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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.
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.