BISMARCK — The announcement that a Bismarck-based wedding photography studio would shutter without refunds has prompted hundreds of customers to assemble against the business on social media and spurred an investigation by the North Dakota Attorney General's Office.
Glasser Images informed customers in an email at 7:24 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7, that it would be closing its doors due to economic hardships during the pandemic, and that it would not be able to return deposits to customers who had already paid.
"Due to closing, if there is anything paid, we will not be able to provide any refunds. For this, we cannot apologize enough," the studio's founder, Jack Glasser, wrote in the email.
Parrell Grossman, a lawyer with the consumer and antitrust division of the attorney general's office, said the state had received at least 50 complaints about Glasser Image's abrupt closure since Thursday's announcement, prompting the state to open an investigation into potential violations of consumer fraud protections.
Grossman noted that the attorney general's office does not investigate every business closure but said that in this case there were enough complaints and specific factors to warrant closer scrutiny. Some of the complaints likely deal in down payments worth thousands of dollars, including one complaint Grossman cited that alleged Glasser accepted a $5,000 deposit in October, just days before shutting down.
Glasser did not immediately respond to a voicemail left for comment for this story. Jon Sanstead, a Bismarck attorney referenced in Glasser's closure announcement, said in an email that he is no longer representing the business due to a conflict discovered the night before. He said he was not aware of who would be representing Glasser going forward.
A search of a U.S. Small Business Administration database shows that Glasser Images received two loans totaling more than $500,000 through the federal Paycheck Protection Program, a government initiative aimed at supporting struggling businesses during the pandemic.
A Facebook group, originally titled "GlasserImagesSucks" and renamed "GlasserImagesGroup," formed Thursday with the stated purpose of determining legal action against the business. The group quickly garnered more than 1,000 followers.
V Keagan McGarvey, a 25 year-old in Minnesota who posted on the Facebook group, said in an interview that she and her fiancé paid the company around $3,000 back in May to shoot their upcoming wedding, accepting a discount in exchange for paying the full cost up front.
"The fact that we trusted this company to do this is really devastating," she said. "We're already kind of struggling because we want the day to be really special."
On Facebook, McGarvey shared an email from Glasser dated to Sept. 25 advertising discounts on bookings for wedding videos.
One commenter responded that she accepted a discount to pay the company in full on Wednesday, Oct. 6, one day before the announced closure.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Adam Willis, a Report for America corps member, at email@example.com.