Since we get lots of questions on the show that we don’t have time to answer, I’m going to try to answer some of the common questions here on the blog. And one very common question has to do with who to trust when buying camera gear online or through the mail.
Seen those ads in the back of the photo magazines for incredible prices on the latest DSLR? The photo magazines accept money for camera ads from people who, in my opinion, have very questionable ethics and business practices. They know these companies suffer from massive complaints that often go unanswered, but yet, the magazine publishers take the money anyway.
This leads to confusion. Legitimate retailers like Amazon and Adorama will publish prices that are real. Then when photographers see a price that is hundreds, even thousands of dollars less, they think they’re going to get a good deal somewhere else. They’re not.
So how can you tell? Start here. Go to http://www.resellerratings.com. This site lets consumers share their experiences as customers of these companies. It won’t take you too long to figure out that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Several of you have written to me about Broadway Photo. Rather than give you my opinion, I’ll direct you to BroadwayPhoto. You’ll note that Broadway Photo operates under several names, including A&M Photo World, Regal Camera, Prestige Camera, Preferred Photo, Royal Camera and more. You’ll also see that they have one of the lowest ratings (that means highest customer dissatisfaction) on the ResellerRatings site.
You can research any number of questionable resellers on ResellersRatings and you’ll notice a common theme. Customers of these companies report having been quoted a low price, only to suffer from very high pressure salespeople pushing overpriced, unnecessary accessories. You’ll also see that most of these companies will simply not ever honor the advertised price for the advertised item unless you pay for these accessories, or unless you pay inflated shipping charges.
Many of the stores that advertise the very low prices are located in Brooklyn, NY. The ads make it look like these resellers operate real camera stores. Check out these photos from a photographer who went to the locations listed for several well-known camera retailers who have poor reputations with online consumers.
Are these places you’d buy a camera?
The New York Daily News has profiled another of these companies in a story you can find on the NYDailyNews.com website.
To wrap up, here are some things to consider when deciding where to buy your camera.
1. Is the company an authorized reseller? Don’t just take their word for it. Send an email to the manufacturer and ask them. I recently did this as a test and found one out of ten companies representing themselves as authorized resellers for a major camera manufacturer were in fact not.
2. If you’re a USA resident – Is the camera under US warranty? It will be less expensive if it’s not covered by US warranty. There’s nothing wrong with gray market. But if you’re comparing gray market prices to US prices, you need to know. Also know that some manufacturers will only offer warranty service in the USA if the camera has a US warranty.
3. Is the camera new-never opened, new returned, a floor demo, refurbed, or used? You may decide to purchase any camera regardless of the answer, but again, the answer should impact the price. Starting from new to used, the price should decrease.
4. Does the camera come with all the manufacturer’s included parts like battery, charger, documentation, strap, etc.? Many of the shady resellers will charge you extra for these items. Don’t fall for it. The manufacturer intends for these items to be included in the original box and at the retail price.
5. How does the reseller rank on resellerratings.com?
6. What sort of reputation does the company have with friends and family?
7. Does the price differ from other mainstream resellers significantly and if so, why? This is a red flag. Cameras typically have a small margin. If someone is selling a camera for 20% less than the competition, the reseller warrants close examination.
Finally – always pay with a credit card if possible. Don’t use a debit card. You have fewer protections with a debit card. Credit cards typically offer some sort of fraud protection. Don’t ever send cash or wire money and resist sending checks and money orders to companies you have never heard of or never dealt with.
At the end of the day, the big, well-known, online resellers are usually your best bet. If you get cheated out of thousands of dollars trying to save a few hundred, you’re not better off.