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Candid Camera
November 30, 2005 1:35 PM   Subscribe

"I will make sure you will never be able to place an order on the internet again." "I'm an attorney, I will sue you." "I'm going to call your local police and have two officers come over and arrest you." FlickrNation's Thomas Hawk gets service from the manager of a New York City camera store. (via Digg)
posted by LinusMines (69 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
more like worst of the web...
posted by Kifer85 at 1:42 PM on November 30, 2005


Internet. Serious business.
posted by keswick at 1:45 PM on November 30, 2005


Ugh, and this seems to be _typical_ of NYC camera stores. I'll never buy a camera from an NYC camera store again. There are just too many scammers selling grey market wares.

My mistake ended up costing me $200 (the shipping and handling charge on my $800 order).
posted by Laen at 1:45 PM on November 30, 2005


That's pretty typical of NYC camera stores -- they advertise a low price but give you the hard sell on extras where they make their real money. I know a few friends that have been through this, and they've refused to order additional stuff, but I've never heard of a company pull an order if you didn't buy extra crap.
posted by mathowie at 1:48 PM on November 30, 2005


Oh, I forgot the moral of my story. When dealing with an unknown company online, always check 'em out on Reseller Ratings first.
posted by Laen at 1:48 PM on November 30, 2005


NYC is a very large place. While there are a lot of scammers of all kinds in the city, there are plenty of high quality merchants as well.

B&H has an incredible seleciton of gear and a decent website. For people who want to save a few bucks, they clearly identify gray-market ("imported") gear. They have always called me back before shipping an order to verify CC data before shipping.
posted by b1tr0t at 1:50 PM on November 30, 2005


It's worth noting that Digg members went apeshit over this... the gigantic thread is here.
posted by killdevil at 1:54 PM on November 30, 2005


And mobs of digg users take revenge.
posted by frykitty at 1:56 PM on November 30, 2005


I would like to second B&H, they always have some of the best (real) prices, they don't pull the bait and switch, and have excellent customer service.
posted by splatta at 1:56 PM on November 30, 2005


And now, on the front page of their site, Price Rite Photo is giving people free stuff to flood review sites with fake positive reviews of their store. Disgusting.
posted by xthlc at 1:56 PM on November 30, 2005


I love this sort of vengeance/retribution!

On the NYC camera store topic, B&H really is great and I like Adorama too.
posted by shoepal at 2:03 PM on November 30, 2005


bizzare
posted by delmoi at 2:03 PM on November 30, 2005


And mobs of digg users take revenge.

Ay! That DoS flood shit is so fucking juvenile. The best way to punish the retailer is to ruin his reputation. That seems to be well underway...
posted by mr_roboto at 2:04 PM on November 30, 2005


I've dealt with a couple of internet companies based in New York and they have been similarly less than honest or upfront. Now, I find the best deal I can online and then take it to Staples where they'll match it usually.

The bargain bin on the internet comes with an awful lot of pain in the ass, its worth it to pay a little more and not have to deal with the headaches.

The trolling for positive reviews can't be going unnoticed by the review sites. And if it is, I'll be sure to drop them a note.
posted by fenriq at 2:06 PM on November 30, 2005


Not all Brooklyn camera shops are that bad. I have had some good experiences, but a couple of less than ideal experiences. This one, with the personal threats, is really obscene.
posted by caddis at 2:10 PM on November 30, 2005


Yeah, don't lump B&H and Adorama in with the Brooklyn camera stores. They're excellent places to get all sorts of camera / video / computer gear.
posted by bshort at 2:15 PM on November 30, 2005


I first bought a camera through mail order years ago. Back when magazines were the norm for this stuff, a good 95% of all the retailers in the back 40% of the magazine were of this sort. And make no mistake about it: these people are crooks. Straight up criminals. They often have no real storefront -- getting a New Yorker to go to what they list as their address can be interesting.

B&H, Adorama, and maybe a couple of others are legitimate business. The rest are crooks. What happened to this guy is standard operating procedure. Of course they won't sell the guy the camera -- they would be selling it at a loss. You only get the camera at that price if they can sell you something else at a 200% markup to make up the difference.
posted by teece at 2:24 PM on November 30, 2005


Blogging is becoming the Western equivalent of suicide bombing.

Short term consequences :
Blogger gets his money back.
Scammer goes out of business.
Blogging universe congratulates each other and feels empowered.

Long term consequences :
Blogger's respect as a professional photographer is eroded.
Blogger's thoroughness on any judgement of internet exploration is eroded.
Blogger's workplace loses respect for blogger's use of work resources and of his professional judgement.
Scammer sets up business under another name with increased knowledge of how to manipulate the blogger universe.

Good job all you bloggy crusaders!
posted by DirtyCreature at 2:25 PM on November 30, 2005


B&H is fun. You go around and "buy" things but you don't pay for them or carry them around. You only pay right before you leave, and right after that is where your stuff endsup, after traveling down a magic conveyor belt.
posted by smackfu at 2:30 PM on November 30, 2005


The funny thing is that while all of these Digg users are feeling self-righteous, as someone pointed out in the comments on Hawk's page they'll just liquidate, reincorporate and create another DBA. This is a low- to mid-level inconvenience for them.
posted by Captaintripps at 2:34 PM on November 30, 2005


Uh, this blogger wasn't a professional photographer, just a customer who had been treated very poorly. What's your problem?
posted by jonson at 2:34 PM on November 30, 2005


I can't put my finger on why I like stories like this so much. It's definitely not the retributive outcome (in fact, it would be better without the Digg/DoS stuff). The best part is the 'store' owner's brazenness over the phone.
posted by nobody at 2:34 PM on November 30, 2005


I've had good experiences with B&H, Adorama and Amazon for camera stuff. My philosophy is that generally, if the price is significantly lower than anybody else's, it's a scam. Saving a few $100 on a $3000 camera isn't worth the hassle.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:42 PM on November 30, 2005


It's definitely not the retributive outcome

Actually, that's easily my favorite part. It won't make a difference in the larger scheme, but causing assholes grief is always worth it.

And how come no one told me that cameras were so expensive these days?
posted by bardic at 2:47 PM on November 30, 2005


You mean,

We don't have cameras?
posted by elwoodwiles at 2:53 PM on November 30, 2005


elwoodwiles : "We don't have cameras?"

My eyes have been opened. It is the great wheel of kharma. For every Mefite who got a cheap/free camera, a man is now overcharged or scammed on a camera. Truly we are to blame.
posted by Bugbread at 2:57 PM on November 30, 2005


Just to add to the list of reputable places: 17th Street Photo. The wife buys all her photography equipment from them, never had a problem and always exceptional service. And here's their reseller ratings page.
posted by tetsuo at 3:02 PM on November 30, 2005


I can't put my finger on why I like stories like this so much. It's definitely not the retributive outcome (in fact, it would be better without the Digg/DoS stuff). The best part is the 'store' owner's brazenness over the phone.

I'm not judging the story at hand - but in general: How much effort would it have been to fake this?

If you can write well and have access to one or two blogs with decent traffic, you could seriously harm somebody if you put in a little effort.
posted by uncle harold at 3:05 PM on November 30, 2005


Nthing B&H Photo. My order was processed professionally and shipped nearly the next day. I've been burned on trying to save a buck or two getting a harddrive - it isn't worth it. Take doctor_negative's advice: If the item you're thinking about buying is significantly cheaper than the competition, something's wrong.
posted by odinsdream at 3:10 PM on November 30, 2005


mathowie: I know a few friends that have been through this, and they've refused to order additional stuff, but I've never heard of a company pull an order if you didn't buy extra crap.

Definitely super common. Often, you'll place your order, they'll call to confirm and offer you the add-ons, and when you refuse, your item will magically go out of stock.
posted by VulcanMike at 3:14 PM on November 30, 2005


This is hardly bizarre - it's textbook scam behavior. One rule: if one online store advertises a significantly low price on an expensive coveted item, pass it by. The blogger was foolish and impatient, and didn't do a reality check (how come only one store has this low price?). Not that I'm excusing the scammers.
posted by QuietDesperation at 3:15 PM on November 30, 2005


For low to mid-range cameras (especially digicams) places like mwave.com and newegg.com are also trustworthy although they mostly cater to the computer-building crowd and have limited selection. As far as actual camera stores, I have also bought from B&H and it was a good experience.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 3:16 PM on November 30, 2005


If you're shopping at a camera store in NYC and you're not at Adorama or B&H, chances are you're getting majorly ripped off.
posted by clevershark at 3:17 PM on November 30, 2005


Despite the fact it was stupid as hell, I was amused by one of the mp3s of the prank calls. Mostly the idea of using Ah-nold sound clips for a prank call as opposed to the call itself.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 3:18 PM on November 30, 2005


My father ran a photographic accessories store/mail order house in New York called Spiratone for many years, and he considered most of his competitors liars and crooks. B&H was always an exception; they have always been a class outfit. Adorama isn't quite as pure, but they won't try and cheat you or anything. Now that the electronics and photography businesses have mixed so much, J&R is okay as well. I'd be very very careful about all other such places in the NYC metropolitan area.
posted by spira at 3:22 PM on November 30, 2005


Uncle Harold, you would have had to spend years building up the piles of negative reviews at all the professional-review sites though.

The front page offer for freebies in exchange for reviews doesn't specify 'good' reviews; a far better 'revenge' on these people would be to put forth truthful reviews on the sites they request, send them the documentation, and then sue them for fraud when they reject your request because you reviewed them unfavorably. Then it's not just their crime against the one poor sot, but a false advertising/fraudulent promotion case for each reviewer.
posted by nomisxid at 3:26 PM on November 30, 2005


uncle harold:I'm not judging the story at hand - but in general: How much effort would it have been to fake this?

It would be easy to fake but if you're off target you're going to be called on it. Look at the support for B&H and others in this thread. If somebody cobbled up a story like this about B&H, they'd be roundly ignored (at best).

Actually I'm surprised this story has gathered as much attention as it has. This sort of thing is nothing new to anyone who frequents photo or video forums. And as the author of the article himself admits, he should've known better.
posted by zanni at 3:29 PM on November 30, 2005


I too, wish to join the line of B & H supporters. Its even just a fun place to visit.
posted by R. Mutt at 3:42 PM on November 30, 2005


It's not just camera stores. I got scammed recently by an online florist shop in Vancouver, Canada called urbanflorist.com.

B&H rocks. I love my new Canon EOS DSLR Rebel XT.
posted by camworld at 3:45 PM on November 30, 2005


this seems to be _typical_ of NYC camera stores

I remember hearing/reading like 15-years-ago that NYC camera & electronic stores were horrible dens of fraud and mishandled transactions. This was back in the age of mail-order.

In a lot of ways I'd feel better buying stuff like this from an eBay power seller than some no-name NYC store.
posted by wfrgms at 3:51 PM on November 30, 2005


Add JandR (.com) on Park Row to "reputable" list. Someone who is in the market for a $3k camera should have known better.
posted by wfc123 at 4:02 PM on November 30, 2005


I don 't remember where I found this, but a while back I ran across a site that has photos of some of these sellers' storefronts in Manhattan and Brooklyn, based on discussions in the rec.photo.digital newsgroup.
posted by SteveInMaine at 4:03 PM on November 30, 2005


I bought my Nikon from a NYC seller through ebay. I got a great price on a package deal (not a grey market camera either), and they had great service. No hard-sell when I called to pay via credit card. Maybe I got lucky. I will also give my approval for B and H.
posted by Eekacat at 4:09 PM on November 30, 2005


My father ran a photographic accessories store/mail order house in New York called Spiratone for many years...

That was your father's business?! Wow. I remember Spiratone ads very fondly. A real part of my growing-up years.
posted by 327.ca at 4:19 PM on November 30, 2005


As I live in Hong Kong, I went online to check camera prices in the U.S. for comparison.

I noted numerous negative reviews of PriceRitePhoto as well as the other two companies he mentioned.

"Too good to be true" kept running through my mind as I checked out the sites.

In the end, I was able to purchase most of my gear locally at slightly better prices than reputable sites offered, but I did find a nice lens at B&H Photo at a much cheaper price - including shipping.

Thank God Hong Kong is a mostly duty-free port.

By the way — B&H has always been great to deal with, even if the guy who called me back thought Hong Kong was in Japan.
posted by bwg at 5:18 PM on November 30, 2005


When I read those quotes, I thought it was going to be about Jack Thompson.
posted by Target Practice at 5:34 PM on November 30, 2005


Okay, I'm a Red Sox fan, so I already know New York sucks, but this is an honest question: why is it NYC photo stores that everyone agrees are so bad? (With the exceptions noted above, of course -- my last camera was from B&H.) Why not Kansas City or SF? Is it a historical accident, or is the city just too permissive about this kind of scamming, or do they have low sales taxes which attract bargain-store internet operations, or what?
posted by uosuaq at 6:37 PM on November 30, 2005


I recently bought my Nikon D70s from PriceRitePhoto. The camera that arrived was non-functional (apparently some Nikons have a "shutter flutter" issue), and so I shipped it back and asked for them to replace it. At first they refused, saying the'd have to repair it instead (which would have taken at least six weeks).

So I stopped payment via Amex, which didn't seem to faze the service representative, and then I gave them a negative review on eBay, which did get an immediate reaction from the very same store manager as stars in this little story. A day later I got another D70s which worked just fine (I naturally had Amex resume payment).

So in my adventure with the company, the store manager was actually rather helpful and responsive; I just had to drop a negative review on eBay to get his attention. I note that as a useful data point for future eBay photo purchases.
posted by jscalzi at 6:39 PM on November 30, 2005


These cameras, they have automatic flash settings?
posted by Balisong at 6:52 PM on November 30, 2005


- and vibration control?
posted by Balisong at 6:52 PM on November 30, 2005


Cameta Camera is another good NYC-area shop (a friend of mine also swears by B&H). Cameta's in Amityville, their positive eBay feedback is through the roof, and I had a great experience buying my Nikon there.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:32 PM on November 30, 2005


Speaking of B & H Photo-Video, AP reports that Hasidic Jews Run Top Camera Retailer
posted by rdone at 7:49 PM on November 30, 2005


A droll quote from the linked article on B & H:

But don't expect any miracles when you walk into B&H. Asked recently when the nano iPod would be in stock, a salesman laughed and said: "When the Messiah comes, and then he's going to want one."
posted by rdone at 7:53 PM on November 30, 2005


Beware of J&R. I bought a Sony Dvd player there a couple of years ago for about $130. It was a piece of crap, so I returned it and asked for my money back. They informed me that my refund would be put back into my account after a two week period of review (whatever that means). I asked if they'd also include the interest on holding on to $130 of my money for that amount of time. Needless to say that did not happen. Sounds illegal to me and if it's not, it should be. I was glad it wasn't a more expensive purchase.
posted by Skygazer at 7:59 PM on November 30, 2005


B&H offers great prices and an impressive selection. Telephone sales reps know what they are selling, and offer helpful advice. I did not even know what gray market was until I spoke to a B&H sales rep about 10 years ago. I got the precise unit I wanted in a different box for about 25% less.

Going anywhere else is frankly just taking a risk for no good reason.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:00 PM on November 30, 2005


Let me toss in another recommendation for B&H. A lot of stores require a fax of ID/photocopy of your CC when ordering from abroad - B&H does so much business with international customers, they have an online form to handle it.
posted by jedrek at 10:27 PM on November 30, 2005


If you can write well and have access to one or two blogs with decent traffic, you could seriously harm somebody if you put in a little effort.

Perhaps, but if you faked it, then you'd get burned -- eventually. Keep in mind that this story didn't get traction because it was well written, it got traction because it was true and others had had similar experiences.
posted by dhartung at 11:21 PM on November 30, 2005


It's peculiar how long-running stories like this suddenly get attention. Not that there's anything wrong with this particular instance, but people have been complaining and warning about dubious NY photo dealers for years. Before the internets certain photographic magazines were criticized for allowing less reputable dealers to advertise in their pages.

Yet they get away with it and it continues. As already mentioned, when things get to hot, they'll shut up shop, change their name and reappear a little later to carry on as before. And what is it with New York? Just too little resources to tackle them all, or something about that state's laws that makes it easier for the sleazier dealers?
posted by normy at 1:17 AM on December 1, 2005


Yet another nod to B&H, whenever I'm in New York I pop in to the West Side store - it is a thing of beauty. I've picked up several new toys there over the years, and always gotten very attentive and knowledgeable (if somewhat brusque) service from their reps, almost all of whom are Hassidim. Plus it's right down the street from the Empire State, so generally you've got a handy way to test out your new toy immediately, in the case of lenses.
posted by LondonYank at 2:14 AM on December 1, 2005


smackfu: B&H is fun. You go around and "buy" things but you don't pay for them or carry them around. You only pay right before you leave, and right after that is where your stuff endsup, after traveling down a magic conveyor belt.

Hehe, always the best part about B&H; it's like Camera Disneyland, in a way.

And another nod to J&R here; wouldn't know about their return policy, but otherwise the prices and service are quite good.
posted by May Kasahara at 6:23 AM on December 1, 2005


shoepal writes "On the NYC camera store topic, B&H really is great and I like Adorama too."

I've never shopped B&H but I have been happy with accessories from Adorama. I almost bought an underwater case for my Canon from some cut-rate store but decided against it as some of the reviews were off-putting, and paid more at Adorama for the thing because I trusted them. Probably a good thing too, I don't recall which store it was but it may have been this same scammy PriceRite. Glad I didn't have to learn the hard way.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:56 AM on December 1, 2005


Before the internets certain photographic magazines were criticized for allowing less reputable dealers to advertise in their pages.

It got so bad that the current mags like Popular Photo have a full page guide in every listing, describing how to protect yourself... from the advertisers on the next 20 pages.
posted by smackfu at 7:08 AM on December 1, 2005


No... I don't think these companies go out of business, and I don't think this company will go out of business. Observe, for example, this complaint from June 2005:


posted by jmccorm at 8:13 AM on December 1, 2005


Linkage, apologies:
http://www.highdefforum.com/showthread.php?t=8783&page=2&pp=10
posted by jmccorm at 8:13 AM on December 1, 2005


[sigh] Start with PAGE 1...
http://www.highdefforum.com/showthread.php?t=8783&page=1&pp=10
^^^^^^^^^^
Use that. I suck at the Internets.
posted by jmccorm at 8:15 AM on December 1, 2005


Look bottom line: If your going to buy a camera online stick with the trusted companies: B&H, Adorama, and J&R, if your comfortable with their return policy (which I think is total BS). Deal with dealers professionals go to, the places with the cool obscure photographic equipment (lights and lenses etc), be a bit careful with the places that advertise in the back of Popular Photography and other mags, but pick them up anyway as they have great information. Most of those places are alight more or less, but you have to call them (before you hand out your CC number), get a feel and and ask about price, return policy, restocking fees Shipping & Handling, taxes anything else you can think of (like I said get a feel for them). If your BS meter is alerted, call them out on and ask them to explain if if it still is not clarified to your liking, just say thank you and hang up. Find someplace else.

If you're gonna be in NYC, you're all set. Spend a fun afternoon visiting these stores (ALL ARE Hasidim and most seem to be on 7th avenue). Be sure you know exactly what camera and equipment you want and what the best price and options are. Check the equipment (ask the the questions above) and haggle the price a bit ( I think you can do this over the phone a bit too) . If you pay in cash some will give a better deal (i.e., no taxes or 5 to 10% below the lowest price you've scene) so don't be afraid to ask and don't be afraid to show off your knowledge and that you know what you're doing and you want the best price and you're no fool (dammit! ;-) ). I haven't meant a decent store owner yet who doesn't appreciate and admire a little good natured haggling. If they won't meet the price you want or give you a big time ugly attitude leave and move on to the next place on your list (there are plenty, last time I checked although B&H has done a good job of squashing competition through superior selection/service and price). Remember: The smaller less known stores will try and beat B&H's price.

Be super wary (is in don't even waste your time) with the touristy electronics traps, these places are small, tacky shops blasting hip hop selling all sorts of junk (Bling really....Stereo's and toys and TV's) and always have banners saying they're Going out of Business . Avoid those places like the plague. They sell mostly gray market crap and will give you a super hard time if something goes wrong with your purchase (meaning you'll have to threaten call the cops before they give it back or they'll make up something about a "restocking fee" or "service charge" or whatever) If you do get Fucked over by these places, call the cops and do file a report. You will need it later when you take there ass to small claims court.

Now pick up the phone or get out there, be smart and have fun and get that excellent digital SLR.

Skygazer (your mefi consumer advocate in the NYC)
posted by Skygazer at 9:45 AM on December 1, 2005


That spell checker. Feh.
posted by Skygazer at 12:59 PM on December 1, 2005


Update.
posted by crunchland at 1:10 PM on December 1, 2005


Another horror story makes its way to Hawk's blog, involving another customer, a different retailer and a threatening voice-mail message.
posted by LinusMines at 9:15 PM on December 11, 2005


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