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Drunken Uncles and Lobster Tales - PPA Today

Drunken Uncles and Lobster Tales

By Mariah Ashley

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I often write about spinning negative scenarios into positive experiences. So how do you know when a scenario can't be spun and it's best to run? Read on.

Friday I sat in a lovely restaurant overlooking the river and the city. My table was covered in beautiful linens and adorned with fresh flowers. The hum of happy, satisfied diners chatting softly and clinking crystal wine glasses filled the candle lit room. 

I made the reservation six months earlier and couldn't wait to view the menu, imagining each beautiful dish and trying to determine which decadent offering would be my choice. The fresh ingredients, the interesting pairings, all lovingly created by the chef would make the decision very difficult. 

I sent our attentive waiter away several times so I could make sure to read every option twice before making my decision. In the end what really enticed my taste buds was the restaurant's specialty: baked stuffed lobster stuffed with... lobster. The dish is renowned, worth every penny at $200 per plate. Our waiter glided over and poured my wine and readied himself to take my order.

"Have you decided what you would like?"
"Why yes, I will have the baked stuffed lobster." 

"Excellent choice," nodded our waiter approvingly.

"But, I would like the lobster with just one claw." I added.

"Pardon me?" asked the waiter, confused.

"I'd like to order the lobster, only I don't want both claws. I only want one claw. How much is the lobster if it only has one claw?" 

"It isn't possible to order the lobster with just one claw. The lobster has two claws. The price is the price."

"Well, the price is too high. I want the lobster, I just don't want all of it." I declared.

"What would you have me do with the second claw, madam?" asked the aghast waiter.

"Do you really want me to answer that, sir?" I haughtily replied.

The maître d' came over breaking up our glare-off. "Is there a problem here madam?"

"Yes there is. I made a reservation at this restaurant because I have heard how wonderful the service is. I was told how delicious the food is and how experienced and creative your chef is. I was expecting a unique and special dining experience. Now my waiter tells me I cannot have my lobster prepared the way that I want."

"Well now, I am sure we can accommodate you. What was your request?" asked the maître d'.

"As I was saying, I want the baked stuffed lobster, but as I'm sure you know it's kind of pricey. I would like to order the lobster but I would like it to come with just one claw. I was asking how much it would cost if it only had one claw instead of two. Oh, and maybe omit the lobster from the lobster stuffing too, how much if we did that?"

The maître d' looked around to his left and right as if there might be someone hiding behind him. Then he looked at the waiter who just stood there with a smug look of satisfaction on his face. 

"I'm sorry but we do not offer a one-clawed lobster with lobster-less lobster stuffing at a discounted price." said the befuddled maître d'.

Honestly, I have never been so annoyed. Does this restaurant sell lobsters or not? Am I not a paying customer who wants to purchase lobster? What is the big deal about hacking off a claw to make me happy? By this time my experience was ruined beyond repair so I finished my glass of wine and left, without leaving a tip I might add. I've been fuming about it ever since.

Today I had a phone meeting with a bride who is planning her wedding for next summer. We really connected talking about her ideas and vision for her day. She had spent a lot of time looking at our blog and was sure from all she had seen online and heard about us from other vendors that we would be the perfect choice to be her photographers. Before I knew it we had chatted for an hour and I was sure she would book with us so I asked her if she had any specific questions I could answer. 

"As a matter of fact, yes I do. How much would it be if I just had you photograph the ceremony and formals and had my uncles photograph the reception?"

"Pardon me?" I asked, confused.

"Well, I love what you do and I can see that you are very talented. I want amazing wedding photos and the experience of working with you, I just don't want to pay so much. Would it be less money if my uncles shot the reception?" she explained.

"Um, it doesn't really work like that. We offer full-day coverage. Besides, your photos would look completely different in your album if you had two different people photographing the event. It wouldn't be cohesive." And besides, what if they decide to drink instead of shoot, I thought.

"Well, they have really good cameras." she said defensively.

My mind reeling from the request, I flashed back to the entire winter we just spent learning new off-camera lighting techniques and the money spent on workshops to hone our reception lighting skills. "I'm sorry but we don't offer half coverage at a discounted price." (a.k.a. Drunken Uncle Coverage).

Well, slap me with a boiled lobster I think I see a pattern here. While it's obvious that our clients should have certain expectations of us, it's equally as important for us to have expectations of our clients. At the very least, have a standard that our clients value the time, experience, and education that has gone into perfecting our craft. Based on that, we should decide whether or not a client is a good fit for us when their requests reflect an attitude outside of our standards.

In this case, a bride in the claw hand was not worth the two that might be waiting to book. I declined the job and believe I avoided cheapening our brand. It couldn't be spun... it was time for me to run. 

Remember, not just any drunken uncle with a "good" camera can do what you do and if you don't value your expertise no one else will either. 

P.S. FYI, the lobster tale was kind of made up to demonstrate a point. However I once went to a fancy restaurant and ordered the baked stuffed lobster without asking about the market price. When the bill came I discovered to my horror that the lobster was $180, I choked and then ordered dessert too because at that point, why not?

About the author:

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Mariah Ashley is co-owner of Snap! Photography in Rhode Island. She is blonde, loves to bake fruit pies, wears flip flops way past the summer season, should have been born in the 50s, paints and writes when the mood strikes her, is mother to Jacques and Vianne, vacations on Block Island, is vegan, never has proper or stylish outerwear, fears frogs and toads but loves turtles, has really skinny legs, personal Style- Bohemian Chic, wants to own a VW van,  grew up on a cranberry farm and is happiest when snorkeling is happiest when sipping a rum punch under a palm tree.




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This page contains a single entry by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) published on June 10, 2014 9:38 PM.

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