Send Ben: Local family not picturing nearly $2,000 bill for senior portraits

Photography studio contracted by St. Johns and Duval County school districts under scrutiny

Natalia Plyam says her daughter’s senior portrait experience wasn’t picture-perfect.

“How upsetting is this?,” asked Action News Jax Ben Becker. “Very upsetting,” said Plyam.

Plyam used a company called Cady Studios, which is contracted by both the St. Johns County and Duval County school districts, among other school districts across Florida, Georgia and Texas.

Plyam paid a $299 photo sitting fee, but when her daughter picked up the pictures a few weeks later Plyam says there was a problem.

“She goes there and calls me,” says Plyam who recounts the conversation by saying her daughter said Cady Studios wanted nearly $2,000 for the pictures on a memory stick.

Plyam says she spoke to a manager at Cady Studios on the phone and claims she only approved spending $500. Pylam thought the issue was resolved until she saw her credit card statement with two separate charges - $1,316,34 and $658.17 for a total of $1,974.51.

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“When you saw this bill you thought what?,” asked Becker. “I thought what scoundrels,” said Plyam.

Plyam filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau saying “they charged my 17 year old 1995.00 for a memory stick! these people have no shame.”

According to the Better Business Bureau, there have been 64 complaints closed against Cady Studios in the past 3 years, although it does maintain an A- rating.

Becker emailed Cady Studios to get their side of the story. Cady sent a response to the St. Johns County School District that was forwarded to Becker. It said Plyam had approved buying the package ahead of time and provided a different version of events:

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“We have taken care of the parent and the overall summary based upon the conversation we had with the mom this morning is that her daughter was given a $400 budget but her daughter used her cards without her permission and we have gone ahead and refunded the 75% of the order as a goodwill gesture based upon the situation. I did want to send you the notes and details below so you could see the efforts we made throughout the last few months for your insights.”

Natalia Plyam’s daughter came to the Jacksonville studio to purchase her senior photos on 09/21/2021.

She booked the premium elite all day session with personalization and options for hair and make-up.

Plyam’s daughter came to purchase the photos without her parents and decided she wanted all images and chose the USB with all images. Plyam daughter put $658.17 on her card and put the remaining amount ($1,316.34) on a different card she provided in person. This added up to a grand total of $1,974.51. The Daughter walked out with all of her digital images that same day due to her paying for the full amount. On 09/22/2021 Natalia Plyam reached out and was upset about the purchase price of our photos. Parent let our team know that she was also upset about the long wait time to get a hold of our customer service. Parent did not mention a payment discrepancy to our representative when we called her. On 09/23 Mrs. Plyam filed a complaint.

On 10/26 one of our representatives responded to the customer with “Thank you for the opportunity to address your concerns. In viewing your information you were charged for your session fee in advance and were aware of the session fee in advance. You were presented with your students photos and were able to then select the photos of your choice based on the package you selected. We do apologize for the hold times you experienced and are sorry you did not utilize our call back feature for one of our team members to call you back. When you select the session for your student during the online selection process, you are able to hover over the price range listed for the package you ordered to determine a price range for the session you chose. We have this feature to help parents select what is best for their family. During the presentation there were a few options presented and the final one resulted in your choice of all photos where you provided your approval of the payment. You also provided feedback on how you were happy with the overall experience your student had. We sincerely hope that as you reflect upon this school year and the beautiful memories we captured of your student, you are happy and satisfied with your selection. Please feel free to contact us at 678.722.3449 M-Sa 9am to 5:30pm EST should you require additional assistance.”

On 11/5 we got an email from the BBB marking the case as closed due to Mrs. Plyam not responding.

On 11/12 Mrs. Plyam responded to the case so it was reopened: " Nothing was resolved. I want my money back.”

On 11/12 We responded to Mrs. Plyam with our Terms and Conditions and that all orders and charges placed on her account were valid. Charges did abide by the agreed-upon terms based on the chosen session when booking online and package from many options presented to them at their presentation.

On 11/23 the BBB notified us that Mrs. Plyam never responded so they were closing the case.

Plyam denies this, saying her credit card on file was used without authorization and the fact her daughter came alone to the studio is significant to

Action News Jax Law and Safety expert Dale Carson.

“Juveniles have a unique advantage in Florida,” says Carson. “They are able to void a contract whereas an adult that’s not possible”

Carson says, generally speaking, you must be 18 years old to enter into a contract and in this case, a credit card purchase is a contract.

“In this situation the company needs to be more responsible,” added Carson “They need to have a physical contract not over the internet that you just touch a button.”

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Becker emailed Cady Studios a second time for a signed receipt from the credit card it claimed Plyam’s daughter used in person but never received a response.

Soon after Becker got involved, Plyam received a check from Cady Studios for $1,316.34 and texted Becker “you are my hero! thank you so much.”

Experts say you can often dispute a charge with a credit card company. but in this case, Plyam received the pictures, so the request was denied.

In a separate dispute, Cady Studios is currently suing the Florida Department of Revenue in Duval County Court regarding a $233,000 tax bill its contesting involving sitting fees.

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