Are TheCameraMall and PriceRitePhoto the Same Company?

Please see important update below.

Disclaimer: Although I recently had a very distasteful experience with PriceRitePhoto, I have never had any dealings with TheCameraMall. While I suspect that these two businesses could be associated this has not been proven to me to a reasonable level of satisfaction. This post is more of an exploratory post to examine and seek feedback as to if a relationship between the two companies exists. I would strongly encourage people not to retaliate against this company based on the evidence that exists and I would encourage people to withhold judgement on this company until a reasonable amount of evidence can be collected. If you have evidence of, or thoughts as to the likelihood, that PriceRitePhoto and TheCameraMall are in fact the same company, feel free to leave them in the comments. As Yahoo! Shopping has apparently deleted both companies from their service, if someone from Yahoo! could comment on this issue it would also be appreciated. This store does seem to have similar complaints against it as PriceRitePhoto.

One of the things that has come up in my story with regards to PriceRitePhoto’s bait and switch tactics is that PriceRitePhoto is somehow affiliated with, perhaps through common ownership, TheCameraMall.

Interestingly enough, TheCameraMall appears to have been delisted from Yahoo! Shopping — even though the store still lists themselves as a Yahoo! “Featured Merchant” and still carries a direct link from their website to a “cannot retrieve merchant info” error page at Yahoo! Shopping.

Unlike PriceRitePhoto, however, they still are up as a merchant at PriceGrabber.com.

BizzRate, who is also linked on TheCameraMall’s site states on their website that TheCameraMall is currently “being re-rated.” According to the FAQ, what this means is: ” Stores can be re-rated for a variety of reasons, including: * BizRate has detected a significant amount of suspicious reviews or other unusual activities that make the prior ratings appear unreliable. * The store’s site or operations have gone through significant changes.

Once enough valid reviews have been gathered, a new rating will be calculated and displayed for this store.”

Perhaps someone from either PriceGrabber, Yahoo! Shopping or BizzRate might be able to confirm or deny that these companies share common ownership.

Below is anecdotal evidence suggesting that PriceRitePhoto and TheCameraMall may be related businesses.

One quote from a Digg user: “funny: i just called 888.912.7300 the number for thecameramall.com and asked for steve philips the same guy that is mentioned in the article over at PriceRitePhoto and they said he is not in, I asked if this is the same company as priceritephoto and he hesitated and told me that steve phillips is a very popular name…”

Another Digg user submitted a form that allegedly came from thecameramall.com that references priceritephoto in the form:

“Check these forms they want customers to sign

Dear Customer,

You have declined the insurance option on the freight charge for your item. If the item arrives damaged you assume all responsibility. TheCameraMall.com will not be held liable for any dispute arising between you and the shipper in the case your order arrives damaged or has concealed damage. Additionally the item you have purchased is below the authorized price the manufacturer allows to resell their product. You have declined the extended warranty offered through Mack and are aware that the manufacturer has the right to decline warranty service for the product you ordered. Under no circumstances may you return the item to TheCameraMall.com. You also agree to give up your right to chargeback through your credit card company with TheCameraMall.com. If a negative review is written on our company in regards to your order a $100 charge will be posted to your credit card.

I ____________________ agree to the above condition and am aware that this product can not be serviced through the manufacturer and I can not hold TheCameraMall.com responsible for anything.

Please sign and fax back to 888-375-6700.

Here is the form I was asked to complete after canceling the order;

Dear Mr. xxxxxx,

As per our phone conversation your order will be retracted. No cancellation
fees will be charged to your card. If a negative review is written in
regards to this order, a $100 charge will be charged to your credit card.

I _______________________ agree to the above conditions and I am aware of
Priceritephoto’s policies and procedures.

Please fax back this form to 888-375-6700 and put your order number 20657 on
the page. An e-mail confirming the cancellation of this order will be
e-mailed to you. “

Another commenter on my blog points out that the IP addresses used as well as the software used for their sites is very close:

“Looking at the IP addresses, there may be a third website, which I don’t see mentioned here yet:

209.200.8.187 TheCameraMall.com
209.200.8.186 PriceRitePhoto.com
209.200.8.185 EmpirePhoto.com

All the sites appear to use the same software too: “Everest E-Commerce Advanced Edition : Enterprise”

Additionally the FAQ/Help pages for each are remarkably similar:

TheCameraMall FAQ
PriceRitePhoto FAQ
EmpirePhoto FAQ.

Also, their “New Arrivals”, “Holiday Specials” and just about everything else show the same products in the same order.

This is possibly a total coincidence, or this third company may be a victim of circumstance, but I thought it worthy of a note in case others have had similar experiences.”

It has also been pointed out that the two names for the domain registrant for both sites are remarkably similar, Eduardo Sanchez and Eduardo Lopez.

Update #1: I just received an email back from CNET’s David Bricker who pointed me to a Better Business Bureau report identifying companies also 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 additionally 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).

A few commenters on this post have also pointed out that if you go to the websites for TheCameraMall and EmpirePhoto and look at their Onlin
e Privacy Practices and Store Security links you will find references directly there to PriceRitePhoto: “going to “Store Security” on EmpirePhoto.com also comes up with a reference to PriceRitePhoto: “Providing you with a secure online experience is a high priority of PriceRitePhoto’s…”

Update: 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.

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35 Comments

  1. Jeff says:

    Actually, just go to thecameramall.com, click on “Online Privacy Practices” or “Store Security” and the text begins, “At PriceRitePhoto, …” I think that should be enough proof.

  2. Jeff says:

    BTW, even though I see this as a small victory for consumer rights (thanks, Thomas!), since this company apparently does business under at least two names already, it probably won’t be too difficult to change it once again and start with a clean slate. It sure would be nice if there was a steep penalty for this kind of practice or if reputation systems could somehow be made more foolproof.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Following up on what Jeff commented on, going to “Store Security” on EmpirePhoto.com also comes up with a reference to PriceRitePhoto: “Providing you with a secure online experience is a high priority of PriceRitePhoto’s…”

  4. Yonzie says:

    “Actually, just go to thecameramall.com, click on “Online Privacy Practices” or “Store Security” and the text begins, “At PriceRitePhoto, …” I think that should be enough proof.”

    Incidentally, EmpirePhoto.com has exactly the same snafu… How strange…

  5. Anonymous says:

    Good job Thomas and others in finding some of the many aliases and domains which these guys use. There is still a lot of detective work remaining, however.

    Shutting down pricerite.com was a small victory, a move which was meant to make the blogging community rejoice and declare victory. Think of it as the part of the iceberg which was visible above water. They still have many online stores which are still up and running.

    Look at the names and addresses for the domains you suspect they own.
    Look at the source code for their URLs, and see where they are pulling their images from (many come from servers where they are storing their product images, or from other domains where they also have a similar or identical online store).

    Two names which come up again and again in all of this: A Heffco Technologies and Jack Heffner (Heffco = Heffner + Company).

    A question: is there a way to do a domain name search for all of the domains owned by a particular person?

  6. Anonymous says:

    I would like to know if they are also related to HotBuysElectornics also. I had a similar experience with them and they are not to be trusted.

  7. It would appear that Jack Heffner is indeed the mastermind, or at least the alias for the mastermind. Here’s someone ranting about another of his sites, http://www.m4040.com/AssholeFiles/HypeAudio.htm
    People he lists under “feedback” are pursuing legal action.
    He mentions that all of Heffner’s “enterprises” are run out of the same Brooklyn Storefront.
    Someone ought to organize a flash mob outside.

  8. C.H says:

    Here are some more.

    http://www.hypeaudio.com/

    A little info on them…

    http://www.m4040.com/AssholeFiles/HypeAudio.htm

    They are also owned by heffco :).

  9. Anonymous says:

    been doing business since the 80’s thru computer shopper and then pc magazine and there are a lot of these type of stores that are located in brooklyn, not all of them, but there are a few that you have to beware of and price is always your first indication.

  10. j$ says:

    the only way to really hurt these companys is in their pocket book. Sure you could shut down each site they crop up, but how long does it take them to make a new one? A day maybe, since there is obviously a forumla they are using. The amount of effort it takes for the blogging community to create such a whurlwind of retaliation could never keep up. I say go after the man in charge, drag him into court with charges of fraud, and really stick it to him.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Someone talking flash mob? How about wondering if these guys are connected to the mob? Seems like a shady type of business they would operate.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I have absolutely no doubt that there is a large amount of tax and mail fraud associated with these companies.

    If you really want this scam shut down, report them for investigation. Jail time will put a real crimp in their operation.

  13. Imafraud says:

    There is alot of very suspicious activity going on here. It may be time to notify the FBI.

    New York Field Office
    (212) 384-1000

  14. The Ogre says:

    Interestingly enough many images from EmpirePhoto.com and TheCameraMall.com are hosted on priceritephoto.com. You can verify this simply by right clicking the images. Here is an example IMG tag from the Empire Photo page :

    It would be extremely unusual for one vendor to use images from another vendor’s website (and IMO unethical and possibly illegal) unless they were affiliated. Right now the images in question are pretty obvious because they aren’t loading (probably due to DoS on PriceRitePhoto.com). Even more interesting is if you look at the pages from TheCameraMall.com and EmpirePhoto.com they both have identical product pages with identical (broken) PriceRitePhoto image links.

    You can also search TheCameraMall.com or EmpirePhoto.com for “pricerite” and you get a bunch of search results.

  15. luke says:

    Non-authoritative answer:
    Name: thecameramall.com
    Address: 209.200.8.187

    Non-authoritative answer:
    Name: priceritephoto.com
    Address: 209.200.8.186

    nslookup is your friend.

  16. Anonymous says:

    if I lived close to new york I would help organize it. damnit

  17. Anonymous says:

    I found this link from the comments on http://www.digg.com/links/News_Story_regarding_the_PriceRitePhoto_and_Digg

    The link is:http://www.resellerratings.com/seller1909-p3-s1-d1.html#reviews

    See the reivew by “jazzlover”. He said “….I purchased a digital camera through pricesrite.com and it came to me from this company…..”.

    It shows the connection between Let’s Go Ditigal and Pricerite.

  18. Anonymous says:

    If I do a search on archive.org for thecameramall.com, it pulls up some pages that have been cached. When you click on those links, it says it could not be found but to try doing more searches for http://www.uniquephoto.com... So that leads us to a whole new pot of stuff. Where does Uniquephoto.com lead us?

    So you have empirephoto.com involved… eh?

    See where http://www.empirefashion.com or empirefashions.com takes you… It takes you to uniquephoto.com…

    Again you have all those similiarities. I would be interested to see the other 10 domains listed on that host… Anyone have a silver membership at whois.sc?

    If you do search here: http://www.whois.sc/reverse-ip/208.222.116.5

    That is the ip where uniquephoto.com and empirefashion.com are hosted. What are the other 10?

  19. Anonymous says:

    Registrant:
    PriceRitePhoto
    1274 49th Street
    Brooklyn, NY 11218
    US

    Domain Name: PRICERITEPHOTO.COM

    Administrative Contact, Technical Contact, Zone Contact:
    PriceRitePhoto
    Eduardo Lopez
    1274 49th Street
    Brooklyn, NY 11218
    US
    (888)365-4300
    webmaster@priceritephoto.com

    Registrant:
    TheCameraMall.com
    924 Bergen Ave Suite 160
    Jersey City, NJ 07306
    US

    Domain Name: THECAMERAMALL.COM

    Administrative Contact, Technical Contact, Zone Contact:
    TheCameraMall.com
    Eduardo Sanchez
    924 Bergen Ave Suite 160
    Jersey City, NJ 07306
    US
    (888)912-7300
    (888)915-6300 [fax]
    webmaster@thecameramall.com

    Registrant:
    EmpirePhoto
    1357 Broadway
    New York, NY 10018
    US

    Domain Name: EMPIREPHOTO.COM

    Administrative Contact, Technical Contact, Zone Contact:
    EmpirePhoto
    John Smith
    1357 Broadway
    New York, NY 10018
    US
    (888)894-3700
    webmaster@empirephoto.com

    Looks like Empire Photo is different

  20. {don} says:

    I went to DNSSTUFF.COM and ran traceroute on EMPIREPHOTO.COM and THECAMERAMALL.COM. The resolved to IP addresses 209.200.8.185 and 209.200.8.187. PRICERITE.COM appears to be down. :o)

  21. Anonymous says:

    john smith?!?!

    ha.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Another thing linking PriceRitePhoto.com and TheCameraMall.com

    http://donwiss.com/pictures/BrooklynStores/h0137.htm

    Woohoo a picture of C&A; Marketings Doors… That’s a professional sign for your doors. :rolleyes:

    Put together that TheCameraMall.com pulls up UniquePhoto.com, and you open up the floodgates of links that are related with UniquePhoto.com

    And another link:

    http://www.resellerratings.com/seller1054.html

    ^So we have confirmation they are the same entity.

  23. Anonymous says:

    The Everest software that is being used allows a company to have multiple companies on the front end (web sites) as well as the backend (Database).

    http://www.everestsoftwareinc.com/Everest/advanced/multiplecompany.asp

    Considering the sequential IP addreses and the same front ends, kinda looks that way.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Sorry the link got cut off.

    http://www.everestsoftwareinc.com
    /Everest/advanced/multiplecompany.asp

  25. Rain Bo says:

    Here are the “whois” listings for both websites. It’s a call, but I would come down on the side of them having the same ownership.

    Registrant:
    PriceRitePhoto
    1274 49th Street
    Brooklyn, NY 11218
    US

    Domain Name: PRICERITEPHOTO.COM

    Administrative Contact, Technical Contact, Zone Contact:

    PriceRitePhoto
    Eduardo Lopez
    1274 49th Street
    Brooklyn, NY 11218
    US
    (888)365-4300
    webmaster@priceritephoto.com

    Domain created on 22-Jun-2003
    Domain expires on 20-Jun-2015
    Last updated on 01-Dec-2005

    Domain servers in listed order:
    NS0.DNSMADEEASY.COM
    NS1.DNSMADEEASY.COM
    NS2.DNSMADEEASY.COM
    NS3.DNSMADEEASY.COM
    NS4.DNSMADEEASY.COM

    Register or transfer domains at http://www.BuyDomains.com – as low as $9/year.

    Including FREE: Responsive toll-free support, URL/frame/email forwarding, easy management system, and full featured DNS.

    Registrant:

    TheCameraMall.com
    924 Bergen Ave Suite 160
    Jersey City, NJ 07306
    US

    Domain Name: THECAMERAMALL.COM

    Administrative Contact, Technical Contact, Zone Contact:

    TheCameraMall.com
    Eduardo Sanchez
    924 Bergen Ave Suite 160
    Jersey City, NJ 07306
    US
    (888)912-7300
    (888)915-6300 [fax]
    webmaster@thecameramall.com

    Domain created on 03-Jan-2000
    Domain expires on 03-Jan-2010
    Last updated on 01-Dec-2005

    Domain servers in listed order:
    NS0.DNSMADEEASY.COM
    NS1.DNSMADEEASY.COM
    NS2.DNSMADEEASY.COM
    NS3.DNSMADEEASY.COM
    NS4.DNSMADEEASY.COM

    Register or transfer domains at http://www.BuyDomains.com – as low as $9/year. Including FREE: Responsive toll-free support, URL/frame/email forwarding,
    easy management system, and full featured DNS.

  26. Imafraud says:

    Their web hosting provider (webair.net) uses the following range of IP addresses:

    209.200.0.0 – 209.200.63.255

    That’s only 16,065 IP address to “digg” into. ; )

  27. Anonymous says:

    It’s a common business tactic amongst many NY-NJ camera dealers. However not all are total crooks like PRP.

    eg: check out Beach Camera and buydig.com. Similar site, and if you search for any product the order listing comes in exact same order. Though pricing/shipping is sometimes different Infact both sites upfront state they are a division of Beach Trading Inc. Atleast Beach Cameras is a confirmed Nikon dealer and reliable store. Not sure too much abt buydig.com

    Another eg:
    centraldigital.com, & ibuydigital.com. Again same story. Infact the other day, I happen to call these two guys one after another getting quotes for D70, and the second time(centraldigital), the same salesman got my call, and before I could say anything, he himself recognised me and said that he’s the same person who took my call for ibuydigital. He then said that they take orders for both the companies. No idea abt the reliability of this pair of websites though.

    Not to mean anything -ve or somehting like that, mistakes do happen…but, to me the surprising thing is, given that you’ve been a successfull photography+techie for so long and yet you still fell for these tricks.

  28. Anonymous says:

    btw, pricerite and cameramall both websites are up. I never saw them down.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I couldn’t find the “privacy” or “store security” links on both cameramall and empirephoto. Looks like they are watching your blog and pulling down stuff realtime.

  30. Anonymous says:

    I guess if they are associated with the mob, that would explain all the unhappy and angry employees resulting in bad customer service. Their employees are probably being extorted.

  31. Anonymous says:

    If you want to figure out what companies own what and other information checkout:

    http://www.badcorp.com/

    They dont have all companies, but they have quite a bit.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Interesting.. IP Lookup on Pricerite’s ip shows the following:
    http://www.whois.sc/209.200.8.186

    OrgName: Webair Internet Development Inc
    OrgID: WAIR
    Address: 333 Jericho Tpke
    Address: Suite 200
    City: Jericho
    StateProv: NY
    PostalCode: 11753
    Country: US

    http://www.webair.com/

    According to that sites “Acceptable Use Policy”, following is prohibited on their network:

    “Other Illegal Activities — Engaging in activities that are determined to be illegal, including advertising, transmitting, or otherwise making available pyramid schemes, fraudulently charging credit cards, and pirating software.”

    If you guys are lucky, all of these camera scam sites are on same provided and you might get them shutdown by complaining to Webair (if it’s hosted there).

    -ts

  33. JimmyC says:

    Terrific website you all should check out:

    http://donwiss.com/pictures/BrooklynStores/#58

    Don Wiss took pictures of all these stores:
    C&A; Marketing, d.b.a. PriceRitePhoto.com [no longer used], TheCameraMall.com and BarclaysPhoto.com
    254 36th Street, Suite 202, Sunset Park
    The left half of the building is 254.

    he also references article:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/11/nyregion/11cameras.html?pagewanted=all&ei;=5090&en;=a33afcdb8319e765&ex;=1294635600&partner;=rssuserland&emc;=rss

  34. Anonymous says:

    I wish I would have come across this site months ago. I am in month 6 of dealing with “Howard Pierce Direct AV” or hpdirect.com on a tv…Some research shows that it seems to be tied into this whole PriceRite “family”.