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.”

628 Replies to “PriceRitePhoto: Abusive Bait and Switch Camera Store”

  1. holy crap!

    I have a tip: before ever buying anything I always go to google and type “company name+scam”

    check this out:
    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q;=priceritephoto+scam&amp…;

    Notice how extensive the complaints are. Anytime I see widespread reporting on this scale in various forums and consumer websites I bail.

    You’ll see that it’s very effective. Either sites have a deluge of complaints or none at all. Very rarely is there a middle ground, and I have found this to work for all my purchases.

    And always, always bitch about these guys at places like ripoffreport.com and any other forum so that other people can google them up.

  2. I almost bought a camera from these guys, but at the last minute I checked ePinions, which, in addition to rating products, rates online stores. The comments on the site steered me clear.

    http://www.epinions.com/pr-Online_Stores_Services-Price_Rite_Photo/display_~reviews/sec_~opinion_list/pp_~1#list

    I have noticed, however, that their overall rating has gone way up. My guess is that someone is “seeding” the comments area — so most of the ratings on this store are either the highest or the lowest. I suspect the “lowest” ones are real customers.

    By the way, I also found a good store on ePinions — by looking for a highly rated store that didn’t have words like “con artists” and “scam” in the descriptions… : )

    Mike

  3. I had this kind of problem with Dell of all places. Not exactly, but was treated in the same manor by a tech support agent in India whith my personal information (which is a concern in itself entirely).

    I simply filed a complaint with better business bureu. You might be suprised at how effective this is.

    Furthermore, I would suggest recording these phone calls and posting them to your blog. You would get a lot more coverage this way.

  4. Thomas,

    I love your blog dearly, but I’m sorry to say I don’t feel for you on this one. You admittedly knew about these types of dealers before buying and didn’t check any sort of references. Everything you reported is pretty much what others reported too. Why did you do it – its several hundred dollars less than anywhere else, did you really think it was legit?

    That said, yes I don’t know how companies like this still operate after all the complaints, etc. Keep blogging (and other methods) about shoddy operators – just keep it professional – and hopefully it’ll help to shut them down.

    BTW it looks like $3300 is the general low price from reputable (and authorized) vendors.

    Sorry 🙁

    Mike

  5. The BBB is no longer relevant in our digital society. You are better off complaining on the Epinion type sites and contacting your state attorney general. If enough people complain, Spitzer will get wind of it and we’ll see him clean up NY.

  6. Mike, I have to say that I agree with you. I, of all people, should have known better. A quick check of the Yahoo! Shopping rating of 4 stars and several hundred reviews was not near enough due dilligence on my part. Although I acknowledge my fault in not doing better research on this company first, it does not negate that fact that a company like this should not be allowed to operate and con people — especially through a vehicle like Yahoo! Shopping.

    I certainly will do better research in the future and am embarrased by my lacke of due dilligence in this case.

  7. In the item description it now says, “This is the camera body only and does not include the lens..” at the end. The question is, did Thomas not notice this, or did that rotten retailer add it to the item description later? Unfortuneately google doesn’t have it cached….

  8. Skypeout can do free calls to toll-free US numbers, for free. Go download skype if you haven’t already.
    Their phone number is +18883654300, call them up and tell them what you think. Have some fun. You DO NOT need to buy skypeout credit – the number is toll free.

  9. Oh Thomas, that really sucks. I had a similar experience with another Brooklyn camera dealer over a $400 Canon Elph awhile ago. Not the same guys, but shadiness and bate n switch abound. I’m glad you took the time to document everything very clearly. It’ll help prevent future would-be customers from getting scammed by these mafia criminals. Hopefully, it’ll also put them out of business.

  10. The owner can’t back any of his threats. Cancel your credit card asap and report him to the CC company and he BBB. Post this story to any NYC general newsgroups. I love to f with scam artists like this ahole.

  11. You’re an idiot. Anyone even remotely connected to the camera world knows to avoid those stores.

  12. Haha, the store is 2 minutes away from my house. This is absolutely ridiculous, gives a bad name to internet shopping.

  13. I loved your story and wish you the best of luck in bringing this thief to his knees.

    What I most enjoy about your situation is how it shows the power of those that blog. People like us can easily get the word out about such things. What is left to be seen is what we can achieve in the end.

  14. Guy from the Europe here…

    My question: is it legal for a retailer to charge more and waiver guarantee for a negative feedback?

    In Europe retailers are allowed to charge only if they provide a service or good (IANAL though).

  15. I had a similar experience with a Yahoo! Shopping Company. EXCEPT…they DID charge me and never ship AND they used my Credit Card info to buy TONS of the same product and send it to my house which I then had to contact all the e-tailers and explain the situation and return at my own expense. I contacted the BBB, they did nothing. I contacted Yahoo! and they did nothing. Since you have to settle these kinds of disputes in the municipality where the abuse occurs, you’re at a serious disadvantage as a consumer which they KNOW…

  16. They are located Between West 5th and West 8th Street on Avenue T in brooklyn. They are the worst of the worst people. While in their office they said yeah we got our crap and just leave it there forever. They are russian scam artist.

  17. Have you ever seen the SNL skit where Tom Hanks plays an Israeli/Palestinian/Arab (Middle Easterner of some flavor) in a Manhatten camera store? Sounds like we’ve modernized this bit for the 2000’s.

    NEVER…and I repeat NEVER do business with a camera/gadget/electronics store in NY.

    20+ years ago I went through a very similar process in person when I went to Manhatten to purchase a camera I’d seen advertised in the NYT. Talk about an experience…and I wound up walking away without a camera too.

    Hope you’re able to get this resolved!

    MajorDad1984

  18. In Portugal we have a service that generates virtual credit cards.

    If you don’t need credit, this is the safest way to shop on the internet…

    Every time you shop on the internet, you just create a new credit card number and set an amount limit to it. The amount will be directly charged from your account and the credit card number will be destroyed.

    Unfortunately for you, it only works for Portuguese bank accounts…

    http://www.mbnet.pt/

  19. There are quite a few reputable NY camera stores. J&R; is one of them, B&H; Photo / Vido is another. Both of these stores have a huge catalog & selection, real B&M; storefronts (huge!) that you can visit, and knowledgeable staff.

    If you are going to buy a big ticket item, these stores are the way to go.

  20. I had the exact same thing happen to me (minus the verbal abuse) through another camera dealer in NY. To be honest, they’re known for pulling these kinds of scams and i think the people who put the great reviews out on these kinds of companies are the same people who are buying tons of accessories that they really didn’t want.

    The bottom line is these companies sell the most popular camera makes and models on the market and they do so at an extremely marginal profit to attract attention. They make far more money buy selling tons of accessories at inflated prices. On top of it, they preserve their stock by ONLY selling to people who buy the expensive accessories.

    Unethical? Yes i think so. I’ve been taken advantage of before and i won’t fall for it again. I’m glad to see that someone went public about this.

  21. this seems to be the m.o. of all the electronics stores in brooklyn. typically they’ll operate under several different names, and when you place an order they’ll call you to throw in filters or batteries or whatever. typically they also remove legitimately bundled accessories and ship you the body only, so the manual, usb cable, CDs, all that costs extra.

    most of the advice i’ve seen says “don’t buy from brooklyn,” although i think B&H; is based there, or was at one time.

    –jason

  22. B&H; and J&R; are the way to go for NYC stores.

    J&R; especially now that it allows refunds (it didn’t used to. Can you believe it? NY law allowed it as long as it was prominently displayed that no refunds were given).

  23. I am buying and selling on eBay, their feedback system there is better. Feedback can only be left when a transaction occurs. If a seller (or buyer) threatens you, you can report them to eBay for example. There are protection for both the buyer and the seller.
    It’s not perfect, there will always be crooks, but it’s a good e-commerce Platform.

  24. I’ve just sent the below comments to webmsater@priceritephoto.com.

    Thanks for the heads up.

    I’ve been watching a couple of items on your web store for about 2 weeks now, salivating at one day owning them – especially at how much cheaper they are state side than they are up here in the north east of England.

    Imagine, then, how pleased I was to have read the below linked article which I found on digg.com – one of the world’s most popular community bookmarking sites.

    http://thomashawk.com/2005/11/priceritephoto-abusive-bait-and-switch.html

    I hope Steve Phillips, the manager of PriceRitePhoto in Brooklyn, New York is pleased with himself. He’s just advertised your company to about 10 million people – but not in a good way.

    Lots of luck.

  25. The easiest thing to do here is type a well written letter to your Attorney General’s Office describing all threats and abuse you received from this company. The BBB is much like a feedback company and they can’t force the company to do anything but the Attorney General can from suing to revoking his business license.

  26. If anyone needs to be calling the police it’s you. You should call his local police department and file charges for harassment and credit card fraud.

  27. Someone else named B&H; as one online store to try, and I can recommend them unequivocally.

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/

    Hands down *the best* Internet retailer I’ve ever dealt with. Courteous, helpful, reliable, knowledgeable… I can’t think of enough positive things to say about this company. They’ve got the Canon EOS 5D for $3,300, and I’d recommend going with them even if the price is a bit more than you were prepared to pay. They’ve also been known to throw in a few extras to really make the purchase worthwhile.

  28. I can´t believe the experience you had. I am a photographer, and look around for the best deal, but we need to be weary of matchstick men that pose as business owners.

  29. Had a similar situation with another NY Camera store, Marine Park Camera & Electronics. (aka MPSuperstore)

    Back in 2000, unaware of the problems with these places, I ordered a Canon GL1 Camcorder for about $500 off what most others were selling it for. After letting them sell me a load of crap (bag, filters, warranty) the thing showed up with no serial numbers (cut off the box and no sicker on the camera), the bag was too small (and cheap), the filters didn’t fit the camera and the warranty required me to ship the camera to some other outfit in NYC.

    Packed it all up and shipped it back (on their dime) and after a lot of haggling, including a threat to have Citibank deny the charges, they finaly refunded my credit card. That took about two months.

    (In the mean time, I got a similar deal on eCost.com)

  30. Actually, there were a couple comments that said to contact your Attorney General’s office. Couldn’t hurt, but you should contact their state’s Attorney General, as that’s who’d have some jurisdiction over them.

  31. I guess I know about this because I live in Brooklyn, but just about any camera store in Brooklyn does not deserve your hard-earned money.

    B&H; Photo Video, like other posters pointed out is an excellent resource

  32. I just want to weigh in on the “don’t buy camera equipment from NY”.

    There is one very reputable dealer in Amityville, NY.

    Cameta Camera – http://www.cameta.com/

    Excellent service, and excellent quality. they primarily deal via eBay, but you can also call them. Toll Free 1-800-991-3350

    They will do business over the phone as well.

    No, I have nothing to do with this company other than I have bought from them in the past, will do so again in the future and have recomended them to several friends who have all been impressed with the service they got.

  33. I would hit up the Better Business Bureau and report it there. I believe they can actually open an investigation if it’s warranted.

  34. I had the same issues with the priceritephoto store. The only issue was that I waited three weeks and my shipment was never sent after refusing to buy accessories. I went to another store, and it was owned by the same people. Eventually, I had a cutomer rep tell me that I was wasting their time, and that I didn’t know what I was buying. I went to B&H;.

  35. Thanks to everyone who has given this story a read. It has moved up the charts over at Digg and is receiving significant attention this morning. I truly hope that there is a way to show these people that they can’t be abusive and use these kinds of sales techniques. I’m sure I will probably hear from them today and will have more to report back later. Hopefully they call and apologize.

    It is a shame that they have probably done this (well in fact documented in other testimonials on the internet as have done this) to many other people and got away with it.

    I’m certainly guilty of being a bad consumer and not doing my homework and I really should know much better than this but I’m still pleased that this story is getting an amount of attention that will hopefully make this people think twice the next time they try to abuse their customers.

    I’m also going to try and bring this story to Yahoo!’s attention and hopefully they will see fit to drop them at least from Yahoo! Shopping.

    Thanks again.

    And I very much should have known better and a have paid a little extra and bought the camera at B&H.; They do have a good reputation and ironically my boss (who is also a photographer) and I have had several conversations about this and other cameras and he had counciled me to buy from B&H; on more than one occasion.

  36. I bought my video camera several years ago from an on-line New York store, but did so with trepidation and did have to say no to some of the extras, but bought a few extras as well. That’s where they make their money. Also, when you buy from these stores and you get product below MSRP, there is a very real chance that it is grey market and will have no warrenty. Basic rule of thumb, buy from a repitable retailer that is selling at around MSRP or better yet, buy from a local camera store. The New York stores do get some true real deals, but buy from B&H; or the other really big stores taht have been doing business for ever, if price is everything; if you are willing to pay a little more go retail and save yourself some headaches plus they will go a long way to showing you the ins and outs of your new camera or video camera. By retail I mean a real camera store, not Best Buy or the like. I love Best Buy, but unless you know exactly, precisely what you want, hit a camera store local to you.

  37. As a security professional I’d be more worried about the fact that they have your personal information and credit card information. Watch your CC receipts for a while and make sure your run a credit check on yourself once a month for at least 6 months to make sure they aren’t abusing the information they have.

  38. these people act like mobsters. I can’t understand why GOOGLE and YAHOO allow these merchants to list through their shopping services… they’re fraudsters and ripoff artists.

  39. Thank god I live in the UK and there are strict laws regarding these situations. Does the US have a trading standards authority or distance selling laws?

  40. Yet another story about bad camera sellers from NY. Buyer Beware!

    I’ve been using Discover Card’s service for internet transactions. This service generates a one-time-use credit card number for the specific purchase amount. I’d highly recommend it for transactions like this.

  41. We’ll help get your word out, and we’ll make sure that this ‘person’ will ‘ never be able to “sell” anything on the internet again’

  42. Until the NY Attorney General’s office sends them to prison and/or fines them millions of dollars, people who run scam companies will simply change their company name to escape their bad reputation, and will continue cheating people.

  43. I feel kind of silly to be asking the obvious… but have you not called the police? both local and NYPD..

    I mean.. charging $100 to your CC for nothing.. not to mention as a threat.
    Well, thats called “steeling”, and people go to jail for that kind of thing. Not to mention extortion or possibly blackmail. This goes way beyond just “fraud”.

    You, do have a record of the charges on your credit card statement. That’s evidence.

  44. Thanks for posting this, I was actually going to purchase something through “PriceRitePhoto” and now I will never anything from that place. I hope you got your money back! I’m Anti-PRICERITE!

  45. Thanks very much for posting this. We need a dedicated site which focuses on electronics selling and regularly reports abuses to magazines and web services which continue to permit these companies to advertise. I would also like to see some class action suits to bring one or two of them down, as well as a concerted effort to pass appropriate federal legislation to ban bait and switch of this type. I would also work with my credit card company to tip them off as to possible abuses. This all wastes their time and effort as well. For what it’s worth I have had EXCELLENT service from J&R; and B&H; as well as numerous eBay sellers, including a couple which happen to reside in Brooklyn.

  46. You might want to consider doing a couple of things:

    1. Not only dispute your claim with the credit card company (as you’ve already done), but specifically try to file a fraud report. If this retailer shows up in the credit card company’s system as a possible fraudulent vendor, they may not allow further purchases to be made online to their company via their credit card.

    2. Contact the Better Business Bureau in NY (better if you can figure out the town the company is located in), and tell them of your experience.

    3. Contact the NY State Attorney’s office and let them know of what’s happened. Provide as much evidence as you can.

    Basically, you want to make their life as bad/difficult as possible.

  47. I don’t know to what extent the threats went when you called, but I was working for a large company a few years back, and one of the customers threatened one of our support staff with violence over the phone. The conversation was recorded, and the customer was arrested for a deluge of felony offenses. Using a telecommunications system to threaten bodily harm is a federal offense. Ultimately this person was charged with Intent to commit assault, Intent to commit murder (He stated that he was going to kill our employee), Illegal use of telecommunications equipment and 2 other charges I don’t recall at this time. You have to be VERY CAREFUL what and how you say via US Postal Mail Service, Telephone, and now E-Mail. Anything threat that crosses state boundaries is automatically a federal offense.

    Of course this is only my experience and I am not a lawyer, but it’s good to keep in mind.

  48. You should call American Express and just tell them your story, Im sure they can just do a charge back.

  49. hey MajorDad1984, its MANHATTAN. you could make an attempt to spell it right before you start spouting nonsense about it. New York City, which is really the correct phrasing (as the store in question seems to be located in brooklyn) has *plenty* of reputable camera shops. I dont know if you’ve heard or not, but its a big city. OMG there are a few people among the 11 million here running a scam. that is damn surprising. military intelligence? how much intelligence does it take not to buy a $3000 camera from a shady retailer?? clearly saying “never buy an electronic gadget in NY because I got ripped off there once and it looks like the guy who wrote this piece did too” is somewhat idiotic. you do realize there are millions of people each day who successfully purchase goods and services from legitimate businesses througout our fine state and fine city. i dont know if you’ve heard, we’re a busy little spot up here. while i feel for the author of this piece, if one or two stores are selling a super high end camera for MUCH LESS than everyone else, it MUST make you think, especially if you are in the photography world. best case scenario is grey market / stolen goods, and thats a dirtbag thing to be involved in anyway. this is hardly breaking news. froogle any of the major canon cameras, 20d, 5d, 1d etc – BestPriceCamera comes up first in the google ads, right at the top of the page. SCAM SCAM SCAM – king of scams. try googling plus the word scam as a previous poster suggested – they use the same hard sell on accessories or i’ll cancel your order tactic. why not buy from one of our world famous photo equipment retailers here in Manhattan, like B&H; photo. They are usually within dollars of the best price on the internet and its an honest business. stop in sometime and see the conveyor belts and the hasids. stand in line with the television production people from all the network studios on the west side and the professional photograhers and the art school kids. enjoy the city for the day and try not to get ripped off like a country rube again. an internet business does not have to be located in new york to be a scam – dont hate on the whole state because of it. however, i wish spitzer would get off his ass and regin some serious stronglaw down on these shysters who are besmirching our fine names.

  50. I think I’ll just stick to good old B&H; Photo Video 🙂 Yeah they are more expensive than a lot of companies out there, but I can honestly trust them. I also buy my audio gear from them too. I hate scams like this btw, they’ve permeated the pro-audio market for a while . . . and apparently the photo market is not immune.

  51. I think I’ll just stick to good old B&H; Photo Video 🙂 Yeah they are more expensive than a lot of companies out there, but I can honestly trust them. I also buy my audio gear from them too. I hate scams like this btw, they’ve permeated the pro-audio market for a while . . . and apparently the photo market is not immune.

  52. Sorry dude, but you’re just a pissy little whiner who has no idea about the life of a NYC-based retailer. They don’t have real-time inventory systems that automatically remove things from their site, etc.

    Also, your expectation of shipment in less than 24 hours is way unreasonable. My family runs a website in addition to our retail stores. If anyone like you called up pissing and moaning about an order that was so obviously a sweet deal, we would have cancelled your order and told you to go fuck yourself.

    The guy probably did have several on hand, and at that price, probably had more buyers than cameras. As any good businessman would do, he sold them to the highest bidders first, and probably was intent upon shipping your camera to you at the first available opportunity.

    Just because something is for sale on a website DOES NOT imply it will be shipped within milliseconds of the order being placed, and you sir, are a complete jackass for even suggesting this should be the case. You are a prime example of why blogs will ultimately make no real difference in free speech…too much noise not enough signal.

  53. Yes indeed, contact the State Attorney General’s office and report this. Please post your results to us!

  54. I once contacted a camera/electronics retailer in NY. Thought they were rude and did not make a purchase. I have heard of similar problems with these vendors in NY, so I don’t shop any store in that area.

  55. You can find out a lot about this company by checking with http://bbb.org
    Like their address, the stores real name, the owners name, the coutleess people they have ripped off.
    The store is a shame, really bad stuff.

  56. From the BBB:
    “Based on BBB files, this business has an unsatisfactory record with the Bureau because it failed to respond to one or more complaints.”
    They have a total of 89 complaints in the last 12 months.

  57. I had this happen to me about four years ago with a company that was based in New York. Unfortunately, I do not remember their name.

    I ordered a digital camera to give to my mother as a birthday gift. My father insisted on ordering from the lowest priced place he could find on the internet.

    Sure enough, they called me to verify information about the credit card. Then they tried to sell me all sorts of accesories which I turned down. I asked them while on the phone if the camera would ship that day and they told me that it would. Then they called my father in a different state and tried to sell him the accessories which he turned down as well.

    Then a few hours later I get an email notification that the camera is on back order. I called the company and quizzed them about the situation and asked how it is on back order when they told me earlier in the day it was going to be sent that day.
    Fortunately, I did not have the time to wait on a backordered camera. So, I told them to cancel the order, which they did not want to do. I told them that if they charged my credit card I would report them to the credit card company and the appropriate agencies such as the BBB. I immediately called the credit card company and informed them of the situation.
    They told me they could not do anything until the card was charged, but they assured me that I could contest the charges.

    Then I ordered the camera from egghead.com or newegg.com (which ever it was at that time). I had to pay an extra $50 or so, but it was the best money spent on that camera. The order came through on time without any hassles.

    I would be very wary of any retailer trying to sell electronics for a lower price than the average price you find at several reputable dealers. The bottom line is that they want to stiff you with high priced accessories and warranties and they may even send you a copycat version of the electronic device if they send it at all.

  58. Yahoo! Shopping’s reviews are all user based and cumulative, so while in principle this is good and fair it’s also possible for a merchant like this to have people they know sign up for fake Yahoo! accounts and post positive feedback to make themselves look good.

    The only other explanation I can come up with for why they have so many positive reviews is maybe they do behave if you order small cheap products so that the majority of customers will have a positive impression and the few people that don’t follow all of their ‘rules’ get shafted but don’t represent a majority opinion.

    Have you ever been to a restaurant where they have specific sandwiches on the menu, and most of them are great, but if you try to order anything different from what they want you to have they tear your head off?

    If most people unthinkingly say yes to the additional battery and memory card questions then maybe they think they’re getting good service.

    Sad but possibly true.

  59. I called up PriceRitePhoto and asked to speak to Steve Phillips. After being put on hold for several minutes, I was connected with someone that claimed to be Mike(?) Phillips, Steve’s brother. He said that Steve was in a meeting with the CEO and couldn’t be disturbed. I told him that I wanted to confirm the quotes that Steve had made for an article I was writing for the local paper. He took down my information and told me that their attorneys and the Feds would be calling me back. I asked him when they’d call since I had a 5pm deadline and he said they’d call back “well before then”. I bet I never hear back from them.

    I suggest that everyone reading this blog should make a phone call and ask to speak to Steve.

  60. of course this idiot Steve Phillips will probably go away for a day or two and come back as “Joes Awesome Online Cameras” or something like that and scam another 100 people before an astute consumer like TH goes public. Thanks TH for the heads up

  61. Hey, will someone delete the anonymous post a few lines up. He’s obviously from the company in question.

    And for the record Mr. Anonymous, it wasn’t the fact that the camera wasn’t being shipped, it was that he was told OVER THE PHONE that it would be, and then of course he was threatened.

    I don’t think he’d care too much if it was delayed a bit, but to be told by a rep it’d ship out and then not have that happen. That’s pretty low, and definitely worth complaining about.

  62. WoW! What a hightmare. I have purchased quite a bit via the net and haven’t had much trouble, never mind something like this. I hope things work out for you and these bastiges get some payback-keep us posted as to any further developments, ok?
    HQ -Sacramento,Ca.

  63. This blog was defintely helpful, they are going in the never buy from catagorey next to sony. This is largley why I stick to only a few non-direct sellers, I like the way ubid does business, yahoo shopping and ebay always seems to be a crap shoot. I hope you called the feds on them.

    — johnny

    ps great tip eddy!

  64. You should immediately contact the New York State Attorney General’s office and file a complaint for deceptive trade practices against the company. I would give them the web address to this blog, so that they can follow up on others with the same complaints. This is the ONLY way to shut them down. Posting negative comments on the internet is good for other potential buyers/victims, but the real way to deal with it is to involve the proper governmental authority. What they are doing is a crime, and it is taken seriously in New York.

  65. I think the fact that New Yorkers in general are a bunch of rude bastards is enough for me. This just proves that you should really never trust anyone from NYC.

  66. I will echo what somebody else said: they have your credit card information.

    Only I would not recommend that you check your receipts in the coming years. Rather, I would report it as missing and have your CC provider invalidate the card as soon as possible.

    Cheers!

  67. They are also operating as HotBuysElectronics and I had a very similar situation when I purchased a Nikon D70 from them last year. They called back and told me there was a problem and despite their website saying that the camera was a USA camera they informed me that the camera was actually a gray market camera. I told them I did not want it and they said for $20 more they could sell me the USA camera. They said it was in stock and would go out today so I agreed. Three days later a gray market camera arrived. I called them and was treated very rudely with threats similar to what you faced here. I told them that I was going to be visiting the New York area soon and told them I would be stopping by and they got very angry and insisted that they do not have a retail store and that I could not come there and if I tried they would have me arrested. I found this company on Froogle and they have hundreds and hundreds of positive ratings which I now see are fake. Apparently they are using bots or something to generate fake positive ratings.

  68. Welcome to… Brooklyn! 😛

    I know it sucks, but I can almost imagine the guy’s face. I know exactly the kinda guy you’re dealing with. I would recommend being a little careful, especially if he’s got a fixation on you. You’ve got a life, but they don’t…

  69. Seems to me that charging you $100 without your consent is illegal, and would be akin to wire fraid. Which would mean that if you’re not in NY state, it would be a federal case. (IANAL, of course)

  70. Thanks so much for writing this. I’ve been watching the pricing of the Canon Digital Rebel EOS XT bodies on Froogle, as a Christmas present for myself. I’ve been sorely tempted to buy it from these guys, since they come up cheapest on Froogle, but, of course, there’s no danger of that now.

  71. I tried to email there sales department to complain and it came back as a non existent address.

  72. I tried to email and complain about there customer support to their sales dept. it was rejected as an non existant email account.

  73. Don’t expect anything to come of this. Those kind of camera shops are notorious in NYC… once the heat gets gets turned up, they liquidate the company and reincorporate with a new name.

  74. Anytime a merchant calls for your credit card security number you should raise your guard. If it’s not you placing the call then GIVE NOTHING.

    That was blatent BS and an attempt to upsell you on other stuff.

    The merchant is not suppossed to have that number. It is intended to be electronically passed over to the ‘processor’ not the merchant. Nor is the merchant suppossed to write it down or save it in a system.

    What you should do is contact Visa or whomever you used and let them know about their credit card practices. Ask the credit card company if there actually was an issue with the security code and tell them you suspect this merchant is using that as an excuse in an attempt to get you to retroactively add to you order.

  75. Mafia-like tactics? I think maybe the truth is closer to actual mafia tactics. As in this store is probably a front for the russian mob. Don’t be suprised if you wake up with a cossack’s head in your bed tommorrow.

  76. You used a credit card. You have the power of CHARGE BACK. Use it! Just tell the merchant you are dissatisfied with the purchase and want a complete refund. Then write a letter to the credit card company and they can never charge you for that item.
    No interest. Nothing.

  77. i believe the previous poster is on the right track here. these sorts of scams are not about selling you a grey market camera body and then selling you the lens, cable, software and manual separately at inflated prices. What they are really after is your credit card info, including and especially the security code. many, if not most of these so-called retailers are nothing of the sort, they are identity thieves and this is another form of Phishing. Run, do not walk, to the phone and call AMEX RIGHT NOW and have them cancel that card and issue you a new one. Then contact the NY Attorney General, The Secret Service (they, not the FBI have jurisdiction over credit card fraud) and turn these B@st@rds in. This is probably a Russian Mob scam.

  78. I’m from Brooklyn and the sad fact is that this guy will close up shop tomorrow – I’m sure he’s terminally “going out of business” and will reopen with a new company name and DBA. The police can only close down the shop but they can’t stop this scumbag from opening another business the day he leaves court. There should be some kind of Meagan’s law for creeps like this.

  79. Not sure if you’ve seen the link before, but someone went out of their way to photograph the storefronts of Brooklyn photo shops. There’s an extensive collection, which includes the sad little place you’ve had so much trouble with. Enjoy.

    Brooklyn Store Fronts

    PriceRitePhoto

  80. This has nothing to do with cameras or with priceritephoto.com, it does have to do with Yahoo shopping. I obtained a link through this service to an electronic components supplier in CA and placed an order with them based on price…
    Very similar experience all the way through contacting the states AG’s office and filing a complaint.
    Thanks goodness for Bank of America and Visa who gave me my money back but I will never follow a link from Yahoo shopping again. Lesson Learned!!!

  81. PriceRitePhoto.com is a scam…is just that simple. I almost ordered a Canon XL1 from them but I did my research first…fortunately. The scam is a simple form of phishing and works like this:

    1. “Sell” items way below cost to unsuspecting customers.

    2. After an order is placed, an individual contacts you and pushes down on you other accessories like memory cards, tripods, batteries, etc, all at outrageous prices.

    3. When the sale of accessories and extended warranty fails, the order is not honored and the customer is ignored until he gives up.

    The NY police, or the FBI really needs to get involved in this…I have lost count of all the people falling for this – you are just another unfortunate soul who got caught in their trap. Always remember…if the price is too good to be true, then it likely is… 🙂

  82. THE CUSTOMER SERVICE NUMBER: +1 888 365 4300

    It works from Canada, too! Give ’em a ring, let them know that they are alllllll over the internet as a reknown bait-and-switch scam outfit.

    A few hundred phone calls from people across the world and they’ll have to give it up.

  83. For those of us that have gone through simular experiences, thanks for exposing these guys.

    I had a simular experience with the purchase of a new DLP TV. They posted UPS as the shipper and I paid for overnight shipping(expensive). I get a call the next day and after all the upsale crap(monster cables, ext warranty, etc) they inform me that they won’t ship my TV via UPS, but use a third rate discount shipper instead and it would take 2 weeks and cost $170 more!!!!

    Anyway, box came beat-to-hell and ended up having to pick it up at the warehouse or have to wait another week. I was sure it wouldn’t work. I got lucky and it seems to work fine.

  84. I would call AmEx and explain the situation. See if they can prevent this thug from getting paid. Then cancel the order.

  85. You should always stick to the companies you have purchased with in the past. I think alot of this could have been avoided just by using the internet and looking over review sites to see if this is a decent company or not. This person you talked to was just trying to force you to buy it and you always have the recourse of calling your credit card company and letting them know what this person said and letting them handle the rest of it.

  86. So has anyone thought of sending some faxes to them with that whole “make a continuous loop” thing? I wonder how much money they’d end up spending on toner? Perhaps around $2899 worth..?

  87. I am very leary about buying anything online, mainly because of the scams and how hard it is to really check out the product and return it if it is bad… However you would think that when dealing with a major company like Dell things would go smooth.. Like one of your other commenters, I had a horrible time with them… primarily when ordering thru their India staff, giving me inferior parts ( which were not the ones I had custom ordered) in order to charge me for a 4 year warranty their told me was included.. Long story short, it tooks days to finally get it all straightened out, had to go to the escalation team in the USA in order to right everything. Pain in the a**.. I will say though that they ended up giving me hundreds of dollars of freebies and an almost free 4 year warranty for all of the hassle.. But never again will I do business with them.

  88. While I’m sure there’s a lot of people that will appreciate your blog/efforts, keep in mind that the people you are dealing with if not outright criminals and just a thin layer higher. And while they may not do anything to you, it’s quite possible that they have comrades that will kill you or your family without a second thought.

    These are Russian mafia types we’re talking about. These scumbags are killing each other off in Russia, the Ukraine, Georgia, etc. in numbers that make the good ol’ days of American mob violence in Chicago and New York look like a country club picnic.

    You are costing them money and trouble. They are not going to appreciate that, most likely in an extreme sense.

    I’d recommend that you contact the appropriate New York Police as well as your own local Police and tell them that you have a very real and present threat to your and your family’s safety.

    Depending on the direct threats made to you you will have a clear case, if there was not a direct threat, you will need to collect as much information that what you did is causing them pain, and they are the type to do something about it.

    Keep this in mind in the future please. While you may feel like a Crusader for exposing these scumbags, remember what happened to most of the crusaders.

  89. Yahoo Shopping ratings are indeed broken. Very easy for merchants to rig the ratings in their favor.

    Example: A couple years back I ordered a gift for my sister from a beauty/make-up place based on their good Yahoo rating. The merchant sent the wrong thing, an item that was actually of lessor value. I called them, and was put on hold for unreasonable amounts of time. I was eventually told I would get called back, which never happened. I called back several times, and I always got put on hold.

    I eventually gave up and gave them a terrible Yahoo Shopping rating. A manager called me within hours. I suggested that he send out the proper item, and that my sister can send back the wrong one. But he refused. He only offered to credit me the difference.

    Then he had the nerve to ask if I would change the Yahoo rating, if he gave me a free gift.

    That seemed totally slimey, so I turned him down. He said he would send me a gift anyway. I never received anything.

    So basically, these crappy businesses are betting that most customers won’t complain about the service. And if you do, then they try to bribe you. Thats how these terrible merchants get good ratings on Yahoo.

  90. The idealist youth somewhere inside me hopes that the more people hear about these things the more they tend not to buy from Yahoo Stores until Yahoo Stores does something about the problem.

    Unlikely though. eBay makes a ton of money off of people selling bootlegs so they encourage it by doing a slap on the wrist at best and refunding the money when they delist a bootleg, not even suspending the account. Let’s not even talk about how they don’t suspend real frauds as well. It’s in eBay’s interest to support scammers at their critical mass. Yahoo is probably making a buck off of all these scam stores popping up as well. If they don’t want someone to come in and steal their cookie cutter store market, it’s in their interest to support scammers.

  91. Thank you so much for the info! I am going to link your site to my own blog in hopes of sparing others the trouble you have experienced.

    Keep fighting the good fight…

  92. I empathise you Thomas. Several months ago I’ve has a similar situation happen to me when I ordered Canon Digital Elph point-and-shoot camera from http://www.usaphotonation.com

    The following day after the order was placed I got a call from a rep asking to verify card’s security code. Then I was offered to order additional accessories (memory card, battery etc), which I said no to. Soon after I got an email saying that my order is delayed because the camera is not in stock. I called the company to ask what was up with that, because when I was ordering the camera it said that it was in stock. Again, I was offered to buy additional accessories. At that point I learned that it wasn’t a retail kit, but a camera only, so I asked to cancel my order. Mind you that their website did not mention that it’s not a retail kit but a body only. The guy said that my order can’t be cancelled because it was already in the system or something like that. I insisted on cancelling my order but he would not want to listen and was being argumentive. Finally my boyfriend got on the phone telling him to cancell my order at once. Soon after I got an email saying that my order was cancelled. My card was never charged anything, thank God. If it has been I would have desputed the charge anyway.

    So after this experience I always check the company at http://www.resellerratings.com and http://www.bbb.org for store reviews.
    I feel that user reviews and posts like this is the only true way to let the consumers know where to shop and where not to shop and to cut off business for these scam artists.

  93. Below is a customer’s comment quoted from resellerratings.com. I think the last part explains how they get so many positive comments:

    “I would not suggest buying from these people. They are horrible and rude! First, off I bought a camera from this site and I they called me the next day while I was asleep and decided to keep talking even though they realized I was asleep. They asked me to buy some camera kit and I declined the offer. Then they rudely remarked about how “stupid” I was. After that I decided to cancel my order and they directed me to the supervision where he mocked me and said he would charge my card $50 for being so rude to him and not wanting the camera. It states clearly on their website that their might be a 5% fee of the order if and only if the item has been already shipped. My item was not shipped and he claimed he was going to waive the fee if I wasn’t so “rude” to him. I was so scared I had to cancel my credit card account because he hung up on me and kept reminding me he had my credit card number. This man even claimed that my account could be fraudulent because I sounded “Chinese”. I told him I was not Chinese and he kept saying “You are Chinese!!” This indicates to me this man might also be a racist. Very scary and the whole ordeal put me to tears to be honest, I did not know what was going on. I had to call back a second time and wait almost an hour to reach someone. Where he told me to post three good reviews on sites such as these to get my $50 dollars back. That I did and I now I am telling the truth.”

  94. Sorry to hear about this sad story 🙁

    Give them hell… the bastards shouldn’t get away with unprofessional threats like that. It’s disgusting.

  95. Here’s some info that I gathered regarding companies who never actually deliver the ordered product. Let these ripoff companies charge your card like they threaten to, then send the FTC after them. Wanted to get this posted somewhere that a lot of people would see it…

    http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/buspubs/mailorder.htm
    http://www.fraud.org/info/contactnfic.htm

    Basically, they have to let you know if they can’t ship it within the expected time, and must cancel the order if they can’t ship it within a reasonable time. This expected time can be the actual status shown when the order is placed, or general comments like “Most orders ship in 48 hours”. If no delivery date is stated, they have 30 days. If they can’t ship it to you within this expected time, they have an additional 30 days beyond the original stated date. When they notify you of this delay, you can choose to cancel the order instead of waiting. If they can’t ship by the end of the additional 30 days, they must cancel your order unless you specifically tell them not to. The FTC can sue for up to $11,000 per violation of these rules, as well as other costs.

  96. I just did a quick search at one of the largest customer complaint sites online, Rip Off Report and came up with no results for PriceRitePhoto. Maybe you should tell of your experience on that website also. It gets a lot of eyes daily.

  97. There are a wide variety of online detective tools. for a small fee, (no more than $10 usually) you can get a full profile of the company, including a list of any employee who filed w2’s, and the listed and verified name of the owner on the business license. Then all you need is a quick search on 411.com. with very little effort, you can have a home phone number, e-mail address, physical address, the name of their spouse, children, some parts of their medical history, any legal convictions… you can make their life a living hell if you want. I don’t advocate breaking the law, what you do with the information is your own business.

  98. Don’t know if this fact affects anything, but I know for a fact that 90% of these Camera stores in Brooklyn are Jewish owned and operated.

  99. At the idiot above: you are an anti-semitic prick. How could you possibly know that, and what do are you implying?

  100. I’ve had bad things happen through ebay but never anything as bad as this. What I learned: Buy everything from a reputable dealer… hence everything I buy coming from cdw.com or newegg.com. Saves me the hastle and worry of whether or not I’ll recieve my item.

  101. You’ve taken some great first steps at protecting yourself and going after them, but there is more that you can and should do:

    1. Issue a complaint through the FTC: https://rn.ftc.gov/pls/dod/wsolcq$.startup?Z_ORG_CODE=PU01 Your complaint will be accessible to local and federal law enforcement that may prosecute.

    2. Contact their local police department and file charges. Some precincts may not wish to take the complaint, but they have no choice if you press it. It will be best if you provide printouts of the screenshots and emails that you have, as well as a timeline covering all event and phone conversations. The easier you make it for them the more likely they are to follow through with everything. At the least, you want to go after them for fraud, harassment, deceptive trade practices and threat of bodily harm (if they threatened physical harm).

    3. Contact their local district attorney and file a complaint with them that references your police repot. You are much more likely to get “action” from the local DA, compared to the state attorney general.

    4. File a complaint with the Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC) at http://www.ic3.gov/ The IFCC is a joint partnership with the FBI to investigate internet based crimes.

    As the owner of several internet and brick-n-mortar stores, I am appalled by this story and the store’s actions. The internet is a difficult place for the small businessman/woman, just as it is for consumers. It is next to impossible for a small business to keep up with the “big boys” from a technology and real-time inventory standpoint, but we can (and should) make up for that with good customer service and working with customers.

    Please do not let this experience stop you from internet purchases from smaller and mid-sized companies. This camera shop is a scam artist, not a normal seller. Stay strong and good luck with future shopping.

  102. I have learned so much from this post and the comments! There are many on line companies that request the security code now, companies that have always provided great service. I thought they requested the code as a security measure and never thought of it from the opposite perspective.

    Thanks to everyone for sharing.

  103. well I just finished contacting all the shopping comparison sites listed on the front page and I encourage everyone else to do so that no one else can be hurt by these people….as stated in update #5 pricegrabber (my favorite comparison shopping site) within a half an hour of my notification of them had delisted all items from the seller and I hope the other comparison shopping sites follow suit…..

  104. Caveat Emptor

    Allow me to recount a little episode from my otherwise uninteresting life (ok, I exaggerate a little!) In the begining of February, my parents asked me to help them order a digital camera since they know little from digital cameras and how to obtain one at a good price.

    The camera I chose for them is a brand-new model from Sony, called the DSC-T33, an updated and slimmer version of the DSC-T3 which I happen to own. This time around, the camera comes in 4 colors, blue, white, silver and gold. After confirming with my parents, I set ahead to purchase them the blue colored model, and to have it shipped to my dad’s office in NJ in order to avoid paying sales tax.

    So out I set to all the web’s price comparison engines, and I came back with a quote of $379 from a company called A&M; Photo World. I go ahead and place the order without any accessories or expedited shipping. I get all the confirmation emails which placate me about recieving my order, and giving me my order number, etc. Everything is OK so far, and I print a copy of the order to leave by my parents house.

    The next day everything changes (to be a bit melodramatic). I look up my order online and discover that its been put on hold pending further conversation with one of the company’s sales representitives. A voicemail left by my sister sounds somewhat anxious, telling me that some guy called for me from “some camera store”. I pick up the phone and dial the company’s tollfree number knowing what to expect- the “YoYo store” pitch as perfected by not-so-savvy electronic store operators in the NYC metro area.

    His name is “Jeff” and I pretend to be unaware to the order of the proceedings. He begins by telling me that my shipping address is different than my billing address, and that unless I have it on file with the credit card company, it’s not going to go through. So I reassure him that all is in order, and before he can get a word in edgewise, I tell him “Alright, I appreciate your inquiring, and have a nice day”. This is where he pounced – “Wait!”. I pause and cautiously ask “What now?”

    Jeff: I noticed that the camera you ordered comes with a battery that only lasts about 5 to 10 minutes. Would you like to purchase a battery at a 50% discount- its only $55 and it will last 2 hours on a charge.

    Me: No thank you, I purchased a battery for the camera last week.

    Jeff: Oh really? What does it look like?

    Me: A rectangular piece of black plastic.

    Jeff: Ok, you sure you don’t want another one that last 4 hours? We also have another that last 6 hours, but I’m afraid those are on backorder.

    Me: (rolling my eyes) No thank you, I think that should suffice.

    Jeff:Do you need a memory chip for the camera?

    Me: You know it’s funny, I already have a 512mb memory stick pro duo for the camera. Is that all?

    Jeff: Not nearly. The camera you ordered has an internal lenses, so we can skip the lenses attachments…Did you want to order a camera case for it?

    Me: How much is the neoprene slipcase?

    Jeff: We have them on sale for $29.99. Would you like to purchase one?

    Me: But last week when I was in your store you told me it’s only $10! [a blatant lie]

    Jeff: Oh, I did? Oh, I apologize, I was looking at the wrong item.

    Me: (uh huh, suuuure!) You know what, I don’t want one.

    Jeff: Ok, now let me tell you something, the camera that you ordered is the Japanese version, and we do have the American version too. Would you like that model instead?

    Me: (quickly browsing their website for price and model information) Well, I don’t see any two versions on your website. Whats the price difference and whats the difference between the packages?

    Jeff: Well not much other than that the American model is packaged here, and you should have an easier time using its warranty if it breaks. And it costs 20 dollars more.

    Me: You know what, I just noticed that the camera’s price on your website dropped $10 since I ordered it, to $369. Can you give me the new pricing instead?

    Jeff: But thats the Japanese(-packaged) model only!

    Me: I don’t care if its packaged on Mars.

    Jeff: Ok, but I can’t give you the $10 off since my system doesn’t allow that.

    Me: So I’ll just cancel this order and reorder it, that should do the trick, no?

    Jeff: Ok, you can do that…

    Me: Nevermind than, give me the neoprene case for free so that we’re even.

    Jeff: OK, I guess I can do that for you….Now, just so you know, the camera only has a 90-day limited warranty, and if it would break before that you would have to send it to us since its a Japanese model, and we send it Sony’s Japanese division, so it could be months before you get your camera back. And once the 90 days are up, the servicing of your camera will probaly cost between $400 to $500 to fix, which doesn’t make a lot of sense when the camera costs less than that. Now, our extended warranty only costs $90 and….

    Me: (I cut him off) No thank you, I already have protection for that through my credit card company. Is that all?

    Jeff: Well unless you need anything else…

    Me: No I don’t- just make sure I get my slipcase for free.

    Jeff: Alright, your total is $414 with shipping.

    Me: $414!!? My order total came out to $394 including the $15 ground shipping charges when I placed the order!

    Jeff: I’m sorry, I selected the wrong shipping option.

    Me: Well make sure you change it back.

    Jeff: Ok, your total is now $398.50

    Me: (Ok, whatever!) Fine. Are you certain that you have it in stock?

    Jeff: The blue model is the “most popular”, but we have 5 pieces left, I’ll “put it aside” for you.

    Me: Thank you, have a nice day.

    What exactly is going on? Why am I playing along with these antics? Why have I highlighted and quoted certain keywords? Well starting with the first instance, “Jeff” in this case. Yes, its possible that it’s his name, but in the YoYo business, Jeff can also go by the name of Jack, Morris, Joe and Mike depending if he’s answering for the sales, shipping, invoicing, packaging, or customer service department when you call. He won’t even bothering hiding his voice. Call him “Jeff” when he introduces himself as Francis and hear him stutter on the line, because he gets confused to which role he is playing.

    The standard battery that Sony includes last about 90 minutes. If you fall for his ruse and order the 2, 4 or 6 hour battery, he doesn’t even touch your package other than to add $55 or $100 to your order amount.

    The American and Japanese model is another scam. They only carry the import, grey-market items (it happens to be that the American version of the DSC-T33 is yet to be released.) The import version is always cheaper, and comes with everything in English. If you order the American version, you get the same import box for $20 more.

    The bit where I tell him I was in his store was a lie. But 99% of these internet stores are retail stores doing internet business on the side. I don’t even know he has a storefront, I simply assumed so, and as you see he fell for it.

    The shipping costs is another scam. To send the camera with UPS ground, it costs him about $4-$6. If you select that through their website, it’s a minimum of $15. If you do your order over the phone, it’s a minimum quote of $19.99. He tried to take on another $19 when he quoted me $414, and probably would still have sent it via UPS ground.

    The most popular model/color is whatever your’e buying. The “I’ll put it aside” is a reassurance for something they never intend to do.

    If you haven’t guessed by now, the warranty bit is also a fraud, trust me. These business close one day and reop
    en as another business the next day.

    Now you want to know why I go through all this, after all I could have told him right away that I’m not interested in any accessory or warranty. He would have then been very courteous and assured me it would go out right away, and said goodbye. What would happen though, is that your account and order are blacklisted. You can never place another order with them again. What occurs then is that the item you ordered is “on backorder”, and indefinitely. You can call them back for the next 3 months, and they will never have got it “back in stock”. At that point, most of those people give up and cancel their order.

    This is all because they sell the camera at the cost price. If they don’t make a little “PR” or profit, they drop you like a hot potato. This is why I had to go through the entire shpiel. I winced, but allowed the guy to bring the price up from a total of $394 to $398, if only because those $4 were getting me the camera at this very low cost price.

    Caveat Emptor!

  105. As a guy who grew up in Brooklyn, I can honestly say that I never do any business with anyone from Brooklyn or Jersey because there is a high percentage of dirtbags there.

    I relaxed this rule a few months ago to buy a used laptop that I just needed for simple stuff. They required me to call to confirm the order and then tried to sell me a higher priced one. I cancelled the order and renewed my vow to never deal with anyone from NYC or NJ.

  106. My father ran a photographic accessories mail-order house called Spiratone for many years in NYC, and he considered many of his competitors to be crooks and liars. The exception was B&H;, which has always been a first-rate retailer. Adorama doesn’t have quite as pure a history as B&H;, but it too is generally honest retailer. J&R; also has a good reputation these days. Beyond those places, I would be very, very careful about buying electronics/cameras over the web from any NYC metropolitan area dealer.

  107. I know first hand how unbelievable this kind of harassment is to deal with. I had a *similar* situation where I commented about a website and recieved death threats. This would eventually sever a partnership overnight.

    Meet Bill Perkins

    Don’t underestimate the power of the internet. You’ll get your justice!

  108. I got scammed by Expressphoto.com. Same deal. I filed a report with the BBB and sent them a letter. They offered to refund me $147. That brought the price of the merchandise I bought down to the industry average.Nothing near their advertised price on their website.

  109. The two owners of PriceRitePhoto and TheCameraMall dot com are Eduardo Sanchez and Eduardo Lopez. Sounds pretty sketchy to me…

  110. I reckon one rule of thumb is to only deal with online outfits that are honest about it: there’s no need for an online camera store to have a huge warehouse and a dozen staff, so if they’re claiming to have … why?

    When you phone/email Foo’s Cameras, and speak straight to Foo, and he says “Sure, I’ll get that packed this morning and pop it in the mail for you on my way to lunch”, that’s a good sign.

    —–sharks

  111. This is a very old story. This guy has been doing this for decades. And when one of his online stores gets enough complaints and starts getting investigated he just opens another one under a different name (and of course our government is so corrupt and useless that they find this switch impossible to penetrate).

    This guy said the same stuff to my father after calling him up trying to get him to buy batteries and that was a good 3 years ago. I

    I just cant believe its taken this many years for everyone on the net to write about it…..

  112. After dealing with several NYC camera dealers online and by phone trying to buy telescope accessories, I vowed ever to do business with any optics shop in NYC again. It’s just too risky. I’m sure there are good ones, but there’s no way to find out unless someone you know has done business there before.

  113. I worked at such a store once in the billing department. It is standard practise to use the excuse of verifying some billing detail (address, CV2, etc.) to call the customer to encourage him to buy pricey accessories. At such “fine NYC electronics establishments” they typically do not bill you automatically when you make an online purchase. They have someone like me punch in each cc# manually only after they get you to buy more crap. If you refuse to buy more crap, the product will suddenly be out of stock.

  114. I know it’s been said many times, but B&H; is a really great place for online camera orders: http://www.bhphotovideo.com

    (I guess I’m responding to the next-to-last comment before mine: “I vowed [n]ever to do business with any optics shop in NYC again. It’s just too risky. I’m sure there are good ones, but there’s no way to find out unless someone you know has done business there before.”)

    I’ve put down about $10K with B&H; in the last year on cams and accessories for my small biz, and they have NEVER failed to get my item to me Very quickly and in perfect condition.

    Great experience all around. And their prices are great, too.

  115. I think everyone should call this company and ask the sales clerk what’s it’s like to work for a company that rips people off. I just did and the answer is pretty cool.

    1-888-365-4300

    Try it for yourself, it’s toll free!

  116. Check reselleratings before you place an order.

    If the price is too good to be true, that’s the first clue you should check before you buy.

    I don’t mind a deceptive business getting negative publicity, but this is also a story about a buyer who was gullible and didn’t do his homework.

  117. we all know someone who has had a bad experience buying an item through ebay. Whilst there are many excellent vendors using this site it’s far too easy for crooks to manipulate this service. These idiots know feel they do not hold the legal or moral highground. This is a scam. using ebay is a gamble

  118. one more useful thing…since he has threatened you that the FBI would be calling, you should call the FBI and complain. I believe there are statutes governing such false claims…and the FBI may contact him.

  119. Anyone have a list of photo mags where these guys advertise? They should be leaned on to remove them and any associated companies. And to make sure they don’t pop up in a reincarnation.

  120. Sorry to hear about your unfortunate experience. I once bought a refurbished computer only to have it arrive broken, and the company to have completely disappeared. Since I did not use a credit card to pay for it (big mistake), I didn’t really have any options unfortunately.

    We’ve ordered from J&R; back in the 90’s and had good experiences with them. These days I tend to prefer to go into a retailer so I can actually talk to someone face to face about the product, warranty options, etc. Yeah, it might cost more- but that can prove to be fewer headaches later on.

  121. Call the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs. That is the agency that licenses retail businesses in the City. He’ll be up shit creek if he loses his license.

  122. I can also recommend B&H; (I’ve purchased from both their website and brick and mortar store).

    When I lived in New York a few years back I made the mistake of going into one of these shops when I was pricing monitors. I was caught off guard by the pushy sales guy and ended up paying too much for a used monitor.

    I’m also sure the camera that was stolen from my wife’s luggage in Newark ended up at one of these places.

  123. I’ve been through this with them before — it’s their busy time of the year. The scam works best at Christmas time. They sell the body below cost but if you don’t order all the accessories at markup then the body is “backordered” until well after Christmas.

    They do it every year and they keep several websites running each time.

  124. I’m sure this is mentioned somewhere above, but you can’t go wrong with B&H.; I bought a Canon EOS 20D a few months back and the customer service was really great.

  125. > Ed Spira / Spiratone

    A blessing on your father’s name. I was a mail-order photography kid in the South, growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, with no one knowledgeable around to help me, and I was always able to rely on Spiratone for photo gear.

    I’m still using my Spiratone electronic flash.

  126. They probably scam people on sales tax too. Check out this quote:

    “For instance, if you purchase items for use in the State of California, USA, you would be charged California Sales Tax. If you live outside the USA, the taxes you pay depend on the country you live in. The tax zones are the various jurisdictions under which you could fall. “

    My understanding is that you can only charge tax if you have a physical presence in the state i.e. store, warehouse, etc…

    They probably charge tax and then keep it!

  127. As a professional photographer who has always bought equiptment from PriceRite Photo, to this date I have never had a bad experience with them in the 3 yrs that I have done business with them. I bought a 1DS from them plus I bought a lot of lenses from them. I think that it is unfair that everybody is ripping this company. You guys have no idea if this person is lying. I have learned that you shouldn’t judge before you do business with them. I feel that this guy is trying to make a name for himself by killing a company. You guys need a life for ripping a company that you people probably never did business with. This fool who wrote this blog could also be a competitor of them. Well I am going to keep doing business with because I never had a problem with them.

  128. Have you considered contacted Verisign? If you click on the Verisign seal on their site, it should tell you about the company’s Seal. There is a Report Seal Misuse button on there. On of Verisign’s stipulations for misuse is “The seal is being used to promote phishing or illegal activities” We should all report is. I think thousands of reports would get a Verisign response!

  129. >>Anonymous said…

    As a professional photographer who has always bought equiptment from PriceRite Photo, to this date I have never had a bad experience with them in the 3 yrs that I have done business with them. I bought a 1DS from them plus I bought a lot of
    >>>

    HAHAHAHA!!! What a bunch of fuck wits! You honestly believe that we don’t know who posted this crap?!

    Get a clue morons. I hope this is costing you big time!

  130. Excuse my misspelling in the previous post. It should read: Have you considered contacting Verisign.

  131. What a perfect example of how people have completely lost touch with the FIRST AMENDMENT. The founding fathers made it first for a reason, yet it’s always forgotten by people when you actually try to exercise it.

  132. Wow. Thanks for your informative review! I ordered a Mini-DV camcorder a while back from a place in New York, so I can somewhat relate to your situation. Thanks for keeping the web community informed about merchants like this.

  133. Sorry about your epxerience, but you obviously didn’t do your homework before ordering form this place. There are literally dozens of these so-called camera shops, a large majority of them in Brooklyn, exploiting various scams like this one and others (selling non-US products that don’t come with any warranty, for example). This has been reported on exptensively before, and one guy even went around a photographed the storefronts of most of these places, which usually looked like abandoned buildings. Buyer beware!

  134. Unfortunately this is often par for the course with the big east coast dealers. I am also an amateur photographer and am fortunate to have an excellent locally-owned chain in my city that I go to for processing & accessories, but they just can’t compete with the prices of bodies & lenses offered by the high-volume mail order houses (they will match prices locally, but not against mail-order). I usually stick with B&H;, they seem to be the most reputable…

  135. That sucks Thomas–I hope you get it all figured out. I plan to learn from your mistake and never buy cameras online from NYC. What a bunch of pricks.

    Andy.

  136. I understand the service was unacceptable and his response was psychotic, but I wonder why you told him you were planning to write an article about it? Was it a threat? Were you trying to intimidate him to remedy the situation? Were you warning him for his own good? It seems to me it was a weak threat that he escalated exponentially.

  137. “I wonder why you told him you were planning to write an article about it?”

    What, do you prefer not letting people know when you write critical things about them?

  138. Good for you.

    But didn’t your little inner light and alarm system tell you: too good to be true, must be a scam?

    It is WELL KNOWN among digital photographers that online stores uses this technique as a scam.

    I can only be happy that another one will bite the dust, but come on people… if you can’t afford a camera, don’t fall for the scam!

    Sheesh.

  139. GOOD FOR YOU!!! this story is unbeleivable. email this to everybody you know, not inly should this store be slammed,, and hawk be aplauded for spreading this story, but its become an interseting internet phenomenon. Gizmodo’d, boing’s, dugged nearly 5000 times, (I DUGGED IT! and its now number 1) engadeget’d i think, and floated through the blogosphere it is cool! POST AMERICAN EDIT!!! ITS GREY TUESDAY RERUN!!

  140. Sorry to hear you had so much trouble.

    I live in Hong Kong, and when 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 you mentioned.

    “Too good to be true” kept running through my mind as I checked out their sites.

    In the end, I was able to purchase most of my gear locally at slightly better prices, but I did find a nice lens at B&H; Photo at a much cheaper price – even with shipping.

    Thanks for warning other consumers!

  141. i am glad u stepped up when it came to this. After reading ur post I will never shop at PriceRight.

    What a looser guy that Philip dude is .. damn .. is his email listed on that website? Someone should send this link to that guy so he can understand that what his actions led too ..

    I am glad that pricegrabber removed priceright from their listings.

  142. I dont think anyone would read this, but since i read the article i tried going to all the rating websites and wrote the worst comments i can think of… i hope this stops people from going there!

  143. wow you people are so funny, why dont u grab some balls and get out to this company, if they fucked ytou hard. go there andnfuck them back. dont be pussys and fuckn talk to about it behind there back. go to there office. if your not gonna do that then your all just a buncha little girls so i recommend you get a life and a set off balls or call your mommy to get the mean old man named steve phillips away.. boo hoo you little girl. suck it up. get a life. im sure u could find something to to besides right up shit.. get down there man!

  144. hey so you got scammed?
    BIG DEAL! People get scammed all the time, why don’t you cry to you’re mommy instead. Seems thats what you should do. Its not like they charged your card or anything. Your just a big baby who can’t stand up for himself. So a suggest from me, get a life and cut it out with your bullshit and stop being a little girl. If your really mad, go down there and beat their ass.. if you’re not gonna do so, then go cry to you’re mommy because you aren’t going no where with your life. Personally, I wouldnt buy anything under retail cost. you’re the idiot. there is always a catch. I GUESS YOUR JUST AN IDIOT!

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