Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Kind of a Scam

We have this new camera that was given to us by a friend, which for the record was very generous, but it needs a new battery. Trying to take some initiative I went online and found a camera site called thephotoland.com that had the battery I needed for the best price. Feeling excited and invincible, I went for it and ordered one, then sat back with smug self-satisfaction waiting for my order to come. In retrospect, I should have been alerted by the name, which is a little sketchy in and of itself.

Well, something clearly smelled afoul in Denmark, because I get a call a few days later from thephotoland.com and they informed me that the battery that I ordered was on back order 6-8 weeks and they could offer me a more powerful battery for $10 more. My gut instinct in these situations is to abort the mission. I'm a cynic when it comes to money, especially when you're a bargain shopper like me - you're just not always dealing with the most savory group of people when you're trying to save the big bucks. Or rather, they seek bargain hunters out because we're all a bunch of suckers for a good deal.

Anyway, as I tell the guy that I'd like to just cancel the order get my money back, and that's when red flag #2 comes along and he gives me the hard sell. If there's one thing I've learned it's that when a salesperson won't take no for an answer, it's best to take your money and walk away. He was a little pushy and I took the bait, finally agreeing to what I was being told was a better product and what the professionals use.

When the battery finally arrived, I was excited at first but then hugely disappointed when it wasn't exactly what I was told I'd be getting. I have a fair amount of experience using after-market products (a by-product of being a bargain hunter) and while you can get good deals, after market stuff does not always perform as well as brand name products. It's tough because brand name stuff, especially Apple/Mac products, are expensive, but you generally get what you pay for. Now I wanted to get a genuine Nikon battery for this camera, and I thought I'd found a good deal, but when they called to do the upgrade, I naively thought I'd get an upgraded Nikon battery, which was not the case.

I opened the package and there was some unfamiliar brand of battery. I did a little online research and found I could get the same battery for under $10 on Amazon, with free shipping. I paid $30, which is not the end of the world, but I still felt scammed. I did some further research on the company and found that they got terrible reviews from customers, with the common complaint being exactly what I went through - the classic bait and switch; you order one thing, they get you to upgrade, and it's not what you expect. Then, when you try to return it, they are impossible to get ahold of.

Naturally I tried contacting them and the call went straight to voicemail while my emails went unanswered. Boy did I feel duped, not to mention stupid. It is a good lesson in researching your bargains because they're not always what they seem to be. I was bummed but figured at least I had a battery and for all intents and purposes it should work, though I couldn't help but feel bummed that I'd spent 3X what I could have. I decided to contact my credit card and see if I could stop the payment. They first tried contacting the camera store and if you can believe this go them to answer on the first try. Unbelievable.

The guy at the store was affable enough and said I could try the battery for a couple of weeks and then return it, but I figured I had him on the line and wanted to deal with it while I could. I asked to return it and he said it was fine, then explained what I needed to do. On the website they explicitly say that you need to follow a certain protocol in order to do a return, but in the end, that was not was I was told on the phone. I sent the battery back and the credit card guy said he is a witness to the call because he was also on the line, so I have some backup. I am curious to see what happens. I did my part but have not received any indication that a return has been completed, but I'm hopeful.

One last note - it was a little tricky mailing this battery. It's of the lithium ion variety, the same kind in Samsung phones that explode and catch fire on airplanes. The thing is small, about the size of a piece of candy, so shipping is cheap, but when I went to the post office they told me you can't ship this type of battery. I had a few options, which included lying and just dropping it in the mail, or trying UPS, which can be a bit of a pain and I didn't know how much it would cost. Just more hassles with this battery. I went to our local PO and talked to them and since they're a small town PO they said they would investigate it more and call me, which they did. It turns out that if a lithium battery is rechargeable, which this is, then you can send it by the US Mail. It it's not, then you can't. Good thing to know.

Whatever happens, I'm sort of glad to just be rid of the thing. I want to believe that I'll get my money back but until that happens I'll keep hoping.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Pablo for the pic.

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