21 December 2006

Be Wary: Buying Digital Cameras Online

I decided this Christmas, my boyfriend needed to be spoiled. Since his birthday is December 24th, I could splurge a little. A digital camera would do the job, but it couldn't be a dinky one; my boyfriend is tech savvy, and he prefers quality things. The problem is I haven't been able to find a decent paying job, in spite of a year of browsing wanted ads and sending out resumes. I needed a bargain.

After careful research online, I found a Canon Powershot A540 for a great price, $129.99. The retail value of the camera is $199.99. With 6 Mega-pixels and 4x optical and digital zoom, I knew my boyfriend would have little to complain about. I called the company to ask how much shipping would cost. The man on the other line informed me the camera would be here in seven to ten days. I had to ask a second time how much shipping cost, and he told me $20.

I thanked the man and hung up. His curtness was mildly annoying, but the enticing price of the camera let me push his rudeness aside. When I ordered the camera, shipping ended up $29.99. Again, I ignored my inner misgiving. I wanted my boyfriend to be excited when he opened his present.

Each day I checked my online credit card statement to see if the camera had gone through. After a week and still no charge, I panicked. Christmas was a week-and-a-half away. I called the company again.

The man told me the camera was out of stock. My heart sank. And then the unthinkable happened. He tried to sell me an "upgrade" for more money. I told him, no, this is the camera I want. He tried again, lowering the price slightly. I refused again, and he still pushed. I had to be rude, reminding him I wanted the specific camera. He finally told me he'd cancel my order.

I still needed a camera, so I found another online store selling the Canon Powershot A540 for a similar price. Shipping was to be cheaper, and I was relieved. But when they wanted me to use MoneyGram to basically send the cash to Switzerland, my last encounter with an online store made me stop short. I decided to forgo any more grief and buy the camera at Target for less than retail, but still much more expensive than the online "deals".

And I am glad I did. My father called me while I was Christmas shopping. I had let him know about the camera crisis earlier that morning, and he'd gotten suspicious. He'd ordered a digital camera for me from the same online store I had first ordered my boyfriend's. He told me he called to verify the sale, and he had the same conversation with the sales clerk, almost word for word. Apparently, it was all a scam.

The next day, I recieved a phone call from a service rep. He told me the camera was ready to ship. I told him I had cancelled the order, and he wanted to know who I'd talked to. I didn't know. He asked why I'd cancelled my order, and I politely told him I chose to buy it locally. He asked how much I'd paid for it. I quickly responded it was none of his business--and it wasn't. His call was unjustified, and he knew it.

I know people who've never had a problem ordering technology online. But all of this can't be a coincidence. So, be wary buying digital cameras online. The "deal" may not be worth the hassle.

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