With the twins’ birthday coming up, Jennifer and I decided to make some party favors that consist of the twins’ photo in a little mini frame. We needed one last photo of Emory smiling and in the correct size and orientation, so I snapped one Friday night. I uploaded the photos to Snapfish and expected to pick them up the next day at Walgreens as I’ve done many times before.
I realize there are many labs much better than Walgreens, but Walgreens is fast, convenient and located nearby. And although their customer service sometimes leaves something to be desired, they usually don’t totally screw me over. Today was to be different…
What happened when I arrived at the store was quite a shock. The woman behind the photo counter informed me that I could not pick up my photos. Her name was “Heidi” and she claimed to be the “Store Manager” at this Walgreens (Store #6036 in Granite Bay, CA). I noticed (and she noticed and commented) that someone had written “Professional do not release” on the packet of photos, only to scratch it out and write in sharpie, “Not Professional.” She said this was not correct and that the photos were clearly professional and that I was up to no good.
What was my offense? My photos looked, in her words, “a little too good,” and there was no way she could tell if I hadn’t just gotten them, “done at Sears and brought them here to steal extra copies.” Well, that is just insulting. I mean comparing me to the button pushers at Sears? I know I’m not the best photographer, but that is just degrading!
Her assessment was bizarre as the photos are snapshots of the kids on the floor of our house with baby gates, crooked doors, couches, cat trees and speaker stands in the background. Clearly I need to market our clutter as photographic backdrops!
So I offered to sign a liability release form. I’ve had to do this before at another Walgreens. The woman refused and demanded I provide the original media card. I explained that I had already uploaded the files to my computer and edited them, after having wiped the card clean. She was unsympathetic, and more importantly, completely unhelpful. Whatever her responsibilities as “Store Manager” at Walgreens entailed, customer service was not one of Heidi’s concerns.
She even went as far as to tell me it was “Federal Law” that she could not release my photos to me. I told her there was no such Federal Law that prohibited me from printing my own photos to which I owned the copyright. She said she did not believe me.
I went home and now I am just getting off the phone with Walgreens corporate. Their useless customer service rep has just told me there is nothing they can do. She actually stated, “you should get them made somewhere else.” Wow, really Walgreens? You screw over customers and then instruct them to shop elsewhere?
My intellectual property rights have been violated. I licensed those photos to be reproduced for my own purchase at Walgreens, and for NO OTHER PURPOSE. By holding and refusing to release my photos, Walgreens has stolen from me. And they apparently couldn’t care less.
I am posting a letter to Walgreens corporate and copying the store on this matter as soon as I hit Publish on this story.
Update, Saturday, 3:45PM: It seems something may have been effective in communicating my experience to someone higher up. I got a phone call from a Walgreens Executive who agrees with me and has over-ruled Heidi. He stopped short of a full appology, instead insisting it was “open to interpretation.” No it isn’t. My photos are my photos and how DARE anyone say otherwise. Unless they have compelling evidence to the contrary, the photos belong to me.
Despite them finally agreeing to release the photos, I cannot in good conscience continue to patronize Walgreens. The unprofessionalism displayed by Heidi and the unresponsive customer service higher up the chain has soured me on the corporation. “The customer is always right” should not be perverted into “the customer is a criminal.”