Recently, I was slapped in the face with one person’s unprofessional behavior and dishonesty. What’s more is that after expressing my disappointment in the situation, the offending party showed little remorse. However, another person involved has shown what true professionalism & integrity are, which lessens the sting… sorta. Here’s the story…
It started with a verbal agreement regarding compensation for working an event. A few weeks before the event I was told (in person) that compensation would be $50 for the day, a selection of images for portfolio use. I was also told I’d be in the designer’s catalog. As an added bonus, I’d get a sketch of me in what I was modeling. Typically, my rates are $50 an hour or $325 for an 8-hour day, which is how I’d have billed it since it’s cheaper. However, because I’d be getting portfolio images & a tear sheet (plus a cool sketch), I made an exception and accepted the job at a significantly lower rate than normal.
Fast forward to the day of the event. Call time was 12P & everyone was on time & ready to start getting to work. In the beginning, things were running nicely, people were having a good time, & it was shaping up to be a great event.
Around 3P we started getting hungry, but there was no food. Based on previous experiences, I expected there to be food provided at a 7-hour event, so I just brought a drink & a small snack. Now, I wasn’t expecting caviar & chocolate mousse, but something to snack on throughout the course of the day. Veggies, pretzels, cheese cubes, & sliced fruit are pretty typical of events because that stuff can sit out & is easy to eat. But there wasn’t anything.
Normally, one would ask the person in charge what was going on, but he stepped out for an undetermined amount of time, leaving his event coordinator & assistant completely in the dark regarding wardrobe & accessories. That meant that the models that were ready to shoot we weren’t able to, so 2 of those girls took a walk to find food. Their options were limited at 3P on a Sunday on the Near West Side of Chicago & all they could find was Chinese, which they brought back.
As we were eating, the guy in charge came in & immediately reprimanded us for having food. He told us we were unprofessional for eating food that wasn’t “proper model food”. He then demanded it be put it away & said we shouldn’t be eating, but that if we were hungry we should’ve been eating something like fruit. So, apparently, everyone should have just gone without food for 7 hours. Talk about a morale-killer! Besides, nothing makes people enjoy an event more than crabby models with no energy, or worse, models passing out because of low blood sugar.
If someone running an event wants his staff to eat certain things, it is up to him to provide that kind of food. If he can’t provide food, then the professional thing to do is notify people that there won’t be food, & ask them to bring their own, limiting it to whatever he finds acceptable. It is not unprofessional for models to eat behind the scenes, while waiting for styling and/or instruction, while still dressed in street clothes.
But then came the real knife-twist. Shortly after the food was put away, we were handed a compensation agreement & asked to sign it. It was different from what I’d been promised. Suddenly, we had to choose between $50 for the day or 10 unedited images & 1 edit of the photographer’s choice. No mention of the sketch. I tried to ask the guy in charge a few questions, but it was pretty clear he was too busy to listen to me. So, I sat & thought quite a bit about things, & really weighed my options.
If I walked, I’d have wasted almost 4 hours for nothing, literally. No photos, no money, no sketch, no tear. Leaving could’ve damaged my reputation with the other industry people who were there, & I’m not one to back out on my commitments; I act like a professional & respect people enough to stick with something once it’s started. So I chose to stay, keeping my reputation intact & getting a little something for my time.
So I had to choose: a small amount of money, or one edited image. I figured I could work with the photographer individually if I really wanted to, so I opted to take the $50. Broken down, it’s $7.14 an hour. If you factor in the $8 or so I spent on food & drink (which I wouldn’t have bought if I wasn’t working), the total compensation drops down to about $42. Basically, I worked the day for about $6 an hour, & that’s not even factoring in the gas I spent on the nearly 60-mile round trip.
It bothered me that the compensation changed, & I wasn’t notified in advance. I wasn’t even notified promptly at call time, which is when I would have been comfortable leaving. Advanced notification of the change would have been the professional way to go about things. Instead, it was just sprung on us nearly 4 hours into the day, when we’d already invested time & money. But, I sucked it up & did my job as if I was getting paid my standard rate: with a smile on my face & without complaint.
After the event was over I asked the guy in charge about the sketch. He acknowledged that that was, indeed, part of our deal & made a half-assed attempt to find it. After a brief search, I was told he couldn’t find them, & that was that. So no sketch now either.
Initially, I intended to just deal and learn from my mistakes. But later I decided that if I didn’t speak up, no one would, & this schmuck would go on taking advantage of people because no one called him on it. So the next day I wrote him a letter addressing all my concerns & asked to be compensated as originally promised. I chose my words carefully & made sure it was written in a concise, professional manner. I didn’t just pound out an angry note and send it off.
The next afternoon, I received a response. He said that an agreement was made, but things didn’t go as expected, so the agreement was modified. I signed it, & if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been used for the event. He went on to say he was sorry I wasn’t happy, but the only thing he could do was live up to the written agreement. Then, he had the gall to tell me that a lot of work went into the event, & he felt congratulations were in order. He also thanked me, as if that would make it better, & told me that if I had a change of heart & wanted to work with him again, I should let him know.
Then, he called me not too long after responding. I told him it wasn’t a good time because I wasn’t ready to speak with him, & hung up. After careful consideration, I wrote him back & said that any discussion could be done in writing, as he had made it abundantly clear that he didn’t respect people enough to honor his spoken agreements.
He wrote me back the next day & said there’s nothing to discuss. Shortly afterwards he posted on the private group for “preferred” folks involved in the event (which I am still part of) telling everyone, “Don’t ever believe that I don’t appreciate you all. I am so glad that I choose each & every one of you to be a part of this journey.” Uh huh.
There is a lesson here, though. From now on, I will ask for a compensation agreement in writing, in advance, for every event I am booked for. Upon arrival, I will not do anything without reviewing any paperwork that needs to be signed, & if that paperwork does not match up with what I received prior to the event, I will be leaving.
This might limit who’s willing to book me for events, as well as whom I choose to work with, but I’m ok with that. I am tired of being taken advantage of, & I am no longer willing to allow it to happen. If that means I book less events, then so be it. As a hobbyist, I can afford to be picky.
I heard he “changed the agreement” when it came to numerous other involved parties, so the models weren’t the only ones who got screwed. To top it off, it’s all just pouring salt in the wound, because everyone who worked the event was asked to promote the event through various means, invite friends, & really hype it up (and many of us did). Some people’s names are attached to this person’s, and who knows what kind of effect that could have down the road.
Then there’s the true display of integrity & professionalism I mentioned at the beginning. The photographer involved called me last night & we talked. He had been unaware, & completely beside himself, that the person running things was using his product to pay people & that we were forced to make a choice so suddenly. To “make it right”, he has offered all of the models involved a shoot at no charge. He’s not comfortable providing the images from the event to the models, because it would violate his agreement with the event host, so he’s doing what he can to do something for us as a “thanks, & I’m really sorry you got screwed over too”. Yup, you read that right… he also got screwed.
So now what? Well, I’m going to stay in touch with the photographer & start thinking about what I want to shoot, & communicate ideas back & forth with him. Ideally, I’d like to shoot something he can use for his portfolio as well, because it’s only fair. Chances are, I’ll wait until late fall to work with him, mostly because I’m sure he’ll be busy with previously booked work as well as with the other models involved.
A few people I’ve talked to about this have suggested I take legal action, because the “bait & switch” tactic he pulled could be illegal. I’ve decided it’s not worth it to bother with screwing around with that, especially for such a small amount of non-monetary goods. Chances are, this person will get what’s coming to him. Word of unprofessionalism like this gets around fast in the modeling industry, as people don’t appreciate busting their asses to work with people who lack the integrity to honor their promises.
One can only hope that this person has the decency to not treat his paying clients the way he treated his staff. I can’t imagine working with someone on what amounts to one of the most important days in your life & dealing with some of the unprofessionalism he exhibited. Hopefully, when dealing with actual clients, this person is honest, sticks to his word, & is professional enough lets clients know if circumstances change & he cannot deliver as promised. If I were in the situation to be working with him as a paying client, I most certainly wouldn’t take the chance.
I will definitely not be working with him ever again. This person’s utter disrespect for the people he hired & abundant display of unprofessionalism has completely, totally ruined any chances of that. I will continue to leave his name on my credits list in hopes that people contact me to check references.
UPDATE! August 30, 2011
I did finally get a money order for the $50 that I was owed. I had to ask for it though, and was told on August 25th that the check had mailed the morning of the 24th. I let this person know that it would have been nice to know of the delay, since the agreement said checks would be delivered by the 21st and not mailed on the 24th. This is the response I got regarding that:
i didn’t mean to make you feel small. I appreciate you.
I told him, “Appreciation doesn’t pay the bills. Not that that matters, because going back on your word and not notifying people you’d made agreements with until well into the event doesn’t say “appreciation”. No, Robert. THAT says “I don’t give a crap about you and expect you to just be a doormat and accept it”. Nice try. I expect my check to be delivered by Monday the 29th. I’m giving you way more leeway on this than most people would…”. Yes, cold and a bit heavy-handed, but frankly, I don’t care. No one deserves the kind of treatment he has shown, and I’m not about to sit quietly and let him think that treating people the way he has done is ok, because it’s overwhelmingly not.
This was his response to me on the 25th, verbatim:
When i say I didn’t mean to make you feel small, I really was trying to let you know that you’re acting soooo small and UNPROFESSIONAL.
But you were even too small to even have caught on.
Now I’m BLOCKING you. And that’s what’s nice about facebook.
What ever it is that happened to you to make you so emotional is just not everybody else’s fault. And if emotionally you can’t handle life, go to doctor and get help, but whatever you do, DO NOT SLANDER OR HARRASS ME.
STOP EMBARRASSING YOURSELF. YOU SHOULD NEVER MAKE YOURSELF THE BUD OF OTHER PEOPLE JOKES. YOU ARE COMING OFF LIKE A CRAZY WOMAN.
Wow. And yet I’m the unprofessional one, for desiring to be treated respectfully and compensated as promised, and for being the “squeaky wheel” in making sure that promises are delivered upon when the source has proved to be unreliable. Right… anyway…
My money order came August 29th. It was dated August 26th, two days after I was told “the check’s in the mail”. It has been deposited. Largely, I am happy. I hope, however, that this person has learned that he can’t get away with treating people like shit. If, that is, there’s anyone left in the area who’ll work with him…