One of my favorite TV shows is Scam City at Travel+Escape channel. It reminds me my home city - Baku, where you have to be awake all the time. Otherwise, you have a great chance to be victim of a scam. After immigration to Canada we became more relax and tried to forget stressful life we had in the home country. However, as I already noticed in my previous posts Toyota dealership tried once to cheat me and they lost the game. The recent scam was also coming from the same dealership.
So once upon a time we received a gift certificate from South Point Toyota. The certificate was saying that we are entitled to have a photo session at Carinosa Portraits and a family portrait which totally values $700. Being honest I was thinking about having a family portrait and such a Christmas Gift was a pleasant surprise for me. So, in early January I went to the photograph's website and filled online booking request. After couple weeks seeing nothing happening I called them and asked about status of the booking. The photographer promised to call me back later as he is fully booked currently. So, he finally called me in early February and booked an appointment on February 24, 2013. He also mentioned that his contract with the dealership has expired and we may change the gift card with the new one with value of $700 and no more details he provided. Would like to note that the gift certificate we had was valid for 90 days, which means it valid until end of March.
So on February 24th me and my family were at his studio. The photographer is a man in his 50s from Montreal who recently moved to Calgary. His name is Darryl McCall. He was really great during the session and we were really happy that we a going to have a professionally made family portrait. He asked us to visit him next day to make an order for the portrait. The main scam was planned to this day. We started by choosing pictures we like most. After we have chosen three pictures we started discussing size and price of the pictures. He noticed that the certificate we had covers his session of $300 and a portrait. By simple math price of the portrait makes $400. However, he declared that he does not print "cheap" portraits anymore and the lowest price of a portrait is $650. So again by simple math it means that we owe him at least $250. And if we desire to have an electronic versions of the picture we need to pay $300 per picture. We were in shock! I tried to take an electronic version of our family portrait which will make $300 for the session + $300 for the picture. But he refused it saying that our certificate covers only a session and a family portrait. For me as a guy from Baku it was obvious that it is a well planned scam. He keeps silence about details of the arrangement and make a surprise to you when you fall in love with the portrait. My spouse was asking me to leave the studio as she does not want to be victim of a scam. But I decided to order our portrait as I really want it. I also decided not to leave the situation like this, as feeling myself as a victim was not in line with my rules.
After returning home I sent a complaint to South Point Toyota about the situation. However, my complaint was rejected by sales manager saying that this an issue between me and the studio. My response was a little bit pushy. I wrote a lecture about client satisfaction and noticed that if my issue is not going to be solved soon I am going to complaint to Toyota Canada and BBB. I also CC-ed general manager to the e-mail. And finally I received an e-mail from the general manager, which says that they will send me a cheque of $250 and they apologize for the incident.
So as a result we received a family portrait at no cost from Toyota!!! Thanks TOYOTA!!! And here is the portrait:
Being honest I was not planning to write about this incident as decided that it may be an issue about me only. And making a conclusion that it is a scam will not be appropriate. However, last Sunday my old friend Ali visited us with his family. Showing him our portrait I started talking about the history behind it. Afterwards he said that he also received a certificate from RBC with the same content. It was the same studio and the scam mechanism worked as I was with us. They spent $600 there. So looks like he uses the same scam mechanism with everybody. God bless Calgarians! My old colleague used to say if to guy says that something wrong with you it is better to look at a mirror... So there are two cases where scam was in place, better to be aware when you receive a gift certificate from Carinosa Portraits.... Just keep in mind that the portrait above costs $950...)))