I had initially planned this post to be about my trip to Target Portrait Studios for my family’s annual holiday portrait. I was very excited and expecting good things from Target. This was my first time using their portrait studio. There wasn’t a Target studio local to me, the closest being either the Bridgewater or Watchung NJ locations, both about 15-20 minutes away on the highway.
I decided on Target this year because I received an email for a $50 credit towards a photo package (no minimum purchase required). Though the credit did not apply to the session fee per person, they had a deal for $29.99 to sign up to Target Portraits and all session fees would be waived for the year. We were going to get all of our pictures for just $29.99 including our Holiday cards because I have saved my Shutterfly promos throughout the year and had a Pampers rewards promo for 25 FREE 4×8 holiday cards (with free shipping). With all savings considered, it was a great deal, so I booked an appointment.
I made my appointment on November 10th via the Target Portrait Studio website. The site interface was user-friendly. You just enter in your name, phone number, and email, select a location, and a list of available dates and times will pop up. I chose November 23rd, Sunday, the most convenient available time slot for my family’s schedule.
I went back and forth with what type of color scheme we were going with this year. We have done these family portraits every year for the past 5 years and although we use them for our holiday cards, we also hang them on our walls in our home and I wanted something that doesn’t just scream ‘Christmas’. As simple as it seems, it can be a little mentally draining. Making sure that I’m being frugal enough and using clothes we have at home, or can I find something cheap in time?
Here are the past 2 years photos;
As you can see, they’re casual enough to hang on the wall in the living room year round, but they’re “holiday-themed” enough to be featured on our Christmas cards. I decided on a casual all white theme, with all 4 of us wearing white shirts, and jeans with sneakers (typically you don’t see our feet anyway). Being that I chose, white, I soon realized it would be difficult to find whites of the same dye lot. There are a ton of whites out there! I knew I didn’t have any clean plain white shirts for the boys, because let’s be honest….bleach works, to an extent. Having 2 young boys, white clothes are short lived in my home.
I decided to pick up a couple new white long sleeve shirts for the boys so that they can match. I was in Walmart and found a perfect shirt that they had in both of their sizes for just $3.99 each. I picked them up, and they already had the jeans and sneakers at home, so the boys were all set.
Luckily, hubby and I both had white shirts that were similar in color to the boys new white shirts, so we were able to use those instead of buying a new wardrobe. In hindsight, I am so happy I made that decision and didn’t invest anymore money into this photoshoot.
We already got our haircuts (yes, all 4 of us) the weeks leading up to the photoshoot day, so we were good to go.
I had some things to do on Sunday, the day of the pictures as well, but I scheduled the pictures for 4 pm, because that would give me enough time for everything else I had to do before and after, along with getting ready.
The date and time had come and we were on our way to the Target in Bridgewater for our pictures (finally!). We arrived exactly on time at 4pm. Typically I like to be a few minutes early, but as I said I had some things to do prior to the pictures that day. Needless to say, I wasn’t fully aware of where the portrait studio was inside of the store, and of course I winded up parking on the complete opposite side. We finally found the “portraits” section, and I immediately was concerned with the amount of people I saw in front of me, and could not even get a visual of the check in desk.
The people in front of the desk was a young couple with a newborn baby that had to be only a week or 2 old. She was dressed in an adorable red Christmas outfit, and the parents were both matching with her, The baby was quite, but the parents seemed quite upset as they were bouncing up and down consoling their newborn child in a crazy hectic small space called Target Portrait studio.
The reason I mention them is because as I tried to make my way to the desk to inquire about my 4pm appointment, the dad immediately locked eyes with me and and said “it’s an hour and 10 minute wait. We’ve been here since our appointment time at 3pm and still have not been seen”. At that point, I was highly upset but knew that I couldn’t possibly make a big fuss as I normally would knowing that this couple with a newborn has been there in the sweaty room filled with at least 10 people in holiday sweaters for over an hour waiting for what was probably their first official family photo, so they were determined to stay positive and see it through . But I had to at least say something… “An hour and 10 minutes???? I had scheduled my appointment weeks ago, what was my appointment for then????” I said as I peered over and locked eyes with the woman at the desk. She yelled out, “Sorry, we’re running behind due to breaks”, whatever that meant. She seemed to be highly frustrated herself because of being yelled out for the past few hours I’d assume. But so what? What does that mean to me?
I mean honestly, lets be real. Target is not a portrait driven company, and their business model does not rely on it to make it through the fiscal year. However, they do have a business to run, and in my opinion, they’re doing it completely wrong. I will go ahead and assume that they had MULTIPLE people scheduled for each time slot in case someone didn’t show. That in itself is very poor customer service. Not that Target screams customer service when you walk in there.. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. But they completely dropped the ball on this one. I know it was probably extra busy, because I’m sure I wasn’t the only one looking for a great deal this year and taking advantage of the $50 credit they emailed out.
Long story short (or shorter then it could be lol), I went to the customer service section, rambled on about how I feel like they run the studio poorly, and exclaimed that I would NEVER be using their portrait studio (I probably made a false promise. Never say never if the price is right). The manager said “I’m sorry, I already spoke to her about it, there’s nothing else I can do.
I was not happy with that response, and highly upset that it just put a huge wrench in my plans for holiday pictures of my family and growing boys in “2014” to grace our living room wall and our holiday cards I had planned to make and order promptly the following day. After all, we had already paid for haircuts, clothes, gas, and our time to go there for nothing. All the while not planning or scheduling any other portraits for this year, because why would I think anything would go wrong?
I googled “Target Portrait studios customer service” and could not find a phone number to help me. Only a “Contact us” section of the internet site, and I selected “Quality” as my concern/issue and I wrote this;
“Please contact me via phone to discuss.
I am very unhappy with my service at the Target Portrait studio in Bridgewater NJ.
I had an appointment for Nov 23rd, at 4:00pm at T938 Bridgewater Target. Conf #GRD64K5H. I had made the appointment online on Nov 10th. Just about 2 weeks prior to the appointment date.
I had requested of off work for this appointment for family photos for or holiday card. I had bought clothes for my family to wear, all 4 of us, and drive 15 minutes from Piscataway to be on time for my photoshoot.
When we arrived, it was caos a the front, and I was immediately told by the people in front of me that it’s an hour and 10 minute wait, that they appointment was scheduled for 3pm and they were still there waiting with their now fussy newborn at 4pm with no apparent timeframe given.
I was not greeted by anyone at the front desk, and had to fight my way to the desk to ask what was going on. All I was told was there was an issues with breaks and they’re behind and there is nothing they can do.
I am highly outraged as I have never used target portrait studios and figured we would give it a chance this year, only to be blown off and disregarded like my premade appointment meant nothing.
Needless to say we had to leave and our day was wasted.
I understand things get hectic this time of year and unforeseen things happen, however a simple courtesy call to the future appointment of the day would’ve been appreciated.
Please call me to discuss further.”
I sent it on 11/24, and I have not gotten a phone call or email back yet. We wound up doing a little family photo shoot on our own to use for our Holiday cards, but we still have to find somewhere to do our Family Portraits for 2014. I still need to have them done as it’s our family tradition, but maybe I’ll wait until after the busy holiday season to get better customer service.
Overall, I am happy with our personal photos (below) and got some great shots, but I am fed up with the lack of care for people time and lack of courtesy that surrounds most retailers this time of year.
If you’ve had family photos done at a Target Portrait Studio before, please leave feedback on your experience below. I know all studios will vary based on staff, but I’m wondering if I should even attempt to go back at a later date.
**Update – December 2014
Target reached out to me and explained that they were sorry about what had happened and the inconvenience. In turn, they gave me a pass for 6 free portrait sheets and free sitting fees. We plan on using them sometime in the new year after the holiday madness and I hope to update with our new photos from Target.