Although vindicated by the jury’s verdict, the sad truth about this story is that poor journalism and social media have given two bullies the power to destroy a small business. As a business owner, this is horrifying.
It’s a mean girl’s world
We have been bullies at some point in our lives. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we have all relished in an air of superiority and power that came with picking on someone we deemed less than ourselves. For whatever reason, it makes us feel good to point out someone else’s flaws rather than examine our own. Hopefully most of us also feel a simultaneous twinge of regret and shame. We know it’s wrong. We leave it on the playground. We grow-up. We mature…
While I am happy with the verdict and want to believe mean girls should not win, the damage has been done. The news reporter did not have all the facts of the case before jumping on the cruelty-wagon and bashing the photographer. The accusers, the bride and groom, liked feeling superior rather than listening and reading their contract before lashing out like spoiled children. The story received national coverage with thousands of people chiming in and giving “truth” to the couple’s argument. The result: The photographer has gone through her savings and hasn’t worked since the story broke.
As a business owner, I have been lucky to have wonderful clients, many of them have become friends. Nonetheless I have made many mistakes over the years. I have worked hard to right those mistakes and cut my loses when the relationship is no longer professional or beneficial to both parties. While I would like to think that people are rational and logical beings who are able to resolve any conflict in a mature and respectful way, this story is a reminder of how close we can be to irrational destructive behavior of a bully.
Contracts can’t cover cruelty
Starting out as a new business owner, I, like many of you, took any business that I could from friends, family, and acquaintances… It took a few mishaps for me to figure out what I needed to cover in my contracts and to develop a clear process. While I am confident in my agreements and process, this story shows no matter how diligent you are about your terms of service, contracts can’t cover cruelty. The photographer won the $1M verdict because she could prove the breach of the couple’s signed contract, but who knows if she will ever see any of that money and her business is ruined.
Like our beauty blogger bride, not only is beauty in the eyes of the beholder, but apparently so are the “facts”. The “facts” initially presented by the media and perpetuated by the bride and groom are not true. What is it that allows us to believe what we see and hear without evaluating the situation or at least asking a few questions? Did any of the thousands of people who commented and gave validity to this story without knowing the truth, understand the consequences of their seemingly supportive actions? If you look at this couple, they are intelligent and professionally successful people. Is it reasonable for the couple to a lavish wedding and then dispute a $125 charge? Why would the photographer want to hold on to the photographs without a good reason? Why would she want to deal any longer with a difficult client who are publicly defaming her? Is any of this reasonable or are we missing something?
As a business owner, protect yourself as much as you can with contracts and professional conduct. As people be wary of stories that seem a little fishy – ask questions, check the facts, be the designated thinker … The consequences of our actions can be unwittingly devastating.