How do “cheap” camera stores do it?

March 24, 2009
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Lots of these stores litter the sidewalk around Times Square here in NYC. They show recent models in their windows with amazing prices. Many still use names that resemble the old fave “47th St. Photo” which, for a certain generation, was the only true bargain in NYC.

How do they get away with these low prices? WXP News has some good info on some of their tricks, writing specifically about online shops which play the same games:

Something else to be careful about when you’re buying online is to find out exactly what you’re buying. There are some online camera stores that are notorious for advertising incredibly low prices on popular DSLRs, hundreds of dollars lower than the price of the same item on Amazon or at other legitimate outlets – but there’s a catch. Sometimes the camera is a “gray market” import (sometimes euphemistically referred to as “international versions”), which means the manufacturer intended them to be sold in other countries where prices are lower. And what that means to the buyer is that the manufacturer won’t honor the warranty, and you may find that the on-screen menus and the

Lots of these stores litter the sidewalk around Times Square here in NYC. They show recent models in their windows with amazing prices. Many still use names that resemble the old fave “47th St. Photo” which, for a certain generation, was the only true bargain in NYC.

How do they get away with these low prices? WXP News has some good info on some of their tricks, writing specifically about online shops which play the same games:

Something else to be careful about when you’re buying online is to find out exactly what you’re buying. There are some online camera stores that are notorious for advertising incredibly low prices on popular DSLRs, hundreds of dollars lower than the price of the same item on Amazon or at other legitimate outlets – but there’s a catch. Sometimes the camera is a “gray market” import (sometimes euphemistically referred to as “international versions”), which means the manufacturer intended them to be sold in other countries where prices are lower. And what that means to the buyer is that the manufacturer won’t honor the warranty, and you may find that the on-screen menus and the manuals are written in a foreign language.

Even if the camera is a “genuine U.S.A. model,” some online retailers use another scam. That low, low price they quote, when you read the fine print, is for the body only. At an above-board store, “body only” means the lens doesn’t come with it, but most digital camera bodies come with various accessories such as the battery and battery charger. These scammers take that stuff out of the box and charge you extra for it – which in many cases raises their price for the whole package so that it’s equal to or higher than that same package from a more honest seller.

Look, there are retail prices, and then wholesale prices. One way or another, if the price is too low, you’ll pay it back in Shipping and Handling (see: Comp-U-Plus) or in accessories (see above) or in the lack of any support. One exception I would make: some “OEM” editions of hardware, if you are comfortable with a screwdriver, are usually good deals. If you are scared, though, don’t go for the lowest price out there if it’s really too low. Pay a bit more, play it safe.


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