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Raleigh Photographer Speaks Out About Clients' Complaints

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Originally aired January 11, 2001

More couples are complaining about a Raleigh photographer, who they say has not delivered on his promise. The photographer is now speaking out.

Photographer Makes Minimal Progress on Complaints

WRAL's first report about Cletus McLaurin aired in September, when a Raleigh woman said he had not come through on his promise to deliver photos she had paid for. He still has not fixed that problem.

Since that story first aired, more couples complained to us about McLaurin. We brought you their stories Wednesday.

Over the months, the photographer has made minimal progress on those complaints, but claims the problems are not his fault.

Shelia Stallings finally got the photographs she has waited nearly a year for. Stallings was married in December 1999. She and her husband paid McLaurin $1,200 for wedding pictures.

The Stallings are among 13 couples who complained to WRAL that McLaurin has not delivered on the pictures they paid him for -- a total that exceeds $16,000.

The couples have been waiting anywhere from four months to a year to get either pictures or, in two cases, refunds. They all say McLaurin has given them nothing but excuses -- everything from problems with the lab to family and personal illness to office problems.

"He was always talking in circles," Stallings said. "He could never give me a straight answer."

Another of McLaurin's complaining customers, Lauren Harris, had harsh words for the photographer.

"We trusted everything he said, and it all turned out to be false," she said.

"He's got our negatives, he's got our proofs," said Mark Wright, one of McLaurin's customers. "I don't know what else he wants from us."

McLaurin gave Five On Your Side many excuses, too, but promised to resolve the complaints. After many phone calls, McLaurin finally started responding, first giving Stallings pictures to her mother.

A week later, Linda Mathis was smiling as big as she did on her wedding day after she picked up her pictures.

"I'm relieved that it's behind me," she said. "I know there are other people that have not been as fortunate as I have to get this in the past."

Despite McLaurin's repeated excuses and promises, complaints from 11 of the 13 couples we spoke with still are not resolved.

McLaurin Defends Himself

The photographer finally agreed to meet Thursday for an interview. He claims the problem with most of the cases is that the couples still owe money for pictures. The couples fiercely deny that.

Either way, McLaurin also admits that he has not told the couples that they owe him money.

How does he expect his clients to know how much to pay when he has not told them?

"That's a good question," McLaurin admits. "I usually let them figure it out."

We read a list of excuses the couples say they heard from McLaurin, including that his wife's toes were broken to saying he had tendinitis and could not pick up the phone. He did not want to hear them.

As we continued reading through the list, it was clear that McLaurin did not intend to answer any difficult questions and did not intend to resolve complaints.

"End of interview," he said as he stood up. "I've walked into an ambush."

Ten minutes after the interview started, he walked out.

It is certainly not happening because of McLaurin. Most of the couples are filing complaints with the Attorney General, hoping his staff can make it happen. Some couples are also considering legal action, which McLaurin said is fine with him.

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