Another small business front closed their doors recently. It was a photography studio and I imagine the owner blames chain competition, the economy and the War on Terror for the decline in their business.
Now that they are closed, I want to tell you a little story about this photography studio and then have you tell me if it was the competition or the economy that spelled the end.
About four years ago my husband purchased a gift certificate as a Mother's Day present for me. The certificate was for a portrait sitting at this studio. The cost: $60. What you would receive: a professional sitting for three people (my two children and myself).
Would I receive any of the photos? No, just the sitting. There would be an additional cost for the development and printing of the actual pictures. So for my $60 I would get nothing that I could take home.
This is common for professional studios and I was fine with that.
The gift certificate had an expiration date of one year.
Well, I didn't like how I looked at the time (do we ever?) and so I didn't use the gift certificate. It was for three people and at the time I couldn't think outside the box of a different way I might use the gift and so it sat on my Dresser.
Two years later I suddenly thought – hey – why not just have the kids in the picture. So I called to schedule an appointment. Yes, the gift certificate had expired, but the studio had taken our money and, remember, it was a gift for a sitting – not an actual finished product. So I would still be required to pay additional money to actually get a picture to put in a frame.
They wouldn't honor the gift certificate. This isn't a coupon – this is a gift certificate – same as cash – purchased in advance – gift certificate.
In fact, they acted insulted that I would even try to redeem the gift certificate. I asked to speak to the owner and his attitude was abrupt and cold. There would be no bending. No offer of a discount on the sitting fees considering he'd already taken my husband's $60 and spent it.
Nope. I was out of luck.
And then he said, "So can I still schedule a sitting for you?"
So when I noticed that they had gone out of business, I had to ask myself if the customer service experience I had was common. And if so, I have to wonder if it was really the economy, the competition and the War on Terror that spelled disaster for this small business.
What do you think?