Just picture this

Let’s get a few things straight: I don’t mind the little expenses that come with being a parent, such as the field trips, book orders and activities, but the child portrait tends to get under my skin. Let me clarify. The thing that really gets me is that you are required to pay for the photo prior to receiving it. How is this possible that you can charge for something sight-unseen? Anywhere else that you have your picture taken professionally usually takes numerous photos, and you pick the best. The schools snap one and you’re done. This past year we were disgusted at our child’s photo. He wasn’t even looking at the camera and had a half-hearted smile. Surprisingly enough, the photo studio agreed; after a phone call, we were refunded our money—no questions asked.

Fast-forward to [a recent] weekend with Santa. Santa has visited the surrounding malls ever since I can remember. I remember a time where Santa was actually paid by the mall and was there for everyone’s enjoyment without the extensive photo shoot. Now, of course, this has become a pretty ridiculous money racket. For the minimum price of $15, we can all cherish one lackluster 5-by-7 photo of our kid with Santa, complete with a high-pressure sales technique for a larger $60 package. Knowing this before I left the house, I had the brilliant idea to bring along my own digital camera. After all, I figured I was as good a photographer as Santa’s elf.

As my son stood in line, I decided to get a closer view. I was asked if I would be purchasing a photo and replied, “I would like to see it first.” As soon as I whipped out the camera, the elf told me that now I was forced to buy a photo since I was taking my own. Now riddle me this—does taking my own photograph really hinder the shady business that Santa is running? How is it possible that I am forbidden to take a photo of my own kid in a public place? Why am I suddenly obligated to purchase an unseen photo of my child?

I responded to the elf that he wasn’t being very jolly and I could take my own picture if I wanted to. After all—my camera, my kid, public place, free country—right? The elf responded by twitching his nose and calling mall security. Embarrassed by the altercation and fearful that Daddy would give Santa a black eye, my wife promptly paid the greedy little elf and we were on our way. So what would have happened if we refused to pay? Could I have been arrested? Laughable. Could they take away my camera? Still laughing. Was I attempting to break a law? I think not. How is it possible that the North Pole can get away with this? I can’t wait until our next visit, when I ask Santa for a refund.

– Michael Srijayanta

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19 thoughts on “Just picture this

  1. Hopefully

    Sounds like you wanted something for free and did not get it! Thats a private, for profit company that rented space in the mall to do business. That business is photography, with their props, their santa, their elf. You were attempting to steal that property. Your wife did the right thing. And if you want better photography than the school photo hacks can provide, (cheaply and effiently I might add) go to a private studio and pay for it!

  2. curmudgeon

    Ouch! Methinks light&hope;should be renamed darkness&despair;.

    I’m with Michael on this. It galls me when businesses change an accepted practice to maximize profits and we’re supposed to take it without complaint.

    For example, remember when theater owners made a living on the ticket prices and didn’t show commercials before the feature? Remember when Coca-Cola used to recycle their own bottles?

    On the bright side, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a pay toilet (SSHHH, don’t give them any ideas).

  3. Hopefully

    I don’t mind you complaining about business practices, but the business of business is profit. Micheal is a freeloader, a thief, and probably not too bright. I don’t remember when theaters didn’t make their living selling popcorn, soda, and candy. I also don’t remember a time without DVDs.(git it) And isn’t glass heavier than plastic and does it not cost more to transport and manufacture? And as for accepted practices, do you expect them to go out of business for you just to continue a practice? You are living in a dream world copper top! (reference to “the matrix”) (thats a movie) You poor fools exist only for the profit of the corporate world.

  4. BFrank

    Light&hope;, why are you always so rude and sarcastic? You have a giant chip on your shoulder, and I was just curious as to why.

  5. Hopefully

    Because I spend my days among you zombies. Because I see America spreading disaster. I see America as a black curse upon the world. I see a long night settling in and that mushroom which has poisoned the world withering at the roots. It is the American vice, the democratic disease which expresses its tyranny by reducing everything unique to the level of the herd. One has to be a lowbrow, a bit of a murderer, to be a politician, ready and willing to see people sacrificed, slaughtered, for the sake of an idea, whether a good one or a bad one. The man who looks for security, even in the mind, is like a man who would chop off his limbs in order to have artificial ones which will give him no pain or trouble. There is no salvation in becoming adapted to a world which is crazy. Whatever needs to be maintained through force is doomed.

  6. Joanna_Marie

    um…light and hope? maybe you should change your screen name to something that is more reflective of your world view, perhaps “Trite & Mopey” would be suitable. I like your picture though- I am sorry to hear that you “see” a long night setting in among a spreading mycelium-how depressing and…well…un-hopeful. So you think democracy is a tyrannous disease? You equate politicians to minions of Dracula? Come on! Politicians HAVE to adapt to a world which is crazy in order to get into power and do some good. Sure, some get into power and do plenty bad…but that doesn’t mean that we should all embrace anarchy or become ex-patriots. You are part of America, and frankly I think you’re part of that big old bad mushroom cloud your waxing so poeticaly about.

  7. Joanna_Marie

    By the way Michael Srijayanta, I loved reading this, well written, hilarious, and absolutely true!

  8. BFrank

    Light&hope;, I really don’t think that insults, put-downs, and sarcastic comments to other posters or letter writers here is going to improve the situation you describe or your own ability to cope with the world as it is. What do you think it would take to make you happy?

  9. Hopefully

    Yes it was a good story, and it had the ring of truth, but what he attempted to do at the mall was unethical and I think you know it. Perhaps I overreacted in my response because I had a part time job once working for a photo company. We had to deal with so many a-holes. As for what would make me happy? For someone to recognise that my last post was a collection of Henry Miller quotes! I thought you old hippies were at least semi-literate. At least old “travelah” (another frequent poster) has read the bible. I kind of miss him. I guess I spacked him down a little too hard!
    Hey, send me a picture Joanna_Marie!

  10. travelah

    l&h;…. nah, I figured you took your green self back under the bridge for the holidays.

  11. Rob Close

    wow, finally an issue that i can’t make up my mind about so easily! i was totally on michael’s side until i considered L&H;’s initial post, which was a rare argument rather than name-calling.

    I think Michael has a valid point in that historically, Malls have USUALLY provided free santa’s for kids – though if they want to charge for photo’s, who can argue? That’s capitalism – like it or leave. Sitting in the lap = Free. Photo = market value ($15 seems steep to me).

    But for that $15, one does not get a lame digital photo taken at whatever angle they can get, but the real deal (i assume). Michael does seem to have the right to take his Photo, and if his showing up prepared seems “unethical”, I’d have to say “maybe”. Being told you HAVE to pay for something you didn’t agree to seems even MORE unethical to me, but I’ll still say “maybe” to both sides for now.

    Here’s how I would decide who was wrong: Was there a sign stating “you can not photograph your child with our santa – that’s our business, don’t screw us!” (or to that effect). If there was a sign, and he chose to ignore it, then Michael is wrong. If there was no sign directly prohibiting it, then he’s just a clever, prepared American who got bullied, and deserves our sympathy.

    However, not having all the facts in, I’d prefer not be judgmental. Calling people names without having enough data seems…ignorant.

    ~ Rob

  12. Hopefully

    I think Mike has provided us with enough data. (assuming he is telling the truth) He thought: “For the minimum price of $15, we can all cherish one lackluster 5-by-7 photo of our kid with Santa, complete with a high-pressure sales technique for a larger $60 package. Knowing this before I left the house, I had the brilliant idea to bring along my own digital camera.”
    By his own words he knew the deal before he left home. Also, by his own admission, he knew he could pressure them to get his money back if he didn’t like the photo of his kid. (done it before) (serial complainer?) It seems obvious he was going to try and bully the photo company out of their rightful property. Yes, I think he is a clever, prepared, and ethically impaired American! Thankfully, his wife isn’t.

  13. Hopefully

    Only if he were ignorant of the the fact that they were charging for the service would he have an excuse for his behavior.

  14. Rob Close

    i hear ya L&H;, he certainly knew. but without that sign, i’d say he was just being thrifty. i know plenty of families for whom $15 is not an option for a single photo. i don’t think they should have been allowed to bully him UNLESS the rules are clearly stated. we can assume that those rules are implied by social conduct – but i guess i have some respect for the thrifty-spirited. And if you aren’t willing to pay $15 to begin with, they aren’t really losing out on much. that customer either thinks your product is worth it or not – if he KNEW that he’d be charged the $15 for taking his own photo, would he have took it? i doubt it.

  15. Hopefully

    I see your point. But, would you have done the same thing as Micheal, and speaking of Micheal, why haven’t we heard any more from him?

  16. Rob Close

    Well, I’ve actually been in their shoes, or very close to them, so I wouldn’t. I think it’s VERY likely there was a sign saying “no photography of santa permitted except by elves” or something – since as a professional, one has to cover their butt like that or one can’t reasonably call security.

    And if they let him do it, soon most everyone will realize they can, and some chums stop making money off it, and it just stops happening. $15 is outrageous though, any child of mine would just get the sit-down; though I might offer the guy $5 quietly, and if he didn’t want it, his loss. Haggling is alive everywhere but in our country, where we’re so used to buying from soulless corporations that we neglect the very possibility.

  17. Nam Vet

    Bfrank & others, L & H is a troll. Trolls are best ignored. When they cannot get your flag up, they eventually fade away. She/he is just here to irritate. Myself and several others ignore her/him already. You may want to as well.

  18. Hopefully

    Mr. Namvette, some people don’t mind being challenged, some can’t take it.(like you for example) My opinion on this subject is just as valid as yours. I do not have children (yet) but, as I stated, I had a part time job as a photographers assistant once, so I do know something about it. And by the way, you aren’t ignoring me know. You need people like me, otherwise you and your like minded cronies wouldn’t have anyone to argue with. And finally, yes, I am what your type would refer to as a “butch” lesbian. Perhaps I’ll meet your daughter some day and we’ll have her artificailly inseminated by a very dark complected man and make you a proud grandfather!

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