Wednesday, August 5

Parents Beware – Child modelling scams (part 3)

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So, this will be the last and final part of my blog regarding (so-called) “bogus” modelling agencies and alleged “scam” photography studios. I have spent the best part of three years helping people who have paid literally thousands of pounds to these companies (who I cannot name for legal reasons, but you should know who they are by now). I have four children at home and another baby on the way, a job and a college course and I just have zero time left to devote to saving people from suffering the same fate I and hundreds of other families do each and every day up and down the country. I couldn’t in good conscience walk away from this, but for two reasons.

The first is that I am absolutely certain that I have taken (at least) £20’000 out of the pockets of these charlatans by informing and advising people about the tactics used by these companies and warning against falling for their sales and marketing techniques. This money has stayed in the customers pockets and hopefully been spent a little more wisely.  I have also given advice regarding consumer rights and helped a great many people claim their money back through “Credit card chargebacks” and coached on the best ways to deal with the people in charge of these organisations that are upsetting so many of their customers with their, frankly inhumane practices.

The second, and also the reason for part three of my blog, is that unfortunately, we are a victim of our own success!! As expected, just as we start to win the battle, the enemy changes its tact, tightens its defences and increases its numbers and inevitably, we must now change approach too ….This is always going to happen when the average Joe goes up against big business and I’m sorry to say that this is the situation we find ourselves in today.

Why? You might ask!? Well, one of the reasons you were able to claim your money back following an encounter with one of these companies, was that you could claim that the portfolio was mis sold (if I have lost you at this point, please go back and read part one and part two of the blog and all will come clear. They can be found here..  ) The portfolio was aggressively sold to you by a very rude and demanding salesperson who had told you that you HAD to have a portfolio to get yourself an agent. This was a lie!! You DO NOT need a portfolio to get yourself an agent. AND, the pictures they took were unacceptable to any agency as the photographer had used hats and props to make the pics cute. Agencies don’t like this at all!!!! Well since our campaign, I have received information that at least two of these companies have stopped using these props and just using a little make up. Also, the contracts that are signed upon agreeing to pay for the portfolio are much more watertight than before meaning that not only will you not win if a chargeback is initiated, but the company may be able to counterclaim against you!!

Something that people don’t realise when visiting a photography studio is that a photograph is classified as a personalised gift, just the same as if you ordered a mug with your child’s name on it. If you received that mug in the post and then decided that you didn’t thing it was worth the money you paid for it, you couldn’t return it because it has your child’s name on it. Its personal to you and the shop have a right not to have it returned….It is exactly the same with portfolios. They are personal to you. They have been produced and you have signed a contract to say you will buy it (usually at £50 per photo)

When a customer gets home and is hit by the horror of how they have been duped out of their hard-earned cash and suddenly want a refund, the law calls this “buyer’s remorse”. When you’re considering a purchase, two opposing forces are waging a neural war inside of your head. One, called the avoidance system, tells you to avoid risks and negative consequences; the other, the approach system, tells you to do whatever makes you happy in that moment. So in our case, we enter the photography studio for a FREE photo shoot and suddenly we are confronted by a salesperson dressed as an industry expert, telling you that your child is the best model they’ve had in all week and one that they would absolutely love to represent him/her. Your legs go to jelly, you love your baby and this is IT!!, their chance at fame and fortune, you see your baby’s name in stars and you imagine the conversations at the school gate. Your approach system overrides your avoidance system: You sign the deal and agree to pay.

Then, things start to go south.

Post-purchase, that approach system “boost” that you had at the studio dies down, and the avoidance system comes rushing back in. Suddenly and violently, you’re confronted with all the suppressed consequences of your actions. You go online and realise that the reviews are fake, the salesperson was actually really rude and then you realise that you are one of hundreds that have fallen foul to the same treatment. You cry “SCAM!!”

But let’s be honest, its not a scam. It’s very aggressive selling, and if you had any business, you would and should do the same. Please don’t get me wrong. I am in no way condoning what these people do and I really hope that the dozens of reports that have been sent into BBC Watchdog end up in a TV show exposing them, but we have to be grown ups here and realise that the only way we really win is by communicating with others so that they can make an informed decision BEFORE they part with their cash and experience their own buyers remorse.

So, my final piece of advice to you all is this. I have managed to help save around £20k of your money going into the pockets of these companies. Imagine if the hundreds of  you that I have spoken to about your experiences took a few minutes everyday to post on Facebook, share my article or monitor the Facebook groups and looking for people asking for advice . Lets all work together to make sure people know what to expect when they go for a “FREE TEST SHOOT” and maybe, just maybe we can cause enough damage to make these studios behave In a more appropriate way and stop taking advantage of the love we have for our beautiful children.


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