I hate to pan someone completely like nothing else, but this company was so shady I felt the need to warn as many as possible. I have listed the McKinney, TX office as being the one handling our account as they were the first I spoke with and they acted like they were in charge of it. They would not confirm this, and when I later spoke with the Lewisville, TX office, they also acted as though they were in charge of the account. The corporate office indicated all the Dallas-Ft Worth area offices are one franchisee, and they share a website at prestigedfw.com.
We got a postcard from the company directly and a postcard in our child's report card in the same mail. Though they looked completely different, they extolled basically the same deal - $15 for any of three sitting types, a free t-shirt at sitting, and sign up online as the picture days at the school would be during summer in just a few short days.
I go to the online. Even after signing up, no pricing available for packages. Although only the three $15 sittings are initially available as choices, further in if you happen to look at the drop down options, a free sitting for yearbook photo only pops up. It is clear some law or rule is all that is making them offer it at all, and they clearly don't want you to happen upon the information. There is a link purporting to lead to pricing, but it just shows an email us link. Click it and it wants to connect to gmail. No matter whether you prudently deny it since the website and company are unknown, or allow, you get a blank page in the end.
I call the phone number listed on the postcard - 972-608-3970 - and endure navigation of a long-winded voice mail that constantly exhorts me to use their website, even though the card says the number is for use if you don't have internet access. After a long hold, I get someone at their McKinney office who tells me she can't give me her name as that would be unsafe over the phone. When I ask for pricing, she replies they have payment plans if I can't afford them. I explain how insulting this is, and that I am perfectly able to afford whatever I care to spend precisely because I don't commit to things without knowing the full cost. She directs me to the pricing page. We go though a long rig-a-ma-role of me going through it to the blank page again, whereupon she tells me she doesn't know how the website works.
I ask again for pricing and she says while she can't give it over the phone - competition, you see - she will let me email her all my personal, private info and my child's at the general CS email of firstname.lastname@example.org and she will send back an email with package prices. We discuss how unreasonable and shady this sounds. Eventually she grudgingly agrees if I just provide my child's confirmation number I can get the email with pricing. She is at great pains to point out repeatedly as they have a contract with my school, I can not go to another photographer as no picture can go into the yearbook from another photographer.
More than a day passes, no prices. I call again and this time try the Lewisville office. I get someone who says her name is Leah. She says she totally understands and agrees I should have pricing in advance. She seems shocked I've never heard of Prestige Photo or Life Touch, other than Life Touch diabetes monitors. She takes my email and says she will send a full price list, but I should know the cheapest pack will be $199 and consist of 2- 5'x7' photos and 32 wallets.
I gasp, choke, and ask the price of three 8'x10' photos. She assures me I don't want to do that, slyly shifting to a spiel about their $400+ package which she says is the least expensive I can get three large photos. She says it has 2- 8'x10' and one larger 16'xsomething. She throws out that although they don't put this in the package descriptions or tell customers, the disc photos are poor quality and cannot be used for printing off photos. I am pretty mad by this time but suck it up for my child.
I tell child about appointment. Child is unhappy, not wishing to be bothered in summer especially. I receive the news no yearbook photo is planned as the books are exorbitantly expensive and they've been told to expect a large price jump over last year. That explains what is paying for the 'free' t-shirts.
I wait a week. Now the appointment looms that Monday. I check my email. No pricing or contact of any kind from the company. I call and get the news all the DFW studios close on Monday in the summer. An 800 alternative at 800-736-4775 is offered.
The 800 turns out to be corporate CS in Indiana. The girl I get when I navigate voice mail to website help tells me the DFW group has not passed their pricing to the 800 CS group. She says all packs normally start at $100. I tell her I've been told packs start at $199 and a desperate quality enters her voice as she back peddles for all she is worth. She tells me she will take my number, call the DFW offices, and get prices for me if I give her my number. I point out they are closed. She assures me she'll get someone to help me to call back. It is now past 11 pm as I post this and still no return call.
I call child's school and eventually hear from the person who answers the District Superintendent's phone they've been getting a lot of calls. Most are unhappy they are being fobbed off when requesting pricing. She mentions many just get the free one and use a local photographer for their other photos.
The hour of child's shoot approaches and still no info. I call the 800 and press buttons until I get a nice woman who agrees with me not having the info in advance is ridiculously unreasonable. She kindly gets her supervisor, Susan, to talk to me. Both seem very nice, and I feel bad for how snappish I know I am.
Susan tells me she feels management should know what I have gone through and how it makes the company look shady. She hears me out, then says she doesn't blame me at all, but as she is stuck in Indiana with no open office in DFW to call, she cannot tell me pricing. She does not offer any sort of solution of any kind for me, but clearly has heard this all before. We talk a bit and eventually she offers up the company normally will exchange 8 wallets for one 8'x10' in a package as it is the same single sheet. I've already been told by the first girl in McKinney they do not offer any changes from set package deals somewhere in one of her rants about how I can't use another photographer, but I decide it isn't worth going into now.
Suddenly, Susan gets kind of furtive. She tells me this is 'just between us' and then says if it were here, she'd just go to a photographer of my choice locally. After I get my photos, I should take one that meets the requirements for a yearbook photo to the yearbook faculty head, explain the situation, and hope they are kind enough to add the photo for me. I decide it isn't worth going into how I've been repeatedly told the contract won't allow this, thank her, and hang up.
Now it is time for the appointment. We arrive to find six or seven photographers, seven or eight photo stations, a couple of dresser / receptionists collecting paperwork and helping kids into the faux tuxes and formals, someone doing something obscure with a laptop, and a couple of other people in staff shirts acting managerial. That explains the $199 cheapest picture set.
The false formal turns out to be a strip of black cloth. It isn't even hemmed. One edge is cut in a V and they wrap it around kids with a metal clamp-type paper clip. The tux is a faux shirt that velcros around the neck and a dirty jacket. I watch as various staff drag them across the floor when they take them from the young men. A young man arrives with probably his dad's beautiful, obviously quality tux and is told in no uncertain terms it can not be used for the yearbook photo. A girl in a beautiful black formal is wrapped in the dirty strip of fabric I have just seen a staff member drag across the floor for her yearbook photo. There is a clear gray streak of dirt from the floor visible when she turns to one side for photos, but the photographer just snaps and moves on.
I ask again for pricing. I get an extended lecture on 'how this works' wherein one of the managerial-types explains they will be mailing my proofs in a couple of weeks. Pricing will come with those. Thus this shady company has access to all sorts of personal, private data about my daughter and I, but I am not to be trusted with their info. While kids were in photo session, we parents talked. Turns out for the same $199, and no sitting fee, a local photographer is offering basically the same package as Prestige DFW charges over $400 for, and the disc is 100% the quality the photographer uses. One of the parents had already had their child over and showed off a beautiful poster-sized picture.
My hope is schools will see what scam artists this company is and refuse to contract with them, but I know how these things work. I am certain part of the money they are blatantly overcharging we parents goes for kick backs to the faculty member in charge. I have been a faculty member in charge of contracting for things like the yearbook before myself, and I know faculty members troll at teacher conventions and the like for the company offering the best choice morsels for the faculty adviser. This is just an FYI for anyone out there that doesn't know how the system works.