How to keep a customer for life

296467516 HpnRg M 1 How to keep a customer for life
This is Scott and his child.  Scott once came out and played music at Finnegan’s wake with me. He was a fantastic musician and played circles around me, but didn’t try to make me feel bad about it like some can do. Scott was killed on his bicycle riding home from school to see his wife and newborn in August of 2008.  I took this picture in May.

I did not know Scott well enough to find his family, however I knew that this picture would be important to his baby, who will never know him.  This picture, a simple snapshot, may be the last picture of him and his baby in existence.  I don’t know.

I do know that it is an important picture.  To borrow an idea from Paul Harding, when we pass away, we exist in this world solely in the memories of those who care for us, and we fade from their memories over time.  Our children and loved ones remember us well, but we become mere ideas in the minds of our grandchildren, and barely shades of colors in the minds of those that come after.

Pictures are important.  Pictures refresh our memories and keep our loved ones in this plane of existence long after they are gone.  Hopefully, pictures will keep me in the minds of my loved ones a little bit longer after my passing.  This picture must be important to Scott’s family and, like all pictures of Scott, will be important to Scott’s child. I wanted Scott’s family to have this picture.  I wanted his child to have this picture.  I might be a little narcissistic to think that the family in their grief would care, but I would care if it was my father.

This picture is why I am a photographer.

I made some weak attempts to find Scott’s family.  Earnest attempts, but weak nonetheless.  I called the school, asked around, and tried to make the connection.   I failed, but part of me did not want to bother the family in their grief, the other part of me did not want to confront mortality again.  So the picture stayed in a public gallery, with other pictures that I took that year.

Someone from Scott’s family did find his picture, and purchased it from my online gallery at smugmug.  I was happy that she found it, but really upset that she paid $10.00 for it.  I felt cheap.  I wanted to give the picture to her, not sell as important a memory as this.  I contacted smugmug through its online support.  I explained the situation.  I asked to pay for the prints instead of the customer.  Here was its response.

“Hi Samuel,

Thanks for contacting SmugMug.

Oh, how terribly sad.  We’re so sorry.  How about this… I’ve voided the charge, so ****** won’t be charged for this order, and we’ll “nuke” the pro sale as well.  The order will process and print as is, but your customer won’t be charged for it, and therefore you won’t receive profits.  The cost of the prints will be on us.
Sound ok?

If you need anything else, please let us know.  :)

Take care,
Support Hero”

Smugmug always has great service.  They respond right away and take care of problems promptly, but this just blew my mind.  They spent probably $5 and won me over forever.  Other companies should take a look at SmugMug’s model.  They are doing something right.



Rest in peace Scott.

13 Responses to “How to keep a customer for life”

  1. What a touching and incredible story. We were so sorry to hear of Scott’s passing and were glad we could do one small thing as a show of our respect. Wishing his family and friends the best.

  2. John Ledyard says:

    What a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Never undestimate the power of a photo and the value of good customer service. Touching story! Proud to spend my hardearned money with SmugMug.

  4. Tom says:

    This reaffirms my belief in Smugmug as a wonderful company. I think we’ve been together for 8 years, and I’m looking forward to many more.

    More than that, though, it reaffirms my faith in humankind. I’m sorry for Scott’s loss, but it appears that he lived fully and with wonderful friends, a life well lived.

  5. It’s hard for me to not put myself in situations like this and truth be told, tears are making it incredibly hard to type my sentiment. As a father of 2 children, I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose my father at such a young age. I lost my dad when I was 28, and although it still hurts, I had many years with him, to guide me and teach me everything he knows.

    I feel terrible for this families situation and I am so glad that I too am a loyal smugmug user. This reaffirms my belief that smugmug is the place for my photographs. Bless you Samuel for making sure this family did not pay for this photo and bravo for smugmug to send out the print to the customer for free.

    Thanks for sharing this lovely story.

    • spinero says:

      I lost my father at about the same age. I feel as bad about it now, ten years later, as I felt then. That is what I meant about confronting mortality. Anything can bring you back to your loss. The idea that our memories hold our loved ones is a powerful one to me. When I dream, he is alive. He appears to me as real as when he was here. It’s the waking up that’s hard.

      The waking up is the bittersweet part of loss. That is, you are happy that you got to spend a little while longer, but sad because he is gone again.

      I assume it gets easier as you grow older. Maybe as you have more loss, the pain dims for each successive one. Maybe the losses share your ability to grieve. I don’t know.

      Thanks for your comment.

  6. jerry says:

    What a bittersweet story… thank you for sharing.

  7. Matt McGuire says:

    Thanks for sharing. Photographs can be such a powerful thing.

  8. Bill says:

    Thsnk you for making a precious memor for that family. I lost my mother to breast cancer in 1962 when I was in high school. we had very fiew pictures of her. Because of that loss I have for the last fiew years been a volunteer for Relay for Life and have taken many survivor pictures for families. They are free of charge as a token of respect. I am down playing this as an uncredited donation to Relay. we all have the ability to make a difference. Thak you Samuel for making a difference in sombodys life.

  9. Samuel Pinero says:

    What great stories everyone. I am touched that you took the time out to send them my way.


  10. Tamara says:

    Great service & a big heart. Thanks Sumgmug – this is a big reason why I subscibe year after year!

  11. George says:

    Six years ago they did something very similar and thoughtful for me as well. My wife died suddenly at the age of 33, devastating me, our young son, and all of those around the world who were touched by her. I wanted to be able to share photographic memories of her with everyone who needed to feel that connection in any way they could.

    Knowing that I may very well exceed the traffic limits SmugMug then had in place on my basic account, I reached out to them to see what it would cost to get a temporary increase. Within hours I had received a very warm message letting me know that the limits were eased, enabling me to share my photos with anyone and everyone who might be interested.

    I’ve always felt SmugMug is a very human company, and they continue to show that in every interaction I have with them.

  12. Jose Becerra says:

    It does not surprise me to heat this from smug mug I have heard nothing but good thing about them and every time we need them their response is fast and friendly I would not go any wear els to post my photos , I don’t even consider the idea of it.

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