Spring Break Camera Order And Internet Cons

I have a bad habit of buying a new toy such as a camera lens before going on vacation. I also tend to buy a lot on line, generally without problems, but did experience a dishonest company today which I’ll get to below. I have contemplated adding posts talking about many of the gadgets I play with, figuring that some readers might be interested and others who are interested in the products would find them from searches. Running into crooked sales people gave me the incentive to write such a post, feeling that companies with dishonest practices like the one I ordered from deserve to be written up when they encounter people with blogs.

With spring break coming up, this time I decided to upgrade my pocket camera. (I always carry one with me while traveling for those times when I leave the SLR back in the room). I ordered a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35. It has a few advantages over my current favorite pocket camera, a Canon S70. It is smaller and has all the added technology of the last few years, which may or may not make a difference, such as image stabilization. More importantly it has a 25 mm Carl Zeus lens. If I only have one lens (or a single lens camera in this case) I want one which includes wide angle going to at least 28 mm. The other advantage is that the camera has  remarkable video capabilities for a pocket camera, including making videos in high definition. Videos are 720p so some purists might object that it doesn’t handle full 1080p, but for a pocket sized camera this is much more than I previously expected to see. This will come in handy should I want a video at any time I don’t want to take a whole camcorder along.

A few potential downsides are that the camera lacks full manual controls (which the S70 has), it cannot zoom while making videos, and while not crucial I am surprised it uses component cables rather than HDMI for the HD video. Besides, a standard HDMI port would mean I wouldn’t have to spend extra for a proprietary component video cable to fit a small camera. Maybe they want to be able to sell the accessory cable. At least they are upfront about the cable, which is far better than the first dealer I ordered this from.

I decided to do a Google search for the camera and came across one of those sites which find the cheapest price for a product on line. I figured that my risk was small. I ordered by credit card, and if worst came to worst and I didn’t receive the camera I actually have an extra Canon Elph along with my Canon S70 so it would be no crisis. I’d also be traveling with an SLR, and in a real pinch there is a (crappy) camera in my cell phone). I ordered from a place called TechonDigital purely because they offered the camera at the lowest price.

My first sign of trouble was that I got an email saying I had to call to verify the order. I would have canceled right then and there if their web site gave that option. One of the points of ordering on line late at night is to avoid taking up time during the day on the phone. Plus I figured that they were up to something.

When I called this morning I was told that I “forgot” to purchase a battery. I decided to play along for a moment to see what they were up to. When I played dumb and said, “doesn’t it come with a battery?” I was told that the battery it comes with only lasts twenty minutes and is intended to only be used to try out the camera. I continued to play along and asked how much the battery would cost. The regular battery was around $60 (already over-priced) but they really wanted to sell me an extended battery which they claim normally costs $150 but were will to sell at the “bargain” price of $99! So much for ordering from them because they were cheaper.

When I first ordered I did look at the reviews of the seller on the site where I found them, but in retrospect I bet that this was part of the scam. When I actually did a Google search for TechonDigital I found lots of complaints and similar stories. I also found that when people tried to order the camera without adding the high-priced accessories they never received the camera, finding it listed as “back-ordered.” Apparently they are only interested in selling these items at a “discount” if they can sell the accessories at rip off prices, but I’ll never know for sure as I thought it was safer to cancel the entire order after talking to them. I will certainly be watching my credit card for unauthorized charges. I’ve also found they operate under a number of other names including DigitalNerds and 86th Street PhotoVideo.

Actually this might have turned out for the best. I’m also thinking of replacing my camcorder with a high definition one, and they sell the model I’m considering at $100 less than my previous best price. It is better to risk a relatively small order for a pocket camera as opposed to a camcorder on an unknown company. As for the camera, I placed an order with Newegg. They charged more than TechonDigital, but still charge far less than the local big box stores and I’ve never had any trouble with any orders from them. I quickly got confirmation that the order has been processed without any need to call them or buy anything else. Newegg also came in handy recently when I purchased an HDMI cable for a new HD television from them for $6 as opposed to paying $80 to the big box stores a couple weeks ago.

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5 Comments

  1. 1
    Ryan says:

    Looks pretty nice. A lot better than the old Canon A75 I still have from 2004.

    I’ve bought stuff from Newegg many times. Never had a problem with them. Highly recommend.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    I actually put in two more orders to Newegg later today.

    I wanted some more 4 GB SD cards which would work in both the camera and in my Palm–I copy movies on to them when flying, plus I could use them should I use the camera for video and need more storage. They were out of stock when I ordered the camera so I checked the box to have them email when available. They became available this afternoon so I ordered a couple.

    After ordering I happened to go to their front page and noticed today’s specials. They have 500 GB Western Digital MyBook external hard drives for only $108 with free shipping. I couldn’t resist that price, and extra storage always comes in handy, so I next ordered one of them.

  3. 3
    Ryan says:

    Do you use FatWallet, Ebates, or Mr. Rebates when you order? Clicking the link from their pages gets you a cash back rebate from lots of online stores. For Newegg, it’s only about 1%, but when you’re ordering hundreds of dollars worth of stuff it’s worth it.
    I always check evreward.com to see which rebate site has the best rebate for the store I’m going to buy something from.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    No, I guess I should. A few weeks ago I got a couple new computers for my office from them, so it would add up.

    I do get a fair amount of money back from credit cards between my home and office accounts but it sounds like this is money I could have gotten back on top of it.

    Do you have to do much to claim the rebate? If it is a matter of going to a site to find a discount I’ll do it but generally I often don’t bother if I have to waste time after a purchase to get rebates. Fortunately many places are now making it easier to just go on line to have rebates sent. I am awful about filling out rebate forms (as sellers assume most people are).

  5. 5
    Ryan says:

    It’s pretty easy. You just sign up at their website (FatWallet.com, etc), then whenever you shop at an online store you just go to FatWallet first. You click the link to the store on their site instead of just typing in the store’s address. And that’s it. FatWallet tracks the order through the link and puts the rebate into you FatWallet account automatically. Then once they’re sure you not going to return the item (90 days maybe) you can transfer the money out with a check mailed to you or with PayPal.

    FatWallet is just one example. The others work the same way. Some have signup bonuses too.

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