In my world of online shopping, there are three gold standards: Amazon.com, Apple.com, and B&H Photo.com. Over the years these sites have provided me with a good browsing experience, offered fair prices, kept me posted about the status of my order, and delivered the goods I requested. With these positives under my belt, why would I consider buying anywhere else?
It’s those darn ads. Every time I research an article, read a photo column, look up a camera review, they’re lurking there in the side nav bar. “Hey buddy, don’t pay full price for that new digital camera. I’ll sell you the same one for 30 percent less.” Like a kid coming home from via the back alley I know to avoid, I usually just say no to the tempting voices.
Am I crazy? What if these other operations are just more efficient? Why should I throw away good money? I decided to do a little informal test. I was looking to buy a new Olympus C-5050 digital camera (an amazing piece of equipment), but did not feel like spending the $799 asking price advertised at the brick and motars.
First I checked my favorite online vendor for photo equipment: B&H. They had a much improved price tag of $699. Fantastic! They knocked a hundred bucks right off the top, and I know I can trust them. I just had to get a few more bucks together, then I could order it.
But, as I was doing a little more technical research on the camera I saw one of those ads offering the camera — with USA warranty, all accessories, and unopened box — for $545 from DirectSource.us. How could they do that?
I went to the site, and it was very nice with all the bells and whistles and lots of “protected by” the usual suspects. So I decided to test the water. I ordered the camera from their slick e-commerce site.
The next day I received an email stating that I had to call them to “verify my order.” I know this ploy. What they really want to do is sell me more stuff at a premium price to make up for the loss leader they had sold me. I called, said I didn’t need any accessories (How about this? How about that? No! No! No!), and the gruff voice on the other end of the line said the camera would ship within a while. I asked “what’s a while?” The answer was, “a week or so.” Click.
The next day, I receive a back order notice from DirectSource stating that my camera shipment will be delayed 3-4 weeks because the manufacturer has delayed its shipment. Funny thing, it’s still posted as “in stock” on their very sophisticated site. More monkey business. I promptly cancelled my order.
I tried another site, BuyDigitalDirect.com. This one with a 3-star rating on c|net, for a still great price of $629 with free shipping. But then the next day I received the dreaded email from them too, asking me to call to verify my order. “Oh darn!” I thought.
I called, and they actually asked for my 3-digit credit card security number and my billing address. Then the voice inquired about any additional accessories I might need. I said I didn’t need any, and the voice replied that my order would be shipped right away. So far, no back order notice. Hmmmm. This one might actually go through.
I’ll see if the camera arrives as promised, with USA warranty and all accessories. But in the meantime, I think I’ll save the super discount sites for those times I can afford to be hassled, delayed, and somewhat in doubt. Maybe they can be my thrill-seeking substitute for a trip to Las Vegas. The old adage, “You get what you pay for,” seems to apply to peace of mind as well as merchandise.
What are your thoughts and experiences in the world of online discount shopping?