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 Buying Cameras Online: A Warning | Digital Photography Hints
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Buying Cameras Online: A Warning

Posted by Matt on November 23rd, 2007 filed in Camera Buying Guide, Digital Photography Hints & Tips

It’s the festive season again, so many of our thoughts turn to buying cameras not only for ourselves, but for our loved ones. Of course all of us would rather spend less on that latest digital camera toy, and the Internet provides many deals to tempt us – so how do we choose the best one without getting burnt?

The Nightmare Before Christmas?

A bit later in this post we’ll give you some pointers to follow to purchase your camera safely, but what if in the meantime you search on Google and come across a deal that saves you 50% of the price or more? I mean, it all looks OK at ‘SketchyCamera.com’ – they have a great looking website, and that unknown review site seemed to give them 5 stars – so surely they’re OK, and the savings… wow! Well be careful, because here be monsters, monsters that prey on our own greed for deals that are literally too good to be true.

It’s very easy these days to create professional looking websites, that even have great customer feedback reviews on them. Not only that, but it’s easy to create a real looking comparison site – that just happens to recommend your own website above others. These sites, drag you in with amazing deals, and statements of fully legal, quality goods – but once you’ve handed over your credit card details expect the pain to start.. Most likely they will want to call you to try and upsell your camera for things like batteries and chargers. Wait a minute.. surely those are included? Nope, extras – but it’s OK we’ll do you a deal if we throw in this memory card. A few pressured sales minutes later your bill may have tripled with items you thought were included. You could try and resist this upsell, but then you’ll find the item that was ‘in stock’ is now 6-8 weeks delivery time, so no way will it meet your needs so you cancel the order, or try to at least.

Sounds like a nightmare? It is. The guys who run these sort of scams are looking for people who meekly accept the extra charges, often way over what they would pay from a reputable company, just to prevent trouble. People who stand up for their rights and try and get the ‘promised’ deal are in for a hard time as the scammers have years of experience dealing with all sorts of people, and somehow they’re still in business. Want to see some horror stories? Search on any camera on Google, then click on one of the links that looks way too good to be true. Now search on that company name on the internet, or on the CNET forums, and see what comes up… generally it’s not so nice. But you think, maybe these are only the tip of the iceberg, and all their other customers are happy? Well one swallow does not a summer make, but a lot of swallows makes Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’. Still not convinced? Then check out your local Better Business Bureau and see what they say.

Safe Camera Buying Guide

Here’s a quick list of points to check before you buy online, to keep you (and your credit card details) safe, secure and happily unwrapping that new camera*:

  1. Find out the manufacturers recommended price: This gives you a guideline for how much you can expect to spend. Also check out trusted review sites such as DP Review or CNET to get an idea of prices, and also whether there’s anything you should watch out for.
  2. Use Trusted Price Comparison Sites: to compare prices at different vendors, both online and off. Again, CNET offers a good price comparison engine with their own certified ratings.
  3. Do a quick internet search on the company if you don’t know them: if you’ve never bought from a company before then it’s worth checking out the Internet chatter to see if it’s generally good or bad.
  4. Pay for the purchase using a protected credit card: Many credit card companies offer elements of fraud and customer protection. Check with your credit card company to see what they offer, and use the card that keeps your money safest should anything go wrong – you never know!

If you follow these guidelines you won’t go far wrong, and your camera should arrive safe and sound – assuming you allowed enough time for holiday mailing times!! And if you do have problems check out your local consumer rights, and follow through with them – the scam artists rely on people not bothering to keep them in line. Happy (and safe) camera buying!

*Disclaimer: Ultimately you are responsible for all your own purchases online or anywhere. This guide is designed purely to give you some pointers and warnings that may help prevent disappointment, but we offer no guarantees! Safe shopping.

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