April Rivera and Tennyson Whitted married on July 11, 2010, surrounded by family and friends when they took their vows.
But the Linden couple never imagined the “for worse” or the “for poorer” parts would come so soon, all because their wedding photos and video were not delivered by the company they hired to document the day — ThinkMedia of Orange.
“Communication went from okay to bad to now non-existent,” said April Rivera-Whitted, 28.
The couple remains empty-handed, 15 months later. Here’s what happened.
LACK OF COMMUNICATION
Tennyson Whitted, 30, knew Jesse Cerami from high school, and a mutual friend mentioned that Cerami was now in the photography business.
On March 22, 2010, the Whitteds gave a $1,000 cash deposit to Cerami, and they signed a contract for photography and video services.
On May 24, 2010, the couple gave Cerami a check for $1,750, and they paid the $975 balance in cash on the day of the wedding.
The wedding came and went, and before the end of July the couple received their photo proofs on CD as promised.
The couple admits they took a long time choosing which photos they wanted for their package.
In December 2010, the Whitteds said they gave Cerami a detailed list of the photos they wanted, the layout they wanted for the albums, and more.
“He told us when we gave him the list that printers were closed for Christmas and New Year’s, so we weren’t expecting to have anything before February 2011,” said Rivera-Whitted.
Months passed and they heard nothing. The couple said Cerami wasn’t returning texts, e-mails or phone calls, so in April, they visited the office.
Rivera-Whitted said Cerami came to the door and “acted as if he was so surprised that we hadn’t yet received everything.”
She said Cerami told them he had given the Whitteds’ information to a “business partner” who was supposed to follow up on the order, and Cerami said he’d look into it.
On May 18, Tennyson Whitted e-mailed Cerami: “If u don’t have our wedding package just be honest and tell us u don’t have it … It’s been almost a year that we’ve been married, and it hurts that we can’t sit down and look at our wedding albums or wedding video. How would u feel if u were in our shoes?”
The couple continued to contact the “business partner,” who they said they learned was not connected to the business, but was simply helping Cerami as a friend. The couple met the “partner” in late May to review their order. They said some corrections were needed, so the “business partner” arranged an in-person meeting between the couple and Cerami on June 10, 2011.
The details were discussed at that meeting, Rivera-Whitted said, and the couple followed up with an e-mail the next day. The following week Cerami e-mailed, asking for approval to the changes discussed in the meeting. The couple approved via e-mail.
A few weeks passed and the couple said Cerami didn’t respond to any further texts, e-mails or calls.
Finally, on Aug. 25, 2011, they received an e-mail from ThinkMedia, asking for their shipping address so their “items” could be sent.
They sent a response e-mail on Aug. 31, asking for specifics on what the “items” were and requesting to meet Cerami in the office so they could review the “items” before accepting them.
“We never received an e-mail response or phone call,” Rivera-Whitted said. “Tennyson reached out to Jesse via text in the beginning of September 2011, addressing our concern of Jesse taking our money for services and items it doesn’t seem like he will produce. He responded via text the same day saying he would address those comments later. Again, we didn’t hear back from him.”
On Sept. 21, Tennyson Whitted called Cerami’s cell. The number was disconnected.
“We are now in a position of basically having no way to contact Jesse,” Rivera-Whitted said.
The couple reached out to Bamboozled.
REASONS, OR EXCUSES?
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) gives ThinkMedia an “F” because the company did not respond to the one complaint filed against it in the past 12 months. The Whitteds also complained to the BBB, Rivera-Whitted said, and Cerami did not respond to the BBB’s first inquiry. He has until tomorrow to respond to the second inquiry, she said.
There’s also one complaint against the company with the Division of Consumer Affairs, but not from this couple.
After reviewing the contract and e-mail messages between the two parties, Bamboozled reached out to Cerami via e-mail. He responded with his new cell phone number.
“There’s a big miscommunication,” Cerami said. “After we did the wedding, the agreement was everything would be done by Christmas.”
But he said the couple delayed making photo choices for months — something the couple admits. Then, he said, on Sept. 29, 2010, he was in a serious accident, and he said he explained to the couple that he’d be unavailable for several months after the holidays because he’d need some medical procedures.
The couple agrees they knew Cerami had an accident, but they said they were never told it would mean delays.
“We’re not saying we don’t care. The accident was serious,” said Rivera-Whitted. “But he never once said to us there would be a gap of time.”
Cerami admitted he’d been out of touch for several months. We asked why the couple had such trouble reaching him, and why he didn’t contact these customers with his new cell phone number.
“I’m not in hiding like I’m bin Laden or something. Over wedding pictures? Please,” he said.
Cerami said the couple would have received their items long ago had they provided their mailing address. He said because he’d been out of the office with his medical issues, he thought it made more sense for the items to be sent directly to the couple. He would have fixed additional errors if they found any, he said.
The Whitteds said they never gave the shipping address because, given past errors, they didn’t want to take a chance. They wanted to check the order in person with Cerami.
“What if there are things we don’t approve and then we lose contact with him?” Rivera-Whitted said.
Finally, Cerami said that April Rivera-Whitted was the only one with complaints, and her husband was fine with everything to date.
Bamboozled had never spoken directly to Tennyson Whitted, so we made a call to be sure.
“Oh, yes,” he said. “I might be more on board than April with these complaints.”
We asked Cerami if he had the items and if he was willing to meet the couple.
He said yes, and the two parties set up an Oct. 19 meeting date.
We’ll let you know what happens.