Local 2 investigates a Houston-area photographer snapping and dashing, leaving hundreds of customers waiting for pictures they've already paid for.
Kids grow up so fast. If you blink, you might miss a milestone. It's why parents of New Life Christian School turned to local photographer Jamie Koppi of Koppi Write Photography to capture the student's little smiles.
"It was great," New Life Christian School Director Ashlee Honeycutt said. "She came in. She did a great job relating to the kids. We thought it went really well."
Honeycutt said the photo shoot was in September. Parents paid in full up front, expecting to get their photo packages by October.
"Our families were counting on these as memories to send to their family for Christmas cards and to have as a piece of their time at New Life," said Honeycutt.
But at the same time, Koppi was snapping pictures all over the Houston area at Westside Montessori, the East Montgomery County Youth Football League, the Lamar Soccer Club and the South Montgomery Girls Softball League. When it was time for Koppi to deliver on those pictures, those customers said she shuttered her business office on Spring Stuebner and stopped responding to emails and phone calls.
"In the BBB world, this is kind of our worst nightmare," Houston BBB President Dan Parsons said. "It all comes at once."
Parsons said if any one of those groups had checked the BBB's website before they paid Koppi Write Photography, they wouldn't have seen a single complaint.
"We had nothing," explained Parsons. "And now we have it all in one fell swoop."
All five complaints against Koppi came between December and February. Now her company has an "F" with the BBB.
On her website, she continued to solicit new business through the fall and Christmas time, but she has little contact with customers who had already paid her and were waiting for their pictures. When Koppi finally did respond, she told customers the problem wasn't with her or her equipment. She blamed a mix-up and fumble with the lab she was using to process the prints.
"Unfortunately, it was another promise. The time came and went and we never heard again," said Honeycutt.
Feeling she had no other choice, Honeycutt called the cops, but deputy constables with Harris County Precinct 4 said the Harris County District Attorney's Office wouldn't accept criminal charges in the case.
"I can see the customers are quite frustrated," Assistant Chief Mark Herman said. "I can see the customers are quite frustrated. When it's a civil incident like this, there's only so much we can do."
A full five months after Koppi was supposed to deliver hundreds of pictures, Local 2 Investigates stopped by her Spring home.
"We want to talk to you about the pictures that you owe people, and the money," Davis told Koppi when the photographer opened her front door.
"Thank you so much," said Koppi, immediately ducking back inside.
"Why aren't you giving them their pictures or their money?" Davis asked as Koppi closed the door.
Two days after that visit, Koppi sent overnight an incomplete package of pictures to almost every organization waiting for them. She told KPRC Local 2 that all of the orders had been fulfilled, but Honeycutt and others said they're still missing a lot of pictures. Parents who asked for refunds are still waiting, with little hope they'll ever get them.
"I expected that what she said would be true," said Honeycutt. "I expected that honesty from her."
Here's what customers should expect: If a photographer requests payment in full, they should allow the charge be to paid with a credit card so the customer will have some way to dispute the charges if they don't receive the product.
The BBB said finding no information about a business is not always a good thing. It usually means the company hasn't been around long enough to have a history of good or bad reviews.
Full statement from Jamie Koppi
"For the volume work in the Fall of 2011, we were using an out of state order fulfillment lab. The the duty of this lab was to take the images that we shot, and process the orders within 3-4 weeks. It was not until many of the orders were sent and the 3-4 week window was almost up, that we found out the lab had been relocating and fell behind on production.
"Once caught up in production their printing calibration no longer matched the images we sent to them to be printed. This was approximately 8 weeks after the images were shot. Because of this issue we chose to have the orders reprinted through another lab in order to insure we were giving the parents the best possible product. To do this we had to go through each individual photo order and input each item manually. We hit a few snags in the production and shipping but worked through them. We did not accept any more volume work because of the backlog of work and images.
"We submitted a written statement on February 6th, indicating that all issues would be resolved by the end of this month and we have been working diligently to make sure this is complete. As you can imagine, there are many images and orders to go through to insure the orders are complete for each organization. This is very time consuming but necessary.
"To address specific issues: EMC signed up under a promotion the original lab was running that included a free 8x10 and button with each package order. When we had to manually input the orders with the new lab, that was overlooked. We then went back and made sure all free items had been ordered. Unfortunately, the sponsorship plaque that they originally requested is not available for us to order any longer, instead, we produced a customized sponsorship plaque for them to give their sponsors and delivered those with their photos back in November. New Life & WMS orders were completed and shipped via fed ex to the schools to be distributed to the parents. One staff member at New Life indicated that all of the parents wanted refunds, and we were in the process of doing this when we were contacted by some parents that indicated they wanted the photos.
"In an effort to make sure everyone receives what they want, parents are required to sign a form stating whether they would like to keep the photos, or return the photos for a full refund. I have spoken to several parents from both schools who say they will be happy with the photos.
"All organizations and their representatives have been contacted and orders have been fulfilled. If any missing items have not been received yet, they are scheduled to arrive no later than Wednesday. This stays in line with my commitment to have the issues worked out before the month ends. Digital images have also been provided to the organizations as an added value for the parents. It will be up to the organization to distribute those as I do not have contact info for all of the parents. I will continue to pray for all of those affected as I hope that they realize I would never go into any situation with the intent of taking money from people and not delivering the product."