In January of this year I finally decided on a camera to take backpacking: the Sony Cyber-shot DSC S600. I came to this conclusion by comparing pictures at Steve's Digcams and talking to my brother. (Hmm, his website is still under construction.)
Anyway, I made a major mistake. At Steve's Digicams, if I had scrolled down, I would have found online stores that sell the camera. But I played "Scot" and did a froogle search. The best price was at Rite Buys dot Com. So I proceed to order online. I got an email asking me to contact them by phone. I called and ordered a New In Box (as advertised) Sony DSC S600 camera. The salesman stated that the camera didn't have any memory and I'd need a memory card. (Now this RED FLAG should have indicated a problem in the making.) I assumed the salesman was just a phone operator and didn't know anything about cameras. He offered a 1 Gig Sony memory card for $89, at which I balked. Then he offered a 512 mb card for $69, at which I balked. So he stated he'd sell me the 1 Gig card for the price of the 512 mb card, which was fine. And he stated he was including for free a Sony new camera kit. I then received in quick succession an email confirmation and verification of my order. (More RED FLAGS as neither email listed the items I had purchased.)
I went on a short vacation and when I returned, I picked up my mail and the box with my camera. In great anticipation, I opened the box and to my surprise, the first thing I see is the memory card. It's NOT a Sony Memory Pro card, it's a SanDisk 1 Gig memory card. I'm disappointed as I already priced the SanDisk at a local store and online and could pick up a 1 Gig card for a lot less than $69. I remove the packing and there sits a rather "banged up" (tossed around, shuffled across a floor, scuffed up) box for the Sony Cyber-shot DSC S600. I carefully look at the box. It's been opened. In fact, it's been opened so many times that the manufacturers tape over the opening tab is totally missing. Lots of tape residue, no tape. The opening tab had been bent back, there appeared to be the SONY UPC code on one side of the box and another unknown (think refurbished, maybe) UPC code on the other side. I carefully open the box and the various booklets and the CD were not stacked in any order. Some were upside down some were hind-part before. Hmmm, I'm thinking, something is amiss. Then I look at the camera. It's in the box, but the wrapping doesn't look right. The batteries are tossed in the box and not in a glascene wrap. The wrist strap is just tossed in the box. I'm getting a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. Then I look at the camera kit. It's not a Sony kit. I don't even bother opening it up. I can't take any more disappointment at this point.
I have been scammed. Bait and switch. And then the disappointment is replaced by anger. I am not a happy camper.
The next day, I go to a friend's office and show him the camera and relate the story to him. I then make a phone call to the salesman. He argues with me. I ask for his supervisor. He forwards the call to a woman who answers with something other than Rite Buys dot Com and I ask her if the phone number is Rite Buys, she states yes, so I put my phone on "speaker phone" before I talk to her. I am polite and firm. I mention to her that the shipping receipt states that opened packages are not eligible to be returned and that they have scammed me because they sent me an opened box. I tell her that I am sending the camera back and I'm not paying a restocking fee. The woman argues with me. I ask to speak to her supervisor. She states she has none. I ask to speak to her manager. Again, she says she handles all complaints and has no manager. I think ask for the name of the president of her company. She refuses to give me a name. Then I ask for the names of her board of directors and their phone numbers. She states she has no board of directors. (By this time, I am fully aware that this woman is lying through her teeth.) She tells me I will have to fill out a form to return the camera and it will be emailed to me within 24 hours. She finally gives me a name of the president as she's hanging up.
The Return Authorization request form is emailed within a few minutes and I make a copy, complete it and fax it to the number on the form. I then receive an email with a number and instructions on how to return the item. I complete three pages of explanation and include a dozen and a half photos I've taken of the box and the camera to show that it was not "NIB" (new in box), but an opened box.
While I'm writing this letter, I do a bit of research. I learn the truth about Rite Buys dot Com. They are not a new-camera store, they are a RESELLER. All the information you will ever need for Rite Buys or all the other active and inactive business names used by "the 1 Stop Camera Family" can be found here. And that's not all. There are pages of RESELLER RATINGS for Rite Buys here.
I did my homework, I just failed to dig a bit deeper to where Rite Buys dot Com's skeletons were.
After I mailed the package back with signature tracking and insurance Priority Mail, I emailed Rite Buys and asked them if the package had been received. They emailed me a day later claiming that they had not received it. So I emailed back and told them, yes they had and included the USPS tracking information. No response. A few days later I found the ratings page on the Internet and I contacted my charge card and disputed the amount billed, not to Rite Buys as the many companies owned by "the 1 Stop Camera family" do not use that name for billing. They used Digital Net Shop when they billed me.
Then the other day I got a letter from my charge card with instructions for information they needed for their files. Needless to say, I sent them just about everything and wrote another three page letter describing in greater detail what I've just posted here.
The lesson? Search a little deeper before you buy something on the Internet unless it's from a well-known and trusted company.
My favorite online companies -- and they all have great return policies --