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Own Your Work

The twins are renewing their passports, so we swung by a chain pharmacy with a photo center in order to get their passport pictures taken.  The passport center consisted of a white, pull-down screen and a person who stood in front of the person, taking a picture with a handheld point-and-shoot camera.  Like the kind I have at the bottom of my purse.  At $14 per person, I expected a tripod.  Maybe an SLR.  But if a point-and-shoot gets the job done, fine.

The guy takes a bunch of photos, most of them terrible, as in the child was at a diagonal angle.  But he finally got a decent one of each kid and went to print them out.  When he handed them to me, he had cropped one of the photos so the child was far to the right.  Not centered.

When I commented on this, he refused to retake the photo and promised it would be fine.  I kept telling him that this was a time sensitive situation — we could not afford, timewise, to send in the passport application a second time if the first photo was rejected.  But he told me it was “good enough” and he was “pretty sure it was okay.”  He took the photo to a person he told me was the manager for a second opinion, and we watched that person shrug.

We ended up going back and forth about this for about ten minutes — ten minutes! — but he wouldn’t budge.  He thought his crappy work should be his final work.

The twins and I left and went to Josh’s office.  And then Josh took the kid back to have the picture retaken.  When he walked in, they were happy to make this better.  The manager (a different person from the woman he told me was the manager) agreed with Josh that the picture would have never been accepted because it clearly doesn’t fit passport guidelines.  The manager was willing to retake the photos when Josh asked.

This is partly a story about male privilege.  When Josh walked in, the employee got the real manager.  The manager immediately agreed the work was sub-par and fixed it.  Josh was in there for under ten minutes, the same amount of time I spent arguing with the same employee and trying to get him to re-do his work.  We’ve seen that story again and again.

But the part I’m focused on is that I cannot handle when people don’t put forth their best work as their final work.  No one gets it right the first time 100% of the time, but part of interacting with other humans is owning your mistakes and working to make them better.  That includes taking pride in your work — whatever your job may be — and always attempting to not only put forth your best effort in the first place, but to also correct any mistakes that occur in that first (or second, third, or fourth) attempt.

I used my ire as a teaching experience for the twins.  They got to see first hand how annoying it is to be on the receiving end of someone not making their work better.  I made them promise to never put someone else on that receiving end by not pulling their own weight in whatever task is on their plate, whether it’s a paper for school or following the customer’s instructions for bagging groceries.  And if they don’t do it right the first time, that’s okay.  Just do it again.

Grrrrrrr.  (That was an annoyed sound.)


1 a { 07.16.17 at 8:55 am }

Wow – I would have become that ugly customer that people write long Twitter threads about. If I’m paying $14 for anything, it had better be decent quality or else. I’m guessing that, for all that I can’t get people to take me seriously in general, I can get their attention when I’m angry.

Our post office takes pictures for passports for, I think, the same price as Walgreens. But then, we have the best post office on Earth, so I realize your mileage may vary

2 B { 07.16.17 at 9:06 am }

Grrrr I had this exact argument some months ago now. I ended up getting our passports rejected and now I use a different shop. The male privilege thing is just the icing on the cake, isn’t it?


3 Mali { 07.16.17 at 9:10 am }

I got my last passport photo taken at my camera shop, with a DSLR , so chuckled a little at your first paragraph. Two times before that, though, I remember going to about three different places (paying $10 each time) and receiving truly hideous photos with dreadful lighting, but meeting the requirements otherwise. (My witness burst out laughing when he saw the best ones I decided to use, and I was the only NZer who was happy that our passports only had a five-year validity at the time.) So the next time I did an Internet search, found a pharmacy with a good reputation, and had someone who took as many photos as I wanted till I was happy. I’ve recommended them many times.

The shoddy experience you were given, plus the sexism, makes me fume!

4 Nicoleandmaggie { 07.16.17 at 10:40 am }

I hope you gave them a nasty yelp review.

We get our passport pictures done at the post office. Not pretty but they do fit the requirements.

5 Lori Lavender Luz { 07.16.17 at 10:46 am }

I’m grrrrrrring with you. Both about the lack of pride in the work and about the lack of interest in resolving your valid concerns — until a male showed up with those same concerns.

How exciting that your passports are going to get a workout!

6 Deathstar { 07.16.17 at 2:18 pm }

Years ago, we went to a chain drugstore to have our newborn son’s picture taken for a passport. We went back to the passport office. 2 hrs later….it was rejected and then we had to leave and go to another place that supposedly was a more professional place to get a photo taken. After much instruction, we finally got the shot. Back to passport office. Yes my husband was with me.

Years later, I went to a chain drugstore in Vancouver for my passport photo. Then downtown to the passport office. Photo rejected. I went to a photo place located near Passport office and paid more. Picture accepted. Then I drove my ass back to chain drugstore and got a refund for dud passport photo.

Let me tell you one thing, if I had been there, you would have the photo retaken or a refund, I assure you of that.

I assure

7 BnB { 07.16.17 at 2:54 pm }

So annoying on so many levels.

I downloaded a free app on my phone, had my husband take my picture (and I took his) in our dining room against a light blue wall, uploaded them the the website of the pharmacy down the road that does one hour photos, picked them up, cut them apart and went to the post office with my application. Passport photos for both me and my husband were less than 50 cents and we’re accepted without issue. My interaction with the post office employee, however, was a completely maddening experience.

8 Working mom of 2 { 07.16.17 at 5:53 pm }

That’s super annoying. Extremely lame in fact.

When my husband and I first got our passports we had didn’t have kids yet and we were able to go on our lunch hour to the actual post office to get our photos there. But the post offices around here only do photos mid day on weekdays so the logistics are impossible for all of us including the two kids to get our photos done there. So we went to a local pharmacy chain on a weekend when the kids got their first passport photos a couple of years ago. I was concerned because apparently now you’re not supposed to smile and they simply could not get a photo of my then two-year-old without her smiling. Fortunately the photo was accepted without a problem.

(Is it not strange that not only are you not supposed to smile but you also can’t wear your glasses in your photo? These two rules were not in place back in 2005 when I got my first passport.)

9 Beth { 07.16.17 at 7:46 pm }

I have only had passport photos at the post office but I have run into a similar issue with lack of care at my local chain pharmacy. Due to our insurance and where we live, the only location to get a prescription filled reasonably close is a chain. Last winter my then-1.5 year old daughter was very sick multiple times, including two bouts of pneumonia. It was a horrible experience for all of us, terrifying for my husband and I, but luckily oral steroids and antibiotics always knocked out her infections. And then came the day our local pharmacy was out of said steroid and wouldn’t be getting in a shipment for 3 days. I arrived at the pharmacy counter to pick up her meds and was informed when I got there that they had been out for days and knew when my prescription was called in the couldn’t fill it, but didn’t call because “I knew you’d come in and I could tell you then.” Meanwhile I have a very sick baby, a scared 4 year old, and I just need to make it better. Stupidly I assumed that the pharmacist would be able to help me locate the meds somewhere else close, but was told that was not his job and he was much too busy to call around to other pharmacies. I was close to tears but managed to pack us up and leave. The happy ending is that I located the meds nearby on my own and that pharmacist stayed open a few minutes late so I could get us there to pick up.

And you can bet that I called the manager the next day and emailed their corporate headquarters and spoke my mind. I was assured that the pharmacist in question would receive remedial training in dealing with the public and received sincere apologies both over the phone and in writing from the supervisors I spoke with. But it still makes me seethe. Isn’t it your duty as a health professional to help? How can you look at a sick baby and a terrified mother and basically say “nope”?

10 Middle Girl { 07.16.17 at 9:55 pm }

Grrrr- ing right along with you. So annoying. Mediocrity and male privilege? Two-fer. Special.

11 Geochick { 07.17.17 at 3:45 am }

Good grief. We just had passport pictures done for all of us and while i was wondering why no tripod, at least the person taking the pictures made sure they would be accepted. And that meant taking the 2.5 year old’s picture about 50 times cause he wouldn’t stop smiling or looking to the side.

So typical too, that you can’t get decent service, but the man can. In your spare time, I hope you write a letter to the store detailing the situation and treatment. Or, do what I do and never go back, because why spend more time on those a-holes?

12 Lindz { 07.17.17 at 9:42 am }

I actually had the opposite problem from most commenters. The photo taken at the post office of my one year old was rejected by the passport folks, but the one taken at the local chain pharmacy worked. The background was a white foam poster board and she was sitting on a low counter, but apparently the proportions were right. *shrug*

I will say that there’s a car place I will never buy a car from because when we were looking at cars for me they would only interact with my husband and father-in-law. If I answered a question, they would check with my husband for verification. Really, really annoying.

13 rennata { 07.17.17 at 11:52 am }

Oh yes, I know this grrrr well. Lindz- I always take my husband car shopping, in a separate car. He drives in and looks at the sports cars, I drive in alone and usually get a junior employee who is desperate to make a sale. We use this bias in our favor.
But in dealing with with idiots like that, I tend to reference our state’s fraud statute, It is amazing how well people jump when they think you are going to sue them. So silly.

14 JustHeather { 07.18.17 at 3:02 pm }

That would have made me angry and frustrated!
I am very lucky with my passport photo lady. I worked for them years ago and the daughter still gives me a great discount, 8 euro instead of 15-ish. Plus, since it is an actual photo printing shop, I trust and know it is good. In addition, the Finnish requirements are different than the US requirements, and she took care of that also. So quick and easy for 3 of us to get pics taken.

15 loribeth { 07.30.17 at 10:06 pm }

We had our passport photos taken, twice (when we originally got passports & then five years later for renewal) at a camera/photo store where they guaranteed their results would be accepted by Passport Canada, or your money back. Alas, the chain closed a couple of years ago — fewer camera sales, fewer photos being printed. I have no idea where we’ll get the next ones taken. Fortunately, we opted for the 10-year renewal, so we won’t have to worry about it for a while yet.

But yes, in this case “good enough” is definitely not.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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