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Old Nov 30, 2005, 7:44 PM   #1
chaznolan's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 31

Just read this in a blog, thought I would pass it along for the holiday shoppers out there...


Tuesday, November 29, 2005 PriceRitePhoto in Brooklyn, New York when I called to inquire about my order with them. My crime? Telling him that I planned to write an article about my unfortunate experience with his company regarding the camera order I had placed with him yesterday.

How are these people able to stay in business?

I suppose I should have been duly warned based on PC World's Camera Confidential expose written a few years back about unscrupulous camera operators operating out of New York, but I have never been so utterly offended by a retailer in my life. I guess in some ways this is my own fault, or as Steve Phillips reminded me, you're a "professional photographer you should know better than to buy things on the internet this way."

I have been keeping track of The new Canon EOS 5D for a while. As those of you who visit this site regularly know, photography is a passionate hobby of mine. I've told myself that I'd pick up a 5D as soon as the price dropped below $3,000. I've been regularly checking both Yahoo! Shopping and PriceGrabber for a while waiting for one to drop. Well yesterday for the first time I saw that the 5D was for sale for $2,899 at PriceRitePhoto. I placed an order online and this is where my trouble began. The order went through and was confirmed and is shown below.

The first thing that happened was I received a call from an individual who identified himself as Joseph telling me that there was a "problem" with my order. He said he needed to "verify" the security code on my American Express. Although I had given that security code in the order I gave him this code again. He then tried to explain to me that I was going to need some accessories with this camera. For starters I was going to need a new memory card. When I told him that I already had a memory card he became somewhat insistent that mine was not good enough. After I wouldn't buy his memory card he said I'd need new batteries for the camera. Again I told him that I already had two batteries at home and would not be needing to purchase these from him. And of course he then tried to sell me the ever famous "extended warranty" that I politely declined. He then thanked me for my time, confirmed my order verbally, said that it would be shipping out in the next few days and hung up.

So today I checked on my order online again and saw that it had not been routed to shipping and called the company back again. Four times I was put on hold for a substantial amount of time and had to hang up and call the company again. Finally I was able to connect with an individual who said his name was Steve Phillips. Steve Phillips abruptly told me that the camera was out of stock. When I protested and told him that it was confirmed online yesterday and verbally by his sales rep he refused to budge. When I told him that even right now as we speak the camera was still showing online at that price on his website,(see below with today's date) he still insisted that he did not have the camera.

At this point I thanked him and informed him that I would be writing an article about my experience with his company. It was at this point that he went ballistic. He first told me that if I did this that he would not cancel my order but just never fill it. If I cancelled it he said he'd charge me a 15% restocking fee. When I told him that that would be unethical he went nuts. He accused me of trying to "extort" him and said that he was going to have two local police officers come over and arrest me. He then went on to say that as a "professional photographer" I should have known better than to try and buy a camera this way and that he was an attorney and would sue me if I wrote an article about my experience.

He told me that I had no idea who I was dealing with and that as he had my work contact info that he was going to call both my immediate supervisor and the CEO of my company and tell them that I was trying to extort him.

"I will take this very personally," he said. He claimed to have recorded our phone call and said that he would make sure that I would "never be able to order anything on the internet again."

Of course these threats only served to agitate me more. After about 20 minutes of this abuse I told him that I had to go and he refused to get off the line. He said that if I hung up that he would just charge me for the whole camera and never ship it. I hung up and he called me back. I left for my meeting and he called back asking to speak with my boss.

This is by far the most abusive situation I have ever encountered with any retailer on the internet.

One of the things that troubles me the most about this situation is that I found this retailer through Yahoo! shopping and they were perceived to have positive feedback. Is the feedback mechanism for Yahoo! Shopping broken? How could this horrible retailer have a four star rating with 858 ratings? I'm convinced that there is a possibility that many of the "reviews" for this company could be fake. I should though have sorted through the reviews to the worst to see that many others had fallen prey to similar fraud by this company.

How is this company still allowed to offer their products through Yahoo! Shopping?

PriceRitePhoto may also be doing business as C&A Marketing and TheCameraMall.com

Below are some examples from other users:

"very bad place for shoppping. Ordered a TV a week ago. when checking out, the shipping price was higher than displayed by Yahoo. That is ok. Called customer service 2 days later to make sure the order was ok. The guy from customer service tried to sell other things to me, and promised the item will come in 2 days. After 3 days, called again, I was told they over sold the item, and my order was cancelled. what a joke! Don't buy thing from this merchant!!!"

"In all the years I've done business with online stores(and I've done plenty), this is by far the ABSOLUTE WORST company I've conducted business with yet. They're customer service is almost completely inaccessible despite their 24/7 365 claim, they don't deliver on anything they say they will, they're rude and pushy, and any information that IS sent back is usually filled with vague half-answers that do nothing to solve any problems. This is just an awful business experience. Case in point: They claim to be open on Sundays over the phone from 10AM to 4PM EDT. Well, what they really mean is that the sales department is open, but customer service(who will place you on hold forever during the week) is closed, as is billing. STAY AWAY FROM THIS COMPANY. And warn your friends. ..."

"I gave this store an overall rating of 1. That is because Yahoo does not allow me to rate it any lower. I cannot stress enough how poor the customer service from the wretched excuse of a store. First off, they stress 'we ship in less than 24 hours'. That is a blatant lie. An hour after placing the order, I received a call to confirm that I had indeed purchased a camera, and that the delivery address was correct. So far, so good. I returned the call, and informed them that yes I had indeed purchased a camera, and yes, the information was correct. The next day, I received another phone call to confirm the shipping address, and did I also want to purchase an extended warranty? Yes, the address is correct, and no, I don't want your warranty. They assured me my camera would be shipped that day. Three days later, I again received a phone call to confirm the shipping address, which had now been done 3 times, and did I want to purchase the extended warranty? Yes, the information is correct, no I don't want your stupid warranty, I was assured the camera would be shipped that day. It is, in my opinion unconscionable to delay shipping an order for over a week, just so a company can try a high pressure sales job, on a warranty a customer has already told them, repeatedly, that they don't want. It has now been ten days since the date of purchase, and still no camera. My experience with this store is one I will never repeat, nor would I wish it upon my worst enemy!!"

and yet another review I found on the company:

"I placed an order with TheCameraMall.com (aka PriceRitePhoto aka C&A
Marketing) on June 9, 2005 for a Sony DSR-PD170 camcorder. At the time
the price advertised on-line was very low, which should have raised a
warning flag, but a call to the company confirmed the item was in stock
ready to be shipped, that it was a US model, the user's manual was in
English, and the salesman (Joseph) seemed helpful. There was some
pressure to add unwanted items like a tripod, extra battery, etc, but they
were declined. An offer to add insurance was offered, and initially I
declined but then agreed after being told that otherwise if the product
arrived and was non-functional I would be taking full risk. Before the
product could be shipped I was asked to sign and fax a form, appended
below, that indicated that if I wrote any negative feedback I would agree
to have my credit card charged $100, and that I also agreed to waive my
right to chargeback to the credit card company, and that product could not
be returned for any reason. I signed and returned this form with the
understanding that the company would send the item I ordered. However
after a week there was no indication of a product even having been
shipped, and the customer service contact indicated that only the
salesperson could give me order status, so after several tried I reached
Joseph again, and now he indicated that he couldn't ship the product
unless I faxed him a copy of my credit-card!!! This I refused to do, and
have never, ever had to do for a transaction. I sent email to the company
requesting cancelation of the order, and received yet another email asked
me to sign and fax back a form indicating that I would not post negative
feedback and if I did I was authorizing my credit card to be charged
$100. I refused to sign this.

I did post feedback to
the feedback links provided by the customer describing the details of the
transaction, including the forms I had been sent.

The day after posting the feedback describing my attempt to buy the video
camera from PriceRitePhoto/CameraMall, I received a call from a "John
Hancock", claiming to be the owner of the camera companies, and demanding
that I remove the feedback I posted. He said that he would charge my
credit card for the amount of the camera and and additional $250 for each
posting. He also said that he was shipping a Malaysian version of the
camera, without a lens, to me, and that he would make money on the deal,
and I couldn't stop the shipment, or dispute the charge. My credit card
company confirmed that a pending charge had been placed by PriceRite, but
the charge was not yet posted, and once it was posted, I could dispute.

The next day, July 6, I received several calls from "John Hancock",
demanding again that I remove the feedback I had posted, and when I agreed
that I would remove anything that he felt was not accurate, but if he
could not indicate any inaccuracy, then the feedback would remain. He
screamed and swore at me over the phone, and said that he would post my
credit card number on the internet if I didn't comply.

On July 8 a charge was posted to my credit card for $2139.99 and a second
charge was posted for $100.00. I called my credit card company and
initiated the dispute process. The security department of BankOne Credit
strongly suggested that I cancel my credit card, and complete an internet
fraud report.
Description of how you were defrauded:
My credit card has been charged $2238.99 for an cancelled order.
I've been threatened with additional multiple charges against my
credit card unless I change feedback posted to the Internet, and I've
been threatened with having my credit card number posted to the
Internet. I've had to cancel my credit card on the advice of my
credit card provider."

Update #1: Found this text on their eBay store ad: "We guarantee our customers to have the best quality products and the best customer service! Our customers love us for our friendly attitude, buy with confidence!"

This just makes me sick. If you want to Digg this story you can here.

Update #2: Well I just received a call back from Steve Phillips at PriceRitePhoto. He said that I should be expecting a call from the "FBI" shortly and that "my tactics" of flooding his store's phone lines was "illegal." When I asked him to hold on as I wanted to turn on my recorder to record our conversation he hung up on me.

Of course I have not called his store at all but I'd imagine that the attention that his abuse has recieved from Digg and other places on the internet may have something to do with that.

My boss did have a conversation with me about the fact that this guy called him yesterday and was very understanding about the situation.

Update #3: Also since calling my boss, Steve Phillips has called my boss' assistant several times this morning as well. Contrary to Steve Phillips claims, I still have had no police officers show up at my office to "arrest me." Nor have I been contacted by the "FBI."

Last night when I called AMEX it appeared that PriceRitePhoto had not charged my card yet. My guess is that when I refused to buy their high priced accessories that they never had any intention of sending me the camera at their advertised price. I blocked the card with AMEX and will be getting a new number to prevent them from further abusing my credit card.

I have also filed a complaint with the New York Attorney General's office regarding their behavior and have left negative reviews on my experience with their company on most of the shopping comparison services that they are included in. Hopefully from the attention that this story has received they will reflect on the appropriateness of their sales tactics going forward.

If anyone has a contact at Yahoo! Shopping it would be nice to learn from them that they were being delisted or at least investigated over this.

Interestingly enough, it was just two weeks back that Yahoo! made an announcement about an overhaul to their shopping service. It would seem that they plan to include more social networking type reviews on products and vendors in the future. Hopefully whatever new system they put in place will help weed out the bad apples like PriceRitePhoto.

Of course even as late as today, they still have the camera that they told me as out of stock on their internet site for sale for $2,899.

Update #4: Received this email back from the New York State Attorney General's Office today: "Dear Consumer:

Thank you for your submission to the New York State Attorney General's Internet Bureau. On behalf of Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, I want to thank you for taking the time to alert us to this matter. Your assistance is vital to our efforts to serve the people of the State of New York.

We have added your submission to our files. It is through complaints such as yours that we learn of patterns of fraud and illegality. If you have any questions about this matter, please call us at (212) 416-8433. For other consumer-related matters, please call our consumer hotline at (800) 771-7755.

Thank you for contacting us."

Update #5: Thanks to a complaint by Digg User loker269, PriceGrabber has now delisted PriceRitePhoto. Nice to see PriceGrabber do the responsible thing here. posted by Thomas Hawk at 4:36 PM
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Old Nov 30, 2005, 8:12 PM   #2
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I had similar problems when ordering my Nikon D70. I had tried to order the camera from 3 or 4 websites, but all of them were frauds, so I just ordered it at from a more ligit site, Ritz Camera. Someone should start a website specifically for online camera store frauds. Ha Maybe I'll start a website like that. I certainly can make good websites.
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Old Nov 30, 2005, 8:20 PM   #3
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There are so many of those bait-and-switch crooks (many with lairs in NYC) that it constantly amazes me how many people place orders with them without doing a minimal search for information on the company.

At a minimum, read things like THIS and do a search for the company name + scam and/or "bait and switch."

It should also be obvious, but be very careful when reading evaluations of some of the questionable companies on ratings sites. Often the scamming companies will use fake email names and addresses themselves to flood rating sites with glowing comments about their services.

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