Watchdog: April 2008

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Watchdog: April 2008

Chloe, watchcorgi of the month

Can I have the price you quoted me?

Dog, I recently ordered a Panasonic SDR-H200 Camcorder from Camera Addict (www.cameraaddict.com) for $475; most other shops sell it for at least $600. I called Camera Addict and asked if the unit was refurbished; the customer service rep said it was new. I placed my order and received an email the next day asking me to confirm my order. I became suspicious after the company tried to sell me an extended-life battery for $90—the rep explained that the battery the camera comes with “only lasts 25 minutes.” The sales rep then tried to sell me additional accessories and warranties. I soon started to realize that the price they advertised was too good to be true.

The knockout punch came when the guy on the other end of the line asked me if I wanted the import model or the U.S. retail model. I said I wanted the U.S. model without any additional products or warranties, and he said my total would be $699.99. I asked him why it was so much when it’s listed at $475 on the website; he explained that the Japanese model costs $475, but the U.S. model costs $699.99.

I told the rep I wanted to cancel my order and I was asked why. I said the company was running a bait and switch. He told me I didn’t know what I was talking about and that he’d like to cancel my order. I said, ”Yes, please do that.” Today the SDR-H200 is listed on the Camera Addict website at $545, but it still says nothing about it being a Japanese model, which I assume will have menus in Japanese and may not have warranty protection in the United States.

—Chris Schutze

Chris, you’ve just run into a textbook hard-sell sales tactic that’s long been used to sell cameras and electronics online and by mail order. It works by sucking you in with “can’t pass up” pricing on the camera. Then you’re upsold on batteries, warranties, cases, and other paraphernalia of generally low quality. The vendor usually tells you, “Well, you’ll need a charger, right? And a battery—this camera doesn’t come with a battery and charger you know.” Of course, Canon, Panasonic, Sony, and other companies don’t sell cameras without batteries and chargers; unscrupulous vendors simply unbundle camera systems and sell individual components at a high price.

A classic tactic to get you to buy a camera is to advertise it at a low price and then reveal you’re buying an import model without a warranty after you’ve been sucked in.

 

The Dog was unable to reach Camera Addict for comment before we went to press, but the company certainly raises red flags on the Internet. At ResellerRatings.com, the store has received a six-month rating of 0.30 out of 10. The Better Business Bureau doesn’t have an individual report on Camera Addict; instead, it associates the business with Broadway Photo, a Brooklyn, New York-based company that also does business under the names A&M Photo World, Best Camera, Cameratopia, Digital Liquidators, Ghu, Millennium Camera, Preferred Photo, Prestige Camera, Quest4Cameras, Regal Camera, The Digital Expo, Tronicity, and Wild Digital. The verdict from the BBB? Bad. The BBB site states: “This business has an unsatisfactory record with the BBB.” Furthermore, “Complaints to the Bureau indicate that this firm uses high-pressures sales tactics after consumers place their orders. After ordering merchandise, consumers report receiving a phone call from the firm’s customer representatives attempting to sell additional items. Representatives allegedly try to persuade consumers to buy the U.S. warranty, as well as accessories like cables, peripherals, and software, or lead consumers to believe the product will not work if additional merchandise is not purchased. In some cases, if the consumers declined, an email was sent advising them to cancel their orders because the item was on back-order despite being listed as available on the firm’s website. Consumers also reported unauthorized charges on their invoices. When trying to dispute such charges, consumers report difficulty talking to management, claiming they are verbally abused by the company’s staff.”

Over the past three years, the BBB has logged 929 complaints regarding Broadway Photo and the stores associated with it. The company has taken steps to resolve some complaints though, but 200 customers have reported being dissatisfied with the fixes offered.

How can you avoid these kinds of “deals”? First, the old mantra continues to be true: If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Companies that employ these tactics know that greed is a powerful emotion. The chance to get a $1,800 camera for $900 from a seemingly legit store can get normally rational consumers to throw caution to the wind. The next time you get excited about a great price, stop and consider why the product is so cheap. You should also make sure you make your purchase with a credit card—not a debit card—with good purchase protection. Some cards even offer their own extended warranties. Make sure you read the fine print concerning the item you want to buy, as well. Watch for excessive shipping and handling fees, and pay close attention to restocking fees and return policies.

And obviously, the Dog doesn’t recommend shopping at Camera Addict, Broadway Photo, or its associated stores. Woof.

 

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j_rhamilton@hot...

CameraAddict is pulling the same stunt with me. They baggered me into buying additional accessories (which I did not) and then told me the model I bought was a Japanese model and I had to pay and additional $150 dollars for the US model. I said they are false advertising. The operator said "all right ... I am assuming you want the Japanese model and I am going to process the order as such." He hung up before I could get my response in. They later sent me an email saying the camera is backordered. I sent an email response back to cancell the order. They did not resond back. I called customer service 6 times only to have my call "disconnected by accident". They have not resolved my issues as of this posting.

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