had framed for their kids' rooms.
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Chuck Liddy, Photographer, Photo Editor
PLANET | EARTH | | Posted: 8:05 PM on 08.04.15
->> Sam...I'm not in this end of the business but (tongue in cheek) maybe you should have said, "Lady... you should still buy the photos and give them to the team and it might motivate them to play harder next year and not be a bunch of LOSERS." of course, you can see why I would be horrible in this particular line of the photo business....8)
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Paul Alesse, Photographer
Coram | NY | USA | Posted: 9:08 PM on 08.04.15
->> Sam... you are a better man than me, that's for sure.
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Michael L. Stein, Photographer
Smithtown | NY | USA | Posted: 12:07 AM on 08.05.15
->> Sam
Your concerns about messages young athletes may receive is an interesting thought. It is definitely one to be considered by coaches and parents for sure. I coached ice hockey for many years, so on that level I can appreciate your thoughts.
However, in the media profession of photography and video, I thought we all work to earn wages to support ourselves and families.
I would think either charge a day rate, win or lose....rain or shine. What if a child on the losing team hits a grand slam? Does the losing team want those images?
I can not understand this business model, where your time and skills are superceded by who wins...which then dictates whether or not you are entitled to monetary compensation. This doesn't seem to be customer service to me. This is a flawed business model, if this is your livelihood, you will surely end up broke. This hurts you and all professionals.
After all, you can't take "thanks" to the bank.
Think about it.
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Jim Pierce, Photographer
Waltham | MA | USA | Posted: 9:56 AM on 08.05.15
->> I cover a few hockey tournaments on spec each year and offer a team disk which is what Sam seems to be offering here. These tournaments have proven to be worth my while for many years so I keep doing them and don’t realy count this as “spec shooting” as it has always worked out.

The team disks I supply include all photos of one team, of all games played, straight from the camera. My order form in bold letters states “No refunds on team disks” However I intended this to be AFTER I deliver the team the disks, but I guess it could be interpreted at anytime after the sale. If Sam does it the same way I do, sorting and sending out the files a week or so AFTER the tournament, and he does nothing different weather he had a sale for this team or not does everyone still feel the same way? I sense that people here don’t think he should have refunded the customer as he did. I am not 100% in agreement with what I sense here as my process would not have cost be a penny or time if they canceled it after the last game. Once the disks shipped it is NO REFUNDS.

I have not had this happen to me, but on the flip side once teams know they are in the finals or even after they win the championship the sales come in and are close to 100% for the teams in the finals win or lose. I have not ever had one team that lost ask for a refund but if they did I would not have done any extra work, shot differently or anything that would have caused me any lose in any way, so I would probably ask why and what can we do to keep the sale. Maybe just the 3 winning games are included and reduce the price slightly? In the end I would probably refund as Sam did and hope it helps me in the future. I know for a fact if I was “troublesome” to this parent it would get around to other leagues and tournaments very quickly. I hear complaints of other photographers at tourney XYZ all the time at my table; I would do what is reasonable to stay out of these complaints.

So if he did no work or anything to cost him time or money would you still not agree to him refunding the customer?

Also on a side not I see a huge difference in sales based on a successful season/tournament or how “important” the tournament is. This is part of the territory for youth sports.

Jim
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 10:36 AM on 08.05.15
->> Jim...

Couple questions then Devil's advocate.

What do you charge for a team disk and how many photos are on it? Also, how many games are on a team disk? And do you supply just one disk or does each parent buy a disk?

Devil: If you sell one disk to each of the parents, what keeps one parent from buying a single disk and then making copies to all the others for free?

I'm just trying to figure out your business model in terms of profitability versus time and expenses. If a disk is from one game your costs are a fraction of what they are if the disk is made up of several games. And then there is the theft of services aspect when only a single CD is purchased that is copied over and over again.

I agree with your hypothesis question if no work is done then should a refund be allowed. Time is money whether one makes pictures or not, and granted rights have value whether they are exercised or not. If Mr. Liddy was sent to an event that was cancelled whereupon he had no images to have published, would it be right for his paper to dock him a day's pay? No, he would get a full paycheck. If a company licenses an image for a year, you grant it for $X, and a week later the company decides to cancel, do you let it go? No. They wanted a license, you gave it to them, so they must pay you. It doesn't matter if they use the image or not; they paid for the "right" to use it. This would be like ordering a pizza, having it delivered, not eat it and then demand a refund. Just because a client/parent changes his/her mind after the fact that doesn't relieve the person of what was agreed to and the amount owed.
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Jim Pierce, Photographer
Waltham | MA | USA | Posted: 11:55 AM on 08.05.15
->> Doug,

Good questions and I will respond without giving out to many details. My disk are for the team, so I make 1 per player up to 18 and mail to ONE contact person. The costs is approximately $20 -$25 per player depending on the team size so you can calculate the disk is around $275 to $300 and it includes all games I cover so 3 at a minimum and 5 at a max if there is a semi final game. Most are a max of 4 including a championship game.

The one thing that I will point out is that I am at the rink for 12 games in a row over a 3 day week-end, 6 divisions of 4 teams each of 13 players. This leaves 6 Championship games and history shows a high level of buying for these 12 teams. I am not driving to 12 different locations and the rink is 2 miles away.

I agree with your examples about the rights purchase and Liddy going to an event that is canceled and the pizza. If I look at this from a legal standpoint I don’t feel I should be required to refund my customer, especially where it is VERY clear “no refunds on Team disks” is on my form. Can’t speak for Sam if he states that or not. However as I mentioned I want to stay out of the parents gossip at other rinks/tournaments in hopes of getting more lucrative events or better yet the leagues T&I. Since I don’t change what I do if a team doesn’t buy the disk or not I would probably refund. I am not walking off the ice during a trophy presentation of the championship team if they had not ordered the disk as it could just as likely come via a mailed in form. I also still get orders for prints from the teams that buy the disks.

Jim
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 1:01 PM on 08.05.15
->> Jim...

Thanks. And the very clear no refund language is smart.

But how do you handle copying? For example, let's say you charge $25/disk and there are 20 kids on the team; that equals $500 -- good money. But what happens if only half the parents order -- 10 -- whereupon one parent makes copies for the others that didn't pay? There goes $250. Do you also have no copying language on your form? Or when you sell your package does everyone on the team have to buy one?
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Jim Pierce, Photographer
Waltham | MA | USA | Posted: 2:18 PM on 08.05.15
->> Doug,

It is a TEAM DISK so it does not matter how many are on the team it is fixed price per team I don't do it based on each player. A team mom/dad/coach will fill out the form and get me payment and list how many disks they need, which is usually the amount of players. They will then get the money from each parent. I don't want to deal with 15 players parents on 24 teams (360 players/parents) for a week-end tourney. I want 24 contacts one for each team, these contacts have my order form well before the tourney so they typically come to me at the table.

I have had some teams ask me to reduce the price as only 8 of the 15 players want to do it. I say actually the price will go up as I will need to find only the 8 players and not just everyone in your uniform. If I don't filter through to find the 8 players, which I will never do, that paid, then the ones that don't pay will still get them. I emphasize it is a team disk the price does not go down.

Jim
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Jim Colburn, Photographer
Omaha | NE | USA | Posted: 3:25 PM on 08.05.15
->> I cannot see refunding the entire amount just because the team lost. Did they ask for, and receive, their hotel/motel costs back? Gas? Food? Nope, nope and nope.

A bad precedent, particularly if word gets around that you only charge winning teams.
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Michael Granse, Photographer
Urbana | IL | USA | Posted: 11:16 PM on 08.05.15
->> When you are betting on yourself and consistently winning then it really isn't "spec."
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Michael Granse, Photographer
Urbana | IL | USA | Posted: 11:22 PM on 08.05.15
->> As for giving the money back vs forcing the issue, shooting a group photo of people who are angry at themselves, each other, and YOU is probably not the best way to end such a transaction whether you keep the money or not.

Next time see if you can work out an arrangement where you shoot these teams just before the game and that way it is neither the winning team nor losing team, just two teams about to play for the championship.
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 11:31 PM on 08.05.15
->> Jim...

Smart marketing that you're dealing with just one person on each team and that it includes everyone. What/how your doing now makes sense -- logically and financially. Thanks!
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Sam Santilli, Photographer, Photo Editor
Philippi | WV | USA | Posted: 9:06 AM on 08.06.15
->> I will have no post production work to do for this team that asked for their money back. We have done a team deal for them in the past, and they lost in the semi's then. With 20 years years of tournament action under my belt, and this being the first time this has ever happened, I do not not see this as a flawed business model. Nor a "you will surely end up broke" situation.
I am seriously considering a "No Refunds" policy. I had to shoot the game anyways, so the only direct cost is image hosting & image storage, which is nominal. Besides, I made $1,000 from the other team. And when I see this team next year, presuming they make it to states again, it will be interesting to see how they react to the no refund policy.
BTW, My model is very close to Jim P's.
@Coburn....I did get 3 of my 4 nights for free at the first hotel I stayed at due to a mold issue. The second hotel gave my a 50% discount to stay the last 3 nights there.
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Thread Title: First time this happened in 20 Years
Thread Started By: Sam Santilli
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