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Saturday, November 26 2011 @ 09:29 PM EST
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How (not) to Buy a Camera

The Bait

Writing this article is embarrassing, but those out to defraud us rely on our silence. When I decided to upgrade from my Nikon D50. I researched thoroughly:

  • I spoke talked with my daughter, who has a BFA in photography from Rochester Institute of Technology.
  • I checked various sites online: Nikon, Amazon, Cord Camera (my local vendor), and B&H Cameras to find out what models were available.
  • I visited my reliable local camera shop and spoke with a knowledgeable manager. This also gave me an opportunity to handle several cameras.

All of these were prudent steps. I now knew that I wanted a Nikon D90 camera body kit. I decided to buy on the Internet to avoid sales tax, knowing that I could get free shipping from most vendors. I found a ‘deal’, the camera would be $150 cheaper from BestPrice Camera than most others. This should have been a red light.


The Sweetener

I placed my order on-line, receiving an E-mail from BestPrice Photo asking me to call them to confirm my shipping address. I called and the salesman asked if I wanted to upgrade the battery. He told me that the battery in the kit would only last two hours. This didn’t worry me as I already have two Nikon batteries for my D50. He told me that the D90 used different batteries. For only $129 I could get a battery that would last five to eight hours. Then he asked if I wanted to upgrade the battery charger. The charger in the kit took 12 hours to recharge, but I could buy a quick-charge that would only take an hour or so. Now I was becoming uneasy. I decided I needed to go back and do more research. The salesman then made me a great offer: if I purchased the battery upgrade he would throw in the quick-charger for free. I travel extensively in third world countries where power is not always reliable, so I opted for the battery. The final price was now only $8 less than that offered by many other dealers on the web. The whole process had exhausted me.

The next day I went to local photographer for a lesson. When I told him about my new camera, he said it sounded like a gray-market camera. He explained that gray-market goods are not manufactured for the U.S. market and might not include the same features as the U.S. model. More importantly, gray market goods do not have a manufacturer’s warranty. I went home and called BestPrice Photo. I spoke with the same salesman, who assured me that the camera, which had already been shipped, was not a gray market camera and that it came with the Nikon warranty. I again checked the BestPrice Photo website. On the home page they stated that all products had a U.S. warranty and that there was a 30-day return policy.

 

The Switch

Two days later I received the camera. I removed the instruction manual and found the list of items included in the kit. My kit was missing the Registration Card and the Nikon Warranty. I noticed that my “free” quick charger was standard in the kit. I examined my $129 battery and discovered that it was identical to the two batteries I already owned for my D50. The new battery slid right into my D50. Like the quick charger, the battery was listed as standard for the kit. Lastly, I went to the Nikon website and attempted to register the camera. When I entered the serial number, the site informed me that I had a gray-market camera (using that term), and explained what that meant: I did not have a Nikon USA warranty and no licensed Nikon dealer in the USA would service my camera.

 

The Recourse

When I called BestPrice Photo’s “friendly” customer service department, I told them that they had misrepresented the camera and asked for instructions to return it. Obviously practiced, the man would not back down on any point. He insisted that the camera had a warranty, just not with Nikon. He said if anything happened to it, I could send it back to BestPrice and they had someone who could repair it. When I baulked, he said if I kept the camera they would extend this warranty to three years. I rejoined that a three-year warranty was useless, if it was not from the manufacturer. He pointed out that their home page said “U.S. warranty” not “manufacturer warranty”, so that they were not doing anything illegal. Eventually he agreed to take the camera back, but would not be budged on a $20 restocking fee.

 

The Lesson

The lesson learned is to always "read the fine print". Wherever you live, make sure the product you are buying has a valid manufacturer's warranty for your country and that the retailer is accurately representing this.

2 Comments

The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Authored by: Joe Becker on Monday, November 07 2011 @ 03:26 PM EST How (not) to Buy a Camera

Ouch! Sorry you had to go through that, but thank you for telling your story. It pays to pay a bit more and go through reputable dealers. Someday I should tell you my story about buying a copy of Photoshop through Ebay - that one cost me more than $20!

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Authored by: Stephen Slater on Monday, November 14 2011 @ 06:47 AM EST How (not) to Buy a Camera

 Hi Victoria, we've all been there at one time or another (but may not wish to admit to it). On the face of it there may be some great deals to be had on the internet but nothing beats dealing direct with a reputable and factory backed supplier. If you build a relationship with one you serve a number of purposes, to keep these face to face outlets open and in building a relationship with one, you get to receive some better deals by way of discount here and there. Not only that, you may get 'preferential' treatment when it comes to repairs and renting.

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