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Team photos are a long time developing -- too long

Q: Our hockey association, West Seneca Youth Hockey, last year hired Buffalo Creative Images of Cheektowaga to do team pictures and photo packages for our league. The entire experience has been awful.

The company photographed almost 50 teams for our association and was supposed to provide each player with an individual and team photo in the form of a photo mat, paid for by the hockey association for the families. Tim Gavin of Buffalo Creative Images provided each player with the opportunity to order additional pictures. He gave them envelopes and collected payments immediately. Some of the checks were cashed last September. All photos were to be mailed to the homes directly.

Gavin did not begin to print the photos until almost February, despite having taken most of them in September and October. The photos we received were not mailed, but left on my porch to be distributed. Several packages were incorrect. Either they were not what people ordered, the names were misspelled, items were missing or they were of the wrong player. We had been going back and forth on corrections, and I expected this to be finished before our season ended in March.

I spent over $90 mailing photos to the correct players. Our agreement had been for him to mail them, since everyone was charged an additional $2 each for that service.

On April 24, Gavin sent me an e-mail, saying he needed me to identify some kids and that was all he still needed. I responded that evening, telling him who was who again, since I had sent him this information twice already. That was the last that I have heard from him.

However, as of June 11, there are at least three teams that have not received any of the photos they ordered, plus more than 20 people that are still waiting for the corrected photo packages. At least 70 people are affected. I have tried to contact him almost daily for the last three weeks, as have several parents. We have received no response.

We would prefer the photos. If that is not possible, I would appreciate help obtaining refunds.

-- Barbara Tobias, president of West Seneca Youth Hockey Booster Club.

A: Let's hope we score for you.

Gavin, the business owner and photographer, called us back within three hours of us leaving a message for him. He offered many reasons for the delays, but said that your complaints about the time lag were justified and his problem to fix.

"There were numerous identity problems, but there came a point where we ran out of money with all the corrections," Gavin said. "It is my responsibility to get everyone's pictures printed, and I have not done that yet. Certainly, it's taken far longer than it should have. I had to stop making corrections to be able to pay additional lab fees."

Gavin promised us to finish the outstanding work late next week and get the pictures to you.

He said some of the problems arose because of roster mix-ups. Coaches would send players to the camera, and often they weren't in the order in which they were listed on the league-provided roster. He also said that some people turned in envelopes lacking proper identification or mailed forms to him late.

"It was a nightmare and a multitude of problems on both ends," Gavin said. "Envelopes were not distributed in time by the league. I received late orders daily. It wasn't orderly from the very first day, and it snowballed from there."

Gavin told us repeatedly that he didn't do anything underhanded. "It definitely wasn't that I took the money and ran," he said.

Billing by Gavin for the main team/individual player composite photo that is given to parents and paid for by the league has not yet occurred, he said. "I've held off billing them until I complete the job," he said. Gavin said that when all the work is done, the league owes him $3,500.

When we questioned him about the $90 in mailing expenses you incurred, he said the shipping charge was negotiated with someone else involved in the league, and in the end, it led to confusion. He said he didn't intend for you to pay to ship them to people. "I will take it off the league's bill," Gavin said.

Have a consumer problem? Send a letter summarizing your problem to News Power, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y., 14240. Attention: Karen Robinson. Or e-mail:

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