Parents outraged after paying for, but not receiving, photos from toddler pageants

By Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Parents from across the U.S. have contacted KPRC 2 Investigates about a toddler pageant program that conducts shows across America.

The Baby Miss America Pageant has fans, detractors and, now, a warning from the Houston Better Business Bureau.

What's the issue?

Complaints run the gamut, but the most common problem is contestants not receiving the picture packages they paid for in advance.

This is a particularly vexing issue for parents, who agree not to take pictures or video at pageant events.

Some parents have waited for more than a year for their photos. According to Sammie Savoie, the director and CEO of the Baby Miss America Pageant, three people have received refunds. Dozens of others, many from Houston, have received neither photos nor a refund.

What are parents saying?

There are satisfied customers. More than a half dozen pageant mothers contacted KPRC 2 to express their happiness with both the Baby Miss America Pageant and, specifically, Savoie.

"We've had a wonderful experience. Glad for the opportunity. Glad for what it has done for my daughter," the mother of Baby Miss America 2017 said.

But the number of dissatisfied pageant participants is concerning. Many parents spent upward of $700 for fees associated with the pageant, a hotel room and costumes. Those families now have few if any photos of the occasion because photo packages never arrived. One parent said she received 61 photos but only two of the photos featured her child. The cost of the photo package is $100.

What does Savoie say?

Savoie said, “The buck stops here,” and that she did not correctly estimate the complexity of the task of parsing out the photos and getting them to contestant families.

"We had 21 pageants last year and there were 89,000 photos taken. I severely underestimated the time necessary to sort and edit those photos," Savoie said.

Savoie said that she has since fixed the problem. In addition, Savoie pledged the following to KPRC 2 Investigates: "Tonight, all of those folders will be sent through Dropbox. I'm going to give you access to that folder so you can see that."

On Friday, Savoie provided KPRC 2 Investigates links to some, but not all, of the missing picture packages. Savoie claims the rest of the online photos will be delivered. Some parents confirmed they have received photos.

What's next?

Savoie said she is expanding the Baby Miss America empire.

"This year, we're launching the Baby Miss World Pageant, so that’s a totally different system and there'll be contestants coming from Canada and the Bahamas," she said.

The Better Business Bureau’s Houston division does not allow so-called vanity businesses to become members of their organization.

Better Business Bureau Houston’s Denisha Maxey explained why, saying, “Because most of them can be a scam, taking fees and not giving consumers services.”

Follow-up email from Savoie

After our story aired Friday night, Savoie sent an email Monday morning.

The pageant's CEO disputed one parent's claim of how many photos they actually received, "There's a big difference in '2 photos' and the actual '18 photos.'

In her response, Savoie also claimed that another contestant, whose photo appears briefly in our aired story, was disqualified for not following the rules and regulations of the Baby Miss America Pageant. 

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