Thursday, November 17, 2005

Digital suspicion(!)

Am I being scammed? Flim-flammed? Maybe a bit of the old bait and switch?

Here’s the story. We decided on a digital camera: model, brand, and “kit” number. We then shopped for price (on-line, natch). Found the lowest price offered through,, and Checked the merchant’s reviews to ensure legitimacy. Whipped out the old credit card and place the order.

WOO-HOO! Got back an email confirmation in minutes. All looked good.

Ah, but next morning when Carol returned to the house after running some errands she found TWO emails and one telephone message from the merchant requesting us to call and “verify the order” before it could process.

She called and spoke with “Gene.” Gene reviewed the order with her, and then mentioned that she might want to consider an extra extended life battery pack since the battery pack that shipped with the camera didn’t last very long between charges.

A yellow caution flag went up in Carol’s mind. None of the extensive reviews we had read mentioned any concerns about the battery. And those reviews picked apart just about everything you can imagine, including the appearance and “feel” of the camera.

But we had talked about maybe getting an extra battery, so she said OK. He added, in glib tones, that we would want a charger for that, and he would add that in as well.

The discussion turned to filters for the lenses, and then a compact flash memory card (which she turned down because we had one ordered from another retailer), and then a carrying case, and more.

She asked him at one point what our new total for the entire order would be. He gave her the price.

It was HUNDREDS more than we wanted to spend!

Carol then understood what was going on. The camera was a “loss leader” and they made their profit selling overpriced accessories.

She promptly told Gene to cancel everything except the original order. He became snide and surly. His comment was, “Oh, come on. How much sense does THAT make?”

When she insisted, she suddenly heard a busy signal. She had been cut off.

About 30 seconds later my office telephone rang. Carol was spitting nails through the phone line! She asked demanded that I call Gene back immediately and find out the status of our order. If they thought we were going to pay for all that stuff they were mistaken!

The phrase, “Hell hath no fury...” ran through my mind.

I eschewed speaking to Gene, but rather asked for customer service, told the person who answered that there was some confusion about what we had ordered, and would he review it with me. He pulled it up on his computer and told me it was just the camera kit, at the total price we had agreed upon. I thanked him and hung up.

When I told this story at work today, a co-worker smiled and nodded. He said, “That’s what they did to me, too. And when I insisted that all I wanted was the camera, suddenly it was backordered. Indefinitely. They never did ship it to me. I finally had to cancel the order and bought mine through eBay.”

So, I will now check my order status daily, and if there’s no tracking number by tomorrow I’ll have to call them again. If they then tell me it’s backordered, I guess I’ll just cancel the order.

Other adages I’m reminded of (in addition to the "woman scorned" one) include:

“The bitterness or poor quality (or service) lingers long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

“Caveat emptor.”

“You get what you pay for.”

At my age, you’d think I’d have learned some of this stuff.


Nankin said...

I guess I've been lucky. I've never run into a problem like this. I've ordered my PC and Laptop on line, but that was through Dell. I actually received both orders long before they said they would ship.

Duke_of_Earle said...


Yeah, Dell is great. (Hey, they're here in Texas! Not in "NEW YORK CITY.") And so are most of the online places I've bought from. As of this morning there's still no word on my order; neither a tracking number nor an estimated ship date. But neither have they told me (yey) that it's backordered.

We'll see. If they DO tell me it's backordered (refuse to ship, or delay) I'll name them and give them some bad "word-of-blog." Then I'll cancel the order and try someplace else.