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Consumer Strikes Back at Crooked Online Retailer 659

Posted by samzenpus
from the spend-wisely dept.
BigBadLad writes "Seems like customers are at a huge disadvantage when dealing with dishonest retailers. This is the story of a man who had a horrible experience with an online camera retailer. In short he was lied to, yelled at, and threatened to be sued if he posted the experience on his blog. He was also persuaded to sign an agreement that would allow the retailer to charge him an extra $100 if he left bad feedback."
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Consumer Strikes Back at Crooked Online Retailer

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  • Summary is WRONG (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 01, 2005 @03:02AM (#14154696)
    Except that he didn't sign the agreement to pay $100 if he posted unkind reviews. That was taken from another review which he cited.

    Get it right, or pay the price.
  • by Bananatree3 (872975) * on Thursday December 01, 2005 @03:02AM (#14154697)

    The offending camera "dealer" site is: Priceritephoto.com [priceritephoto.com]



    According to an update on his blog site, he has since reported this charlatan to the New York State Attourney General's Office. Also, apperently Price Rite Photo was listed on PriceGrabber, but has since been delisted.


    • And phone number.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by SillySnake (727102) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @03:30AM (#14154834)
      If you have any questions, you might just give them a call, toll free at:
      888-365-4300
    • by mollog (841386) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @07:16AM (#14155516)
      I don't buy from NYC area sellers. I include New Jersey, Rockland County, and Long Island in that zone. In fact, if I can't get it from somewhere on the left coast, I generally won't buy. FYI, I was raised in Queens.
  • by tommers (893816) * on Thursday December 01, 2005 @03:03AM (#14154700)
    My mom had the same experience. She placed a $800 camera order and was called that day to "confirm her address", at which point they proceeded to try and sell her a $150 warranty and other expensive accessories. Once she refused, they suddenly informed her the product was out of stock, but they later said they could get it to her by Friday if she paid for a $150 warranty. She tried to cancel and they said there would be a $40 restocking fee (for restocking the product they didn't have). They also got caught in their own lies at numerous points. The first representative said it was his first day, and then later he said he had lied before and that he was there for six years (the BBB documents this company as being three years old). They threatened her with their possession of her credit card and made nonsensical threats to trace down any bad review she or any of her family or friends made, which they could somehow magically do since they "had all the IP addresses of the computer in her household". The people she talked to at this company said their names were: Harvey Finkel and Moses Franco, though this was probably made up. Their email tells the user to leave a five star review at shopping sites using the following link: http://www.priceritephoto.com/priceritephoto/offer .htm [priceritephoto.com] and the text below: **Please do NOT mention this in the review, we do not offer this to all our customers. **Please do NOT mention my name or the fact that we asked to write a review the websites will not post it. This will also make you eligible for FREE shipping on any accessory purchases in the future.
    • by Seumas (6865) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @03:10AM (#14154730)
      My mom had the same experience. She placed a $800 camera order and was called that day to "confirm her address", at which point they proceeded to try and sell her a $150 warranty and other expensive accessories. Once she refused, they suddenly informed her the product was out of stock, but they later said they could get it to her by Friday if she paid for a $150 warranty.

      What's unusual about that? You have to be the most ass backward consumer to fall for any of that and not just walk the other way immediately. And if you think the above is very unusual, you've probably never done any of the following before:

      + Shopped for a camera online in a non Amazon.com style place.
      + Shopped at Best-Buy
      + Shopped at Circuit-City
      + Shopped at Office Max
      + Shopped at Staples

      Common sense would tell you to do the following:

      + Cancel the order.
      + Contact VISA (or Mastercard, etc) to prevent a charge or reverse any charges.

      It's just part of doing business online. It's simple and credit card companies make it a fairly painless - one page long - process.
      • by Brandybuck (704397) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @03:28AM (#14154824) Homepage Journal
        What's unusual about that?

        It's unusual because its, well, unusual. As in rare. I've been in retail business myself, and while this kind of behavior occurs, it doesn't happen at big firms like those you mentioned. That's because no business can get to that size with that attitude. Customers don't keep quiet about their bad experiences, they tell everyone they know.

        I've never had any experience like this with any of the firms you name. A firm WILL try to sell you a warranty, but they won't pull an illegal bait-n-switch like what was described, since most businessmen don't like getting thrown in jail.
      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @04:11AM (#14154976)
        I dunno where you live, but I've shopped at all the listed retailers there and none act like that. For one, there's no stock games since it's an actual store. I get an item on the shelf and actually carry it to the front, there's no question on stock. Declining additonal warantee protection does nothing to affect the sale. I ALWAYS decline that, and they are still happy to take my money.
    • by DMNT (754837) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @04:51AM (#14155112)
      http://www.resellerratings.com/seller8613.html [resellerratings.com]

      Customer Satisfaction
      Six-Month Rating: 4.39

      Average Store: 7.23

      Seems like they are selling the product only if you buy overpriced accessories with them. This is very usual thing to do if you start to read the stories of customers that have bought stuff from the lowest scoring stores.
    • by D-Cypell (446534) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @09:20AM (#14155951)
      I cannot stress this enough...

      When buying products online, use a credit card, not a debit card. If the merchant acts in the way you described, dont argue with them. Wait a few days to see if you have been charged by them and if you have call you card issuing bank and explain the situation clearly to them and ask for them to peform a charge back on the transaction. You may need to sign and return some legal documents stating that you consider the charge to be illigitimate (this is designed to implicate folks who do this after receiving the goods without problem).

      The credit card company will return the money to your card and the merchant will receive a letter from their bank informing them that the money has been removed from their account. If this happens many times on the same merchant account the merchant bank will close the account and the merchant will be unable to open another account. This will effectively put them out of business.

      Issuing a charge back is a simple process (I have done it many times) and will hurt the retailer far more than shouting at them down the phone.
  • by tommers (893816) * on Thursday December 01, 2005 @03:07AM (#14154720)
    Since it seems from many of the comments on the blog that this sort of thing is common, I wonder how the swindler's behind this store can be shut down instead of just shutting down the store? Even though it may seem satisfying to finally get this store put out of business, its frustrating to know that these crooks will probably leave the business having made a lot of money preying off consumers and may just move onto another business. Has anyone been able to obtain any info on whose behind this and how we can pursue legal action against them, instead of just pursuing their pathetic crooked stores?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 01, 2005 @03:15AM (#14154757)
    Did he hit them with CAPS LOCK or sumthin'?
  • More examples (Score:5, Informative)

    by mpaulsen (240157) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @03:18AM (#14154771) Journal
    Others report similar experiences with PriceRitePhoto at resellerratings: http://www.resellerratings.com/seller8613.html [resellerratings.com]
  • Wow, that's a shockingly bad story. I've had bad experiences with some web retailers before, but it didn't compare to that!

    With shopping search engines placing the focus directly on price, and the ease at which you can set up an online store, it probably invites people like this to set up low quality operations where they cut costs by doing things like not having stock.

    I agree you should target the people behind such sites rather than the sites themselves, as it's too easy for them to just set up a new site
  • That's angering... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 01, 2005 @03:22AM (#14154800)
    I read that and I really feel for the guy and everyone else who ends up in that situation. I've had problems myself with online sellers.

    I also shut down my own online store due to what appeared to be an organized plot against one my stores. I'm not a tinfoil hat type, so hear me out... I operate 4 online stores, doing the drop ship thing. It was 5, but one business I opened seem to go up in flames once I started getting page ranks. How? I began getting orders from customers who demanded overnight shipping and immediate confirmation of overnight shipping. As my stores clearly state we do not have a phone number and that we do not offer overnight shipping on anything, this really was bizzarre. They would complain within hours of placing the orders.

    Shortly, we recieved complaints from the better business beaureu from these customers who had NEVER BEEN CHARGED, and the complaints contained completely blown out of proportion accounts of what happened. Including accusations that we swore at them on the phone(which is a neat trick since we don't operate a phone number), gave them false tracking numbers, etc... We later found out it wasn't just BBB reports, it was also showing up in online message boards where our target market resided, as well as online consumer complaint websites.

    I just shut the store down entirely because I didn't want to deal with it. What convinces me this was a plot is simply that none of this crap has happened to my other stores. I've operated them just fine, with very few complaints. But in this one sector, I suspect there is some business out there who didn't like my growing page ranks or my feedback ratings. And it just started out of the blue, shortly after we began getting high placements in google, yahoo, and MSN.

    Anyone else here experience that? Just wondering.
    • by centipetalforce (793178) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @04:12AM (#14154981)
      I've run a few online sites, and although I haven't experienced anything like that I can tell you that the quality of your customers (as well as morals of competitors) depend ENTIRELY on your market. For example my gift site has never had a fraudulent order placed even though we sell high end decor, and most of the customers are reasonable and nice. My stock footage website has even more understanding and smart clients. But I did a "budget" web design thing a year or so back and I'll tell you that whenever you go for the cheapest customer or client you WILL run into trouble with people who are overdemanding and sometimes simply crazy.
      As far as competitors plots go, stay far away from pron and other "discount" markets, and/or price wars. Because unless you are at the top of the chain and can afford other people to do the work for you it ain't worth it. Go for big spenders and be an honest merchant.
    • by Kjella (173770) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @04:12AM (#14154983) Homepage
      How? I began getting orders from customers who demanded overnight shipping and immediate confirmation of overnight shipping. As my stores clearly state we do not have a phone number and that we do not offer overnight shipping on anything, this really was bizzarre. They would complain within hours of placing the orders.

      Shortly, we recieved complaints from the better business beaureu from these customers who had NEVER BEEN CHARGED, and the complaints contained completely blown out of proportion accounts of what happened. Including accusations that we swore at them on the phone(which is a neat trick since we don't operate a phone number), gave them false tracking numbers, etc... We later found out it wasn't just BBB reports, it was also showing up in online message boards where our target market resided, as well as online consumer complaint websites.


      Assuming the credit card details and such of these orders were valid, it couldn't really have been a big job to find out who was behind this. I mean, I know of many cases where people have been filling up message boards and consumer complaint websites with bullshit, but it has always been out of thin air. If you had real names, real people to go after I would. A few well-placed legal letters from a lawyer about a slander lawsuit would quickly have people pointing at the real culprit. And assuming it did over $5000 of damage (doesn't take much), send the FBI on their case.
  • by MLopat (848735) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @03:25AM (#14154807) Homepage
    From the PriceRitePhoto [priceritephoto.com] website... "What are the benefits of registration? As a registered customer, you become entitled to special discount schemes and promotional pricing offers. These schemes would become available to you not only on orders you place at our web store but also to orders through other channels."
    • Well, there's non-negative feedback and there's non-negative feedback. I remember back during the Internet boom a recruiter called me to check out a reference for somebody who'd been posting on a publicly archived cryptography mailing list I was also on that he said had a [begin sarcastic voice]Really Amazing [/sarc] resume, and I replied that it certainly sounded [sarc]Quite InnnnCredible [/sarc] to me, and after one or two more sentences back and forth about how somebody that young had so many years of
  • Well Known Scam (Score:5, Informative)

    by nick_davison (217681) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @03:33AM (#14154848)
    New York and New Jersey camera stores are famous for this. The general scam runs something like this:

    1) Advertise an incredibly low price that gets people's interest.

    2) Take their credit card order, telling them the item's in stock.

    3) Within a couple of days, phone the customer to ask them if they want to buy the accessories pack. This usually includes most of the things that were in the box to start with - like the charger, kit lens, etc. These cost several hundred more, making the camera more expensive than it would have been via a reputable dealer.

    4) If they refuse, try berating them.

    5) If they still refuse, announce that the model is out of stock - even though it was confirmed in stock when they ordered.

    6) Wait for them to either give in and take the terrible deal or, if they do finally cancel on you, charge a 15% restocking fee for the camera you never took off the shelf. Either way, you sit on the money from their credit card for the whole period.

    It's a pretty simple rule in the camera community: If the deal's too good to be true, it is.

    You can use online reputation sites but they can be rigged. The store keeps sale details and then enters their own perfect feedback for any that don't get consumed.

    Personally, I limit to the following:

    B&H, Adorama: Both very reputable stores. Some people have minor issues but they do genuinely work hard. You can pretty much use them as baseline prices - if it costs more, you're paying too much, if it costs less, it's likely a scam.

    Best Buy, Circuit City, etc. By using major retailers, whilst you won't get a great deal initially, you can often find a 10% sale for reward card members, 5% back in vouchers on the sale (which buys memory cards etc). and so on. Be careful of open boxes here. It's not unheard of for say a Canon 20D to be bought and then a Digital Rebel to be returned in the box.

    Dell - Crazy as it may sound, they do have some great deals. The trick is to use sites like DealMeIn or HotDealsClub to find out when they have a great sale on.

    NewEgg - even with an employee discount from working for one of the major manufacturers, NewEgg was within $20, had free shipping, and got it to me fast - which turned out far better than getting it with my discount.
    • Re:Well Known Scam (Score:3, Informative)

      by David Off (101038)
      Sounds like my recent experience with Amazon. They have taken from mid-August to December to fulfill a camera order. They seem to operate on:

      1. advertise low price to attract customers + they have a good reputation
      2. see if they can obtain cameras and get a great price based on the huge number of orders
      3. cancel order or suggest different camera if they can't fulfill
      4. repeat
      5. Profits!!!!

      In fairness to Amazon I spoke to a customer representative a few times from Amazon who explained that unless they had 24
      • Nothing like Amazon (Score:5, Informative)

        by MushMouth (5650) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @05:41AM (#14155258) Homepage
        Sorry, but amazon doesn't try to sell you overprice accessories, nor do they threaten to charge a "restocking fee" for items they will never ship if you cancel, plus they don't charge your credit card until they ship your item. That said, they do seem to have issues with properly estimating the the availability for anything that they don't have in stock, and I have repeatedly houded they customer service about this (the number is something like 800-750-7575 [slate.com prints it every year])
    • Re:Well Known Scam (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jcr (53032) <.jcr. .at. .mac.com.> on Thursday December 01, 2005 @05:45AM (#14155265) Journal
      It's not just camera dealers. This kind of crap has been going on with many mail-order vendors for many years, and they've gotten away with it before largely because of the shortage of law enforcement manpower to follow up on the complaints, especially when they were shedding names on a regular basis.

      What's new about this situation, is that the internet has made it possible to bring another, very powerful enforcement mechanism to bear, and that is easily-available customer feedback. Not every mark is going to have seen the slashdot story, and not every online-reseller scumbag is going to get this kind of exposure, but it's so easy to just type the name of the business and the word "crook" into google and see what comes up.

      This actually works to the benefit of honest dealers of any size. I bought a TV a couple of months ago from a company back east that I'd never heard of, and I was willing to do so because I googled them and they came up clean.

      -jcr

  • Even Better! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by binaryspiral (784263) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @03:34AM (#14154850)
    One of the many "badges of honor" on PriceRitePhoto.com's website is a PriceRunner award.

    http://www.pricerunner.com/retailer/14312/reviews [pricerunner.com]

    Look through the list, and you can see 70% of the 5 star ratings are almost cut and pasted identical. Spelling errors matched post for post. It's so blatant that the review page has been put on hold while they verify the reviews. No doubt PriceRitePhoto trying to water down the negative feedback to protect their images.

    Look for I purchased a Panasonic AG-DVC60 W/Pro Accessory Kit. I was very pleased with there selection of accessories in this kit, I believe I got the best Value for my buck. Also unlike most other internet ordering sites like this I found it very easy to talk to the sales and custumer service people. There was short waiting times on the phone as well as people who were easy to understand and willing to help me with my order from selection to delivery. I would recomend checking out PriceRitePhoto.com before making your next purchace.

    Losers, how low can you go? Apparently PRP found an express elevator to ultimate lameness.
  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @03:35AM (#14154855) Homepage
    Here's what the business actually looks like. [donwiss.com] This is from the web site of someone who has been photographing the storefronts of mail order photo dealers in Brooklyn. The results are very funny. Some are mail drops. Some are bogus addresses. Some are homes. Some are tiny stores selling something else. Only one is a huge warehouse with loading docks.
  • Storefront Photos (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Derling Whirvish (636322) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @03:35AM (#14154856) Journal
    It's a bit dated, but Don Wiss [donwiss.com] has documented the storefronts of most of the Brooklyn [donwiss.com] and Manhattan [donwiss.com] photo gear dealers. Some I would obviously never [donwiss.com] buy [donwiss.com] from [donwiss.com]. Others are just fine [donwiss.com]. A picture is worth a thousand words.
    • Due to internet sales, I've dealt with some very reputable companies that had either no storefront or very small, sometimes shoddy-looking storefronts. Less overhead since their sales are mainly online.

      Do some research especially in forums. While some ratings sites get rigged by the stores, a simple question in a forum will bring response from customers that you can ask questions of. If a crooked store answers on the forum, you generally get a few quick bad responses right after them like where's my money?.
    • Re:Storefront Photos (Score:3, Informative)

      by Oscar_Wilde (170568)
      Don Wiss has some photos of PriceRitePhoto.com's location [donwiss.com] (as well as some of related companies).
  • by jedrek (79264) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @03:38AM (#14154871) Homepage
    When I first heard about this yesterday, I was surprised. The victim in this tale is a fan (or employee? dunno) of flickr, one of the hottest social network web apps around at the moment. Yet when buying a camera, he didn't take advantage of them at all.

    Look around any photography forum, every time a questions like, "hey, I just saw this camera at an incredible price at this store, is this a good deal?" people always reply with "check out resellerratings.com [resellerratings.com]. How someone so technically and netsocially (for lack of a better term) savvy didn't ask around about this new store they were about to send $3k to is a mystery to me. Heck, a simple google search would've revealed problems.

    There are so many tools out there to verify good sellers/companies to do business with. Why do you think B&H [bhphotovideo.com] has so much business, even though its prices aren't rock bottom? They win on service and reliability, again and again. Of course, they're not perfect, but they've never failed me, and 'horror stories' with them are few and far between - especially compared to the volume they do.

    Speaking of trust systems: I've had excellent results with ebay - buying from reputable sellers. There are quite a few chinese/hong kong sellers on there with 10-50k transactions and 1-10 negative feedbacks. I don't know *any* brick and mortar stores with those kinds of numbers.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 01, 2005 @03:39AM (#14154875)
    this link will load pics from pricerite infinitely!!! that will show 'em! http://electronicchaos.com/pricewrongphoto.html [electronicchaos.com] http://electronicchaos.com/pricewrongphoto.html [electronicchaos.com]
    • Immature!!! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by 3770 (560838) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @02:56PM (#14159268) Homepage
      While Pricerite seems to be grade A jerks it is immature to try to DOS their website.

      Complaints should go through normal channels. A few comments up there was a guy with the opposite perspective. He had an online store and was blown out of the water by a "conspiracy" that likely was due to the competition not liking him. He seemed like a nice guy.

      So, what guarantee do you have that Pricerite aren't good guys and all the testimonials you have read are fictious? You would only need maybe 10 fictitious online identities to achieve this.

      I think Pricerite probably deserve getting shafted. But not this way!

      Sheesh...
  • by dirtsurfer (595452) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @03:39AM (#14154878) Journal
    This is apparently very common behavior for camera and electronics shops in Brooklyn. It's so widespread that some guy actually went around and took pictures of the actual physical storefronts for all of these online shops.

    Very classy establishments, all.

    http://donwiss.com/pictures/BrooklynStores/ [donwiss.com]
  • skype them! (Score:5, Informative)

    by nemik (909434) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @03:40AM (#14154885) Homepage
    make sure to call priceritephoto and voice your displeasure, 888-365-4300. skype allows free calling to toll-free numbers. ;) slashdotting a phone number anyone?
  • $100 for chargebacks (Score:5, Informative)

    by gbulmash (688770) * <semi_famous@yahooBLUE.com minus berry> on Thursday December 01, 2005 @03:48AM (#14154901) Homepage Journal
    I've seen at least one retailer/service that charges you a $100 fee if you initiate a chargeback (challenge/cancel the charge) with your credit card company. They say this is because of the extra labor to fight your chargeback and that you have to deal with them to get refunds.

    Personally, I look at the T&C of any retailer I make a large purchase from. That's how I spotted the $100 fee for the chargeback.

    Essentially, gotchas like that are a clear sign not to do business with someone. If they're that worried about chargebacks or bad feedback that they try to penalize you for either in the T&C or EULA, run far away.

    • by jcr (53032) <.jcr. .at. .mac.com.> on Thursday December 01, 2005 @06:14AM (#14155345) Journal
      I've seen at least one retailer/service that charges you a $100 fee if you initiate a chargeback (challenge/cancel the charge) with your credit card company.

      Report them to the credit card company. That's a violation of their merchant account agreement.

      BTW, I know a woman in Boston who used to work in compliance for a credit card company. Her car was towed (for service, not an impound), and when she went to pick it up, she tried to pay for the towing on her Visa card. They told her that they'd only take cash. She pointed out that they were displaying the Visa logo in their office, and quoted chapter and verse from the standard contract, which requires them to take Visa for payment if they have a merchant account. They still refused, so she paid them in cash, then drove to her office, then called their bank and got their VISA merchant account cancelled.

      -jcr

      • I did the same thing (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Gruneun (261463)
        I know credit card charges can be a drain on small businesses, expecially for small transactions, but I was pissed. The local pizza place's minimum order requirement, despite being in direct conflict with their merchant agreement, wasn't displayed anywhere but the register (pay after you eat) and they tack on a $2 surcharge. On top of that, the guy wouldn't refund my buddy his cash, so we could combine the orders and meet the minimum. I told him to charge the card, but it would be more trouble than it wa
  • by davmoo (63521) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @03:52AM (#14154912)
    Very rarely is the company offering the very lowest price on a product also going to have good customer service. You get what you pay for. While I do agree this person got a raw deal, I'm also having trouble being massively sympathetic to someone who decided where to buy a multi-thousand dollar camera based solely on price. If you want good service, then you're going to have to pony up a few dollars more than "rock bottom price" to get it.
    • by node 3 (115640) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @05:20AM (#14155202)
      Sure there is. I've eaten plenty of free lunches. This libertarian rallying cry is far too often treated as an absolute when it's not, and as a valid statement in areas where it doesn't apply.

      When you scrape away all of the cruft, you end up with just a clever way of stating the law of causality. Specifically, that anything (a lunch, say) can only exist because of some cause (or set of causes) that made it. Why not say that if that's what you mean?

      Otherwise, if I get a coupon for "1 free lunch at McDonald's", should I not redeem it, because TANSTAAFL?

      There are plenty of valid, no-strings-attached, "free lunches" (ie: great deals, which is what you mean in this case) out there.

      Besides, this wasn't a "free lunch" scenario, it was a scam scenario. Big difference.

      I'm also having trouble being massively sympathetic to someone who decided where to buy a multi-thousand dollar camera based solely on price.

      This isn't so much about sympathy (although if you can't sympathize with the guy, you might need to have a chest x-ray to verify you, indeed, still have a heart) as it is about exposing a racket for what it is, hopefully shutting it down, and "oh, ain't it cool" that it was us (the digg, /. (well, not in this case), etc, crowd) that did it.

      Now ask yourself this, how many "free lunches" did these scum-bags enjoy at the cost of innocent, and possibly naive, people who found a great deal on the web and really didn't know any better? How many people have been truly harmed by this scheme, people who were merely looking to make an honest business transaction?

      And you say there's no such thing as a free lunch!
  • by MsGeek (162936) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @03:58AM (#14154931) Homepage Journal
    These guys are good [samys.com]. I bought my first professional 35MM camera from them back in 1980, and they are still alive and kicking. They have five stores, two in West LA, one in Santa Barbara, one in Pasadena, and one in Santa Ana. Not a fly-by-night operation by any means. Everything from consumer to prosumer to pro; video, digital or film.

    Can't lose with NewEgg either if all you want is a consumer-grade digital camera. Again, in California.
    • These guys are good. I bought my first professional 35MM camera from them back in 1980, and they are still alive and kicking. They have five stores, two in West LA, one in Santa Barbara, one in Pasadena, and one in Santa Ana. Not a fly-by-night operation by any means. Everything from consumer to prosumer to pro; video, digital or film.

      They used to have a store in downtown LA, in The Brewery. I'm not sure why they left, but now I live in their former 6,000 square foot space. I still get mail for them on occa
  • by JoeShmoe (90109) <askjoeshmoe@hotmail.com> on Thursday December 01, 2005 @04:01AM (#14154944)
    Actually, the website mentioned in the article is part of a chain of hundreds of websites all run by the same dishonest camera shop in New York. I lost a bookmark that someone had compiled that listed almost all of their websites, but they all share the exact same layout and graphic elements (the "Hacker Safe" logo is a dead giveaway) and they all list their bait-and-switch with Froogle/Pricewatch/etc.

    I was searching for a Canon S400 and found one of these sites offering the camera for $100 less than anything even close. I knew it was too good to be true, so I called on the phone, illegally recording it but I wanted to have proof anyway. I asked specifically 1) was it refurbished (no) 2) was it the US model (yes) and 3) was it the retail version (yes). Okay, I figured I had all my bases covered, so I ordered it.

    Warning bells went off when I got a call the next day from a sales rep asking if I wanted to upgrade the battery for only $15 more. Apparently, the battery that came with this model only lasts "30-40 photos" because Canon skimped on it. I was pretty damn sure a company like Canon wouldn't be so stupid, so after asking to call him back (so I could hit record on my answer machine) I asked if the battery that came with the camera was brand new and from Canon. Yes on both counts, so, I told him no thanks, just the camera and the "inferior" battery.

    I received the camera and right off the bat I knew why it was $100 cheaper. It was the Japanese model. Basically, these a-holes had someone over in Korea or Taiwan fill up a shipping container with everything and sent it over here to the US. Grey-market. It's cheaper because of difference in currency, but despite being the "same" thing, it's not for two reasons: 1) Packaging...which isn't really important but 2) No US warrantee...which is VERY important. Also, US manufacturers can refuse to service foreign models (though they rarely do). Technically, your warantee is back overseas where the camera came from.

    I called them and was told that was why it I was offered a chance to buy a warantee on the website. I pointed out that I paid for the US model, and did not receive it. I was told it was the US model it was just "imported direct from the manufacturer". I told them sorry, no dice, I want to return it. They said they would send me instructions. The instruction? 1) no returns without RMA number and 2) the only way to get an RMA number is to sign a form that you accept a 20% restocking fee. I took one look and called my credit card company.

    Big plug here for Chase MasterCard. I have had to dispute six times in the four years I've had the card, and every time they worked FOR me against the merchant and made sure things turned out well. This time was no exception. The Chase rep sent me a simple form, where I checked the box "merchandise was not as advertised". For proof I send a picture of the website showing the model number (PowerShot S400) and the product box I received (IXY 400) Yes, they were the same physical camera, but not what I paid for!

    I sent in the dispute and it was approved and I got my money back. Then the fun began! The merchant disputed my dispute, sending in a picture of a US box and saying that was what I received. Chase asked me to send them a different copy of the box, which I easily did. Then Chase informed me that I couldn't keep the product and I would need to return it to the company. I was pretty pissed about the concept of losing even $20 to ship it back to these crooks, but the helpful Chase person pointed out that MasterCard did not care how it went back to the company and suggested COD. (guinness)Brilliant!(/guinness) So, I packed up the camera and sent it COD without an RMA number. Surprise surprise, it was rejected and sent back to me. Yes, I had to pay the shipping both ways. But here's the fun part...I had attempted to return it and that's all Chase needed me to do. I sent in a copy of the shipping form and was issued the final resolution to my dispute: full ref
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @04:17AM (#14155002)
      Disclaimer: As always, this is not legal advice. If you get legal advice on Slashdot, you need your head checked.

      Depending on the state you are in, it's not always illegal. Many states permit recording so long as one party is aware of it. So you are free to record all phonecalls you make since you are aware of it. The reason call centres warn you is to ensure there aren't any legal problems anywhere.

      Check your local laws but it's allowed in a large number of states.
    • I've given some thought to the problem of astroturfing review sites. I think the key is to largely ignore the positive comments unless they are detailed and well-written and focus on the negatives. If there are several negatives, then unless those look fishy (gut instinct, hard to quantify) I avoid the site.

      Of course, this ends up meaning that I don't do much business with the smaller online retailers unless they operate through EBay (or I happen to hear about them). Hmmm, I suppose that says interesti

  • by aralin (107264) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @04:03AM (#14154954)
    Three years ago I was trying to buy my high end camera online. I went on Yahoo Shopping like this guy and went up by price. The first three shops I placed the order with all tried to pull similar tricks with me. They didn't have it in stock when I didn't want to buy accesories, they would inform me they would send me just the camera without the accessories included by manufacturer in the original package, they would charge me extra for these, I could only get the advertised price if I bought overpriced batteries and it went on. It took me two months of waiting and phone calls and it was late January when I realized these are just scams. I looked up details of all the three stores and they had one thing in common. They has all address in Brooklyn, NY.

    I end up buying the camera from a store in South Carolina and there were no problems whatsoever and I had it in few days with everything as advertised. That is when I decided not to ever buy anything online from shops based in Brooklyn, NY. No matter how cheap it seems. I seriously think this matter should be investigated and this shop is just one of many there.

  • by penguin-collective (932038) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @04:13AM (#14154987)
    This is why you need one-time credit card numbers. Several banks offer them. You generate them on-line as needed, with a precise limit and timeframe, and you can even revoke them if they haven't been charged.
  • by jarrettwold2002 (601633) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @04:50AM (#14155105)
    http://www.bbbnewyork.org/businessreports/Default. aspx?id=1026 [bbbnewyork.org]

    "Complaints received from consumers indicate that this company engages in deceptive and misleading business practices. A majority of consumers report that this firm fails to deliver their items. Of those who receive their merchandise, a majority allege the firm ships damaged or unsatisfactory items with invalid serial numbers, making the warranty invalid. Consumers also allege canceling their orders but are either sent the item or despite canceling, are charged for the item but do not receive it. Consumers report difficulty reaching management when trying to request a refund, alleging customer representatives state that only a partial refund is given because of processing, restocking and shipping fees."
  • by LiTa03 (879539) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @05:24AM (#14155218)
    These guys are bad...

    They've gone worse and worse over the past 18 months, too! Ebuyer is still cheap with loads of goodies and their website is easy to navigate, but I'm sorry to say their customer service is plain shite. Don't shop with ebuyer. If anything goes wrong with your order, don't expect it to be sorted... ever.

    They don't do email, just "enotes" (which will take you an hour to send because that particular part of the website is so slow it loses connection all the time) and phone. Phone is expensive, and enotes they read and reply to weeks after... if they feel like it at all. I'm trying to have a conversation with their main man "david" but with weeks between replies, it just seems silly. They operate in the US too (I'm in the UK). Maybe if they piss-off someone enough in the US it'll get ugly. Here, they just hope you'll get bored and give-up, and go away.

    My misfortune? I ordered a 120GB seagate drive, received a broken 200GB maxtor covered in finger prints. Difficult to argue "you sent me a drive I did not order and it's broken" when "david" says ebuyer or their warehouses don't do mistakes... Yeah right, do you remember last time you sent me an AGP card when I ordered the PCI version? And that time last year when my order turned-up weeks after chrismas even though I paid extra charge to have it delivered on time? My current problem has been going-on since last summer. I have a feeling I lost the money.

    Well, least I can do is warn you not to buy anything from them... and don't trust me, check the other reviews online!

  • by patonw (747304) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @06:12AM (#14155335)
    Some one mentioned to use them in an earlier post. What credit card companies offer them and how do you go about making them? Would gift cards be the same thing?
    • by Yo Mama (25832)
      MBNA still offers one time use numbers. You log into their web site, and generate a number. The minimum expiration date is two months out, I think. After the transaction is processed you should deactivate the one time use number, because some people say that merchants can still charge the "one time use" number after the virtual expiration date.

      A gift card is probably worse than a debit card, because there is no incentive for any company to protect you. The credit card company still wants your business,
    • Discover (discovercard.com) also offers one-time transaction numbers.
    • by Eil (82413) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @04:30PM (#14160281) Homepage Journal
      What credit card companies offer them and how do you go about making them?

      I checked Discover's site (the card I have) and it looks like they offer one-time numbers [discovercard.com] as a free service. They have some stupid thing that integrates with IE, but there's also a version that lists "Netscape 6.2.something" as a requirement, so that one might work for all graphical browsers that support Flash 5.0 and up.

      Would gift cards be the same thing?

      Gift cards are definitely not the same thing and have a few drawbacks besides. You'll have to pay for the gift card with cash or money order, few online vendors even have gift cards (stores like Target and Sears probably don't honor gift cards online), and you can never get a cash refund on a gift card.
  • .... but my camera's still on order.
  • by Slugster (635830) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @07:00AM (#14155471)
    Citibank is one company that offers free "virtual account numbers" for their credit cards, to help protect you from CC info theft when ordering online. I don't know of any others that do right off, plz chime in if you know.

    (Assuming you have a credit card with them) you log on to the website and the program generates a different temporary card number that bills to your regular card. The virtual card has a 1-month expiration date, and only acccepts one single charge (I found that out the first time I tried to use the same virtual account number at three different online retailers--the first one went through, the other later two got rejected. I had to send them each a different virtual number). This way you don't ever need to use your real card number online, and the number you do give is always different, and it can't be charged multiple times,,, or even at all after two months at the most. (prevents logged CC numbers at online retailers from getting hax0red and used later)

    There are probably a lot of reasons to not like Citibank, but this is one thing they have done that is very good.
    ---And of course this would not have prevented the situation from happening, but it certainly cuts down on the possible excess charging that can be done. I don't know what other credit-card companies do it, none of the rest of mine do, but I don't use any other credit-card for online transactions at all anymore.
    ~
    • It's a feature that pretty much any issuer of credit cards can offer (MasterCard/Visa - Amex and Discover handle their stuff themselves pretty much). There is some expense to it - they have to set up web/application servers to handle the requests, write or contract out the code, etc, so not all banks do it. But, there are a lot of banks that offer it, including most of the big names in the industry.

      If your bank doesn't offer it, ask them about it. Maybe they have it planned, or maybe they decided not to
  • by gelfling (6534) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @08:33AM (#14155723) Homepage Journal
    The first conversation, the first paragraph, if true is a cause for disbarment proceedings at a minimum and probably criminal as well. At least to the point where you could get someone to inquire into it. Get the person's name and let them know you are contacting the State Bar to file an action. Then let them know you are calling the State AG, Fraud div. Then let them know you WILL put something online and you WILL trash their reputation and it will wind up being the most expensive few dollars that company ever screwed someone out of.

    When someone goes nutz like that over the phone, I've found that just laughing at them seems to work.
  • Those Bastards (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DrWho42 (558107) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @09:11AM (#14155875) Homepage
    Things brings back bad memories for me. I had a very similar experience with this same merchant a year ago, and I wrote the attached letter. I sent it through the mail to the New York BBB and the PriceGrabber offices out in CA. At that time (October, 2004), I spoke with a PriceGrabber rep on the phone and they removed PriceRitePhoto from their site. So how come these bastards got listed again?

    To whom it may concern:

    I am writing this letter to describe the experiences that I have had with a business called PriceRitePhoto.com. Their address is:1274 49th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11219 and their customer service phone number is (888) 365-4300. I found this business through the PriceGrabber.com website and attempted to purchase a camera from them. However this company was more interested in lying to me and manipulating me than selling me a camera.

    I am spending my time and effort in order to inform you of the dirty tactics used by PriceRitePhoto.com with the hope that my story will save other potential customers the headaches and lost sleep that I have endured. The manager of PriceRitePhoto.com has already tried to silence my opinion through bribery and extortion but I think that the potential customers *deserve* to know the business strategies employed by PriceRitePhoto.com before deciding to do business with them.

    I understand that I am the kind of customer that PriceRitePhoto.com doesn't want. I am an informed consumer and a comparison shopper. If they had simply been honest with me and told me that they were unwilling to sell me the Canon Digital Rebel camera unless I purchased some other accessories, I would have just found another company from which to purchase this camera. I probably wouldn't have submitted a negative review on PriceGrabber.com - I just would have gone my own way. But what I got instead of honesty were lies and manipulation, and I think these strategies are completely unacceptable for a professional organization and ought to be publicized.

    I first read about the Canon Digital Rebel camera more than a year ago, and I instantly wanted one. However I was not able to afford to purchase one until recently. Several months ago I began researching the Digital Rebel and several other cameras in preparation for a purchase. I found the PriceGrabber.com website which offered reviews of many different merchants selling this camera, in addition to their prices. I saw that the various merchants fell into several different strata - about 7 or 8 were in the very lowest price range, from $799 to $850 including shipping. I found a merchant in the middle of this price range with a high rating and mostly positive reviews: PriceRitePhoto.com. I knew that I would also need some other accessories with the camera, and I planned on purchasing a USB 2.0 Compact Flash card reader and a Compact Flash card. I found that PriceRitePhoto.com had a USB 1.0 CF reader for $49, but did not offer a USB 2.0 reader. However Best Buy sold a USB 2.0 reader for $15, so I drove to purchase this item at Best Buy. After some research I decided that the CF card that I wanted was the Lexar 80x 1 gigabyte card. I looked on the PriceRitePhoto.com website but found that this merchant did not offer this card for sale, so instead I purchased it from TigerDirect.com.

    So the only item left was the camera. On Thursday, September 16th, 2004 I placed order #7490 from PriceRitePhoto.com for a Canon Digital Rebel camera with 18-55mm EF-S lens for $799 plus $24.80 shipping. I thought I was getting a great deal at this time, but I had no idea what abuse I was in store for.

    It began on the following Sunday, September 19th. I received an email at about 11:00 am, stating that I needed to call PriceRitePhoto.com to "confirm the information on your order". This is where the deceptions began, because the real purpose of this phone call was not in fact to verify my order information, but to sell me some additional items. What follows is certainly one of the most unpleasant experiences that I've ever en
  • by Phanatic1a (413374) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @10:51AM (#14156621)
    I had a similar, although not-so-bad experience with bestpricecameras.com. Google searched for the lens I wanted for my D70, a Nikkor 70-300m G lens, they showed up as a sponsored link and claimed to have the lens for $109. I ordered it online through their web page, which indicated the lens was in stock.

    I got an email the next day asking me to call and confirm my order. WTF? With most online retailers, you confirm the order by, you know, placing the order and entering your payment information. I fired back an email saying 'consider it confirmed.'

    2 weeks later, they still haven't touched my credit card for the lens. I call up, navigate through their voicemail (fortunately it's a 1-800 number, so at least they're eating the cost), and talk to the guy who I'm supposed to call. He tries to upsell me a UV filter, because if I'm using it with a digital camera, and I take photos outside, I'll "get a lot of glare off the CCD." Now, I put UV filters on my lenses anyway, just for the sake of keeping crud off the lens while I'm shooting, so I was planning on picking one up anyway. I asked the price, he said $50. $50, for a filter that goes for $10 at any camera shop around here.

    I told him forget the filter, just ship the lens. He said okay.

    1 week later, they still haven't hit my card. I call back, ask about the order number, now they tell me it's out of stock. This is while I'm looking at their web page, which claims they have it in stock. I told them to just cancel my order, and fortunately they didn't give me any shit over it, I assume because it was only a $109 lens instead of a $3,000 camera.

    Lesson learned: never order from a camera shop in Brooklyn.
  • by DroopyStonx (683090) on Thursday December 01, 2005 @12:06PM (#14157381)
    Whether done with debit or credit, there's something consumers can do, and that, boys and girls, is called a "chargeback"!

    It's a very simple call or a personal meeting to a manager at your bank stating that someone ripped you off and you would like your money returned to you.

    The company has to do a lot to prove the charge was valid. If they actually ripped you off, then they won't go out of their way to dispute the chargeback.

    In fact, this works TOO well. One time I ordered a product from overseas - the payment was processed the next day and I received an email saying the package shipped a few days later. Two weeks go by, no package. I contacted their company with emails and calls where they assured me that the package was shipped. I requested proof of a tracking number or receipt for the shipment, but received no response. I became suspicious of the situation, so I charged it back.

    Not only did I get my money returned to me, but a few weeks later the product finally happened to arrive. Oops! But hey, they failed to assure me that I wasn't getting ripped off, so I did whatever I had to do to make sure it didn't happen.

    People severely underestimate the power of the consumer.

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