PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The manager of a local “Picture People” studio inside a Sears was stunned when her district manager called and told her to close the doors and take the money to the bank.
She complied but not before calling customers to quickly come get their waiting portraits. They were the lucky customers as many others were left in limbo nationwide when Picture People went dark without warning.
Previously located in standalone stores, or mall slots, Picture People moved into the Sears studios about a year ago when the department store folded its own portrait operations. KDKA-TV News reached out to Picture People, its parent company TPP, and Sears and only Sears responded with a statement:
“We were notified Thursday by the company that owns The Picture People that effective immediately, it is discontinuing all U.S. operations. The Picture People is a licensed business that operates 46 Sears Portrait Studios along with studios at other retailers and in malls. The Picture People is operated by a separate company. We will explore future options for the space in our stores and for photo services. We regret any inconvenience this has caused our Members and customers. For additional information, please contact The Picture People.”
Picture People Studio has been on the Better Business Bureau’s radar for some time.
“Prior to the closing, BBB did have a record where the company has had an ‘F’ rating as a result of 50 complaints filed against it over the last three years,” the BBB’s Caitlin Driscoll said.
On social media Friday, employees and customers complained about not getting any notice and wondered about pictures taken but not picked up. Driscoll says it’s a long shot, but customers could try appealing to the landlords who own the studio’s property to see if they will intervene.
She says customers should gather and hang onto any paper records of a transaction with the company.
“It’s important for the consumer to contact their financial institution or credit card company first, depending on how they made their purchase,” she said. “Request a charge back or to file a dispute to get their money back.”
Despite repeated attempts to reach Picture People and TPP, as of this writing, KDKA-TV News has no indication if the company intends to do anything for its customers who are waiting on portraits or have outstanding gift cards.