Unordered School Photos Question

Updated on June 04, 2012
S.E. asks from Landenberg, PA
27 answers

My kids' school district hs just started this thing where, in addition to the "normal" school portraits, they have another sitting. The photographer comes and is treated like the school photographer but they offer a more complex seating, styling and much more complex list of options of photos and mugs and everything else. They send a package home and tell you to either return unwanted stuff or pay for it.

I am pretty annoyed about this actually. I did not order another set of photos and there is all of this crazy stuff in this packet that now of course my daughter wants that is $45! So, I got to thinking: if I did not order it and they gave it to my kid (I never signed ANY forms agreeing to this) Do I have to pay for it or return it? Can I just keep it?

I don't condone stealing in any form, but they took a picture of my child without my consent, gave her this package of stuff and now expect me to pay for it. What do you think? Is it mine?

What can I do next?

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answers from Dallas on

Momma11 - i did the SAME thing last year, i called the number on the envelope and was told payment had to be remitted to the school by x date, which had already passed AND school was out... i offered/tried to pay... idk what else i could do!

as far as what the thread starter is saying, you can be annoyed all day long, but INTENTIONALLY stealing is wrong, and that is what you are talking about doing...

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Mine are sitting on the table with photos missing because my family thought they were for the taking. I am NOT buying them. I did not ask for them either. They will stay here until I am asked to pay for them, I have not received anything so far.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

I HATE this type of practice. This is right up there with the selling of the "Entertainment Books" where they send one home with each child that you have to pay for or send back. I live in a very economically disadvantaged area....78% of the kids are getting free or reduced lunch. Seriously, can they really afford to buy a book with coupons to go to places that they can't really afford in the first place?

You need to either pay for the photos or send them back....anything else really is stealing....

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Washington DC on

So because you're mad at the way this fundraiser (and it is a school fundraiser) operates, you're out to punish the school by not paying, right?

Ask yourself: What example does it set for your child if you keep these photos and do not pay?.

If you keep them and don't pay, you will not have any credibility next time you tell your daughter, "Stealing is wrong."

Want to be a credible parent? Send them back or pay for them. Want to start down the slope of her saying, "You told me not do do this, but YOU did it...." Then by all means, keep them and don't pay.

Maybe you didn't plan to tell your daughter you aren't paying. Would that make it all right?

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

This is a moral issue. I am sure that nothing will happen, other than reminders from the teacher. But you are taking something you haven't paid for. Regardless of the irritation ARE stealing.

BTW. Our school also does spring pictures this way. I hate it! It basically turns my kid into a solicitor. I also think it's a waste of resources. All that paper and ink! I wonder what they do with it?? It is obnoxious! ANd my kiddo really wanted those bookmarks. (They were kind of cute). But we still sent it all back. I didn't want to pay for it, I already had school pics. I didn't want to send any mixed messages to my kid.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Lifetouch, which is the nation's largest school photo provider, started this practice several years back. I agree with Jennifer, use it as a teachable moment. You shouldn't keep them. Send them back to the school.

Then write a letter to the company and let them know you're not happy with this practice. You could also cc that letter to the principal, who can talk to the company about it.

Unfortunately, given the current economy, there seem to be more fundraisers at schools. Talk to your fundraising chairperson about doing more painless fundraisers like EScrip, Box Tops, and the like.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

No they do not expect you to pay for it, if you do not want the pictures. Just
send back to school. I am not sure why you are annoyed. If you plan on
keeping the pictures, pay for them. What kind of an example are you to your
child if you keep the pictures and do not pay.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Two wrongs don't make a right. (Isn't that what we all try to teach our kids?)

Return the photos, but I'd also send a letter to the principal telling her/him that you did not consent for this photographer to take pictures of your daughter, and you do not want this to happen again next year. Furthermore, if your daughter accidentally damaged the photos in transit (like, bent in the backpack, or whatever), would you have had to pay for them then?

Before you write to the principal, though, try to recall if, at enrollment time, you signed anything that could be construed as a photo release.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

i guess i have an issue with your Daughter not taking no for an answer, If you hadn't mentioned her wanting them I would just agree with you that they are annoying but you still have to do the right thing.

Saying that the only reason you are thinking of keeping them is because your Dd wants them, makes me think she might need to start hearing the word no a little more often, if in fact YOU do not want them. In my opinion buying them or not is up to YOU, and deliberately not returning them isn't right.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

I think most schools are doing this now. My son's school didn't send us actual photos. Rather each student received an order form with their photos on it. (Each order form was unique! Wow! Technology still really impresses me sometimes). It took me a few times of looking for his picutres before I realized he was the kid on the cover.

I think you just have to use this as a learning experience for her. Advertising can be very powerful and enticing and we have to learn that we can't say "yes" to everything and probably have to say "no" a lot more than we say "yes."

When our kids are little we sometimes drive a block or two out of our way so that they don't even see the McDonals and ask if they can go there. We DVR Nick,jr and Playhouse Disney and PBS (and not Nick and Teen Disney and PBS Sprout) because those channels don't have commercials. As they get older, they learn how to turn on the tv and they realize that McDonalds is still there, even if you drive a different route. Now it's time to start teaching them about money and choices and the fact that you can't have everything you want.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I work in a school where they do this. I agree, I don't like it. The honest parents send it back or pay for it, and then there are some that just keep it. In my eyes, they are in the wrong. Send it back...that is what the company is far as your daughter wanting it...either say "No" since you are the parent or if it's an option like in our school, you can buy one, some or all her one!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Salinas on

i would not keep the photos.

now that i think about it, what did they do with the photos of my son? i returned to entire packet too. i would complain to the school. sounds like a waste of money to print all the photos hoping to guilt parents into buying.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dover on

I get your point but even though they didn't give the pictures to you (sent home with your daughter) you did in fact receive them. Although you may not have requested/wanted the pictures and didn't specifically authorize the sitting, I am guessing you knew about it and didn't specifically tell them not to have your daughter sit for them. Even if "technically" you can justify it legally, morally it is not right and you know it. Pictures not returned will be charged to the school...who in turn can require that you pay them back (just like a lost book).

Keep the picture = pay for them, don't want to pay for them = send them back.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Our school did this 1 year but I think they got so many complaints (and probably so many packets not mine that got lost in our stacks of paperwork for 6 months) that they do not do that anymore. Spring pictures is now like fall pictures where you have to preorder. Complain to the school.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

This second photo shoot is actually a fundraiser for the school. I also used to get annoyed by this second round of pics until I found that out. The school gets $ for each kid who gets a pic regardless of if they buy or not. And the PP is wrong in that the school is not on the hook for unreturned photos. If that WERE the case don't you think someone would be hunting you down? You will not get charged for pics that you do not send in-but it is kind of stealing. All a parent has to do is just send them back in-even if it is past the date. If your daughter really loves them keep one for her and pay for it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

If you don't pay & don't return them - the school is still charged for the package. Our school has both Fall (uniform) pictures and Spring (dress as you want) pictures... a lot of schools do. I try to buy something from both sets, but the Fall pictures a lot less then the Spring ones where they get extra props & where what you want them to. With 2 kids (3 next year) in school the pictures prices are so much!!

Sorry, but I do think you not paying or returning the pictures is stealing!


answers from Chicago on

Choose one thing to purchase and send the rest back, it is a nice compromise.



answers from Philadelphia on

Morally, it's yours. Legally, it's theirs. If you don't return them, as a business, they can send your name into collections and your credit is affected. Ridiculous, I know. To me, I always thought of this practice as a waste of money on their part, but after seeing how many kids pressure their parents for these fancy photos or just can't resist these special shots the company is making more.

How it's usually worked with us over the years and with many different schools and companies moving around a lot fall photos are your basic shots and a form sent home first. Then in the spring is when all hell breaks loose with the fancy and special shots and sending home full packages already printed guilty parents into buying. Blah! My triplets got spring photos sent home and each of their poses turned out bad, terrible smiles and such. No idea who took these shots but I refused to allow my kids to guilt me into buying them.

I think the only thing you can do is call the school and whoever is in charge of deciding who chooses photography companies and voice your complaint. At one school we were at some years ago there were enough parent who complained that the photography company changed their policy to always send forms first rather than the entire package. What they did instead of sending an entire package was send a sample photo of what was taken with a watermark on it so you could see what was taken. Parents felt more at ease with less pressure and ended up buying as much as before but with a more pleasant experience.

K. B
mom to 5 including triplets


answers from San Francisco on

Yes, this practice is not only annoying but wasteful. All that stuff gets returned and then thrown in the trash (I assume.)
Enough parents at our school complained so they stopped sending the packages home, just a proof. I still think it's ridiculous to have photos done twice a year, but if it's a really good one I'll buy a small package.
As far as your daughter goes, you just tell her no, you didn't order these items and they are too expensive. I'm sure you don't buy her everything she wants, right? This is no different.


answers from Tulsa on

I wouldn't keep them without paying for them. However, I would shred them and send them back. Let the company decide if they think all the pictures are there in the shredded pieces. I hate practices like that!

It's just like Sears. You order your pictures, go to pick them up, and they have 5 more there that you can buy for $25. They got mad when I would only order one sheet and buy the 5 extra that were half off. Hurts when someone learns to manipulate their manipulative system.



answers from Washington DC on

we usually skip the Fall photos and buy the Spring ones that the auto send home. This year we didn't. My kid said he didn't like them and didn't want me to keep any. He has braces, wierd smile. I felt bad not getting one page, but I didn't want to spend $20 for a pic my kid hated.

So I sent them all back. I always wonder what they do with the pics that are returned.



answers from Dallas on

I hate this too! I just found the packet of pictures under a bunch of paper on the dining room table. School is out! What do I do now? Ugh :-/



answers from Phoenix on

I don't like it. I think it's manipulative and a sneaky marketing trick. Those photo companies know that once mom or dad sees how cute the pics turned out, they won't be able to say "no".

And, what's up with them now doing school pictures twice a year? What's the deal with "Spring" pictures?

And what do they do with those pictures if you don't keep them? Isn't that money lost for them, if they just throw them away?



answers from San Francisco on

This is a good question. I'm old enough to remember when laws were first put in place because companies would MAIL stuff to people with a bill. Stuff that they didn't order! They continued afterwards and my Mom would be so mad because she thought of little old ladies who didn't know any better and were probably sending money they couldn't afford to either ship it back or pay for the items...The receiver had to spend money to send it back! Once the law was passed, she would keep the stuff and send them a complaint letter.

This IS a little different but the same manipulative type marketing. I always give them back, usually before we even leave the school grounds but had the following thought while reading this......For arguments sake....

I don't think it is costing them any money if you don't send them back except for the repeated communications to pay for the items....It is probably actually saving them money in disposal as they have to get rid of the pictures, and magnets and stuff they give you......SO this thinking sort of justifies keeping them. If enough people kept them without paying maybe they'd stop this despicable marketing practice. Again, just thinking outloud and in a vein I don't normally go probably because I don't like this either and am not impressed with the company.

I will keep sending them back though. I also worry that something will happen and they won't get them checked back in and hound me for some hideous pictures I didn't buy in the first place ;-)



answers from Boston on

This is a very common practice at most schools now. I actually usually like the spring photos more. There is a form that they sent out before had that perhaps your child lost or didn't bring home. On the form, it explains the process and you can pick a pose. This is where you can probably opt out of your child being photographed.

Send it back and pay nothing or pay for what you want and send the rest back. Keeping them is dishonest.



answers from York on

Just return them. No one expects you to buy anything, they just figure it's good advertising to get you to buy. It's the same thing as not buying them the toys they see commercials for during the kids shows on TV. No one from the picture company will come after you if you don't return them. But of course that would be stealing, and not a good example for your kid. The second round is usually done as more of a fundraising effort anyway. The proceeds from ours went to offset the cost of the yearbook. In the future, you might hold off on buying school pics till the second round. The photographers take more time to get nice shots, instead of running the kids through quickly to print out school IDs. Plus, the kids look so young in the September shots and so much more mature in the spring shots.



answers from Honolulu on

Oh yah, this is so irritating.
It is "Spring Photos." Well that is what it is called at my kids' school.
Is this the "Lifetouch" school photo company you are talking about????

Schools do it, per that vendor... and the school I think gets a tad of a cut in it. A kind of "fundraising." But it is not obvious.

Anyway, so the way *I* deal with it is: my kids' school will announce when the photo day is. They send a form home to fill out. BUT... they do give the option, that if you do NOT want your child to take these photos, to just note it down on the form and tell the Teacher.
That is what I do. I do NOT want my kids taking these Spring Photos.... (they already took school & class photos earlier in the year via a local photography company in my State), and per research... I do not like that photo vendor. Yes, you have to send back the unwanted/unpaid for photos, or you have to buy it. But they do not say what they do with all those returned photos which also has your child's name on it and info. (ie: their name, the school's name, etc.). So, what is their privacy policy on how they "store" the returned photos or how do they throw away the one's that are not bought???

It is assumed... that the child will take the photos and then the parents will buy it... because their photo sample package, gets sent home with the child.

So again, for me, I am now well aware of this tactic. And I opt out... of having my kids even take the photos on photo day. My kids, they don't even care. I asked them if they want to take photos or not. And they say no. They have other classmates as well that opt out of that "Spring Photo" photo day as well.

But, if you keep the photo samples package and do not return it or pay for it... the Teacher, will then ask you about it. Because they or the school, has to return it and account for it. Too. The school... has to send it back to the photo company. That is what one of my kids' Teacher said.
It is not the school's either. It is the photo company's.
The photo company, would have a database of the school/the kids who took photos/their name/grade etc. And probably in some kind of list. So they will know... who paid or not or returned it or not.
They have to have, a way to track, what was sent out or returned or not.
They run a business.

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