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Buyer beware: expo can be wedding crushers

(Global Times)

16:23, July 15, 2013

When Ren Bangjin went to the Beijing Wedding Expo, hoping to find a good deal on wedding photography, little did she suspect that the process would turn into a financial nightmare.

"After doing an outdoor shoot in Hainan for more than 10,000 yuan ($1,629), I wanted to do an interior series in Beijing. I assumed that I could find a real bargain at the expo," Ren told Metropolitan.

China Wedding Expo, founded in 2005, holds four conventions annually in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou for wedding professionals and vendors.

Ren eventually decided on City Garden Noble Wedding Photo, booking a package priced at 6,999 yuan for an album of 100 photos.

However, when Ren arrived at the studio with her husband, the staff asked her for an additional 1,000 yuan as a make-up fee.

"It was obvious from their faces that if I didn't pay, they would be very reluctant to serve me," said Ren. "So I paid. But their cosmetics were low-quality generic brands."

As for the outfits, Ren was dismayed to be offered dirty and ill-fitting dresses while the better ones in the VIP zone were off-limits.

"This wasn't mentioned at the wedding expo when we signed the contract and paid the money. And I was furious when they forced me to add photographs to the album," said Ren.

Told that each additional photograph could cost more than 100 yuan, Ren quarreled with the studio staff, a situation that was only resolved when the manager intervened.

Ren is not the only person who has been stung by unscrupulous wedding photographers.

The forums on China Wedding Expo's official website include a complaint of fraud from a user named Partner4java.

According to her posts, she paid for a package with Vivid Wedding Photography at the Beijing Wedding Expo, only to discover that the business simply didn't exist. "I demand compensation from the Wedding Expo. I have heard of other cases where it took months for them to address complaints," she wrote in a post dated December 2012.

When Global Times reporters went to the Beijing summer wedding expo on June 29 in the China National Convention Center, there were more than a hundred booths ranging from florists and jewelers to wedding planning and formalwear.

Greeters routinely dragged prospective customers into their booths to pitch their products and to demand that they fill out forms with their cell phone number and ID card.

Promotional leaflets offered discounts of up to 70 percent, claiming to be exclusive offers for expo attendees who had paid 25 yuan to get in. (Entry was free for those who pre-registered online.)

However, a shop manager named Yang Mei from Artiz Photography told us, "You can give me a 20 percent deposit and enjoy the same discount when you come to the studio later," winking at the expectation that all vendors and customers must sign contracts and pay in full at the expo.

Another manager, Li Leilei of Golden Ladies Photo, also admitted that the promoted discounts were available for walk-in customers as well.

Shi Kangning, director of the Committee of China Wedding Service Industries, told Metropolitan that fraud does exist at the wedding expo.

"However, such fraud is very rare. Customers should learn to use the contract they signed at the expo to protect their rights. On the whole, this expo is an efficient platform to bring together customers and wedding service providers," Shi said.

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