It began the way wedding mistakes often do, as a last-minute decision without much investment. Maybe we’ll hire a videographer, we thought, just a few months before our big day. Not wanting to spend a lot on this eleventh-hour addition, we did what any thrifty bride and groom would do and turned to Craigslist.
We found someone I’ll call Sam. His main gig was with a local PBS affiliate, but he was trying to branch out and build his own videography business. He seemed like a great find: A gainfully employed person with relevant experience and a low price tag. We booked him for a bargain-basement 400 bucks – but ultimately paid a much higher price.
At first, everything was fine. Sam showed up on our wedding day, was there from start to finish and seemed professional throughout. So when the two-month deadline we’d agreed upon for the delivery of our DVD came and went without us receiving it, we weren’t too concerned – especially once he promised the finished product was ready to send our way.
But then came the months of stalling and frequently flimsy excuses: He’d gone out of town and forgotten to mail the DVD; he’d had emergency surgery; he was swamped with work. On not one but two instances in which the DVD was supposedly in the mail, Sam claimed it got lost in transit and returned to him. He offered to edit additional footage to compensate for all the trouble, but being onto his M.O., we insisted he send what he’d (supposedly) already completed.
In the end, other than a refund of our money, we received nothing from him. No video, and no good explanation as to why he’d been unable to deliver.
I share all this in hopes that currently engaged couples can learn from our experience, as well as to illustrate some realities about bottom-dollar businesses. Everyone likes a bargain – but not everyone bargains on the fact that most low-priced vendors fall into one or more of the following categories:
In the wedding industry, new businesses often price themselves low to compensate for their lack of experience and to attract whatever work they can. Nothing is wrong with this, necessarily, as long as clients who contract with them understand that in exchange for a low price, they’re more likely to receive low-quality work. The learning curve is steep for beginners, and anyone who hires one should be sympathetic to this and temper their expectations accordingly.
It’s simple logic: The less they’re paid per job, the more jobs vendors need to make ends meet. This may mean overextending themselves in their businesses or having second careers. In either case, the risk of burnout is higher than for professionals who are better compensated and can thus afford to take on fewer jobs or to outsource some of their tasks. And it’s quite possible for the consequences of burnout to transfer to the client in the form of sloppier work, slower turnaround, etc.
Vendors who have an outside source of income may not be broke personally. But their businesses likely are, if the compensation they receive is well below average. Businesses that are broke can’t thrive, because their owners often have little time or money to invest in improving them. And business owners who remain in that position long-term – either because their work isn’t worth more or because they aren’t valuing it highly enough – likely aren’t the best equipped to serve clients.
So brides: Be wary of hiring a Sam! The money you save may not be worth it.
I'm a print-journalist-turned-wedding-photographer who fully believes in the value of telling true stories beautifully. By means of a camera, I am a curator so my clients can be keepers of their most important moments.
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