I would like to start this review off by stating that I was a friendly acquaintance of Laurie Stephens, the owner of L.A. Wright Photography, before this incident occurred. I was interested in using her services for many reasons: my niece and nephew’s pictures, Christmas gatherings, and potentially even my own wedding at some point. Unfortunately, due to this problem, not only will I never use L.A. Wright Photography, but I will strongly discourage others from doing so as well. Hopefully they only time I’ll ever have to see Laurie again is when she is returning money she claimed would be refunded in October 2012.
While hanging out with Laurie one evening last year I asked her if she would be able to photograph a newborn. My friends Jeremy and Amanda (my boyfriend Joshua’s brother & sister-in-law) were about to have a baby in January 2012 and I thought it would be a really cool idea for me, Josh, and his two brothers James and Jason to all go in on a gift certificate for Jeremy & Amanda to get newborn photos done by Laurie. She said she would love to do it, and I kind of asked her a few different ways, “Are you sure?”, “I don’t really see kids in your photo albums; is that something you’re familiar with”, etc. I had seen the L.A. Wright website and Laurie’s Facebook page enough to be assured, however, that she took very beautiful pictures so it shouldn’t be a problem. Laurie did reassure me that she was up for the task and quoted me a gift certificate price of $175. I reminded her several times of the timeline of birth: Amanda & Jeremy’s daughter was due to be born at the end of January and Jeremy would have a rare two weeks off in which the shoot could take place. She confirmed that she understood and that she thought newborn pictures would be a great thing for the new parents.
I excitedly met with Josh and his brothers and they were up for the idea, so we pooled our funds together and I met Laurie in early December 2011 (about a year ago) to give it to her. I didn’t request a receipt because I figured hey, we’re friends, I know I gave her the cash; she knows she accepted it and that we had a verbal contract. She sent me a cute little gift certificate December 22, 2011 via e-mail, and I printed it out on nice paper and packaged it as a Christmas gift for the parents-to-be. I also made sure that Laurie had Amanda’s e-mail address so that after she and Jeremy got their gift, they could begin communicating on setting up a time for the shoot.
I didn’t see Laurie for quite some time after that; as a matter of fact, from the time I gave her the money up until the time Amanda & Jeremy’s baby was born (January 28, 2012), I briefly communicated with her via Facebook, but not regarding the photo session – I felt that Amanda probably had a good handle on scheduling something with Laurie and I was no longer needed in that respect. While Josh and I were visiting Amanda & Jeremy in the hospital, I asked if a date had been arranged for the photo shoot. Amanda said that she had gone back and forth with Laurie for most of January but Laurie was never able to commit to a time to come out and take the pictures. Apparently for quite some time, Amanda had been e-mailing Laurie but not getting any response in return (about 3 weeks). Finally, after Amanda sent Laurie an e-mail calling her out on her lack of response, Laurie explained to Amanda that she wasn’t really able to do a newborn shoot. She also claimed that she didn’t have appropriate props and that her equipment was either damaged or in the process of being repaired, so that’s why she didn’t contact Amanda.
I couldn’t believe the information I was hearing; I didn’t think Amanda would have any issues with Laurie, much less not returning messages or scheduling. Unfortunately, the two week time period in which Jeremy was off and able to have pictures taken came and went without a photo shoot. At that point I asked them if they would rather have me get our money back and go elsewhere for photography services. I didn’t really want to go that route because I had never had an issue with Laurie before, but I’d also never done a photo shoot with her before. I was very upset but Amanda assured me that she would work it out with Laurie herself and something would be scheduled ASAP. One of the things that most upset me was that Laurie was a friend of mine; not a best friend or even someone I’ve known for a very long time, but I definitely felt as though we respected one another. I had the feeling that something was going on behind the scenes and that we were in for nothing but problems with L.A. Wright. Only now have I discovered how accurate that feeling was even though I tried to push it aside.
Laurie and Amanda agreed to do a shoot when her baby started walking. Amanda thought this would be a good time to capture the baby on film and make some great memories. Personally, I was a little devastated that the newborn pictures were kind of lost, but I later found that Amanda had a close family friend do a mini-shoot that resulted in about 30-50 beautiful pictures of the baby, and Mom and Dad were left satisfied. I mean, I hate to sound dramatic, but I was very clear with Laurie about when their daughter would be born and what kind of timeframe they both had to do the shoot. It was very disappointing, to say the least.
I decided at this point to take matters into my own hands and ask Laurie for a refund. I explained to Jeremy, Amanda, and Josh and his brothers what my reasoning was and they were all in agreement that we should just try and recoup our losses and go another direction with the photo needs. Not to mention the fact that when I explained what was going on to Josh and his brothers, they were extremely upset about the fact that pictures were never taken of their newborn niece as promised – four unsatisfied “customers”. I assured them that I’d speak with Laurie and work toward getting our money back and try another photographer.
On September 4, 2012, I e-mailed Laurie letting her know that I was sorry for contacting her with bad news but that we and Jeremy & Amanda had decided to go another route with the photography needs. I kindly asked what the process would be for a refund and apologized, thanking her for understanding. She wrote back on September 7 stating, “I will return 175.00 in the latter part of the month of October. Will be in touch re:”. Then she sent me a second e-mail a few minutes later stating, “Actually it would be 150.00 I believe…I thought you paid 200 but I believe it was 175.00 so I will be returning 150.00 instead. Normally I do not return any money on a purchased gift certificate but I am making an exception.” At this point I became angry that this person who I thought was a friend to me was going to screw me and three other people out of a measly $25. I’m sure she had her principles, but I did too, and that seemed very petty to me. I decided whatever, fine; I will just get with her in October, get our money back, call it a day with the whole situation, and move on.
Two days later (Sept. 9), I went to the local bar to watch my football team’s opening game. Josh and I saw some mutual friends, one of whom happened to be Laurie’s boyfriend, sitting and they invited us to join them. A little while later, Laurie showed up. We were both cordial but didn’t really speak all that much; I focused on my game. During halftime, Laurie and I spoke privately and she said she “wanted to make sure you and I are okay”. During this conversation, she divulged that she’d been having a rough year business-wise and had been screwed over a few times, gone to court, etc. I felt for her troubles and said I was sorry but asked if she had to keep the $25, explaining to her that now I had to go back to three other people and say, “Sorry, but you can’t have all your money back.” I thought that was pretty lame and told her so. She said, “I have just been taken advantage of so much this year with people that want to get freebies.” Offended, I told her that it was me, not some random person looking for a handout, and I was not looking for anything for free – we were simply requesting our money back for services that were never performed. Then she started getting a little defensive and told me that Amanda was very difficult to schedule things with and that if the plan never worked, it wasn’t because of Laurie. At that point I kind of gave up on the conversation and we went back to the bar, Josh and I leaving shortly thereafter. I felt it was just another random and unfortunate occurrence in this whole scenario and I still had a feeling that something would prevent us from getting our money back.
Anyway, to make a REALLY long story a little shorter, I have not seen Laurie since that day in early September. In October, she never contacted me, so on November 8 I e-mailed her asking when we could meet up regarding the refund. She never wrote me back. I sent her a text message November 12 letting her know I had e-mailed her and that I was looking to meet up and process the refund. She never returned my text. I called her last weekend on December 2 and left her a calm, collected voicemail asking her to contact me ASAP and that I wanted me, Josh, and his brother’s money back immediately. I asked her to call me right away and even told her if she’d like to e-mail me back with details that would be fine. Still, I’ve heard nothing in response.
I guess the real reason I am writing this review is because myself, along with three other people, are obviously pissed consumers who have been totally and utterly ripped off. I suppose it’s a warning for all those out there who are naïve enough to think that dealing with someone who you think is a friend means they won’t *** you out of $175 – basically what Laurie did was steal me, Josh, and his brothers’ money, then acted like nothing ever happened. I gave her this money OVER A YEAR AGO and there have been no services performed, and no refund given. To me and the people affected by this incident, it is out and out thievery and should not be tolerated. I have half a mind to take her *** to small claims court but figure it will not be worthwhile in the end as she is obviously too financially insecure and incapable to run a business properly. One of the things that chaps my *** the most is that she has a brand-new *used BMW – it is used but in mint condition, probably only a few years old, and I see it at least once a week thanks to her boyfriend living a few streets up from me. I suppose that car payment is just too much for her to handle without ripping people off to support it. I am kicking myself in the *** for ever considering this idea with her in mind and wish that I would have gone another route. I would strongly discourage anybody from using L.A. Wright Photography or Laurie Stephens for any services at any time. I feel positive that I will not be the last person negatively affected by her inability to communicate, coordinate, and just plain be a good human being in general.