Monthly Archives: March 2009

What's Walgreens afraid of? (tiny!?)

Walgreens, you’ve lost my drugstore visits!

From a customer-oriented company always thinking about making life easier and cheaper for us, Walgreens turned into a store that censors the content of your photos


(Photo by

Listen to this true story about and decide for yourself what you think about Walgreens:

November 2005 – “Birth of free passport photos online”

Like my other solid business, it all started from a real customer need unmet until them: I needed to renew my passport and send the application with 2 passport photos.As many have experienced, getting the best passport photo (and not the usual mug-shot) is not that easy. Definitely given that this photo will accompany you for 10 years.Plus it costs a hefty sum of money for a simple digital photo when you think about it!

A casual lunch break got me and a friend Tom thinking: why wouldn’t we make this whole process of passport photos totally online and for free for people (and make a dime or two if we can from advertising): digital cameras are all over the place, broadband is ubiquitous, and a good passport photo can only be achieved when you have the time to take a few shots of yourself at your own leisure – we felt there’s something here!

After plenty of brainstorming and decent amount of web coding we brought to life (back then buying a decent domain name was easy compared to today!). With zero marketing we got great positive feedback and excitement on the free offering and the way to avoid the usual passport photos rip-offs.One posting led the another: the Times Online, Popular Science, King5 Network, Lifehacker, Boing Boing, The Consumerist and are just a few of the places that spotted how transforms the passport photos industry.

We did a plain 3-step simple solution for people from around the world to create passport photos for free. And yes, we started actually making some dollars from ads and premium customers of ours.

We got an enormous satisfaction – It was really heartwarming to see people from around the world in the thousands daily using our service.It was also fun acquiring the #1 spot for passport photos terms at Google!

March 2009 – The big “W” at work

Believe it or not after more than 3 years of running this service, more than 3 million people from practically every country on earth visitedePassportPhoto – did I mention how much did we spend on marketing?

Word of mouth played a significant role and here are some of the terrific feedback we’ve been getting and is captured in the recently opened Facebook page:

In addition to the free do-it-yourself option that we provide, we launched a guaranteed premium service for official passport photos.We treated all customers as good as it gets – people love us.Really.One of the premium service options is for customers to pick their passport photos – or more precisely a 4×6″ photo print bearing their passport photos – at a Walgreens store.We thought that anyone can print what they want to Walgreens photo center – right?

Well, note x a c t l y! at some point Walgreens’ radar picked up on our so called “scam”. A few emails were sent to us saying:

We have been getting passport prints from your online service, and we DO NOT print photos that are sent to our store … Customers need to come into the store to have their passport photos taken. We do not allow customers to create their own passport pictures and print them themselves…. It would be appreciated if you would no longer endorse our photofinishing services on your website

Or another example:

Walgreens is not affiliated with this scam or company and will charge your customers a second time for the cost of the passport in store because when they are sent over the internet there is a charge due in store. We will redirect all of our customers to contact this company for any issues.

Well, I read their policy and it’s amazing to see that this goliath can forbid people from printing 4×6″ photos according to its content.In any event, we definitely didn’t want to steal their customers (although that as a matter of fact they should probably give us some referral fees for driving customers to their stores)

Not so heartwarming anymore… So, heart-shattered, I wrote an email to Walgreen saying:

1. We come in peace

2. We respect Walgreen and we want to work together with your admired great company

3. Show us the right way, how can we change ePassportPhoto to be legit

Walgreens didn’t even responded back – nothing

Guys, is there anyone home? Are you people at Walgreens looking down little people’s alley?

I’ve heard of Walgreens acting like a big company but couldn’t believe it until now. Perhaps Walgreens is a place where few short minded clerks run the show with policy papers in their hands, not respecting customers anymore.

I don’t know if it’s CVS or Walgreens for you but if you ask me – Walgreens has lost my drugstore visits.

Hope you enjoy our website

– The ePassportPhoto team