Online Camera Ripoffs Continue

Donwisscom0051[We welcome PajamasMedia visitors!]

Before you buy a camera online…please read this post

On the internet, you can’t tell that the highly-advertised camera store you are talking to is an empty storefront with a bunch of hustlers on phones.

Almost every month I get emails from someone who has been lured by low prices and a slick website into spending several thousand dollars on a grey market camera with defective parts.

The websites look terrific and the prices are unbelievable, but you may be buying your high-end camera from a place that looks like this. (From the company name, you probably thought it was somewhere in Maine!)

You will save yourself thousands of dollars and untold aggravation if you take these simple precautions:

1 Google (camera store name) plus problems or ripoffs or scams. Read all of the comments.

2 Check out this amazing collection of Brooklyn Camera Store images by Don Wiss. See if your camera store is included in the collection of images.

3 Decide whether you feel comfortable buying a $3500 camera from a rundown storefront operation. The image shown above is a current address of a major online camera store. Can you imagine calling them to complain that your camera arrived broken and had parts missing? (The sound you hear in the background is somebody snickering.)

I have been writing for more a year about the amazing scams perpetrated by the Brooklyn camera shop known as Royal Camera, City Camera, Tcscamera.com, and bananaboatcamera.com , but too many people write me AFTER they have been ripped off. I feel like I am shoveling against the tide.

I have also missed covering another up and coming scamera store by the name of Prestige Camera (aka: A&M Photo World, Regal Camera, Broadway Photo, Preferred Photo, more..] whose activities are described in some  shocking pricegrabber.com ratings.

The most unbelievable part of this situation is that Prestige Camera has been with PriceGrabber since 7/29/2005 even though their scorecard on the PriceGrabber site shows that 90% of their reviews are negative!  How does this happen?

There are so many of these fly-by-night operations popping up every month that it is hard to keep the list current. I feel that it is time to use the power of the blogosphere to spread the word faster than these businesses can proliferate.

No_cameras_2
I am considering creating a site to aggregate comments about online camera stores that bait and switch, sell grey market merchandise that has no warranty, and ship counterfeit merchandise. I will probably call it badcamerastore.com

Meanwhile, for those of you who would like to know more about the infamous Brooklyn camera stores, please read on.

Outside legal channels, camera enthusiasts have been building a case against Brooklyn dealers for years. A great hero of the movement is Don Wiss, 56, a self-described "Woodstock baby" who wears frameless glasses and flannel shirts.

From his home in Park Slope, Mr. Wiss promotes gluten-free eating and car-free transportation. For fun, he tracks addresses associated with online camera dealers, rides his Dutch Batavus bicycle (with fenders, chain casing and adjustable handlebars) to those addresses, takes photographs and posts the images on his Web site.

"I’m trying to be neutral," Mr. Wiss said, "just publicize it so people can make their own decision."

His Web page is a gallery of shuttered warehouses, mailbox stores and apartment buildings. The address, at donwiss.com/pictures/BrooklynStores/, is well known among serious camera consumers. He also has a site called Manhattan Stores which seems to contain pictures of legitimate camera stores as well as the more colorful fly-by-night operations.

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0 Responses to Online Camera Ripoffs Continue

  1. David:

    Professional photographers have longed warned each other of these scam artists through our associations (like the National Press Photographers Association) and forums.

    While working out of Washington, I dealt a lot with Penn Camera and Jeff Snyder, the pro rep there. Good service, good prices and attention to detail.

    Roberts Photo is Indianapolis is another quality dealer. So is B&H Photo in New York and Calumet Photo. All of these have built solid reputations with professional shooters and should be considered by consumers as well.

  2. Thanks for the tip.

    One thing I should have mentioned in the article was that readers should check for good suppliers with a professional photographer like Doug if they can.

    If you don’t have a pro to ask, the collective wisdom of Internet users is the best alternative. Google will find what they have said. You just have to search for the right words. Use you imagination: overcharge, grey market, card fraud, ripoff…the information is out there.

    One more thing. The ripoff artists have been writing rave reviews of their service wherever complaints accumulate. These good reviews are always anonymous and lack any convincing detail.

    Use your own good judgement. If more than 10% of the reviws are negative, look elsewhere.

  3. mr.ed says:

    Things evidently haven’t changed in the fifty years I’ve been buying photo equipment. Shame.

  4. Robert & Corinne Hartsfield says:

    Great job! Thank you for putting in alot of hard work to expose these ripoffs.

    I shop quite a bit on line and like most people I am looking for “The Deal”, especially since I do not have a lot of money.

    I have just started buying photography equipment and have been bitten by the “L” series Canon lens bug. They are very expensive so I look on ebay and Google the hell out of reviews and pricing for lens I see on ebay that I may want to purchase.

    I run accross many lens and camers advertisements during my internet romps and I see these low, low prices from companies such the comoanies that your site has mentioned.

    It is a wondeful thing to have people like you that warn us little lambs that we are about to be slaughtered. bahhhh?

    Sincerely,
    C&RH

  5. qyn says:

    this is fascinating! I bought a camera from broadwayphoto.com, only to receive an email saying I needed to phone them to confirm something with my order. I was then run through a gauntlet of upselling, which raised my suspicions. To come here and (through the photo link) be able to see the storefront this operation uses is just great! Thank you!

  6. mattbg says:

    David, I know this is an old post, but it seems like an ideal application for something like Google Street View — you can actually look at the store at the address provided without leaving your home 🙂
    —–
    PING:
    TITLE: ScamAlert: “Before you buy a camera online
    URL: http://pajamasmedia.com/2006/12/scamalert_before_you_buy_a_cam.php
    IP: 72.3.229.140
    BLOG NAME: Pajamas Media
    DATE: 12/19/2006 01:15:50 AM
    …please read this post.” (Ripples)…

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