What are the Most Common Rip-Offs?
How you can avoid them?
Over the years three rip-off scams have popped up regularly among clients that come to us after having a bad photo booth rental experience.
Some companies won’t be too happy with me for sharing this information. Fortunately for you, I don’t care much about building a relationship with companies that do shady business. :)
SCAM #1 – BAIT & SWITCH
The basic principle behind the Photo Booth Bait & Switch scam is that you see an advertisement for an unbelievably low price and rush to pay and reserve the booth before the expiration date. The price is 50%-90% cheaper than the going rate, but once you’ve booked, you find that either the package you paid for isn’t compatible, or isn’t offered on the day of your event.
The promise of a low price got you to pay the nonrefundable deposit, and the artificially low price distracted you from making your decision based on the quality of the booth, package options, photos and service.
Bait & Switch is most commonly used along with Daily Deal sites such as Groupon or Living Social. Not every photo booth rental deal from those sites is fraudulent, but if you check for unsatisfied customer comments on closed photo booth deals you’ll see it happens fairly often.
Understanding a bit more about how deal sites work will help you spot this scheme. Daily Deal sites require a vendor to offer 50-90% off their original prices, and the deal site generally keeps half of the final discounted price charged.
To compensate for the profits lost, some photo booth companies will create a cheap package to lock you into a non-refundable agreement. Then, once your deposit is received, they tell you that the selected package won’t work, but your deposit can be applied toward one of their more expensive options.
WATCH OUT FOR
- Daily Deal site offers
- Prices that seem too good to be true
- Any offer you must secure with immediate payment prior to receiving full documentation
- Day of the week clauses, i.e. “You must book for at least 6 hours on Fridays or Saturdays”, but you aren’t made aware of that until after you’ve already put your deposit down on a 2 hour booth
- Deals that don’t give much description of what’s included
TIPS ON HOW TO AVOID FAILLING FOR THE BAIT & SWITCH
Use search engines to research the company you’re planning on booking with. See if there are negative reviews from customers who were scammed. Also, ask to see the final photo booth rental agreement in contract form before paying for anything. This document should include an itemized list of your booth’s features and the payment schedule. Make sure all of the key features and benefits you expect to receive are listed on the contract. If there is a 4 hour package on the daily deal site, don’t assume it includes all of the features of the 4 hour package on the company’s website. In fact, don’t assume anything and get everything in writing!
SCAM #2 – HIDDEN CHARGES AND FEES
The hidden charges scam is very similar to the Bait & Switch, since both scams show you a low price to get you interested and then ultimately end up costing you much more time and money than you initially expected.
The hidden charges scam differs in that the booth rental company isn’t offering you a different rental option, they’re just tacking on extra charges to increase the cost after you’ve already committed.
WATCH OUT FOR
- Set up & break down costs, delivery fees & service charges added to pad the final total
- Important features that you assumed were included, that you’re charged extra for once you put down your non-refundable deposit
- You’d like to rent the booth on a weekend? You’re required to have X amount of hours for that
- You wanted the photo booth to print photos? That’s an additional fee of…
- You want to access the digital photos after the event? That’s an additional fee of…
- Unlisted prices and poorly described package details
- Fine print describing any additional or circumstantial fees
HOW TO AVOID HIDDEN CHARGES AND FESS
The process for avoiding this scam is the same as for a Bait & Switch. Do some search engine research to see if you can find negative comments or reviews. Unhappy customers tend to be extremely vocal. Request a copy of the final rental agreement. This should include a list of your booth’s features as well as all of the services (set-up/break-down) and times that things will occur. It should also include the total payment amount with all taxes and fees and when payments are due. Read any fine print carefully!
SCAM #3 – THE DISAPPEARING COMPANY
According to Bloomberg, 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months. Photo Booth companies are no exception to this statistic. Clients regularly come to us after having difficulty getting in touch with the company they reserved for their event.
When a photo booth rental company goes out of business, they are often no longer accessible via the business phone number, email address or website that you were provided.
One couple contacted us the week of their wedding desperately looking for a photo booth for that Saturday. The company they’d booked only had one photo booth that was destroyed in a car accident. The disappearing company isn’t always a scam, but it’s no less discomforting to learn that neither a photo booth, nor the money you paid is available on the week of your event.
HOW TO AVOID THE DISAPPEARING COMPANY
You can’t prevent a company from disappearing, but you can do your research. Find out if the company has a track record of happy customers. How long has the company been doing business? How comfortable do you feel that the company will still be around when it’s time for your event? Do you feel secure that you could contact someone from the company even if their business closed?
These questions will help you avoid being scammed by a disappearing company:
- Do warnings or bad reviews pop up on search engines?
- Are the photos on the website generic stock photography or from real events?
- Are members of the company active or known in your community? That will make it easier to track them down if you ever need answers.
- Are there reviews on third party websites? It’s harder to fake reviews over time on third party sites.
- Does (or did) the company have a physical office? A physical office generally means a more established company. Even if the office closes, you can contact the owner of the building to try and track down the leaseholder
- Have other vendors you’re working with heard of the photo booth rental company you’re hiring? If nobody else you speak to knows about the company you plan to hire, that might be cause for concern.
- Does the company have insurance? A reputable company will have liability and asset protection insurance.