If the employee is with a customer, they are NOT ALLOWED TO ANSWER THE PHONE. Were you calling, hanging up, and then calling again without leaving a message? Probably.
I worked at a picture me for four months, and it was the worst four months of my life.
Here's a Day in the Life of a Picture Me employee:
Clock in 15 minutes before opening time. Answer at least 3 questions from people who walk up to you while you are trying to clock in, despite the CLOSED sign and that the lights are all off.
Count the money in the till, while answering the phone 4 times before 10:00 and try not to lose count of the money.
Explain to the person on the phone the price on packages and photo options, like you will do for the 10, 000th time every day, because the company refuses to print out a price sheet which the customers could easily grasp.
Take photos of a cranky, hungry, clearly sleepy 2 month old baby while reminding mom the whole time that you are required for her to sit next to her baby the whole time for the child's safety. Try your best not to lose your patience when Grandma comes over and fusses over the baby's practically non-existent hair, using up the only possible 5 minutes before you completely lose the baby's ability to be still for a picture.
When showing the pictures, which is a step-by-step process in which you are required to constantly try to upsell the customer into more expensive options, try to pretend like you really enjoy bilking people out of their money, it is the only possible way to feel good about what you are doing when you know people only want the cheapest possible package.
The other side of that story is that the employee is paid a very low wage (in some cases minimum wage) and the company promises them more money based on their sales. The commission is the only way the employee ever makes any kind of money.
So unfortunately, if you walk in and tell me you only want the 7.99 package, I STILL HAVE TO TAKE 6-7 POSES AND TRY TO UPSELL YOU INTO THE MOST EXPENSIVE PACKAGE POSSIBLE.
I was a good employee, I came in with several years of photography, sales, and experience with children.
I showed up early every day, stayed late every night, kept a smile on my face no matter what, bent over backwards to make all customers happy (NOT POSSIBLE, BTW).
Was that good enough?
EVERY DAY these employees are threatened with the possible loss of their jobs. If you don't remind that mom to sit beside her child, you will lose your job. If you don't make at least 30 cold calls to customers today (the manager was supposed to make 10 calls a day on the previous 2 days that she worked, but she was "busy" and left you a note to do it instead) you will lose your job. If you don't take at least 6-7 poses you will lose your job. If you turn away any customer, you will lose your job. If you do not answer the phone, you will lose your job. If you do not take out the trash (manager too busy to do her portion of this, again... ) you will lose your job. If you do not drop everything and come in on your day off, you will lose your job. If you are closing the store up at 9:30 at night and a customer walks up and you turn them away, even though you closed at 7:00 (which never really happens) you will lose your job. EVERY SINGLE DAY I was threatened with the loss of my job.
Then came the Christmas season.
When I had worked 12 days in a row with no days off, yet my manager somehow managed to have fewer hours worked and plenty of days off, and I discovered bald spots from pulling out my hair from the stress of photographing a new customer every 15-30 minutes (you have to stay on time, despite the company allowing customers to schedule themselves for large groups even, every 15 minutes... ) and everyone wants 2 or 3 outfit changes and 3 or 4 different backgrounds and oh we want to try that one pose that Sally's baby had done (Sally's baby was a happy, sitting-up age baby, and their baby is a cranky, hungry, 2 day old baby that cannot support its head let alone sit up like Sally's baby...)
Customers come in with completely unrealistic expectations. If you have a newborn baby, you are going to realistically need the better part of an hour for your appointment. Not because the photography takes that long, it doesn't. The way newborns need constant attention, spit up, need feeding, need changing, need sleep, etc. Esp. if you want outfit changes and special poses.
And please, for the love of God, leave Grandma and Grandpa at HOME. They only get in the way, try to take over, and their constant negativity or comments do NOT help. Our studios are small enough as it is, and the more people and bodies you jam in there, the hotter it gets for everyone and the more nerve-wracked the mother and child become, making nice pictures impossible.
If you have a large group, schedule earlier, not later, in the day. Everyone always schedules groups of 10 or more at the last appointment of the day, when the photographer is tired, worn out, probably hungry because they probably are the only worker there and they were probably required to work through their lunch break. Then everyone wants ten different breakdowns of the family, one of Suzy in her christening gown, and wait, how about Suzy, grandpa, and Uncle Joe, but make sure it looks exactly like Uncle Joe's picture from 10 years ago... do you still have that background?
Anyone who has worked there for 1 day can tell you this is just the tip of the iceberg of what the employee puts up with.
They are told it is a photography job, and nothing could be further from the truth. This job is a wear-out-the-customer job so that you can get them to spend as much as humanly possible. All those screens on the computer, all those extras, I hated doing that. But guess what? If we skipped a step, we would lose our job.
Then came the day they made us imitate circus clowns. We had to stand outside the entrance, with a big Spin-The-Wheel thing, and try to grab any customer walking by, make them "SPIN TO WIN!" and try to get their business. I never in my life felt more like a circus monkey.
So because the company treats its employees so terribly, it is unable to maintain very many good employees, and esp. any employees over the age of 25. Most of the employees are young women straight out of high school.
So please take all this into consideration before you go to this place for your treasured family memories. And don't be surprised when what you pay for is what you get. When you walk in and decide you want the $7.99 deal, you are going to get about that much worth for your trouble. And you WILL have to wait your turn, for the love of God, would people stop complaining about a normal part of life.