BBB accuses Belleville photographer of failing customers

 

From the Better Business Bureau

Customers of Scarlett Photography of Belleville say they paid owner Alexander O’Neal hundreds of dollars for wedding albums and other merchandise he never provided, Better Business Bureau warns.

BBB advises caution when dealing with O’Neal or his business, which also uses the name Scarlet Photography and Digital Imaging. On the company’s website, O’Neal said he started the business in 2009 “as an alternative to the numerous and often overpriced generally inexperienced private photographers.”

A man from Ballwin, Mo., said he has been waiting more than a year for a promised album of photographs from his son’s wedding in August 2014. “These kids are beside themselves,” he said of his son and daughter-in-law. “I know they would love to have those photos.”

Scarlett Photography has an “F” rating with BBB, the lowest possible, due to unanswered consumer complaints. Several attempts to contact the business and O’Neal have been unsuccessful, BBB said.

On Aug. 4, a post on the Scarlett Photography Facebook page apologized to customers for not responding to calls or messages. “I’ve run into a very personal family crisis that has required my immediate attention,” the posting said. BBB complainants said they have heard nothing more since then.

Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said BBB receives periodic complaints about photography businesses reneging on agreements with customers.

“Photos of special events like weddings and graduations can be once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to preserve a piece of family history,” Corey said. “Once lost, they can be gone forever. It’s important to check out a photographer’s reputation before hiring anyone.”

A man from Black Jack, Mo., said he has been waiting for photos from his wedding for nearly two years. He said he paid Scarlett Photography and O’Neal $650 to shoot photos of his November 2013 wedding and provide a photo album of the event, containing many of the 400 photos that were shot. After receiving nothing, he filed a BBB complaint nine months later and eventually posted a warning about the company on Craigslist. In January 2015, he finally received what he called “a small, poorly done album with no more than a dozen photographs,” many fewer than he had expected. “For the amount we paid, it was horrible,” he said.

A woman from Affton, Mo., said, like several other complainants, she had found O’Neal on Craigslist. She paid $595 for him to shoot her April wedding and supply her with a disk of all the wedding photos and a 26-page, eight by 10-inch album of prints. She said she has received neither and has been unable to contact O’Neal since the wedding.

A customer from New Athens said she paid O’Neal a $300 deposit in January for him to photograph and provide pictures of her October wedding. She said she began trying to contact him by phone and email in July to finalize plans, but could not reach him. She said she ultimately had no choice but to hire another photographer. “He just vanished off the face of the earth,” she said. She said he now owes her a refund.

BBB offers the following tips for consumers interested in hiring a photographer:

• Make sure you are dealing with a reputable company. Ask for recent references and contact them about their experience with the business.

• Read any agreements carefully.

• If possible, withhold full payment until you have received everything you have ordered. By paying up front, you have little leverage with the business if it does not keep its promises.

• Pay with a credit card whenever possible in case you need to challenge the charge.

• Check a business’ BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org or by calling (314) 645-3300.

BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. All BBB services to consumers are free. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Reviews on more than 4.7 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Vsit www.bbb.org for more information.

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