Parents claim high school portrait photographer never delivered final prints

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone via WLS logo
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
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The I-Team investigated a local photographer accused of failing to deliver the final product, and taking money from a client's checking account without permission.

PLANO, Ill. (WLS) -- The I-Team investigated a local photographer accused of failing to deliver the final product, and taking money from a client's checking account without permission.

One customer said he was almost on the hook for about $1,400 for "proofs" of high school photos, and said he didn't even get the final prints. He claimed the business owner took a large chunk of that money out of his checking account, without his consent.

"It's like crushing your dream," said Abera Sisay.

Sisay said he thought getting his daughter's senior pictures would take only a few clicks.

"He should give me my child's high school senior pictures," he said.

Sisay payed about $250 to Creative Photography and Wall Design in west suburban Plano, Ill., and authorized $185 of that money to be pulled from his checking account.

But then there was a dispute over the proofs, Sisay said.

"My daughter liked two or three of the 25, but I didn't like any of them," he explained.

Sisay said Creative Photography wanted hundreds more for a final product.

"No, I'm not that stupid. I didn't even pay that much for my wedding pictures," Sisay said.

He said he refused and requested a refund. But the company didn't honor his request.

Jason Knowles: "Instead of giving you your money back, what did he do?"

Abera Sisay: "My bank card said declined. I called my bank and they said there was a charge of $1,190 from Creative Photography. I told them I never authorized the charge."

Sisay said the company's owner, Steve Kapas, added another charge of $1,190 on this previously signed authorization form.

JK: "So almost $1400 dollars and no pictures?"

AS: "No pictures."

Sisay filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and the Attorney General's office. The Attorney's General's office said he never responded to their letter.

Sisay disputed the charge with his bank and, initially, was issued a refund. But Kapas challenged the dispute and the $1,190 was once again sent back to Kapas. Sisay fought back again and got the charge reversed permanently.

Kapas maintains the charge was valid and claimed another document indicates Sisay agreed to the price.

Sisay is not the only customer who has complaints about Kapas and his company. Another customer, Karrie Thome, said all she received from Kapas were proofs. She paid him about $700 and said she never received final photos.

"They're playing with parents' emotions. They know you want those pictures," Thome said.

She also filed a BBB complaint. As of October, the photographer's BBB grade was an F, for not responding to four complaints.

"A couple of them allege that they were told one price and when they went to pick them up there were additional charges were tacked on," explained Steve Bernas from the Better Business Bureau.

But there were changes in the BBB report in mid-October, a month after the I-Team reached out Kapas. The BBB says since Kapas is now responding so his grade is "under review."

The BBB says consumers were provided a "goodwill compensation" from Kapas.

Kapas declined an on-camera interview but denied wrongdoing, said customers were satisfied and added, "our to bring respectful resolution to the matters".

He claimed he sent Thome a letter offering her over $700-worth of portraits, which is still available to her. Kapas also said he sent Thome a free CD with pictures on it, valued at over $2,000. But Thome said she hasn't received a thing.

After the I-Team became involved, Sisay said he did end up getting a CD with pictures on it, but he said he didn't get final prints. Kapas claimed that CD is valued at almost $1,900.

And the ordeal has had an impact on Sisay's daughter as well.

"She didn't want to go to any photographers after that, she lost trust," he said.

When getting professional pictures taken, you should get specifics in a contract which includes a final price, make sure the contract spells out the exact dates when the pictures will actually be done, and pay with a credit card. When you use a debit card you can still dispute a charge, but it can take time for the money to be refunded to your checking account.