(this was originally part of this post on ExposedPlanet.com photoblog)
Here is an older post, but with some helpful Online Shopping tips, that might help other photographers.
When looking for availability on the new and long anticipated Canon Eos 5D, Mark II (or mk ii, mk2, mark2 etc), which had a MSRP of $2700, I noticed some very good deals, even up to 35% lower than the suggested retail pricing at a shop called Shop Digital Direct. It even came up on some of the price comparisons sites!.
I know that some retailers make a lot of money and some smaller companies that do not send out huge brochures, import their own stuff and can be able to deliver electronics considerably cheaper. Still the first thing I did was to check this store, called Shop Digital Direct, on the great website Resellerratings.com.
The company that offered the great deal had gotten an average of 0.55 consumer rating, out of a maximum of 10! If you browse through the reports of past, scammed clients here, it appears that everybody who buys things here get scammed, usually using one of the following methods:
Usual Scam Methods of online photography shops
– Bait and switch: they promise a cheap product, but you have to order online and then call to confirm. On the phone, they tell you that you will need to buy the battery, manual, battery charger, lenscap software separately, usually for up to 5 times the regular price (and the items should have been included in the price anyway). They will create stories about how the lens or battery is not top quality and you need to ‘upgrade’. if you do not want any of the items they force on you, your ‘in stock’ order suddenly is on backorder and can stay so for weeks… if you do get pressured in, you will suddenly pay $4000 for a $2700 camera with all that is already included.
– Credit Card fraud: They will actually charge you even more than agreed, even after the ‘upselling’ as per above. Always check your credit card statements, as basiscally you give them unlimited charges on your card. Many clients of these stores also have rported that suddenly their CC was abused, so likely these criminals simply sell your credit card details to other hoodlums.
– Restocking, shipping and insurance fees: Before you actua;ly get anything (if you ever get anything), you will be charged ridiculous shipping and insurance fees, while it still takes weeks to get your -uninsured- camera. Whether you get the ‘full package’ or the basic offer, you will be 100% dissatisfied, as they never ship out what they promise, add crappy tripods, 3rd party lenses etc. So you try to call and send it back. By then your Credit Card is already charged and they will tell you that they will charge 20% restocking fee if you send things back.
Bottomline: only buy online from reputable online shops, like Adorama, Pictureline, B&H, Abes of Maine, Pictureline. Even when not in doubt, check their rating at the website Resellerratings.com.
Some important notes:
Note 1: Be aware that though Amazon is a great shop, some of its ‘3rd party sellers’ are outside their control and might be scammers. Same is true for genuine price comparison sites that might show you criminal sites as the cheapest, all is automated, so always check the site out before you buy.
Note 2: I am not in any way affiliated with Resellerratings.com, but think it is very important they exist. Check out the list of worst companies, many of them from New York , many of them the same criminals, acting under different names:
The most famous ‘shop’ acts under different names: Broadway Photo / A&M Photo World, Regal Camera, Prestige Camera, Preferred Photo, Royal Camera, more (Homepage: http://www.bwayphoto.com/). Others include but are not limited to Broadway Photo / A&M Photo World, Regal Camera, Prestige Camera, Preferred Photo, Royal Camera, Express Cameras / expresscamera.com / Save Here Distribution, Best Price Cameras (enterprisephoto.com, infinitiphoto.com, jandkcameras.com), USA Photo Nation (RadioActiveDeals, expecam.com, RainbowTronics). Buyaib.com (aka ALPHA INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS, INC.
Accubyte, ATXcases.com (aka Colorcases.com), Stargate Photo / WawaDigital / The Camera Wiz, Royal Camera / A&M Photo World, CCI Camera City (also: tcscamera.com, thecamerasource.com, bananaboatcamera.com).
Note 3: Many of these will stop using a name that has been exposed by resellerratings. Then they will change the look of the website, get a new catchy URL and continue scamming. if you do not find any reviews on resellerratings, Google the shop in question: search for ‘(Storename) scam’ or ‘(Storename) bait & switch’ and you might find out more.
Note 4: even positive reviews are very often left by the scammers themselves, so still use common sense if you see a $1000 camera being offered fr $250…
Note 5: if you still cannot find anything about the store, do yourself a favour, shop at a well-known store, or even better: support your local camera store, where you get personalized advice and can complain in person if anything is wrong.
Happy shopping & shooting