RALEIGH, N.C. Sept. 5, 2000 — Ideally, weddings are a once-in-a-lifetime event. That is why so many couples hire professional photographers to capture the special moments. A Raleigh woman called Five On Your Side when she was not able to get her wedding photos.
The dispute involves a reorder of wedding pictures that has gone on for more than four months and turned into a major case of "he says, she says."
Veronica High hired Raleigh Studios to take photographs of her Sept. 1999 wedding. She paid photographer Cletus McLaurin $1,700 for his services and prints. The problem: High has not been able to get the $500 reorder she placed in April.
"He's giving us the runaround," High said. "He does good work. It's just unfortunate you can't get the pictures from him."
High said repeated attempts to get the prints got her nothing but excuses.
"I just can't understand it," she says. "I'm a reasonable person."
It started when High called to check on the status of her reorder two weeks after placing it.
McLaurin told her that he had not even submitted it because she did not pay up front. Then, she paid immediately. Weeks later, he told High he had missed package deliveries that might have included her pictures.
"He even claims that the lab messed up with the order twice," High said.
When efforts to talk with McLaurin at his office in July became heated, High called Five On Your Side.
"She was unreasonable and irrational," McLaurin said.
After repeated attempts to talk with McLaurin over the phone and after talking with his attorney, the two finally agreed to sit down with Five On Your Side.
"I said 'If you'd like a full refund where we could get all this resolved, I'll be glad to do it,'" McLaurin said.
Despite offering a full refund, McLaurin said the reason for the delay was that he realized High owed him money.
"The main reason Mrs. High has not been able to get her reprints is because there is a substantial balance left on her account," he said.
McLaurin claimed High owed him $153 for a price increase and more than $2,200 for "preview" pictures she did not return. He admitted he never told her about either.
The photographer has since dropped the price-increase issue because the reprint prices High paid were spelled out in her original contract.
McLaurin agreed to give High the reorder if she returns the previews. But High said she returned the previews with her reorder. McLaurin agreed to scour his office, suggesting that perhaps his intern had misplaced them.
McLaurin said he cannot find the previews. Though he claimed High owes him for them, McLaurin again offered to refund High's reorder payment. High did not want the refund, because the photographs are copyrighted, so McLaurin is the only one who can authorize reprints. The dispute may be headed to court.
There is a lesson to be learned in this case. The reorder deal got friendly and operated on "good faith" instead of with updated contracts. Always remember to keep business separate from friendships.