St. Louis, Mo., Feb. 3, 2010
– Families who hired a St. Louis area photographer to shoot photos of their newborn babies say they received precious little for their money.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) urges consumers to use caution when dealing with Baby Love Photography
and its owner, Nicole Manley
, who lists an address in O’Fallon, Ill.
Customers of Baby Love Photography have filed 25 complaints with the BBB since August. Most of the complaints were filed in the last two months. Many complainants said they paid for photographs that were never delivered. Several said they have tried repeatedly to contact Manley and the business without success.
A complainant from House Springs, Mo., said nearly three months have passed since she ordered photos of her newborn. She has received no photos and no replies to numerous phone calls. The business has an “F” grade with the BBB, the lowest grade possible.
“All I want are my pictures,” said a Maryville, Ill., woman who paid Manley and Baby Love Photography $150 two months ago for photos of her new grandson. She said Manley took the newborn baby pictures Dec. 5 at Anderson Hospital in Maryville.
“You see all those beautiful pictures online, and you get your hopes up and then you order them and you don’t get them,” she said. She described the experience as “emotional.”
Michelle L. Corey, president and CEO of the St. Louis BBB, said the alert involving Baby Love Photography is the second warning about a local photography business issued by the BBB in just three weeks. On Jan. 14, the BBB issued a warning on Absolute Photography of St. Louis, which specializes in wedding photos.
“When a family hires a photographer to chronicle a special event like a wedding or the birth of a baby, it is placing a significant trust in that person’s hands,” Corey said. “If a photographer fails to live up to that trust, the moments may never be recaptured.”
Manley, who has worked as a photographer in the St. Louis area for several years, started her company less than a year ago. Illinois Secretary of State records show that Baby Love Photography, LLC, was organized on April 13, 2009. On June 9, Baby Love Photography registered in Missouri.
On Feb. 4, the day after the BBB issued its release on Manley, she told the BBB that she had been "overwhelmed" by a series of circumstances beyond her control. She said she intends to make good on all outstanding photo orders in the next few weeks. "I got over my head and froze," she said. "I really want to fix this."
Another photography company, Bella Baby Glenview, sued Baby Love Photography in St. Clair County Circuit Court in September 2009. Bella Baby said St. Anthony’s Medical Center of south St. Louis County gave Manley and Baby Love exclusive rights to take photos of newborns there. Bella Baby said it had hired Manley on Feb. 24. She left Bella Baby about two months later.
The website for Baby Love Photography, sweetbabylovephotography.com, this week included several photos of newborns, alone and with family members.
“We don’t take pictures, we capture emotion,” the site said. The site listed Manley as owner/photographer and gave the business’s address as 1167 Fortune Blvd., O’Fallon, Ill.
An attorney with a law firm at that address said he knew Manley, but neither Manley nor Baby Love ever had an office in the building.
A spokeswoman for Anderson Hospital, where Manley worked for a short time in December 2009, said that while she took “beautiful pictures,” at least 10 families from that hospital did not get photos they ordered. “No one can find her,” the spokeswoman said.
A man from Pierron, Ill., said he paid Manley and Baby Love $167 for a photo disc of his infant who was born Dec. 4. She never produced the disc, he said. He called the pictures “irreplaceable.” While he received credit from his credit card company he would rather have the photos.
A father from Oakville, Mo., paid $85 for a “Bundles of Hope” package of six photos and a photo disc after his son was born Nov. 25 at St. Anthony’s Medical Center. He has received nothing and has been unable to contact anyone from Baby Love, he said. He said he hoped his complaint to the BBB will “light a fire under somebody.”
The BBB’s tips for choosing a professional photographer include:
- Make sure you are dealing with a reputable company. Ask for recent references and contact them about their experiences. Make sure you know exactly what you are getting for your money.
- If possible, withhold full payment until you have received everything you have ordered. By paying up front, you have little leverage with the business in the event it does not follow through with its promises.
- Check BBB Reliability Reports by contacting the BBB at www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.
Contacts: Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-645-3300, firstname.lastname@example.org or Bill Smith, Trade Practice Investigator, 314-645-3300, email@example.com