digital photography en-US DO NOT buy a digital camera online until you read this. <p><img src="" alt="Crime" title="Crime" width="300" height="247" /><br />Wisebread readers, take note. This is not just a case of buyer beware. This is “buyer run for your life clutching your credit card close to your chest.”, one of hundreds of Brooklyn-based digital camera stores with very shoddy reputations, is out to do one thing…deceive you and take your money. In my opinion, they are performing a classic fraud called Bait And Switch (more on that later).</p> <p>So, my wife has her own photography business. I decided it was time to upgrade her camera to something rather special. A Fujifilm S5 Pro, which has an RRP of $2400. I did what I always do when searching for a new product…I went to Google Products and did a search. </p> <p><strong>THE BAIT</strong><br />Many results came back from Google Products, but I was surprised to see a result for $1089. No, that’s too cheap. It’s too good to be true, right? Well, the web page said no. A very professional site gave me the lowdown on the new camera. It said it came with a full one-year US warranty, instantly calming my fears that this was gray market (Chinese) product. They don’t carry that kind of warranty. And the deal, wow, what a deal. Not only was I promised the Fuji Camera (body only of course, she has all her own lenses) but I also was offered an MP4 player, a digital flash, full-size tripod, cleaning kit, and express shipping FREE. I patted myself on the back for getting the deal of the century, entered my payment details and sat back, smug and impressed with myself. I got my wife a great camera for half price. Sweet.</p> <p><strong>THE SWITCH</strong><br />A few minutes after placing my order, I got the email saying I had to call and confirm. No big deal, sounds professional. And that’s when the whole world came tumbling down. </p> <p>A very pushy salesman called Richard, with an accent right out of The Sopranos, answered the phone. His first job was to tell me the camera I had ordered was a Chinese model and came with nothing else but the body. “That’s what body-only means” he said smugly. “No battery, no strap, no charger, just the body…and it will take 6-8 weeks to deliver. Oh, and it only comes with a 90 day warranty. You’ll need to upgrade to the US model, I can do you a special deal on that, just $2100.” I haggled and haggled and was very confused, eventually he put the price of $1999.99 out there and before I knew what was happening, he said my new order would be on its way. </p> <p>A few seconds after I put the phone down, I felt sick. What had just happened? Was this bait ‘n’ switch? Had I just been through the oldest con in the game? I called back to immediately cancel my order. By that time, it was too late. The store had closed. I set my alarm to get up at 7.30 (9.30 NY time) to instantly call and cancel, and get a refund (you can see how badly that went in a second).</p> <p><img src="" alt="hooks" title="hooks" width="300" height="174" /></p> <p><strong>Bait And Switch. A rough guide. </strong></p> <p>Wikipedia defines Bait And Switch (BAS) as…</p> <blockquote><p>“…a form of fraud in which the fraudster lures in customers by advertising a product or service at an unprofitably low price, then reveals to potential customers that the advertised good is not available but that a substitute good is. The goal of the bait-and-switch is to convince some buyers to purchase the substitute good as a means of avoiding disappointment over not getting the bait, or as a way to recover sunk costs expended to try to obtain the bait. It suggests that the seller will not show the original product or product advertised but instead will demonstrate a more expensive product.”</p></blockquote> <p>You don’t have to be Einstein to figure out that are experts in Bait And Switch, even when the deny furiously that they are. I urge you all to <a href="">visit their website right now</a> and look at the myriad products and deals they have. Everything is well below retail, sometimes half of retail. There is no mention anywhere of Chinese models on the order page. In fact, on the whole site I found one mention. It was buried at the bottom of the help page, and read as follows….</p> <blockquote><p>BestPriceCameras carries US &amp; Non-US products. Non US products may be considerably less expensive. The product packaging may or may not include all software, accessories, and features intended for US customers. Please allow three to four weeks for delivery on some international products. USA warranty may be additional. Images and specifications are for illustrative purposes only.</p></blockquote> <p>Since my experience, and logging a complaint with the BBB, it has been reworded slightly and moved up the page. But it’s still deceptive and well-hidden from the main order pages (and now, I cant even copy &amp; paste it...they have disabled that feature, hence the screen cap below)….</p> <p><img src="" alt="small print" title="small print" width="768" height="48" /> </p> <p><strong>What does that all mean?</strong><br />Well, in either case, this one piece of verbiage is keeping from being shut down permanently. They are basically covering their butts by saying ANYTHING on the site could in fact be gray market, stripped down and not available for immediate delivery. Crooks? Fraud? Make your own mind up, but I know a scam. </p> <p><strong>My continuing customer service nightmares.</strong><br />So, back to my hell. I called the customer service department the next day, very early, and talked to someone called James. I told him that I had been railroaded into a fraudulent deal, and wanted an instant cancellation before the order leaves their warehouse. The website states a 48 hour processing time, so no problem. Well, not so. He explained that the camera was in a warehouse ready to be shipped out with over 2500 other products and they could not find it (hmm, that’s handy). I stated clearly that as I had called to cancel, I was not going to pay a restocking fee, and he agreed. He also put a note on my account saying ‘no restocking fee’ so that when I received the camera I could return it without losing any money. </p> <p><strong>Lies, lies, lies.</strong> <br />A few days later, the camera arrives. I don’t even open the box. I just call and ask for my return authorization number. And that’s when went on high alert. I was passed around from one rude salesman to another, speaking to over 11 people in all, just to get a return number (which to this date I have not received). Guess what? No note had been placed on my account. I owed them 10%, or $200, to return a product I had tried to cancel less than 24 hours after ordering it. It hadn’t even been opened. <br />I was shouted at. Verbally abused. At one point I was even questioned about why I would want to return a product, and that as a company they only make about $6 on a camera like a FUJI S5 (somehow I’m doubting that). Then, they hung up.</p> <p>I called back again and talked to another CSR. Explaining why I thought I had been victimized, I pointed out that I was well aware of the phrase body-only, and that every reputable site includes the battery, charger and so on with the body. Body-only means no lens. He was adamant, I was wrong, he was right. “But hang on, the site said 1-yr warranty” I said. “The site is wrong” he said. Hmm, good to know. </p> <p>I had another question. “Why then, if it takes 6-8 weeks to deliver, does the site offer shipping options as quickly as overnight?” I was given no answer. “And why doesn’t it state on the site that this model is Chinese?” I asked. “It does” he said, look at the help center page. Well, I have already shown you that verbiage. </p> <p>I asked another salesman if he had heard of the term Bait And Switch. “We are not bait and switch” he said, parrot-fashion. He said it several times. When I asked him what he thought Bait And Switch meant, he fell silent for a few seconds and then said “we are not bait and switch.” This guy would not have done well on a debating team. Then he hung up on me.</p> <p>I called again, a day later, still trying to get a return number. This time I was shouted for asking for the customer service rep’s name. “HOW DARE YOU ASK THAT, YOU DON’T DESERVE TO KNOW THAT” he screamed before hanging up on me. My total number of hang-ups to date…seven. This company will not talk if they are backed into a corner. </p> <p><strong>Do everything you can to protect yourself.</strong><br />Across the Internet there are hundreds of very professional sites offering amazing deals. But save yourself a lot of time, money and effort and follow these pieces of advice, which I have garnered from several newsgroups, blogs and news stories about this epidemic.</p> <p>Do a Google search for the camera store name, and most importantly, add something like scam, rippoff or problems in the search. Read every comment. <br />Visit the BBB and do a name-check. If they have an unsatisfactory record, or no record, run like the wind. Here is what the BBB says about (aka <a href="" title=""></a>, <a href="" title=""></a>, <a href="" title=""></a>, <a href="" title=""></a>, <a href="" title=""></a>, <a href="" title=""></a>, <a href="" title=""></a>, <a href="" title=""></a>) </p> <blockquote><p>Complaints to the Bureau allege that Best Price Cameras engages in high pressure sales tactics and false claims in order to intimidate consumers into buying extra items while they are placing their original order. Reports allege that these extra items are usually not compatible with the camera and consumers are not given an exact total of all items at the time of purchase. As a result, consumers are charged for warranties, batteries and other camera accessories that they did not know they were buying and that were advertised on the website as being included with the camera. Consumers report that invoices from Best Price Cameras are not itemized so it is difficult to know what consumers are being charged for and it is very difficult to obtain a refund. Consumers also detail grievances with the company such as being lied to about order status, cancelled orders without notification, purchasing and never receiving a product, being charged in excess of their original purchase without their consent, and difficulty contacting the company. </p></blockquote> <p>Check out this amazing collection of <a href="">Brooklyn Camera Store images by Don Wiss</a> . If your camera store is included in the collection of images, run screaming.</p> <p>Do not trust From what I have uncovered, this is a front for companies with bad reputations. got amazing reviews. But go to a legitimate site like <a href="">reseller ratings</a> for a true picture. As you can see, it’s appalling. </p> <blockquote><p><strong> - </strong></p> <p>0.27 out of 10 - Lifetime rating</p> <p>0.42 out of 10 – 6 month rating (wow, they’re getting better)</p> </blockquote> <p>If it’s too good to be true, IT IS. No-one is going to sell you a $2400 camera for $1200, and I feel ashamed that I fell for it. Go to reputable sites like or They have great reputations and good customer service.</p> <p>Check the blogs for Digital Camera Scams. Here’s a story I found about, and it’s way scarier than my experience. </p> <blockquote><p>They list cameras for the lowest prices out there and then after you give them all your credit card information will not sell you the camera unless you purchase inflated and unnecessary accessories to go with it,&quot; wrote Kristin of Troy, Mich.<br />&quot;When I told them I didn&#39;t want to purchase anything else, just the camera that they advertised, the representative yelled at me, spoke belligerently and told me that if I didn&#39;t buy the extra accessories he would cancel my order and charge my credit card a 20% restocking fee,&quot; Kristin said.<br />One blogger recounted the frightening experience one of his coworkers had. After refusing to purchase accessories, a representative left this message on the coworker&#39;s answering machine:<br />&quot;You better not pick up, b****. I&#39;m gonna to come down there and break your god**** neck. You heard me, alright? Kid, you better hear me, b****. Do you hear me, b****? Yes, you&#39;d better believe it. You&#39;re in big trouble, my friend.&quot; </p></blockquote> <p>And if you haven’t had enough punishment yet, try these links for yet more stories and complaints about Bottom line…they will lure you in with a great deal, then try and take you for as much as they can. You have been warned folks. </p> <p><a href=""></a> </p> <p><a href=""></a> </p> <p><a href=""></a> </p> <p><a href=""></a> </p> <p><a href=";page=2">;page=2</a> </p> <p><strong>And...the status of my camera horror story…</strong><br />As you can imagine, I gave up calling They either verbally abuse you, transfer you to someone else, or hang up. So, I have filed a complaint with the <a href="">BBB</a> and the <a href="">Internet Crime Complaint Center</a> . I also called my credit card company to dispute the charges. I will let you know how it goes. </p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="">Paul Michael</a> of <a href="">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">The Key to Free</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">What to Do When You Suspect a Scam</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">How to Spot a Credit Repair Scam</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">10 Types of Bargains You Should Skip</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">9 Signs Your Identity Was Stolen</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Shopping Bait And Hook Bait And Switch BBB crime digital cameras digital photography fraud ripoffs scams Wed, 23 May 2007 18:39:00 +0000 Paul Michael 674 at The Photographer's Dilemma: Quintessential Tips for Frugal Photography <p><img src="" alt="Lens" title="Lens" width="240" height="360" /> </p> <p>Digital photography is like a virus that is slowly overtaking my friends. Seriously. One person in my group of friends got a digital camera. He took some pictures and shared them with his friends. Everyone oo-ed and ah-ed over them, and then realized that they&#39;d like to have some pictures of their own. They got themselves a camera (or a whole set-up) and began snapping photos. Some became seriously interested, and found themselves buying all sorts of gear (flashes, lenses, filters, tripods, bags, etc.). Several thousand dollars later, they can take any picture they want. And the people around them (like yours truly!) now want to take this newer, even-better sort of picture, too. But many of us don&#39;t want to spend the money it can take to get quality equipment. Here are some questions we&#39;ve asked ourselves and some ways we&#39;ve coped. </p> <!--break--><!--break--><p><strong>Do you really want to go digital?</strong></p> <p>Film SLRs that used to run $500-$700 new are now less than $100 on eBay. These are often in good condition with minimal use, but the owner wants to sell so he can go digital. And, many places that develop film (like Costco) will develop to negative and then scan the pictures to CD or DVD for a price similar to deveoping to pictures, so you can still have your photos on your computer. Also, if you get into it and want to do your own developing or find some obscure old equipment, places like <a href="" title="Froog Photog">Frugal Photographer</a> offer a great selection at fabulous prices. The downside? You have to pay for film and processing, and you don&#39;t get to see your pictures before you take them. But if those don&#39;t deter you, film is still a good way to get a quality camera and quality pictures for much less.</p> <p><strong>Links for frugal film photography</strong></p> <p><a href="" title="Photog prints">Tips for Saving Money on Prints</a></p> <p><a href="" title="tune up">Tuning up your own camera</a>-If you scroll down, he also talks about why you might choose to shoot film. </p> <p><strong>Do you really need an SLR?</strong></p> <p>They&#39;re big and pretty, with nice features. But if you won&#39;t use the features or aren&#39;t sure how deep you want to invest yourself in digital photography, a point-and-shoot is still the way to go. Pages like <a href="" title="Amazon list">this one</a> give some examples of quality point-and-shoot cameras, and tell you how to learn to use them. Sure, if you decide to be serious, you&#39;ll have to upgrade. But you can milk your little camera for all it&#39;s worth before you do. And if you don&#39;t get serious? You can still take good pictures of the kids for the Christmas card.</p> <p><strong>So you want to go all the way!</strong></p> <p>1. Do your research. For instance, the big camera companies (right now for digital SLRs it&#39;s Canon and Nikon) update their equipment every year or so, but the updates often aren&#39;t worth the hefty price-raise. Instead, wait until they come out with a new model and watch the prices fall on the older ones. Canon even <a href="" title="Old Canon Rebate">tends to offer rebates</a> on the old models when the new ones come out, to help sell them off. Online forums are a great place to find these sorts of insider tips.</p> <p>2. Make what you can on your own. <a href="" title="Sandro&#39;s Chaos">Sandro</a> offers a smorgasboard of links for making some of the more obscure equipment on your own. Some of the projects seem to require more than an average knowledge of things like electronics, but all of these projects are probably do-able with a little study.</p> <p>3. Learn for free. <a href="" title="Strobist">Strobist</a> , for instance, offers <a href="" title="Lighting 101">Lighting 101</a> , lessons on using light well in your pictures. <a href="" title="DPS">Digital Photography School </a> offers insights on all aspects of photography, with recent entries on fast lenses, cropping, and cameras for children. And these are only the most popular places to learn about photography for free. There&#39;s no need to take a class when you can learn for free on the &#39;net!</p> <p>4. Get some advice. <a href="" title="More Strobist">Here</a> is an off-camera light kit that won&#39;t kill your bank account. <a href=";pf_rd_s=sylt-center&amp;pf_rd_r=1XGBR3WRHBMNF6KMZEZ9&amp;pf_rd_t=201&amp;pf_rd_p=253464101&amp;pf_rd_i=B0007QKMQY" title="Canon kit">Here</a> are recommendations for a solid Canon kit. And <a href="" title="DPR">these guys</a> have reviewed just about everything there is to review in digital phogtography. As a last resort, enter the name of the product you&#39;re considering as a Google search with the word &quot;reviews&quot; and you should find something.</p> <p>5. Consider selling your best photos. <a href="" title="Get Rich Slowly">JD&#39;s</a> <a href="" title="Get Rich Slowly"> guest Mike Panic</a> already said it, so I don&#39;t have to. The link is a guide and some considerations to selling your pictures as stock photos. He has a lot more to say (and most of it is sound advice) at <a href="" title="Mike Panic">his own site</a>.</p> <p>6. And last but not least, if you&#39;ve been dying to get some good pictures of fish, <a href="" title="Shooting fish...with a camera">this</a> appears to be the page for you (WTF!?). </p> <p>Other Helpful Links</p> <p><a href="" title="The Frugal Photographyer">The Frugal Photographer</a> </p> <p><a href="" title="Digital Camera Savings">Digital Camera Savings?</a> </p> <p>(Photo by <a href="" title="SSH">ssh</a>)</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="">Sarah Winfrey</a> of <a href="">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-3"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">17 More Places to Buy, Sell, and Trade Books</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">14 Gift Ideas for the Truly Broke</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Earn Extra Income With Your Smartphone Camera</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">28 Ways to Have Cheap Halloween Fun</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="">Magazines for Free or Cheap</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Shopping Art and Leisure digital photography frugal photography photographer photography photos Mon, 23 Apr 2007 21:33:51 +0000 Sarah Winfrey 547 at