PriceRitePhoto: Abusive Bait and Switch Camera Store

Please see update #24 at the end of this sotry for an important update.

“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 will call the CEO of your company and play him the tape of this phone call.” “I’m going to call your local police and have two officers come over and arrest you.” “You’d better get this through your thick skull.” “You have no idea who you are dealing with.”

These are all direct threats that I received today from an individual who identified himself as Steve Phillips, the manager of PriceRitePhoto in Brooklyn, New York when I called to inquire about my order with them. My crime? Telling him that I planned to write an article about my unfortunate experience with his company regarding the camera order I had placed with him yesterday.

How are these people able to stay in business?

I suppose I should have been duly warned based on PC World’s Camera Confidential expose written a few years back about unscrupulous camera operators operating out of New York, but I have never been so utterly offended by a retailer in my life. I guess in some ways this is my own fault, or as Steve Phillips reminded me, you’re a “professional photographer you should know better than to buy things on the internet this way.”

I have been keeping track of The new Canon EOS 5D for a while. As those of you who visit this site regularly know, photography is a passionate hobby of mine. I’ve told myself that I’d pick up a 5D as soon as the price dropped below $3,000. I’ve been regularly checking both Yahoo! Shopping and PriceGrabber for a while waiting for one to drop. Well yesterday for the first time I saw that the 5D was for sale for $2,899 at PriceRitePhoto. I placed an order online and this is where my trouble began. The order went through and was confirmed and is shown below.

PriceRitePhoto Order

The first thing that happened was I received a call from an individual who identified himself as Joseph telling me that there was a “problem” with my order. He said he needed to “verify” the security code on my American Express. Although I had given that security code in the order I gave him this code again. He then tried to explain to me that I was going to need some accessories with this camera. For starters I was going to need a new memory card. When I told him that I already had a memory card he became somewhat insistent that mine was not good enough. After I wouldn’t buy his memory card he said I’d need new batteries for the camera. Again I told him that I already had two batteries at home and would not be needing to purchase these from him. And of course he then tried to sell me the ever famous “extended warranty” that I politely declined. He then thanked me for my time, confirmed my order verbally, said that it would be shipping out in the next few days and hung up.

So today I checked on my order online again and saw that it had not been routed to shipping and called the company back again. Four times I was put on hold for a substantial amount of time and had to hang up and call the company again. Finally I was able to connect with an individual who said his name was Steve Phillips. Steve Phillips abruptly told me that the camera was out of stock. When I protested and told him that it was confirmed online yesterday and verbally by his sales rep he refused to budge. When I told him that even right now as we speak the camera was still showing online at that price on his website,(see below with today’s date) he still insisted that he did not have the camera.

PriceRitePhoto

At this point I thanked him and informed him that I would be writing an article about my experience with his company. It was at this point that he went ballistic. He first told me that if I did this that he would not cancel my order but just never fill it. If I cancelled it he said he’d charge me a 15% restocking fee. When I told him that that would be unethical he went nuts. He accused me of trying to “extort” him and said that he was going to have two local police officers come over and arrest me. He then went on to say that as a “professional photographer” I should have known better than to try and buy a camera this way and that he was an attorney and would sue me if I wrote an article about my experience.

He told me that I had no idea who I was dealing with and that as he had my work contact info that he was going to call both my immediate supervisor and the CEO of my company and tell them that I was trying to extort him.

“I will take this very personally,” he said. He claimed to have recorded our phone call and said that he would make sure that I would “never be able to order anything on the internet again.”

Of course these threats only served to agitate me more. After about 20 minutes of this abuse I told him that I had to go and he refused to get off the line. He said that if I hung up that he would just charge me for the whole camera and never ship it. I hung up and he called me back. I left for my meeting and he called back asking to speak with my boss.

This is by far the most abusive situation I have ever encountered with any retailer on the internet.

One of the things that troubles me the most about this situation is that I found this retailer through Yahoo! shopping and they were perceived to have positive feedback. Is the feedback mechanism for Yahoo! Shopping broken? How could this horrible retailer have a four star rating with 858 ratings? I’m convinced that there is a possibility that many of the “reviews” for this company could be fake. I should though have sorted through the reviews to the worst to see that many others had fallen prey to similar fraud by this company.

How is this company still allowed to offer their products through Yahoo! Shopping?

PriceRitePhoto may also be doing business as C&A; Marketing and TheCameraMall.com

Below are some examples from other users:

“very bad place for shoppping. Ordered a TV a week ago. when checking out, the shipping price was higher than displayed by Yahoo. That is ok. Called customer service 2 days later to make sure the order was ok. The guy from customer service tried to sell other things to me, and promised the item will come in 2 days. After 3 days, called again, I was told they over sold the item, and my order was cancelled. what a joke! Don’t buy thing from this merchant!!!”

“In all the years I’ve done business with online stores(and I’ve done plenty), this is by far the ABSOLUTE WORST company I’ve conducted business with yet. They’re customer service is almost completely inaccessible despite their 24/7 365 claim, they don’t deliver on anything they say they will, they’re rude and pushy, and any information that IS sent back is usually filled with vague half-answers that do nothing to solve any problems. This is just an awful business experience. Case in point: They claim to be open on Sundays over the phone from 10AM to 4PM EDT. Well, what they really mean is that the sales department is open, but customer service(who will place you on hold forever during the week) is closed, as is billing. STAY AWAY FROM THIS COMPANY. And warn your friends. …”

“I gave this store an overall rating of 1. That is because Yahoo does not allow me to rate it any lowe
r. I cannot stress enough how poor the customer service from the wretched excuse of a store. First off, they stress ‘we ship in less than 24 hours’. That is a blatant lie. An hour after placing the order, I received a call to confirm that I had indeed purchased a camera, and that the delivery address was correct. So far, so good. I returned the call, and informed them that yes I had indeed purchased a camera, and yes, the information was correct. The next day, I received another phone call to confirm the shipping address, and did I also want to purchase an extended warranty? Yes, the address is correct, and no, I don’t want your warranty. They assured me my camera would be shipped that day. Three days later, I again received a phone call to confirm the shipping address, which had now been done 3 times, and did I want to purchase the extended warranty? Yes, the information is correct, no I don’t want your stupid warranty, I was assured the camera would be shipped that day. It is, in my opinion unconscionable to delay shipping an order for over a week, just so a company can try a high pressure sales job, on a warranty a customer has already told them, repeatedly, that they don’t want. It has now been ten days since the date of purchase, and still no camera. My experience with this store is one I will never repeat, nor would I wish it upon my worst enemy!!”

and yet another review I found on the company:

“I placed an order with TheCameraMall.com (aka PriceRitePhoto aka C&A;
Marketing) on June 9, 2005 for a Sony DSR-PD170 camcorder. At the time
the price advertised on-line was very low, which should have raised a
warning flag, but a call to the company confirmed the item was in stock
ready to be shipped, that it was a US model, the user’s manual was in
English, and the salesman (Joseph) seemed helpful. There was some
pressure to add unwanted items like a tripod, extra battery, etc, but they
were declined. An offer to add insurance was offered, and initially I
declined but then agreed after being told that otherwise if the product
arrived and was non-functional I would be taking full risk. Before the
product could be shipped I was asked to sign and fax a form, appended
below, that indicated that if I wrote any negative feedback I would agree
to have my credit card charged $100, and that I also agreed to waive my
right to chargeback to the credit card company, and that product could not
be returned for any reason. I signed and returned this form with the
understanding that the company would send the item I ordered. However
after a week there was no indication of a product even having been
shipped, and the customer service contact indicated that only the
salesperson could give me order status, so after several tried I reached
Joseph again, and now he indicated that he couldn’t ship the product
unless I faxed him a copy of my credit-card!!! This I refused to do, and
have never, ever had to do for a transaction. I sent email to the company
requesting cancelation of the order, and received yet another email asked
me to sign and fax back a form indicating that I would not post negative
feedback and if I did I was authorizing my credit card to be charged
$100. I refused to sign this.

I did post feedback to
the feedback links provided by the customer describing the details of the
transaction, including the forms I had been sent.

The day after posting the feedback describing my attempt to buy the video
camera from PriceRitePhoto/CameraMall, I received a call from a “John
Hancock”, claiming to be the owner of the camera companies, and demanding
that I remove the feedback I posted. He said that he would charge my
credit card for the amount of the camera and and additional $250 for each
posting. He also said that he was shipping a Malaysian version of the
camera, without a lens, to me, and that he would make money on the deal,
and I couldn’t stop the shipment, or dispute the charge. My credit card
company confirmed that a pending charge had been placed by PriceRite, but
the charge was not yet posted, and once it was posted, I could dispute.

The next day, July 6, I received several calls from “John Hancock”,
demanding again that I remove the feedback I had posted, and when I agreed
that I would remove anything that he felt was not accurate, but if he
could not indicate any inaccuracy, then the feedback would remain. He
screamed and swore at me over the phone, and said that he would post my
credit card number on the internet if I didn’t comply.

On July 8 a charge was posted to my credit card for $2139.99 and a second
charge was posted for $100.00. I called my credit card company and
initiated the dispute process. The security department of BankOne Credit
strongly suggested that I cancel my credit card, and complete an internet
fraud report.
Description of how you were defrauded:
My credit card has been charged $2238.99 for an cancelled order.
I’ve been threatened with additional multiple charges against my
credit card unless I change feedback posted to the Internet, and I’ve
been threatened with having my credit card number posted to the
Internet. I’ve had to cancel my credit card on the advice of my
credit card provider.”

Update #1: Found this text on their eBay store ad: “We guarantee our customers to have the best quality products and the best customer service! Our customers love us for our friendly attitude, buy with confidence!”

This just makes me sick. If you want to Digg this story you can here.

Update #2: Well I just received a call back from Steve Phillips at PriceRitePhoto. He said that I should be expecting a call from the “FBI” shortly and that “my tactics” of flooding his store’s phone lines was “illegal.” When I asked him to hold on as I wanted to turn on my recorder to record our conversation he hung up on me.

Of course I have not called his store at all but I’d imagine that the attention that his abuse has received from Digg and other places on the internet may have something to do with that.

My boss did have a conversation with me about the fact that this guy called him yesterday and was very understanding about the situation.

Update #3: Also since calling my boss, Steve Phillips has called my boss’ assistant several times this morning as well. Contrary to Steve Phillips claims, I still have had no police officers show up at my office to “arrest me.” Nor have I been contacted by the “FBI.”

Last night when I called AMEX it appeared that PriceRitePhoto had not charged my card yet. My guess is that when I refused to buy their high priced accessories that they never had any intention of sending me the camera at their advertised price. I blocked the card with AMEX and will be getting a new number to prevent them from further abusing my credit card.

I have also filed a complaint with the New York Attorney General’s office regarding their behavior and have left negative reviews on my experience with their company on most of the shopping comparison services that they are included in. Hopefully from the attention that this story has received they will reflect on the appropriateness of their sales tactics going forward.

If anyone has a contact at Yahoo! Shopping it would be nice to learn from them that they were being delisted or at least investigated over this.

Interestingly enough, it was just two weeks back that Yahoo! made
an announcement about an overhaul to their shopping service. It would seem that they plan to include more social networking type reviews on products and vendors in the future. Hopefully whatever new system they put in place will help weed out the bad apples like PriceRitePhoto.

Of course even as late as today, they still have the camera that they told me as out of stock on their internet site for sale for $2,899.

Update #4: Received this email back from the New York State Attorney General’s Office today: “Dear Consumer:

Thank you for your submission to the New York State Attorney General’s Internet Bureau. On behalf of Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, I want to thank you for taking the time to alert us to this matter. Your assistance is vital to our efforts to serve the people of the State of New York.

We have added your submission to our files. It is through complaints such as yours that we learn of patterns of fraud and illegality. If you have any questions about this matter, please call us at (212) 416-8433. For other consumer-related matters, please call our consumer hotline at (800) 771-7755.

Thank you for contacting us.”

Update #5: Thanks to a complaint by Digg User loker269, PriceGrabber has now delisted PriceRitePhoto. Nice to see PriceGrabber do the responsible thing here.

Update #6: This story has risen to the number one dugg story on Digg this year with 5439 diggs so far today. Thanks diggers!

I also received this email today from Joe Lazarus, Director of Marketing for Yahoo! Inc.: “Tom, I wanted to follow up on a comment I added to your post on PriceRitePhoto. I work at Yahoo! Shopping. I passed your issue along to our Customer Care team who will investigate and take the appropriate action per our merchant Guidelines and Terms of Service. I covered some more details in my comment. Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions. ~ Joe”

Update #7: This story just made the front page of Slashdot. It was also on Boing Boing and Metafilter today along with many, many other blogs. I truly hope that this attention shines a light on the abusive bait and switch tactics that so many of you have also unfortunately experienced and shared in your comments.

The support is overwhelming and very much appreciated. And, yes, yes, yes, I do know that I was stupid and should have known better and done my homework before buying from these guys — but that doesn’t negate the fact that their sales tactics are wrong and deserve to be stopped.

Update #8: Although I have not heard directly back from Yahoo! or their Marketing Director Joe Lazarus. It would appear at least that for the time being, today, PriceRitePhoto is not operating on Yahoo! Shopping. They are still listed as a merchant there and there is a link to their store but when you do a search by their store for products for sale through Yahoo! you get the following message: “We didn’t find any product results for mid:1016578.” I’m not sure if Yahoo! pulled their listings or if PriceRitePhoto did or if that is just part of what happens when Yahoo! investigates a company. I hope that if after investigating Yahoo! concludes that this company is acting unethically that they will in fact delist them altogether. I will update as I hear more on this.

Also, fortunately, my server has held up remarkably well with all of the traffic being sent to this story from the above sources. I recently had to move from a shared server to a dedicated server with lots of excess capacity because I’ve had many highly ranked Google Images that had been eating through my bandwidth in the past. Also it helps keep my bandwidth usage down as the photos that are included as part of this story are actually hosted by Flickr, my favorite site on the internet and as I oft like to repeat, “almost certainly the best online photo management and sharing application in the world.” Ironically, of course in all of this, Flickr is owned by Yahoo!

Below is an image of the company’s website this morning. As you can see, the camera that was supposedly “out of stock” when I refused to purchase their high priced accessories is still being shown for sale at the $2,899 price even still today. I suspect that they do actually have the camera in stock but that they only sell it to those who load up on expensive accessories and warranty plans from them.

PriceRitePhotos Supposed

Update #9: One of the best stories I have read in conjunction with this article was a letter that Slashdot user DrWho42 (558107) wrote to PriceGrabber regarding his own personal experience with PriceRitePhoto about a year ago. It is a well articulated letter and pretty much describes PriceRitePhoto perfectly. Apparently because of this well written letter PriceGrabber, according to the user, took PriceRitePhoto off of their site a year ago. He wonders how they could have gotten back on PriceGrabber. I would be interested if someone at PriceGrabber could comment on this report and tell us why after this merchant was removed from their site a year ago and a known bait and switch merchant who used extortion to try and influence feedback, that they would be allowed back on. I see that they are pulled off PriceGrabber now, but if it is true that they were banned a year ago and still made it back on then I’d say PriceGrabber’s system is pretty much broken. It’s a long read but very worthwhile.

Update #10: Although the priceritephoto.com site is still up, I received an email today from a reader who complained to their hosting provider Webair.com. I’m not sure exactly the ramifications of the email from Webair. It was sent from abuse@webair.com and was forwarded to me as follows:

“This client has been sent a TOS violation for illegal activity.

Thank you,

Webair Abuse Team”

Update #11: I received a call this morning from Ed Lopez, the owner of PriceRitePhoto. We spoke at length and he told me that the activity that has resulted from my post on my experience with his business has most certainly impacted his business. Mr. Lopez told me that he was calling to apologize and that Mr. Philips was going to be terminated at a company board meeting later on this morning. He confirmed to me that they do have the camera in question in stock and although I am not interested in purchasing it from them at this point indicated that he would sell it for me at the advertised price. Subsequently Ed sent me the following email:

“On behalf of Priceritephoto I would like
to sincerely apologize for the negative experience that you have experienced with our company. As a company this is not representative of the way we treat our customers. If there is anything that we can do at this point to rectify the situation, please let me know. We have tens of thousands of happy customers who have purchased form us in the past and it is our commitment to give our customers the best value when dealing with us. We are doing a comprehensive review of our company’s procedures to ensure that something like this never occurs. We have also terminated Mr. Philips from his position with our company.”

Although I do not believe my “Steve Philips experience” was an isolated case by this merchant (and certainly the other testimonials suggest that this is in fact more of a common practice by them), my own personal view is that any retaliation towards this vendor should be channeled through legitimate and legal channels. Although some of the crank phone calls are actually pretty funny I think that it is better to take the high road in this case and to use legitimate resources where they exist, whether reporting them to the comparison pricing services or contacting the Attorney General (as I have done) or reporting them to people like the Better Business Bureau.

I think that the popularity of this story comes in large part because the message resonates so strongly with all of us. Although in a sense it is the classic tale of David and Goliath retold, it is much more than this. We all have at one point or another in our lives been bullied and most of us have been defrauded or ripped off. The fact that so many times in the past there was nothing we could do about it makes us feel all that much better about the fact that in today’s internet and blogosphere we actually CAN do something about it.

It is tremendously empowering for all of us to be able to turn the powerlessness that we felt in the past into justice in todays’ blogosphere through the help of things like Digg and Slashdot and Boing Boing. And although every rip off does not receive this level of attention, I believe this story in a greater sense is representative of perhaps thousands of rip off experiences that we have all suffered in the past and been able to do nothing about – some directly with this vendor, some directly with New York based camera vendors like this one, and some with just fraudulent internet businesses wherever they happen to be located. Because we in the past have had to live with the bitterness of our own personal frauds, our feelings towards the popularity of this story is that much stronger – as is our desire to retaliate.

This being said, I again would encourage everyone to take the high road with respect to this vendor. I believe that the power of this story and the ultimate outcome, whatever that may be, will carry much more weight if as a public we handle things responsibly and do not resort to illegal tactics or harassment. Although there is a sense that we all must feel that these folks have gotten what they deserved, I think it would be a far greater legacy for this story to have if change takes place in legal and legitimate channels.

I cannot speak to the sincerity of Ed Lopez. He has sent me an apology letter and I feel it appropriate to print it. His motivation very well may be legitimate — or it could also be the only possible avenue Mr. Lopez has left to try to salvage his business at this point.

Out of all of this, hopefully more than anything, this story will serve as a reminder to shady businesses everywhere that in the end fraud and abusive behavior towards customers does not pay. Perhaps I’m being overly idealistic here and perhaps this incident is the smallest possible blip in the greater world of internet fraud — but one thing I do know is that the power of the consumer is growing. And in a new world today with tools like blogs and Slashdot and Digg the consumer is empowered in great ways that they never have been in the past.

Update #12: This story is now on the first page search results for the term PriceRitePhoto for both Google and Yahoo! It is the number one returned search result, even ahead of their store, on MSN Search. Their site has been down now since yesterday afternoon — I’m not sure if this is the result of hacker activity or a reaction from their hosting company for bandwidth useage or TOS violations. The story was also picked up by Digital Life TV. You can view the episode here.

Update #13: PriceRitePhoto has been delisted from both Yahoo! Shopping and PriceGrabber. They still do appear however to have a profile listing giving them four stars at CNET. I could not find any products for sale from them on CNET but they still are up as a four star internet retailer. Their internet site is still down as of this morning and the story has moved up to the number 4th search result for the term priceritephoto on Google. A wikipedia entry was started for priceritephoto but it appears to have been edited out of wikipedia.

Update #14: I’ve written a follow-up post asking if PriceRitePhoto and TheCameraMall are the same company.

Update #15: I just received an email from David Bricker, the Director of Partner Services at CNET Networks. According to David: “We have pulled PriceRitePhoto.com from our site(s) and their affiliated companies. The “profile” page, while still live, is impossible to navigate to. That said, we’ll be pulling that page down from our web servers shortly.”

I have sent a follow up email to David asking if he can provide me the names of their “affiliated companies.”

Update #16: I just received an email back from CNET’s David Bricker who pointed me to a Better Business Bureau report identifying additional companies that are affiliated with PriceRitePhoto. Although TheCameraMall is not listed on a Better Business Bureau report as one of PriceRitePhoto’s affiliates, according to the Better Business Bureau of New York, PriceRitePhoto is in fact affiliated with many other names and ultimately would seem to fall under a parent company going by the name of Let’s Go Digital that is owned by Jack Heffner. You can see the report yourself here which includes their contact and other information. According to the BBB they additional are using the following business names: A. Heffco Technologies, Inc., C&A; Marketing, Dealz Net, Hype Audio, Ideal Audio/Video, Ideal Photo and Video, Let’s Go Digital, LGD Superstore, Price Rite Photo, Prices Rite Photo.

Yesterday when I was on the phone with Ed Lopez he denied that Jack Heffner was affiliated with PriceRitePhoto although he did acknowledge knowing Jack Heffner and identified him as the owner of LGD Superstore (another alleged affiliate according to the BBB)

Update #17: Although PriceRitePhoto’s website is still offline and they appear to have been dropped from all of the major shopping comparison sites, they are still operating on eBay. They are listed there as a “power seller.”

Update #18: After being down for much of the later half of last week, PriceRitePhoto appears to be back up again this morning. They have a note on their website: “For those of you who tried to contact us in the past few days, we would like to apologize for any inconvenience that you may have incurred. Our website was down for maintenance and we are back up and fully operational. If you have placed an order with us please be assured that it will be shipped in a timely manner. Happy Holidays.”

This article is now the number two search result behind their store for anyone searching PriceRitePhoto on Google. This article is the number two story behind their store for anyone searching PriceRitePhoto on Yahoo! And it is still the number one search result for the term PriceRitePhoto at MSN Search. Kevin and Alex also chat about the story on the latest Diggnation podcast recorded in Tokyo.

Update #19: The New York Post covered the story.

Update #20: Well in addition to the PriceRitePhoto story being picked up by the New York Post today, I received a bit more information in one of my comments. Since the beginning of my problems with PriceRitePhoto I’ve suspected that PriceRitePhoto’s purported owner “Ed Lopez” was a fictional name. It seemed to me unusual that PriceRitePhoto had an individual by the name of Eduardo Lopez register their domain name while another camera store linked to them TheCameraMall had an Eduardo Sanchez register their domain name. According the the New York Post: “a call to PriceRitePhoto produced no Ed Lopez, and further calls and an e-mail went unanswered.”

Today I received the following comment on my blog: “By the way, the owner’s name is not Ed Lopez. His name is Chaim Pikarski. I know it because I worked for him in the past. His tactics do not surprise me, and all he is trying to do is hide his true identity through the alias of Ed Lopez. Actually, I would be very surprised if you ever spoke to the owner. It was most likely just an employee that provided you a fictitious name and is probably just a manager.”

Turns out upon doing a Google search for “Chaim Pikarski” one of the results back is a directory for the Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corp. They have Chaim Pikarski listed at the following address: 140 58th St., Unit 4E, BX 37 in Brooklyn and a phone number of (718) 491-4300. Interestingly enough, one of the addresses that comes up under Don Wiss’ excellent series of Brooklyn Camera Store Storefronts for CP Industries, dba TheCameraMall is the same address in Brooklyn, 140 58th St. Also, if you do a Google search for the phone number 718-491-4300 you can find an old cached page listing that phone number as a number for The Camera Zone, another company which has been identified by Wiss as being under the same management as TheCameraMall.

This site , Digital Paradise (The Digital Paradise is an automated electronic marketplace designed to streamline the purchasing and selling processes of games & electronics for the gaming community) also lists the exact same phone number and address for The Camera Zone as is listed for Pikarski in the Googled Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corp.

Now this is in no way conclusive evidence that Chaim Pikarski is the true individual behind TheCameraMall and PriceRitePhoto, but I would be interested if anyone else had any information on Chaim Pikarski and/or information regarding his involvement in these businesses.

Also to note, and I’m not sure why, the Better Business Bureau of New York has pulled down some of the information regarding PriceRitePhoto from their website. The report where PriceRitePhoto was previously named by them is “being updated,” and the following message is on the site: “The Bureau’s report on this business is currently being updated, and no report is available at this time. Please check this site in approximately four to six weeks.”

Update #21: Update #21: One of the things that these shady camera dealers seem to have a reputation for is carrying multiple different company identities and then changing names when things go wrong with an existing identitiy. So go figure that PriceRitePhoto has just changed their identity on on eBay on Monday of this week from PriceRitePhoto to “Barclay’s Photo.” Now barclaysphoto can welcome in a whole new round of suckers. Barclay’s, like the bank, now that sounds catchy.

Of course Barclay’s (formerly known as PriceRitePhoto) seems to have a bit better feedback on eBay than they’ve had on the other shopping comparison sites (where they’ve been bounced). My guess is that this is because it is harder to bait and switch on eBay. You can’t make up fake feedback there like you can at Yahoo! Shopping and PriceGrabber because each feedback must be tied to a specific transaction. Perhaps their behavior and treatment of eBay customers is better than the other comparison shopping sites. It is interesting though that almost everything that they’ve sold on eBay seems to be packaged with accesories. This might make it easier for them to be nice when they are making money on a transaction and not advertising rock bottom prices to then bait and switch.

They still do have some negative feedback on eBay of course with things like: “great product and great deal,but shipping took forever and alot of telemarketing,” and “Terrible co. to deal with. Misrepresentation. Bait & Switch on their web site.”

So welcome to the new world of online shopping Barclay’s Photo. Hopefully you do better than your evil twin (er, exact same company) PriceRitePhoto. And thanks eBay for having such a nifty feature as allowing online shopping companies the ability to change names and identity. We wouldn’t want any eBay online stores being weighed down with a bad name for bad behavior now would we?

And here’s another interesting point, before being called PriceRitePhoto, it seems Barclay’s/PriceRitePhoto was once called Film4Less — they’ve also gone by edigix as well.

Update #22: Comparison Shopping on Sale – Forbes.com: From Forbes: “While the vast majority of user reviews and merchant ratings provide a useful service, online shoppers can still get caught by disreputable merchants. One blogger, Thomas Hawk of San Francisco, recently attempted to purchase a Canon EOS 5D camera that he saw listed for $2,899 at PriceRitePhoto—the lowest price online at the time. Hawk checked and found positive store reviews, but after placing the order, Hawk claims he was c
ontacted by a PriceRitePhoto, employee who tried to sell Hawk expensive accessories to go with the camera. When Hawk declined, the employee said the camera was no longer available and threatened to charge Hawk’s credit card and never send the camera. (PriceRitePhoto did not return phone calls requesting a comment.)

Yahoo Shopping’s vice president, Rob Solomon, said that PriceRitePhoto had rigged Yahoo’s feedback system to garner positive reviews. Hawk was lucky because he was able to cancel his credit card before any money was charged. However, things could have been worse. Yahoo Shopping offers a money-back guarantee to its buyers, but that guarantee is capped at $1,000. Sites like Become.com and NexTag offer no such guarantees.”

Update #23: In a Flash, Camera Dealers Feel the Web’s Wrath – New York Times: The New York Times today published a good expose on the recent PriceRitePhoto issue. It would appear that they are pretty much out of business at this point with mail stacking up at the door of their address which the owner won’t pick up according to a handyman at the building because he owes money.

“On Nov. 29, Mr. Hawk posted a 2,333-word complaint about Price Rite Photo on his Web site, describing hard sales tactics and threats. By 2 a.m. the next day, this dispute over a $3,000 camera was an enormously popular topic of discussion online, casting Mr. Hawk in the timeless role of the outraged underdog.

Internet gunslingers tend to shoot first and ask lots of questions while shooting, so the attacks on Price Rite came quickly and with much discussion. Some bragged of tying up the company’s phone lines, others of flooding its Web site with excess traffic. It is unclear whether that tactic worked.

“The world of blogs is such an echo chamber that, a few places pick it up, you literally are generating tons of traffic,” said Lee Holmes, 28, who posted similar complaints on his own site from his home near Seattle.

There were conscientious objectors, too. One discussion participant anonymously wrote, “This is vigilante justice; there are proper channels to deal with this.”

After reading Mr. Hawk’s complaints, Yahoo! Shopping blocked Price Rite from its service, according to Sabrina Crider, a spokeswoman for the company. Mr. Hawk quickly declared victory, and online discussion forums with names like Digg filed the story under headlines like “Digg Users Take Revenge at Bad Online Store.”

But the episode was not complete for Mr. Wiss, whose photographs of Brooklyn buildings had been mentioned in Mr. Hawk’s rant under the headline “Update #20.”

On Dec. 14, Mr. Wiss said, he received several calls accusing him of putting stores out of business and threatening him with death. He said the threats were all bluster, but he reported the calls to the police and adamantly refused to allow photographs of his face for this article. He said he hopes to trace the calls if they continue.

At the warehouse in Sunset Park, Mr. Colon, the handyman, had his own ideas about the whereabouts of Price Rite and its proprietor.

“He owes me money,” Mr. Colon said, explaining that he was never paid for moving an air-conditioner. “That’s why he doesn’t come here to pick up the mail.””

Update #24: Yesterday I received an email from an individual identifying himself as Gabe Heffez from A. Heffco Technologies. Mr. Heffez seemed somewhat distraught over the fact that in my reporting on PriceRitePhoto that his company and companies had been erroneously identified as being associated with PriceRitePhoto. In my reporting on my experience with PriceRitePhoto I had identified A. Heffco Technologies as possibly being associated with PriceRitePhoto based on a report that linked the two from the Better Business Bureau of New York. I was first made aware of this report and connection from CNET’s David Bricker when he pointed me to the BBB report when I first began reporting on PriceRitePhoto and included my first mention of A. Heffco Technologies based on this report.

Contrary to this report from the BBB Mr. Heffez wrote me yesterday saying, “our company is in no way related to PriceRitePhoto,” he added, “we don’t know who C&A; Marketing is or who Ideal Photo Video is. We have sent dozens of faxes and made numerous phone calls to the BBB to correct the issue so far to no avail.” Mr. Heffez further went on in a subsequent email to say, “This (action) caused us to reap the wrath of the public and our own advertisers. In early-mid December, our host, Yahoo! also terminated our stores and three of our personal ID’s without explanation. A seven year relationship was ended in the blink of an eye.” Mr. Heffez also said that CNET dropped them as well and added, “your David vs. Goliath blog unfortunately turned into our instant termination. We all have families to feed and this past Christmas our job was that much harder.”

In response to Mr. Heffez’s claims of not being associated with PriceRitePhoto I have been in contact with Tony Barbera, Manager of Information and Investigations with the BBB serving Metropolitan NY expressing my concerns over having possibly hurt an innocent company based on a potential wrongful association on the part of the BBB. Mr. Barbera, who was aware of the coverage that this story received yesterday by the New York Times told me that the company’s report has been suspended pending further results of an investigation. “I was contaced by Mr. Heffez yesterday, and we will be working with the companies in order to establish correct and complete records for each entity if it is determined they are separate,” wrote Mr. Barbera.

Millions of people each day turn to the Better Business Burea and rely on the accuracy of the information that they provide for making informed decisions regarding their purchases and which merchants they will do business with. The integrity of their information regarding merchants is super important. If in fact the BBB has erroneously linked PriceRitePhoto and Mr. Heffez’s company then I would be very personally disappointed to have hurt an innocent unrelated company. Mr. Heffez has informed me that over the past few weeks his phone lines have been ringing off the hook with nothing on the other end but hang ups or music and has told me that he is pretty sure that his sites have been bombarded with worthless traffic in an attempt to crash them.

I suspect that this story will be developing and hope to have more conclusive findings one way or the other shortly — but in the event that the information linking his company and their affiliates to PriceRitePhoto was incorrectly reported by the BBB, I apologize and am truly sorry for any role that I and my blogging may have had in hurting his business.

PriceRitePhoto Update #25: Last week I reported on a company Heffco possibly being erroneously connected with my reporting on PriceRitePhoto based on a report by the New York BBB.

I have received the following email back from Tony Barbera, Manager of the Information and Investigations Divsion of the BBB New York:

“Just letting you know our reports on PriceRitePhoto and PricesRite have been re-released and are listed as separate entities. Take a look, and let me know if you have any questions.”

PricesRite is still associated with Let’s Go Digital and ultimately also A. Heffco Technologies with a fairly negative BBB rating, but it is no longer associated per the BBB New York with PriceRitePhoto, the o
utfit that I had my run in with. It sounds like while distancing the companies, the BBB still is not willing to change the overall rating of Let’s Go Digital and that the unrelated complaints against them are still standing.

PriceRitePhoto is now listed as an affilate of C&A; Marketing, with a “Howard Baker” as it’s president. Interesting and suprisingly to me they only have three complaints filed with the BBB against them.

I received the following email from Gabe Heffez of Heffco, on the matter at hand: “Thank you for your help with the BBB. Although they still don’t have our information 100% correct, they have removed associations with priceritephoto and company. We will continue to write them and fax them the correct information so they can get it completely right. Thank you for the quick response and corrections on your side.”

and then a second email:

“Funny, I just checked again and it looks like we inherited all of their customer disputes. I checked their page and looks like they are a pretty clean cut company. The BBB has got to get their act together. We will continue to work on it.”

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628 comments on “PriceRitePhoto: Abusive Bait and Switch Camera Store
  1. Lawyers says:

    That is an abusive threat , no need for it

  2. this in an informative article , same happened to a friend of mine. I’ts good to hear there is people like you reporting and working on it

  3. J R Miller says:

    Brilliant article – well done Mr. Hawk. Just what these low-lifes need.

    I also, unfortunately, am having more than my fair share of grief with a Chinese company (Golden Motor – http://www.goldenmotor.com) who sent me a very sub-standard product (an e-bike conversion kit) that not only didn’t come close to what was advertised, but was dangerous in use and potentially lethal.
    I contacted Golden Motor directly for assistance with my concerns – 3 mails – which they simply ignored. Thhey only replied when I appealed to PayPal (another waste of time).

    To cut a long story short, my credit card company (GEMoneyBank / Mastercard) have accepted my claim. They are prepared to return the money and pursue Golden Motor for same.

    I’ll give Golden Motor one final chance to settle and, if they do not take up the offer, I’ll let the “GEMoneyBank dogs” loose – let’s see Golden Motor ignore their emails !

    However, I am far from the only person having problems with this company – my own help topic for assistance can be read at Golden Motors’ forum –
    http://goldenmotor.com/SMF/index.php?topic=2337.new;topicseen#new
    along with many others.

    It would be remiss of me not to warn others about this company – can you give me a couple of pointers on how I can get the ball rolling on this ?

    Many thanks and, once again, great Blog.

  4. Don Julio says:

    My first purchase from New York was from 42nd Street Photo many years ago. They stripped the factory accessories from a flash. When I called they told me that I didn’t pay for the accessories, just the flash. No way to reason with them, it was a valuable lesson and I’ve never bought from NYC again with the notable exceptions of B&H and Adorama.

  5. Golden Motor are losers. At first I was seriously into defending my rights but as time passed I realized it’s better to let it go.

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  7. Team Roster says:

    Maybe you could change the post title Thomas Hawk Digital Connection » Blog Archive » PriceRitePhoto: Abusive Bait and Switch Camera Store to something more catching for your subject you make. I loved the post nevertheless.

  8. Thanks for sharing! I wish there would be more info about that:)

  9. Roger says:

    I have some pictures in my camera… I dont have a usb cable for it but I have a memory card or a chip. Is there any way I can copy the photos that are on my camera already onto my chip so I can get them on the computer? I tried the options menu.

  10. This in an informative article , same happened to a friend of mine. I’ts good to hear there is people like you reporting and working on it.
    Thanks for this posting

  11. jeff says:

    So glad there are people like you Mr. Hawk that are thorough and persistent enough so that these web companies feel the pinch, go out of business or have to at least go through the hassle of renaming their site. But you also follow up on that. People like you help everyone out here from the perils of internet buying. Thanks for every hour spent and headache received..! We appreciate this.. ! jeff

  12. Roger Fauró says:

    I sent countless e-mails for three days asking them to cancel my order and saying I was going to sue them and was always put on hold if I called. No e-mails were returned and I was never able to speak to anyone on the phone. I recieved the camera a few days later, probably only because of my countless e-mails about taking legal action.

  13. Combaticus says:

    Fortunately I’ve never ordered from these bozos; I learned my lesson a long time ago with another outfit in NYC. Never again will I buy camera gear from anywhere near NY.

  14. that is an abusive threat , no need for it

  15. This in an informative article

  16. Nice article. Thanks for the post.

  17. hot show says:

    I dont have a usb cable for it but I have a memory card or a chip. Is there any way I can copy the photos that are on my camera already onto my chip so I can get them on the computer? I tried the options menu.. couldn’t find anything.

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    God, I hate arrogant lawyers that think they can sue anyone for anything. I’m really glad that people like you are ready to put an end to this nonsense.

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