Please see important update below.
Disclaimer: Although I recently had a very distasteful experience with PriceRitePhoto, I have never had any dealings with TheCameraMall. While I suspect that these two businesses could be associated this has not been proven to me to a reasonable level of satisfaction. This post is more of an exploratory post to examine and seek feedback as to if a relationship between the two companies exists. I would strongly encourage people not to retaliate against this company based on the evidence that exists and I would encourage people to withhold judgement on this company until a reasonable amount of evidence can be collected. If you have evidence of, or thoughts as to the likelihood, that PriceRitePhoto and TheCameraMall are in fact the same company, feel free to leave them in the comments. As Yahoo! Shopping has apparently deleted both companies from their service, if someone from Yahoo! could comment on this issue it would also be appreciated. This store does seem to have similar complaints against it as PriceRitePhoto.
One of the things that has come up in my story with regards to PriceRitePhoto’s bait and switch tactics is that PriceRitePhoto is somehow affiliated with, perhaps through common ownership, TheCameraMall.
Interestingly enough, TheCameraMall appears to have been delisted from Yahoo! Shopping — even though the store still lists themselves as a Yahoo! “Featured Merchant” and still carries a direct link from their website to a “cannot retrieve merchant info” error page at Yahoo! Shopping.
Unlike PriceRitePhoto, however, they still are up as a merchant at PriceGrabber.com.
BizzRate, who is also linked on TheCameraMall’s site states on their website that TheCameraMall is currently “being re-rated.” According to the FAQ, what this means is: ” Stores can be re-rated for a variety of reasons, including: * BizRate has detected a significant amount of suspicious reviews or other unusual activities that make the prior ratings appear unreliable. * The store’s site or operations have gone through significant changes.
Once enough valid reviews have been gathered, a new rating will be calculated and displayed for this store.”
Perhaps someone from either PriceGrabber, Yahoo! Shopping or BizzRate might be able to confirm or deny that these companies share common ownership.
Below is anecdotal evidence suggesting that PriceRitePhoto and TheCameraMall may be related businesses.
One quote from a Digg user: “funny: i just called 888.912.7300 the number for thecameramall.com and asked for steve philips the same guy that is mentioned in the article over at PriceRitePhoto and they said he is not in, I asked if this is the same company as priceritephoto and he hesitated and told me that steve phillips is a very popular name…”
Another Digg user submitted a form that allegedly came from thecameramall.com that references priceritephoto in the form:
“Check these forms they want customers to sign
You have declined the insurance option on the freight charge for your item. If the item arrives damaged you assume all responsibility. TheCameraMall.com will not be held liable for any dispute arising between you and the shipper in the case your order arrives damaged or has concealed damage. Additionally the item you have purchased is below the authorized price the manufacturer allows to resell their product. You have declined the extended warranty offered through Mack and are aware that the manufacturer has the right to decline warranty service for the product you ordered. Under no circumstances may you return the item to TheCameraMall.com. You also agree to give up your right to chargeback through your credit card company with TheCameraMall.com. If a negative review is written on our company in regards to your order a $100 charge will be posted to your credit card.
I ____________________ agree to the above condition and am aware that this product can not be serviced through the manufacturer and I can not hold TheCameraMall.com responsible for anything.
Please sign and fax back to 888-375-6700.
Here is the form I was asked to complete after canceling the order;
Dear Mr. xxxxxx,
As per our phone conversation your order will be retracted. No cancellation
fees will be charged to your card. If a negative review is written in
regards to this order, a $100 charge will be charged to your credit card.
I _______________________ agree to the above conditions and I am aware of
Priceritephoto’s policies and procedures.
Please fax back this form to 888-375-6700 and put your order number 20657 on
the page. An e-mail confirming the cancellation of this order will be
e-mailed to you. “
Another commenter on my blog points out that the IP addresses used as well as the software used for their sites is very close:
“Looking at the IP addresses, there may be a third website, which I don’t see mentioned here yet:
All the sites appear to use the same software too: “Everest E-Commerce Advanced Edition : Enterprise”
Additionally the FAQ/Help pages for each are remarkably similar:
Also, their “New Arrivals”, “Holiday Specials” and just about everything else show the same products in the same order.
This is possibly a total coincidence, or this third company may be a victim of circumstance, but I thought it worthy of a note in case others have had similar experiences.”
It has also been pointed out that the two names for the domain registrant for both sites are remarkably similar, Eduardo Sanchez and Eduardo Lopez.
Update #1: I just received an email back from CNET’s David Bricker who pointed me to a Better Business Bureau report identifying companies also that are affiliated with PriceRitePhoto. Although TheCameraMall is not listed on a Better Business Bureau report as one of PriceRitePhoto’s affiliates, according to the Better Business Bureau of New York, PriceRitePhoto is in fact affiliated with many other names and ultimately would seem to fall under a parent company going by the name of Let’s Go Digital that is owned by Jack Heffner. You can see the report yourself here which includes their contact and other information. According to the BBB they additionally are using the following business names: A. Heffco Technologies, Inc., C&A; Marketing, Dealz Net, Hype Audio, Ideal Audio/Video, Ideal Photo and Video, Let’s Go Digital, LGD Superstore, Price Rite Photo, Prices Rite Photo.
Yesterday when I was on the phone with Ed Lopez he denied that Jack Heffner was affiliated with PriceRitePhoto although he did acknowledge knowing Jack Heffner and identified him as the owner of LGD Superstore (another alleged affiliate according to the BBB).
A few commenters on this post have also pointed out that if you go to the websites for TheCameraMall and EmpirePhoto and look at their Onlin
e Privacy Practices and Store Security links you will find references directly there to PriceRitePhoto: “going to “Store Security” on EmpirePhoto.com also comes up with a reference to PriceRitePhoto: “Providing you with a secure online experience is a high priority of PriceRitePhoto’s…”
Update: Yesterday I received an email from an individual identifying himself as Gabe Heffez from A. Heffco Technologies. Mr. Heffez seemed somewhat distraught over the fact that in my reporting on PriceRitePhoto that his company and companies had been erroneously identified as being associated with PriceRitePhoto. In my reporting on my experience with PriceRitePhoto I had identified A. Heffco Technologies as possibly being associated with PriceRitePhoto based on a report that linked the two from the Better Business Bureau of New York. I was first made aware of this report and connection from CNET’s David Bricker when he pointed me to the BBB report when I first began reporting on PriceRitePhoto and included my first mention of A. Heffco Technologies based on this report.
Contrary to this report from the BBB Mr. Heffez wrote me yesterday saying, “our company is in no way related to PriceRitePhoto,” he added, “we don’t know who C&A; Marketing is or who Ideal Photo Video is. We have sent dozens of faxes and made numerous phone calls to the BBB to correct the issue so far to no avail.” Mr. Heffez further went on in a subsequent email to say, “This (action) caused us to reap the wrath of the public and our own advertisers. In early-mid December, our host, Yahoo! also terminated our stores and three of our personal ID’s without explanation. A seven year relationship was ended in the blink of an eye.” Mr. Heffez also said that CNET dropped them as well and added, “your David vs. Goliath blog unfortunately turned into our instant termination. We all have families to feed and this past Christmas our job was that much harder.”
In response to Mr. Heffez’s claims of not being associated with PriceRitePhoto I have been in contact with Tony Barbera, Manager of Information and Investigations with the BBB serving Metropolitan NY expressing my concerns over having possibly hurt an innocent company based on a potential wrongful association on the part of the BBB. Mr. Barbera, who was aware of the coverage that this story received yesterday by the New York Times told me that the company’s report has been suspended pending further results of an investigation. “I was contaced by Mr. Heffez yesterday, and we will be working with the companies in order to establish correct and complete records for each entity if it is determined they are separate,” wrote Mr. Barbera.
Millions of people each day turn to the Better Business Burea and rely on the accuracy of the information that they provide for making informed decisions regarding their purchases and which merchants they will do business with. The integrity of their information regarding merchants is super important. If in fact the BBB has erroneously linked PriceRitePhoto and Mr. Heffez’s company then I would be very personally disappointed to have hurt an innocent unrelated company. Mr. Heffez has informed me that over the past few weeks his phone lines have been ringing off the hook with nothing on the other end but hang ups or music and has told me that he is pretty sure that his sites have been bombarded with worthless traffic in an attempt to crash them.
I suspect that this story will be developing and hope to have more conclusive findings one way or the other shortly — but in the event that the information linking his company and their affiliates to PriceRitePhoto was incorrectly reported by the BBB, I apologize and am truly sorry for any role that I and my blogging may have had in hurting his business.