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The Internet The Almighty Buck

Cameras Online? How The Shysters Work 429

Posted by Hemos
from the Psst!-Hey,-Mister!-Cheap-cameras-online? dept.
earlylate writes "How do certain photo and electronics dealers thrive despite widely-circulated warnings by unhappy customers? According to a new investigative website "many apparently separate and competing dealers are actually jointly owned and run" and "go to great lengths to conceal their locations and management." Further, some comparison-shopping sites "are in effect marketing partners with their affiliates," the very dealers they rate. There's a contest based on the suspicious "flood of similar, glowing reviews some dealers receive," as well as links to several sources of information and advice for the careful online shopper."
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Cameras Online? How The Shysters Work

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  • by FyRE666 (263011) * on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:01AM (#14238884) Homepage
    A lot of people don't realise the the big "price deal search engines" such as Kelkoo and Dealtime also return results based on the amount the retailers they link to have paid for a higher position. You'll often find you can dig up better deals just using Google. However, I know that at least one of the biggest UK online electronics retailers derives the highest percentage of paying click-throughs from Dealtime (that is, people referred by Dealtime, who then go on to actually buy a product). The Dealtime referrals actually result in more sales than people browsing their site to find stuff. So the idea/scam works well...
    • by AnyLoveIsGoodLove (194208) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:12AM (#14238960)
      Use common sense. here's what I tell everyone that asks.

      1) only buy from reputable sites. this has been going on since computer shopper days. its even more true today.

      2) I only use my American Express (AMEX). I can't tell you how many times AMEX has helped with fraudulent charges, merchants that don't deliver etc. AMEX is expensive and a pain in the ass for mechants to sign up. If they are not willing to do that, than I won't buy. I will pay a slight premium for sights that take AMEX. It's worth it.

      If I'd done both these when I first got online in the 90s I would have saved myself a lot of grief.

      • by sterno (16320)
        I think the biggest challenge is actually finding reputable reviews on-line. The problem with this large inbred group of scam vendors and review sites is that it floods google such that any search for:

        "review " comes up with hundreds of bogus google bombs that have no valuable information in them. If you go to epinions.com, etc, unless an item has a fair number of reviews you can't trust that the reviewer isn't just astroturfing for the company's product.

        For the areas I have some expertise like computer h
        • by cetan (61150) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:57AM (#14239345) Journal
          resellerratings.com is generally quite good and the results can be trusted. Of course, one should browse to be certain a particular store wasn't recently flooded with fake positive reviews.
      • Actually, AMEX hasn't been as bad as I thought from the merchant side. The discount rate's not great, but I can live with it. Getting set up wasn't hard, and I pay like $5/month for service. Granted, I have very little AMEX volume, and larger merchants pay more. But no complaints so far...
    • And a related problem is these search engines will not remove the listings even if several users complain, because they're getting paid enough not to care about pissing off a few people. Or they will remove the listing for a few weeks to quiet people, and then it's back up again.
      • A single law holding the engines financially liable for any losses incurred by a customer steered by their sites after fraud has been reported will cure the problem if not overnight as soon as the first lawsuit is successful.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          Uh, well, yes... and such a law will also create a whole new opportunity to abuse legitimate vendors by forcing search engines to blacklist them for fear of punishment under said law.

          You could try to avoid that problem by putting investigative burden on the search engine's operator... which will drive small, legitimate search engine sites under (including, say, university research projects).

          Alternatively, rather than trying to create a new law to quick-fix a problem, we could try intelligent enforcement of
    • return results based on the amount the retailers they link to have paid for a higher position.

      We should know IF a review website is giving a review based on compensation. Congress should pass a law requiring these websites to disclose how much they were paid for giving search results.

      One website I use is Eopinions dot com. They are a place where anyone can write a review of a product. When I want advice on how good a product is, I don't want to hear from the manufacturer. I don't want to be lied to, I

      • Some booze company was/is doing that at the clubs and bars: hire some totally hot babe to whisper sweet nothings into the ear of some half-drunk schlunk and get him to buy her a martini with wombat brand vodka or anteater margaritias or whatever it was they were doing.
      • So, every time any individual has a slightly ulterior motive they should tattoo it on their forehead so that the sheep know better, is that what you are saying?

        Good luck with that.
  • by ahsile (187881) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:02AM (#14238888) Homepage Journal
    Don't mess with them... I tried once, it wasn't pretty. I still have to move every couple months so they don't find my location...

    This post alone will give me away, I need to move again... but I needed to warn you all!
  • by darkmeridian (119044) <william DOT chuang AT gmail DOT com> on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:03AM (#14238895) Homepage
    Once bought a VCR some years ago. I went into one store and asked for a specific model of a VCR. I was quoted a price, then I went to another store. The clerk for the second store, after receiving my request, spoke into a walkie-talkie in his native language and then quoted me the same price. Now, perhaps it was coincidental, but both clerks appeared to be Indian. I didn't buy the VCR from either store.
    • The clerk for the second store, after receiving my request, spoke into a walkie-talkie in his native language and then quoted me the same price. Now, perhaps it was coincidental, but both clerks appeared to be Indian. I didn't buy the VCR from either store.

      Just a little bit racist, no? Just because someone speaks a foreign language, they're immeidately suspect? Isn't it possible that both dealers quoted you MSRP minux 10% or something to that effect? It's not extremely likely, but definitely not out of
      • by mekkab (133181) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:27AM (#14239081) Homepage Journal
        Just a little bit racist, no?

        No, really. South asian's got cheap electronics LOCKED DOWN in NY. Perhaps refurbs, perhaps liquidations, but still madd cheap.
      • by nacturation (646836) <nacturation@@@gmail...com> on Monday December 12, 2005 @12:06PM (#14239411) Journal
        Just a little bit racist, no? Just because someone speaks a foreign language, they're immeidately suspect?

        Why don't you try to comprehend his point rather than knee-jerking off in a racist accusation? The action that is suspect is the fact that the staff, after being requested the price, first spoke on a walkie-talkie in an unintelligable language before delivering the price. This leads one to suspect that perhaps the unintelligable conversation was regarding the price. Even more so when you take into account that the staff members at both stores appeared to be of identical nationality which makes it likely that the unintelligable conversation was between them.
         
  • Who You Buy From (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mysqlrocks (783488) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:04AM (#14238896) Homepage Journal
    I'd rather pay a little more and know that I'm buying from someone I can trust. So what if I can save a few bucks if I'm not sure I'm going to get exactly what I paid for? Sure I look for deals but it's a matter of balancing that against buying from someone reputable.
    • by BushCheney08 (917605) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:10AM (#14238949)
      Sure I look for deals but it's a matter of balancing that against buying from someone reputable.

      That's why I only shop at Best Buy.

      <trying hard not to burst out laughing>
    • I'd rather pay a little more and know that I'm buying from someone I can trust.

      Agreed. If it isn't a reputable chain (Best Buy, Circuit City, etc.) or well-known online eTailer (Amazon, Overstock, etc.), why buy? I want somebody I can complain to if the thing is broken/wrong/not what I ordered, who isn't going to show up at my house and break my arms for complaining.

      To save a few bucks you're willing to throw caution to the wind? Then buddy, I've got this bridge in New York, see... priced to move... [wi

    • Yeah, but the big question remains: How to trust someone online? How to tell if someone is a scumbag or not? The featured website tries to accomplish part of it: They rate only the bad ones. Like a blacklist. After I read some of the practices used, I hope some of those merchants stay on them for a long long time. But: Do you trust the raters? :)
    • I do now. But when I was younger I wanted the same things but had much less money. So I took chances. But I also had more time and energy to give a hard time to the unfortunate soul that tried to take advantage of me.

      (Like one time I bought a used equalizer for my car at a bazaar and installed it outside right away to find it didnt work and returned it and had to pitch a bitch to get my doe back)

      I noticed years ago that many websites/stores were part of the same company. When building a computer you nee
  • Fear (Score:5, Funny)

    by GweeDo (127172) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:04AM (#14238901) Homepage
    They made it so I couldn't order online anymore! Don't make them mad!!!
  • by 0110011001110101 (881374) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:04AM (#14238903) Journal
    Someone should go around and take pictures of all the proprietors and store-fronts of these scammy camera salesman and post them on a website somewhere so the rest of us can be informed....

    If you'd like to volunteer, let me know, I have a great camera I can give you for a low-low price, that would be perfect for the job.

    • Re:Vigilante justice (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:10AM (#14238950)
      You mean something like this [donwiss.com]?
    • Someone should go around and take pictures of all the proprietors and store-fronts of these scammy camera salesman and post them on a website somewhere so the rest of us can be informed....

      I believe they're talking about websites. Maybe people could take screenshots and post those, and we can be informed!

      Seriously, though, there's a practical reason why vigilante justice is discouraged: Every a-hole who's mad that he couldn't get an otherwise reputable and service oriented business to cater to his every whi
    • I was going to do this, but the bastards have had my camera order tied up for three months.
  • by DrSkwid (118965) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:04AM (#14238904) Homepage Journal

    You mean to say that I shouldn't spend $100s based on the opinions of anonymous and untrusted (to me) sources.

    I tell you, I'm shocked.

    You'll be telling me next that the editorial in trade newspapers is somehow related to the advertising.

    • I know, it's incredible! Next, they'll be telling us that book publishers pay bookstores to prominently feature their books on "recommended" tables! Or that manufacturers pay grocery stores to display their wares at eye level! Shocking, I tell you, shocking!

      Eric
      (I wish my publisher would do that to my own book [amazon.com])
      • Yes, but most trade mags or booksellers don't collect money to advertise stuff which is outright fraud. Imagine if Barnes and Noble had a reputation for publishing books which were missing every 3rd page to save on printing costs! In general when doing business with somebody it isn't acceptable to merely take the cash and promote them - especially when you know that fraud is a problem.

        Imagine if the New York Times published classified ads for cocaine dealers - after collecting cash and an assurance that t
  • Such scams work... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cytoman (792326) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:04AM (#14238905)
    only because of the fact that there is a sucker born every minute.

    I don't think that the number of scams has really increased or anything...the information deluge from the internet makes it seem like there are more scammers now than before. The fact appears to be that in place of one sucker being swindled, now you have 10 suckers being swindled simultaneously.

    A fool and his money...yada yada yada.
  • by line-bundle (235965) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:07AM (#14238923) Homepage Journal
    Here are some interesting pictures of the storefronts

    Front doors [donwiss.com]
    • by DrStrange66 (654036) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:17AM (#14239007)
      Here are some interesting pictures of the storefronts

      I bought a tv from store 114 (DrPlasma, aka eStore of NY) They have multiple aliases. Biggest mistake of my life. They sent me a very expensive plasma tv by mistake and tried to strong arm me into paying for it. They also made an illegal charge to my credit card. Good thing my credit card was pretty full because it limited what they were able to steal when they maxed it out. I dealt with them for nearly 2 months until they finally gave up when they realized I wasn't going to just roll over on this one. Had I researched them out before I would never have bought anything from them. They have conflicting reviews though. Some say A++++++ some say scam artists. I wonder if they write their own reviews.
    • Hats off to the website owner - there's a lot of work there.
  • Always buy local (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Telepathetic Man (237975) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:09AM (#14238938)
    When it comes to expensive, and frequently fragile electronics, always buy local. This should be a no brainer. The on-line prices are too good to be true simply because the on-line retailers know they won't have to deal with the customer service part.
  • by Saint37 (932002) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:09AM (#14238939)
    The unfortunate side effect is that shoppers will be less likely to go to mom and pop online retailers and will stick to the conglomerates. This makes is clear that it is in the best interest of honest online retailers and all those who sell services to them that they need to make a concerted effort to combat online fraud.

    http://stockmarketgarden.com/ [stockmarketgarden.com]
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:10AM (#14238945)
    Never buy your electronics from front stores in the New York City area.

    I have heard nothing but bad news about these New York City stores using bait and switch tactics and selling refurbished goods as new. You are better off using Froogle.com or cnet.com and then doing a little reading of the reviews about the sites that came back with the least expensive results.
    • unless it is adorama or B&H photo. They don't do sucker deals and have good reps in Photography circles.

      Jonathan
      • +50 points for mentioning Adorama!

        The folks there are absolutely fantastic. Very helpful, knowledgable, and offer a fair price. You can probably find stuff for a few dollars less elsewhere, but you don't know who you're dealing with.

        Ask for Peter in the telescope department; he's sharp!
    • Okay, except for maybe B&H Photo :)

      http://www.resellerratings.com/seller1914.html [resellerratings.com]
    • actually, you can get some pretty good prices from some of the electronics stores in NYC... and they're reputable as well. so don't go knocking all the NYC area electronics dealers...
    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:42AM (#14239206) Journal
      I, and my company, buy plenty from B&H and Adorama. Also had good experiences with K&M.

      It's like any other major purchase... do your homework. Look for stores with established brick & mortar business and reputation. Don't be lured by too-good-to-be-true deals (they really are). Ask around with people who are in the know (there are plenty of photography enthusiast websites out there).

      Yes, there are a lot of shady people running shady ops in shady neighborhoods in the NY area. But that doesn't mean there aren't reputable shops as well.

      Caveat emptor.
    • There are a few fine NY stores: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/ [bhphotovideo.com] http://www.adorama.com/ [adorama.com] http://www.jandr.com/ [jandr.com] In particular, B&H tends to carry everything photo related. Adorama carries almost as much as B&H. I've seen people happy with J&R, and I think 17th Street Photo (but I'm not sure of the last one), but they don't tend to have the depth B&H and Adorama has. So if you need say an Olympus 35-100mm f/2 lens, they will carry it, but you will get the glazed eye look if you ask for it at B
      • Yeah I'll defintely second you on B&H. When I was looking to buy a digital camera, there were always a few places that had better prices than them, but all of them seemed to be one kind of sketchy or another. There is an outfit called "Broadway Photo [resellerratings.com]" in particular that if it's still around, I'd advise everyone to avoid like the plague. (They've probably changed names three times now -- but they were a classic bait/switch/upcharge scam.)

        But B&H and Adorama are both great. I've never bought anything
    • Not always (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday December 12, 2005 @12:07PM (#14239428)
      There is one at least that is a reputable dealer, B&H Photo. They are a massive store and sell still and video cameras from consumer up to extremely high end pro. They do audio gear, consumer and pro too. Of course because their are reputable their prices are good, but nothing special. However they are worth checking. I got my Yamaha reciever from them. Yamaha requires their recievers be purchased from a license dealer to honour warantee. All the local ones wanted full MSRP, however Yamaha lists B&H as a licensed dealer. Checked with them and it was much cheaper, even with $50 shipping.

      So there ARE reputable dealers in New York, you just need to be careful. One thing to check is to see if they are authorized dealers. You can't fake something like that (Yamaha does the listing on their own site) and that's not something that a scammy, fly-by-night is going to do since the company wouldn't license them anyhow. If they are an authorized dealer for the companies that do that kind of thing, they are probably on the up and up.
  • Rule of thumb... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MaestroSartori (146297) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:10AM (#14238952) Homepage
    I tend to pick a reputable retailer I've already done trade with, and if the price is more than say 10% different I just assume it's a scam and ignore it unless I know someone else personally who's traded with them. Even if the difference is less than 10% I still prefer to buy from companies I or my friends have dealt with. I may miss some good bargains that way, but I've never been scammed...
  • Amusing Project (Score:2, Interesting)

    by VaticDart (889055)
    Photos of the addresses of various online camera retailers. Funny stuff: http://donwiss.com/pictures/BrooklynStores/ [donwiss.com]

    Not so funny, I'm sure, if you fall for one of their tricks. Just buy for the good ones, seriously, B&H, Adorama, etc... (although I know tons of people have horror stories about both of those, and any other reputable camera dealer).

  • It's true (Score:3, Informative)

    by fak3r (917687) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:11AM (#14238955) Homepage
    I had this about 2 years ago, ordered a camera from a place in NYC for a great price, they called to 'confirm the order' and tried to sell me extra batteries, and other stuff...telling me that the stock battery won't last long enough. I said no, they said OK, they never shipped, when I called I got the same runaround, also, not to be racist but I could tell they were arab, but they'd tell me their names were 'Steve' or 'Brad'. I ended up getting yelled at after I called again, and cancelled my order. I contacted my CC card and made sure they didn't/couldn't chage me...but it gave me a bad feeling for ordering online from smaller places. It reminds me of the 419 scams since all the websites look professional - but share similar graphics, you can tell it's a front. Wish I remembered the name of the company, but I'm sure they've swapped names by now. I just went and paid 50$ more thru amazon, and had the new cam in two days.
  • Wow... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Schezar (249629) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:11AM (#14238956) Homepage Journal
    I heard the voicemail [thomashawk.com] one of these scumbags left for someone not too long ago. I don't know about others, but I would have had the police online to file charges... These people are scary.

    Luckily, they're not the most intelligent people, as the voicemail seems to show. Calling someone a "bitch" repeatedly and threatening to kill them via an easily traced means is just asking for legal trouble. They don't know how to deal with the actual bad publicity they're starting to get. (Ratings sites are not actual bad publicity, since hardly anyone uses them, and there are many different ones).

    I have a feeling this sort of scam will disappear in due time. It's getting harder and harder to hide from geeks with net connections and blogs, and bad word of mouth, unlike bad "reviews," is killer for a business. Just think of how many techies you know who refuse to buy a particular brand of hard drive simply for hearing about a friend's bad experience once.

    Oh, the rest is a total shameless plug, but we did a bit [frontrowcrew.com] about this on GeekNights [frontrowcrew.com] last Thursday.
    • by Malc (1751)
      Two things:

      1) Don't over estimate the influence of geeks. They're really an insignificant proportion of the population, even with their supposed influence of others around them.

      2) If we listened to every geek's complaint about certain brands of hard drive, we wouldn't buy any. Every brand has had a problem at some point in time. Which just goes to reinforce what I said for 1).
    • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tom (822) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:56AM (#14239342) Homepage Journal
      I have a feeling this sort of scam will disappear in due time.

      You're new to this life, aren't you? The birth rate in the sucker demographics category is way too high for these scams to disappear anywhere within the forseable future.
  • by ThinkFr33ly (902481) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:12AM (#14238963)
    The two I trust:

    PriceWatch.com [pricewatch.com]

    ResellerRatings.com [resellerratings.com]
  • Nothing New (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:14AM (#14238975) Homepage
    Most of those have been around for a long time. and the places with the glowing reviews always feel a bit suspicious when you dig deeper on them.

    The fun part is that it highlights something that most people ignore. They will not think twice buying from someon on ebay with a 1000+ rating yet it is really simple to BUY rating points. (hint: search ebay for cupons) If you spend lots of money on something online and the price is too good to be true, be ready to lose your cash.

    BTW: if it's less than $1000.00 you are pretty much hosed. I lost $500.00 to a scammer auto parts dealer on the east coast (read my blog for the name and location) and after getting my lawyer poised and finding out how much to bring the small claims suit against them It was much cheaper to simply drop it as it would have cost me $1500.00 to sue him... These scammers know this and that is why they rarely venture over that $1000.00 line.
    • Re:Nothing New (Score:3, Informative)

      by Zak3056 (69287)
      BTW: if it's less than $1000.00 you are pretty much hosed. I lost $500.00 to a scammer auto parts dealer on the east coast (read my blog for the name and location) and after getting my lawyer poised and finding out how much to bring the small claims suit against them It was much cheaper to simply drop it as it would have cost me $1500.00 to sue him... These scammers know this and that is why they rarely venture over that $1000.00 line.

      Most state filing fees are under $100, and in some states you can even re
  • by pla (258480) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:14AM (#14238979) Journal
    Digital cameras currently have a very competitive market. Every site has the same models for within a few bucks of each other, pretty close to at-cost, and make it up on supplies (batteries, chargers, SD/XD/sticks/whatever storage medium, docks, printers, straps, cases, and of course the holy grail of ripoffs, the "extended warranty").

    When you see a site advertising a given model for $100 to $250 less than everyone else, well, do you really think they plan to take a loss on the camera itself? And even if they did take a small loss (such as at-cost with free shipping), they sure as hell won't sell for less than they can ever dream of making back even if you bought every overpriced accessory they offer.


    Just save yourself the trouble and use a reputable dealer like Amazon or NewEgg for any electronics. They usually have close to the lowest price, and factoring in the BS as part of the cost, they almost always win without even a second thought.
  • by Easy2RememberNick (179395) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:14AM (#14238981)
    To think that in light of this, BestBuy stores seem like a nice place to shop!

      I'd never trust a store who couldn't spell "right" correctly anyway. All you Grammar Nazis were right.

     
  • by 0110011001110101 (881374) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:15AM (#14238991) Journal
    Several friends of ours have recently had unsatisfactory buying experiences.

    They all researched the cameras they wanted, and they thought they had adequately investigated the dealers. They saw the full-page ads in major photo magazines, the professionally-designed websites, the high dealer ratings on prominent search-sites. They saw all the trappings of the modern online secure shopping site. They trusted that their credit card companies, the respected magazines, and even the states which are home to the merchants, would help ensure a good transaction. And, of course, the prices were hard to resist. Why were our friends ultimately disappointed?

    We took a look at some of the factors and some of the businesses involved, and we offer the information we've found to all who are considering purchasing cameras, video equipment and electronics from the comfort of their living rooms and offices.

    This website is a partial scorecard. We hope it will help readers understand who some of the better-known dealers are, what's behind the ads and websites, and how to find further information.

    We believe that open information benefits both consumers and dealers. We think the whole photographic industry -- hobbyists, professionals, dealers and manufacturers -- is healthier when consumers have clear idea of how to research a transaction and whom they will be dealing with.

    We've tried to make these pages accurate. All the information included is from public sources. If you know of any errors, please inform us and we will correct them at once. If you have further information you think we should be aware of, contact us. (Please -- no rumors or speculation; only confirmable facts.)

    Our contact details are here.

    WELL KNOWN DEALERS

    We have examined some of the online dealers who specialize in cameras and electronics, looking behind the ads and websites to find out who they are and how they do business. We chose some of the most visible companies -- the ones with heavy national advertising and prominent ranking on internet search engines. Many of them have sprung up in the last few years, while some have been around online and in traditional stores for decades.

    Judging from customer surveys, newsgroup discussions and published articles, some of them are held in high regard while others are despised.

    There were some surprises. The biggest one is that many apparently separate and competing dealers are actually jointly owned and run. This is no secret to followers of the many online photography and video forums, but we believe the intertwining is unsuspected by most consumers. On this site we've grouped many of the dealers into "families" to clarify their identities. They form a truly tangled web, with many overlapping corporate connections, addresses and telephones.

    Another surprise was that some dealers act mainly as brokers, with little or no inventory of their own and no "real stores." In our opinion this should not disqualify a business from consideration, but it does contribute to frequent misunderstandings about what is "in stock".

    The biggest obstacle to any research is that some dealers go to great lengths to conceal their locations and management. Sadly, this disguising seems to be the norm for many newer, web-only merchants.

    We believe that open information benefits both consumers and dealers.

    We have included the names of individuals where we could find them, so that consumers know whom to contact with compliments or questions or complaints about a specific transaction.

    We believe that a businessperson who is proud of the way his or her business is conducted will be proud to be publicly associated with it.

    Some of our information may be out of date, as some companies may change location, telephone numbers or personnel. We welcome updates or corrections via email here.

    Sources Cited Much of the information on these pages is attributed to these sources:

    • DNS: the Internet's domain name registry
    • A couple of points on numbers 3 and 4:

      3. Check your state laws. Several states have laws on the books that say that, for returns of defective products, the vendor cannot charge a restocking fee even on return for refund. Some may require the vendor to cover return shipping as well. Returns because of mere dissatisfaction with the item (that is, the item isn't defective, merely not what you wanted) aren't covered by this. Find out what the law is, then pay with a major credit card so you can do a charge-bac

  • A shyster is an unscrupulous lawyer. How did shyster get to mean shady digital camera salesman?
  • by repetty (260322) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:19AM (#14239023) Homepage
    Two years ago I had to replace the headlight in my sedan. I eventually bought it from an Internet-based vendor but not before I realized that most of the sites I investigated were being run by a much smaller number of actual businesses.

    I have no idea how many companies are doing business selling car parts on the Internet but I'm sure that it's a small fraction of the "front-ends" that appear to be doing business.

    --Richard

    I paid $100 for a headlight for
    which the dealer quoted me $240.
  • Feedback System (Score:3, Insightful)

    by decipher_saint (72686) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:21AM (#14239040) Homepage
    Ok, so this site is trying to provide an impartial "scoreboard" system for determining if online retailers are trustworthy, but why should anyone trust these guys any more than any other merchant ranking site?

    The site is up and down like a yoyo right now so I can't find out how they are gathering their information, I mean if it's all anecdotal how do they discern between legitimate issues, PO'ed customers or just plain ol' bad luck?

    Personally, I only buy big ticket electronics and camera gear from local vendors because there is a bit less risk (i.e. no shipping) and I can put a human face on the store I'm buying from. I guess the other thing that makes me dubious about some online deals is when a vendor is claiming to sell something way below MSRP, that little "it's too good to be true" voice pipes up in my head.
  • never before could you reach out to all of humanity

    you guys realize there are some negatives to this idea? such as da wiseguys in crooklyn reaching out too?

    "yeah, it just fell off da back of a truck, yeah da receipt is for a refiderator, so what's it to you mr. palookaville? you gonna come to brooklyn and make something of it, huh?"
  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:22AM (#14239046) Homepage Journal
    Being pro-market, I see the scammers as the worst aspect of any market. In the past, it can be argued that regulations and restrictions through government was needed -- scammers were able to swindle thousands to millions of dollars before people were able to get the word out and warn each other.

    As the percentage of technically-savvy individuals grows, information about a dealer or retailer can be distributed in seconds. Thousands of individuals can moderate (or rate) a seller, and sellers can moderate (or rate) buyers instantly. eBay handles these transactions with very little government involvement or force.

    Scammers (such as the photo retailers) have been suckering people for DECADES. This is WITH government "protection" that many citizens believe they can rely on, yet we still see thousands of people getting swindled.

    As the old generation moves out of the buying phase and the new generation becomes the big power in buying, we will see less swindling and scamming. It is already very hard to scam someone in my age range (low 30s) as most of us check online before buying a large item. Google is adapting much of their search ability to cellphones (WAP, SMS and other means). I already check items out through my wireless PDA phone when I am on the go. I've saved myself a few hundred dollars by not purchasing items with bad reviews. I found these reviews through my phone in mere moments.

    The old ways of the retail industry are dying. As a retailer myself (who lost one of our stores because of a scamming employee and manager base), I know that the customer has more power than I do. When all you had was a local shop to buy from, you weren't able to negotiate for better quality, service or pricing. With next day service from thousands of online shops, the retailers are put on notice that they better offer more than just a product, or they'll go out of business.

    These photo scams will end without much government involvement. If they broke a contract or agreement, I can understand calling a lawyer. Hopefully in the short run enough people will comment about their bad experiences that the companies will be punished before more people are scammed -- and I see the strength of scammers quickly weakening as information is globally available, instantly.
    • by Tom (822)
      Being pro-market, I see the scammers as the worst aspect of any market.

      Being pro-market, you support a dreamworld that doesn't and will never exist. The problem is that you (and way too many people in way too important positions) don't realize that free market theory is based on a number of highly unrealistic assumptions and will thus never work the way it is advertised.

      In an ideal free market, this problem would not even exist. One of the assumptions is that all participants have complete, truthful informa
      • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday December 12, 2005 @12:03PM (#14239392) Homepage Journal
        One of the assumptions is that all participants have complete, truthful information. Obviously, that would be the end of any and all scammers.

        That is NEVER an assumption -- in fact I believe the counter-fact to be true. In a free market, every transaction is based on the assumption that both parties feel they are profiting from the transaction. This case is based on the risk versus reward idea. The bigger the reward is, the bigger one assumes the risk is. If Camera W123 sells locally for $499, at Amazon for $449, and John's Photo Shop sells it for $379, you're gaining a huge reward. If you jump on that price, you're accepting a risk. It is personal greed that leads people to buy from deep discounters, and they have to acknowledge that there is always a risk in making a purchase. The reason many people buy locally for more money is to lower their risk.

        The problem is, of course, that our governments, pretty much no matter which one you choose, are not exactly breeding pools or good examples of honesty and integrity

        This is true -- government tends to be run by scammers and shysters, in my experience.

        What you're advocating is putting government in charge of markets -- the same government that is never transparent, hides information "legally" and has zero oversight except for a vote once every 4 years or so. I advocate dumping the government provisions and letting the new Internet information sharing structure take over. Now, we have instant voting based on consumer demand. If a lot of consumers get duped by a company, we'll soon have the ability to broadcast that information over many different sources.

        I'd like to see an SMS server where you can message a number "JohnPhotoShop.com" and have it return "50 positives, 300 negatives, 15 neutrals" I believe this will happen, very soon, as Google and many other companies are trying to gain brand share by providing free SMS services. I use FBOWEB.COM to track all my flights and used the free PDA version of the site for a few months. Now I purchased a subscription as the site is really worth the information I've received -- and it is always more accurate than what the airlines provide.

        I don't think government has protected us from scammers, ever. If anything, the platforms made by government are only used by scammers to find new loopholes (as is seen in the New York Photo scam that has been going on for 20 years). Now that information is available to EVERYONE, there is no excuse to getting scammed. Even some posts on slashdot today show that people didn't research the too-good-to-be-true pricing, and got scammed. Greed: you get what you deserve.
        • by Tom (822) on Monday December 12, 2005 @12:23PM (#14239570) Homepage Journal
          I'd like to see an SMS server where you can message a number "JohnPhotoShop.com" and have it return "50 positives, 300 negatives, 15 neutrals"

          And soon, there will be 50 competing services of that kind, half of which receive kickbacks from the companies they rate well. How do you choose which service to trust? Maybe a meta-service that rates the info-services? Soon, there will be 50 competing meta-services...

          I don't think government has protected us from scammers, ever.

          I actually think it has. Not 100%, not ever perfectly and completely. However when I travel on the train and I'm not afraid of robbers, then to be quite honest it's not because I think any of my fellow travellers would stand up and stop them - it's because government has been successful in keeping crime rates at such a level that being robbed is an unlikely event.
  • As they say...... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ShyGuy91284 (701108) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:25AM (#14239069)
    "Once you know, you newegg". And Amazon for anything non-electronic....
    • "Once you know, you newegg". And Amazon for anything non-electronic....

      What's wrong with Amazon for electronics?

    • I'll add my $0.02 based on my personal shopping experiences. I've had good results with:

      Newegg (low prices, responsive customer service, prompt, very wide selection)
      ZipZoomFly (lots of free 2nd day shipping, low prices, responsive customer service)
      TechForLess (Bought an open-box UPS from them. Prompt, good prices)
      AtomicPark (Software mainly but good prices and free shipping for holidays)
      Amazon (books, cds, dvds)
    • Re:As they say...... (Score:5, Informative)

      by friedmud (512466) on Monday December 12, 2005 @01:25PM (#14240108)
      This is _exactly_ my mentality lately.

      Those are the only two stores I have ordered off of in the past year... and I've ordered thousands of dollars worth of things for my house (just got married)...

      Trying to get the extra $5 off of something by using some shady site just isn't worth it anymore. Newegg and Amazon are always within 1% of the bottom of the barrel sites and I don't even have to think twice about ordering from them (actually... my credit card is just saved at both.... so I can order at will).

      A little piece of mind is worth a lot!

      Friedmud
  • Rate each site you go to as either good or bad. Believe other people who vote similarly.
  • Other tricks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rorschach1 (174480) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:36AM (#14239148) Homepage
    It was interesting to see Butterflyphoto in that album - I bought a camera from them over the summer. The price was fine, but I found out that their deal is high-pressure phone sales. Right after I placed the order, they called me to let me know that they were holding it to make sure that's what I really wanted. See, I'd ordered a regular SD card and not a high speed SD card, and that couldn't possibly be what I wanted. (Of course, I'd just selected the 'premium' package with the case and SD card that THEY suggested...) I had to tell them several times that no, I REALLY didn't want to upgrade, especially not when I knew I could get the faster SD card from Costco cheaper.

    Anyway, I did get my camera, and you know what? It came with a high speed SD card. I wouldn't be surprised if they all ship like that, and they just do the high pressure sales thing to jack their profit margin up when they can.

  • ...traders. My rules of thumb are simple. (1) Don't order from companies whose brand names are so poor that they have to use domain names intended to capture random searches like www.wirelesshotspot4u.com or www.lesbianteenelectronics.com, especially if multiple such domains lead to one web site, (2) don't order from companies who can't afford to hire someone competent to design their web site and (3) don't order from New York.

    I've stuck to these rules and I've never experienced any trouble.

  • by efedora (180114) <efedora@yahoo.com> on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:40AM (#14239182) Homepage
    I've been using Citibank/ATT Universal Card for online purchase. You can download an application that will let you generate a unique card number for each purchase. You can also limit the amount and set the expiration date.
    After the purchase you can modify the amount or date and even cancel the number.
    It won't stop you from making a dumb purchase but it will prevent excessive charges and unauthorized addtional charges to your credit card.
  • ...because I visited the link, and I can't find anything at all about "how the shysters work." All I can find are some spotty listings about a few online camera dealers, along with an "about" page which says that the site's administrators are possibly interested in link exchanges or ads (which would take away any credibility the site would otherwise have.) Overall not a remarkable site at all, and the posted link does not lead to the content mentioned on Slashdot. Either the site content changed or this wa
  • Cheesy reviews (Score:3, Insightful)

    by garylian (870843) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:49AM (#14239268)
    Review sites for electronics and the like are chock full of super-cheesy, almost non-sensical reviews. If you look at reviews, and most of them consist of one or two lines of things that don't really matter, then it's a bogus review. There are so many of them, it becomes what I call "Surround and drown" fake reviews. Firefighters know that if you surround a fire with enough hoses, you can drown it sooner or later. These review sites have the same process, where all negative real reviews are drowned out by the fake ones.

    "Timely shipping!" That one is my favorite fake review. Um, you ship via UPS or FedEx Ground. It's 3 days, no matter how you slice it. How can it not be timely?

    "Great Customer Service!" Another of my favorites. The person hasn't done anything but buy something, in all likely hood. There hasn't been any customer service up to that point.

    "Easy to use website ordering!" Um, yeah, that's the first thing I look for when buying electronics over the web.

    If the review doesn't bring up any points, or doesn't provoke any honest thoughts, it is probably fake. Read the actual negative reviews.

    Besides, why does this surprise anyone? The same thing can be said for almost every PC/XBox, PS/PS2 magazine or website. They all get such pats on the back from the companies they review, that they don't have an honest review in them. It's the equivelent of letting a lifelong, die-hard Rolling Stones fan review one of their concerts. The review is going to read "Dude, they Rawked!", even if Keith Richards was so stoned he forgot to play his guitar.
  • by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) on Monday December 12, 2005 @11:50AM (#14239272)

    ...the same rules apply now that applied 35 years ago when I started buying photo equipment. Most are places that will screw you one way or another. Some are downright crooks. And there are a few gems that stay in business year after year, garnering more and more loyal customers even though their prices aren't rock bottom.

    Personally, I use BHPhotoVideo.com [bhphotovideo.com] for darn near everything photographic. Some things, like flash brackets, are personal taste problems. You just gotta touch and feel before buying. But for everything else, B&H is either the best or so close I can't tell the difference. They're businesslike (even brusque, sometimes) on the phone but they're also professional and reliable. The number of similarly high-quality online dealers in this market segment can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Actually, you only need two - B&H and Adorama. [adorama.com] There are a few specialty dealers who are good for other things and if you need what they sell, they're wonderful. But for the full line of general photo gear available online, it's B&H and Adorama.

    The best guidance I know of for buying a camera or related equipment in the U.S. is at photo.net. [photo.net]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 12, 2005 @12:19PM (#14239539)
    I just buy from B&H Photo or Adorama. They've been around for years and their prices are as low as you'll usually find. I've never had any problems ordering or returning merchandise and they don't pressure you.

    http://www.bhphoto.com/ [bhphoto.com]
    http://www.adorama.com/ [adorama.com]

    The markups on electronics are very slim. If someone is selling you an electronic product for hundreds below everyone else you're being ripped off.
  • For the record... (Score:3, Informative)

    by earlylate (938029) on Monday December 12, 2005 @03:24PM (#14241109)
    1. I submitted this site because thousands of camera buyers are victimized every year. Slashdot members, being more web-savvy than average, may be more aware and thus less susceptible. And less surprised at the site's information.
    2. The word "shyster" was nowhere in my submission.
    3. Many members send in links to promote commercial sites. The site I submitted is more or less a public service.
    4. DANGEROUS GROUND alert! Perhaps slashdot should examine whether the shopping comparison site it is allied with is one of those that allows itself to be used by the villains we've been discussing. (Look up your favorite digital camera, and see what dealers show up near the top of the list with clusters of rave reviews.)

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