Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Second Open Letter to Lifetouch School Portraits

Dear Lifetouch School Portraits,

I wrote you a letter at the beginning of this month, but it seems you didn’t get it. Since I only posted it in this column and never actually mailed it - like you were so kind enough to do with all those pictures I never ordered - I thought I would at least follow up in hopes that this finally reaches you.

I’ll start with a short recap of my last letter, in case this letter finds you still too busy to read your correspondence, what with all the printing of large quantities of photos that no one ordered.

A) I was satisfied with the pictures from the first time you came to my sons’ elementary school in September.

B) I did not understand why you showed up again in February.

C) I did not order pictures in February.

D) I really did not understand why you then proceeded to take pictures of all three of my sons in February when I had not asked you to do so.

E) Since I really didn’t understand why you took pictures of them in the first place, I really, really didn’t understand why you then took it upon yourselves to print a bunch of pictures of each one of them, including pictures of them on plastic items that heretofore have never needed pictures of children’s faces, such as poorly gradated rulers and hotel Do Not Disturb door hangers.

F) After printing all the pictures and handy plastic devices that I did not order, I further did not understand why you spent even more of your money to send me the three full packages of pictures I did not order. Each large envelope was stuffed to the bulging point with photo upon photo of my sons, proudly displaying the fact that they were not dressed for pictures that day, and in the case of Son Number Three, the fact that he had also recently eaten something, as evidenced by the food stuck to his face, so masterfully captured for posterity by your skilled photographer.

G) You told me I should buy the pictures or give them back to the teacher. I told you neither of those things were going to happen.

H) I was amused to learn that you thought I would think it was in my best interest to trust you with the disposal of all these pictures I did not ask for or want. After all, each package you sent me had my child’s full name, grade, and teacher’s name printed on the front, along with no less than twenty-four photos of how they look on any given day - not on picture day, since as I mentioned earlier, we didn’t dress them for pictures since we weren’t expecting you to take their pictures since we didn’t ask you to do so.

So, there’s the recap of the first letter. You can imagine my surprise when I received a “Final Reminder” notice from you the other day. I sincerely hope you meant it when you chose the word “final,” but somehow, I doubt it.

Far be it from me to tell you how to run your very successful business, but since you seem intent on wasting our teachers’ precious time by sending unsolicited correspondence home with my children, the least I can do is reciprocate. Here are my thoughts on your latest communication:

For starters, your “Final Reminder” team seems to be running at around 66% efficiency, because I failed to purchase or return three full packages of studio-quality portraits of my sloppily-dressed, dirty children, and you only sent me two final reminders. I anxiously await the arrival of the third as soon as someone over there comes back from their excessively long coffee break.  
Secondly, I think a little note editing is in order. Your bright pink final reminder notice invites the reader to “take this time to review your options,” which you list as:
Purchase the entire package
Purchase the package sheet(s) you want and return the rest
Return the complete portrait package

While I appreciate your starry-eyed optimism with that first option, I want to call your attention – if my original letter and the recap of that letter in this letter have not done it for you yet – to the missing fourth option available to me, the guy who did not ask you to take pictures of his children, nor ask you to then print those pictures on four plastic key fobs and a wallet-sized calendar. That would be: Take a moment to wonder in amazement at our business model and then dispose of the entire picture package yourself. As I outlined in my original letter, Option Four saves you quite a bit of money, assuming, of course, that your “Final Reminder” notices are not too costly.

Thirdly, I noticed that you offer a family plan, where the first two children’s portraits are full price and any addition children’s portraits are half price. That is a great option, especially at our school, where so many of the families have three or more children. I was able to notice that you offered this discount through my deft use of a magnifying glass. I was not aware that there was a font size smaller than 2, but you obviously found one. I guess my advice is this: If you don’t want people to know about the discount, then don’t print it on the order form at all, but if you do, you might want to print it large enough to be readable without needing Mr. Magoo’s glasses.

Finally, regarding Son Number Three who is in kindergarten: As I said, I was amazed and amused to see food prominently displayed on his face in the fine quality portraits you sent me that I did not ask for. In my original letter I suggested that your photographer might not have been on his “A-game” that day. I have since learned from Son Number Three’s teacher that it may not have been your photographer who was asleep at the wheel, but your scheduler instead.

It seems that – for obvious reasons – the kindergarten classes are normally photographed first thing in the morning on picture day. Your scheduler, for reasons unknown, brought the kindergarten classes to the camera in the middle of the day, after lunch. Knowing that fact now, I would like to formally apologize to your photographer, and commend him or her on the fine picture taken of my youngest son.

I have seen Son Number Three eat, and if your photographer was presented with him after lunchtime, receiving a picture with only food on his face is nothing short of a miracle. When he eats by himself at home he is able to get almost 80% of whatever the meal is into his hair. I’m quite certain that when he sat down in the photographer’s chair after eating lunch with forty-seven other kindergartners, he must have been covered from head to toe in meat, produce, and condiments. There is only so much one person can do, so kudos to your photographer!

Again, I hope my observations will help you to improve your business model. I will patiently await my missing final reminder notice, and I look forward to any “final, final reminders” you see fit to send my way.

Keep up the good work,


Copyright © 2014 Marc Schmatjen

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  1. Love it! I'm now following your blog. :)

  2. Oh, SO true!! Same happens at our school, "spring pictures". So you can have the opportunity to order the cheesy smile pictures with your kids in front of an Easter bunny set of cheesy smile pictures is enough for the school year, thanks. I thought the same about the itty bitty family plan font. You really do have to wonder what the company profit would be like without printing and sending all the useless pictures.

  3. Their business plan is certainly hard to wrap your mind around, but I guess it's working for them. Either that or Lifetouch is secretly owned by an eccentric billionaire who's draining his fortune into unwanted prints. Tough to say. Thanks for reading, Katie!

  4. I found your blog entry funny and I know that this comment is several years out of date and I wish I had read it years ago. I could have cleared up some of your confusion and frustration. It's all the school's or your local pta's fault. They schedule fall and spring pictures as a fundraising opportunity. Those pictures in the spring that you didn't return, lifetouch took the cost out of their fundraising check. And, the person who calls down the classes is either working for the school or a volunteer with the pta. Not connected with the company. They don't do that. I was a pta president for many years. Sorry to hear that you had such a bad experience. Hope this answers your questions.

  5. Thanks for reading, and thanks for your service to the PTA. You are a brave (or crazy) soul!