Watch Out For The "Gray Market" Scams!

Good day everyone,

I have had experiences and heard much talk about really INCREDIBLE sounding bargains and deals with equipment, especially the new HD camcorders. But beware, since there is a big "GREY MARKET" thing out there right now, and such deals are really "too good to be true"!

I have had gear stolen back in February and had my Homeowners insurance not cover the item(s) via personal property and even had the nerve to press fraud charges (3rd degree felony) against me for it. But that's another story, which could be found at the link below (for those who want to read about it)...

http://www.sky-chaser.com/robbery.htm

Anyway, after I was ripped off, I was devastated. Ofcourse, anyone who has gone through that will get a "cheap streak" in them, and try to get the replacement items much cheaper than what he or she originally paid for them (since he or she has to buy them "twice", essentially).

I heard from both a friend and from a reputable photography magazine about "Broadway Photo" and "Digital Liquidators". The target item to replace was a Sony HDR-FX1 HD camcorder, which I paid $3800 for new in January 2005, and was stolen in February 2005. I found the same model advertised for $1,700 to $2,300 - So I went for it, went to the site and placed the online order.

I then received a call to confirm the order, and like at a car dealership, was HIGHLY PRESSURED into buying accessories (batteries, extra remote, etc). I declined. Later my "order died" after being placed on back-order. I then checked out the site below...

http://www.resellerratings.com

When I looked up the reviews for "Digital Liquidators" I got sick, I will share that with you too, check out the link below...

http://www.resellerratings.com/seller2375.html

Note that the "rating", on a scale from 0 to 10 is "0.15"!

Now scared to hell, I quickly went on line to cancel the order and saw the order number DISAPPEARED from the site, "What the ????" ... So I called to confirm the order was cancelled and was told "It's already cancelled because the camera will not be in in 3-4 months as it is back-ordered!" I asked the guy, "Why do you show it in stock?", and rudely, he said "You get EXPEDITED service if you order the extra / optinal remote, battery, etc." then he just hung up on me!

Still scared, and not wanting to have to spend a lot of extra money AFTER I WAS RIPPED OFF myself, and for "safety" I called my credit card company, and told them do not process any payments from "Digital Liquidators". This is to prevent unauthorized charges, and most credit card companies provide such a safety "net" as a service.

Sure enough, 2 days later, my credit card was NOT charged - But showed that a $2,700 charge was attemped on it TWICE! And by "your's truly" - "Digital Liquidators"!

So I wiped the sweat off my forehead and said "Whew"! Then I did a google search for "Digital Liquidators" and was shocked to see the "image result" come up as shown below...

0006.jpg


Now, I looked at http://www.digitalliquidators.com and compared the above picture and the run-down, mafia like appearance of the Brooklyn store front and said "Wow - Their web-site sure is pretty compared to that hole in da wall"!

Check this link below to see more of such "Gray Market" and Brooklyn / New York store fronts...

http://donwiss.com/pictures/BrooklynStores/index.htm

This is another Brooklyn, NY storefront (that looks like the picture above). They take your order and information, then ask you to call them to confirm your order. If you do not buy any over priced accessories offered to you, they either cancel your order or put it on hold for a very, VERY long time (backorder it) while still and quickly charging your credit card! Ofcourse, this is how they MAKE MONEY in a process called "bait and switch". Another scary company "Broadway Photo" is rated below...

http://www.resellerratings.com/seller1995.html

Their rating is around "1.18" on a 0 to 10 scale - still stINKs!

These companies will take NO TIME to charge your credit card, but will take LOTS OF TIME to produce the items you ordered. They also specialize in "Gray Market" items, usually shipped in PAL instead of NTSC (for a camcorder), with NO warranty, the batteries, remotes, chargers, all missing (which normally COME WITH the item(s)!

These item(s) are often offered as optional when you call to "confirm", where they will sell a $20 battery for $100 bucks, that's how they get away with the low prices!

...They also charge $$$ for shipping, where 2-day UPS is 2 weeks (on their system)!

...And if it is defective - Forget it - You BOUGHT it!

Be careful, and remember to visit the http://www.resellerratings.com site for really good information about these "shady" companies. The site also reviews the "Non shady" companies, and show "satisfaction ratings" in whole numbers instead of "0.xx" decimals!

Now, to order the best deal around, and with confidence, go to the link below for great deals and honesty for any camera gear (B&H Photo) ...

http://www.bhphotovideo.com.

In stark contrast to the other ratings on "Reseller Ratings" check the link for B&H Photo, and see the difference...

http://www.resellerratings.com/seller1914.html

Also note that their rating was "9.28" - Not that's more like it!

I got the camera off B&H Photo for $2,800 as they had a sale on it - I was very happy with that! Plus their 2-day UPS shipping got to me BEFORE the 2nd day!

Just a warning since I almost got "porked" when I was replacing my stolen gear a few months ago and was extra-cheap after getting ripped off myself. I found the "Digital Liquidators" site via a photography magazine and figured it was a legit company ... It was a NIGHTMARE - ON TOP of already having my gear stolen!

...And just because you saw it in a newspaper or magazine instead of the first line in a "google" search doesn't mean its is legitamate!

So if you consider an on-line store, and the price seems way to good to be real, remember...

http://www.resellerratings.com

Good luck - Chris Collura - KG4PJN
 
Thanks for sharing your story, Chris. Glad you didn't get burned!

One small clarification (if I may): "Grey Market" is not necessarily bad and is not associated only with scammers. As this page notes even reputable dealers (like B&H Photo) deal in Grey Market products (often offering them side by side with stuff from the Authorized Agents). As long as one understands the potential differences before purchasing, a grey market item could be perfectly fine for you and save you some moola. Another discussion mentioning B&H and grey market products. Grey market doesn't necessarily mean that the product is stripped of all the extras that come with the authorized product either (although Chris is right, scammers often do this). Read and compare carefully to see what you are getting.

I would personally have no problem opting for grey market lenses, for instance, because there will be no real difference in the product and odds are you will probably never need warranty work on a lens. Digital bodies on the other hand? I'd feel better knowing that I could send it to any authorized repair shop to get it fixed.

You also need to be careful with DV cameras. If it is grey market, make sure it doesn't lock you into PAL (European standard) instead of NTSC. (Some cameras now come with the ability to record in either mode, which could open up the possibility for considering a grey market purchase). Here's a discussion of PAL vs NTSC in Mini DV cameras.

Anyway, I didn't want anyone to get the impression that buying from B&H would assure one of not getting a grey market product and also wanted to clarify what the definition of grey market really was.

Darren Addy
Kearney, NE
 
Yes, B&H does deal in Grey Market items. But the nice thing about them is that they'll tell you up front that it's a Grey Market item and they'll even explain what it means. They did this when I inquired about a SLR camera a couple years ago. In my case, they told me that the Grey Market items were usually imported and carried no US warranty. However, they said the item was not stripped of accessories. It came with everything it should, except the warranty.

I fully agree that B&H is a fantastic and reputable place to buy equipment. But for us folks unfortunate enough to live in NY (and have to pay the sales tax up front when buying from B&H), does anyone know of any B&H-like photo stores in other states?
 
I guess the old adage of "if it's too good to be true, it probably is" still applies. I second the B&H recommendation. I bought my Rebel XT from them as well as a couple of other things like a tripod head and a filter. Their website is pretty good. I've also received a couple of good sized catalogues from them that also contained LOTS of valuable information that I have found useful as a novice getting into serious photography. Above all, their up-front honesty is rare and their outstanding reputation is well deserved.
 
If yo.u are going to buy photo equipment on-line

1. B and H
2.Abe's of Maine
3.Popflash photo

I cant say for sure that EVERYONE else is a scammer, and I'm sure some aren't, but there's too many folks that are either selling grey market stuff, or the individual items out of what from the factory as a kit, or reconditioned or returned pieces, or selling items they wont have until they get enough orders to get a discount, or so on and so on and so on

The above three are fast, knowledgable, and reputable. It's worth paying a little extra up front to avoid hassles on the back end
 
I can also vouch for Calumet photo out of Chicago. Usually slightly more expensive than B&H and Adorama, but they have excellent service. (B&H will help you if you have a problem, but they tend to be like typical New Yorkers -- to the point, and not terribly interested in your plight.)
 
Another quick vote of confidence for B&H. I have purchased items from them for over 20 years. One note of caution, you don’t want to buy on Mondays. I have experienced hold times of over an hour-and-a-half. I always call; as you can generally get a reduction in the price by quoting a competitor like Abe’s of Maine if they are cheaper. I did experience a new “featureâ€￾ this past spring when I purchased a Sony HDR-FX1. I got to go through their verification process. It took me 2 days and about 3.5 hours of phone work to prove to them that I was in-fact Robert Hall, it was in-fact my credit card, and I wanted it shipped to my place of business rather than my house. To their credit this is a real verification and I was never asked to buy anything. It was a pain, but I also respect the fact that they are protecting themselves and card holders from fraud. As has been previously mentioned these guys (I have never spoken to a woman in over 20 years of buying from them) are New Yorker's and terse by nature, but they know their stuff and will tell you if a given item will meet your needs. I usually prepare a list of questions and call the non-toll-free line prior to making a large purchase.
 
I have to give some credit to Adorama here, I have ordered a couple of things from them and shipping is quick and cheap. I have always wondered why camera magazines run ads for these cheap scam artist shops. Makes you wonder if they got their money for the ad space.
 
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