By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
If angry brides in Miami were to suddenly sprout fangs and stomp north like a mob of fuming Sasquatches, there's one business that just might scream and run.
In the past two years, Fort Lauderdale-based Total Focus Professional Photography and Video — which banks on wedding DVDs — has provoked more newlywed outrage than any other South Florida business of its kind, according to ComplaintsBoard.com. On the website and similar online forums, more than 25 guys and gals have complained the company is guilty of everything from hiring pervy photographers to breaking contracts. Witness a sample:
Laura: "I would not recommend them to Satan."
Shana: "Scam artists! I felt like I was a contestant on Let's Make a Deal."
Ashley: "Are they kidding?!"
Asked by Riptide about the business, Michael Handler, a teacher from Plantation, says, "It's a joke. Whatever contract you sign means nothing." He explains that the same interview with his dad appeared twice back-to-back on a wedding video, which was dated two years before he got hitched and cost more than $1,000.
Total Focus — which is located on West Oakland Park Boulevard — was originally named Photovideo Network, state records show. Thirteen complaints against the firm have been filed with the Better Business Bureau in the past three years. There are no lawsuits listed in Miami-Dade or Broward County civil courts.
Manager Jim Peters contends Total Focus has satisfied thousands of customers. The employees do their best to make customers happy. "In some cases, we have six-month relationships with clients," he says. "It's possible they have forgotten what's in the original contract."
Crista Stefanick is a slender, pretty 29-year-old who sounds more like a breezy kindergarten teacher than an angry bride. Still, the Miami Shores native claims the firm recently tossed aside her contract and held her wedding memories hostage. This past March, she and her fiancé had a church wedding. They had booked a horse and carriage, chartered a boat, and found Total Focus online. The couple had agreed to pay about $1,600 for a video package but then heard nothing from the videographer until 15 minutes before the ceremony.
Then, three weeks ago, Stefanick went to pick up the video. A Total Focus representative told her if she wanted more than one copy of her wedding DVD, she'd have to fork over $199 for another one. It had been specially treated to prohibit duplication. And by the way, some simple editing would run an extra $2,000.
When she finally viewed the costly video, it was blurry and amateurish. "I was like, really?" she remembers. "I don't want other people to get screwed like this."