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.