Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Alternate Titles:
Ticked off
Letdown of the day
Lydia is Mean to Pseudo-Manager Peter
If it seems too good to be true...

So I've been saving money for a digital SLR camera. I like doing research, and I was looking around today and came across two websites that sell the camera I've been looking at for a really great price. I was really excited, and couldn't believe the price. I called both companies and asked them what was included in the cost. They both said "the camera body only." Okay, that's fine, and that must be why the price is so low. So, I checked around on eBay and found the battery and other things that weren't included for pretty good prices, and decided this would be a good way to go. So, I picked one of the sites and placed my order.

Twenty minutes later, I got an e-mail telling me to call the company and speak to Peter regarding my order. I call, get Peter, and he just needs the security code on the back of my credit card. (Odd, why didn't they ask me for that in the form I had to fill out?) I give him the code, and he says, "By the way, I'm wondering why you got the body only instead of the package?" I explain I was going to get the battery and other items cheaper elsewhere, because I knew they didn't have to be Canon brand.

He says, "You can't beat the prices we have, and you have to buy Canon brand to get the chip that translates the menus from Chinese to English."


"My camera is in Chinese??" I ask him.

"Yeah, for a price like that....the USA package is $400 more. You have to make sure it says USA next to it on the website."

"Why would I assume it wasn't English?"

"Well, the price...."

"I'd like to cancel my order."

"Sure, I'll cancel it for you. That'll be a 7% restocking fee."

"But I just made the order 20 minutes ago."

"I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do. That's our policy."

So, I hang up, on the verge of tears because I'm so disappointed. And ticked off. I go to the website to find the fabled USA label. I look on the camera I ordered, and there was nothing there to say it was in Chinese, not even an option to buy the USA package. (There was an option to "See Similar Packages" which I had clicked on before ordering, and it just took me to more Chinese cameras.) I do another search for the camera, trying to find any of them that said they were in English. Nothing. It's dawning on me that this whole thing (the suspicious call for my security number...) is a scam to make a quick $20 off people looking for a deal.

Meanwhile, Holly got online, so I told her what happened. Being a much more assertive person that I am, she insisted I needed to call them back and demand they take the restocking fee off my card. So, for the first time in my life, I called to complain. I called Peter back, and asked to speak to the manager. He very quickly told me he was a manager. I know from speaking to friends of mine that everyone says they're a manager, but what could I do?

Long story short, I explained to Peter the Pseudo-Manager in no uncertain terms that I thought they were pulling a scam and I refused to pay the restocking fee. He explained to me that I was being very unreasonable, was choosing to see the situation from a glass-half-empty perspective, and that he was simply offering a great deal on a camera.

Yeah, a Chinese camera! How am I supposed to even find the English cameras? Well, it turns out, you have to enter USA into the search bar. Seriously.

I again said, that's all well and good, but I'm not paying the restocking fee. I didn't care that there was a policy about cancellation, because the company had already broken their side of any agreement by not fully disclosing the details of their products.

He put me on hold.

Two minutes later, he picks back up and says, "Is there anything else I can do for you?" in a too-sweet voice. I ask him if he took off the fee, and he said, no, that was policy, and he couldn't take it off. After a few minutes more of conversation, he hangs up on me, refusing to transfer me to a manager or anyone else. "Call back tomorrow" he says.


I go back to Holly, my online coach, who says, "Call back! Don't talk to him, but ask to speak to a manager."

So I do. I get transferred to JJ. I tell him the situation, and he puts me on hold. I can feel my blood pressure start to rise in readiness for the second uncomfortable call of the day. He gets back on and says, "Okay, there's no charge."

"What? I don't have to pay the fee?"

"No." (They don't teach manners, evidently. "No ma'am, sorry for the inconvenience...")

"Okay, thank you." and that was it.

But be sure I'll be checking my bank account the next few days to make sure I don't get charged.

I realize that the "too good to be true" price should have been a warning sign for me, but I also did my research (as best I could), and two sites with similar pricing helped me think it was legit. Phonecalls to both prior to ordering would have been a good time for someone to tell me what I was really looking at, as well.

Also, even after knowing the camera was in Chinese, I couldn't find a single mention of it, or an extra acronym tagged onto the product number, or anything that could suggest I was buying something other than an English-language camera.

Seriously, even their name is deceiving: USA Photo Nation! What a scam.


  1. Oh man, I am so sorry! Yeah, I hate calling and complaining about customer service issues. I'm just not very assertive. But you were in the right, completely. Restocking fee, sheesh. It's not like they pulled the thing off the shelf already!

  2. Grr! How frustrating! I am with you about hating to complain but kudos to Holly for encouraging you and good job for getting out of your comfort zone and being persistant.

  3. You too can be mean! If you need help complaining you can always ask, I'm readily available. [Just kidding]. I just recently made AirTran give me a FULL refund on our Christmas airline tickets because our non-stop suddenly was changed to a two-stop and that's the whole reason I chose their flight. Now we're happily flying American, non-stop to Baltimore. But at the same time I sometimes have to watch my "tone." Can be bad too...anyhoo, I can teach you how to say stupid in Chinese. Sak-wa! Then next time you'll be able to respond telling them what you think of their camera. I also know Why-mi, which means carry out. Both very handy things to know. Love ya!

  4. Be sure to check your account and let a fraud representative be alerted to this scam. It may still show up, or something else that they charged to your tickets to Panama!

    Also report to ebay.

  5. Daddy says to call your card company asap and alert them to this scam. He also says restocking fees are illegal.

  6. Restocking fees are illegal? But electronics companies usually charge them on big items, don't they? (Cameras included.)

  7. No, pretty much anything on the internet or clothing orders in bulk are subject to a restocking fee. Which makes sense if you think about it, someone really did have to do something. BUT if your order was not shipped and you had a legitimate complaint, then NO THERE SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN A FEE!!!!

    I would check it out with the bank too. Sorry Lyd! What a bummer!

  8. Lydia,
    Call the Better Business Breau and report them. I am sure you are not the only one that has been caught in this. I am glad you got it taken care of though...good for you.

  9. Now that I read your story, I seem to remember seeing something on the Internet about how online camera sellers are notorious for exactly this kind of scam.

    Honestly, I don't think the BBB would help a bit--a company that is not above scamming people won't really care if someone "tattles" (not that calling them would be bad, just I don't think the company would really care; I mean did you check the BBB before you chose them?).

    You should call the credit card company and refuse payment on that charge.

    A quick Google search finds fun stories about online camera fraud. It sounds very similar to your experience. I'm glad it didn't get worse for you.

  10. @John: Thanks for the link. I did a search for the company with "scam" added (like the article recommended), and found this site. It turns out others have talked to my friend Peter! In a way it makes me feel not quite as bad, because I wasn't the only dumb one, but worse, too, because there were warnings out there, if I'd looked.

    Well, everyone, here's your warning! If you see a great price, either check out the company, or brush up on your Chinese!

  11. Good for you for standing up for yourself!