New York – I was dancing the night away, celebrating a most joyous occasion. People were jumping along with joy and singing to the music. It was a family members wedding, and it was going great, without a single glitch. Then I spotted my uncle talking to the photographer, with a frown on his face. They were gesturing wildly, at their watches and shaking their heads.
Are you confused? Let me fill you in.
With about an hour to go until the end of the wedding, the photographer we hired and already paid, stated that his time was up. The band was still playing, the dessert was just being served and everyone was still dancing; the party was in full swing. “My time is up, and that’s what you paid me for. If you want me to stay, you will have to pay me more money” said the photographer, threatening to leave.
Are you still confused? Allow me to clarify:
When we hired the photographer he guided us on how many photographers and videographers we needed and how long we needed them for to capture the wonderful moments of this grand evening. The photographer took advantage of his position by making us believe we only needed the staff for X amount of hours, when in fact we needed them for more. I am not against paying the staff overtime if a wedding goes way beyond it’s normal time. However if the photographers are telling people they need less time than they actually require, or offering to come early in order to be able to charge more for “staying late”, then there is something very wrong here.
Sadly, he is not alone. After speaking with numerous people, I discovered that this sick practice is quite common in our community as well as other Frum communities. It is a huge problem, and it needs to be addressed promptly. These photographers attack when people are at their most vulnerable, forcing them to cash out big amounts of money in addition to the named price they negotiated beforehand. It is such a betrayal, for fellow Jews to do this to one another.
I am hereby calling to all the Frum photographers out there: this has to stop immediately. It is wrong in so many ways, legally and Halochacally, morally and ethically. Being a professional photographer allows you to know exactly how weddings work, how long they usually go on for and what kind of hiccups can happen. You know that they run late sometimes. So please don’t negotiate a price for a time-period when you know that weddings last more than that time. Don’t go extorting money from families at their Simcha, it is simply stealing and it is disgusting.
May G’D bless us with the ability and the wisdom to choose the right paths and make the right decisions.
Rabbi Hanoch Hecht is the director of Chabad of Dutchess County and the spiritual leader of the Rhinebeck Jewish Center in Rhinebeck, NY. He is the son of Rabbi Shea Hecht and the Grandson of the late Rabbi Jacob J Hecht.