Too good to be True

Posted on 26. Jan, 2009 by in Saving & Investing

My wife is an amatuer photographer.  About 2 and a half years ago we splurged and bought her a nice Canon camera, which ran in the $1000 range.  It’s not top of the line, but certainly not cheap.  She absolutley loves the camera and we have a massive number of pictures of me and the kids, and one or two of her.  Though she’s enjoyed the camera, she’s been dying to get new lens that’s both sharp and has a good zoom on it.  The perfct lens for her is the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L, which runs at about $1200.  She’s wanted the lens for over a year and we’ve been waiting patiently to save the money so that it doesn’t kill the bank account.

We’re close to actually purchasing the lens from Amazon, which has the best price at the moment.  At least that’s what I thought.  I did some searching with Google and found the lens for $850.  I’m always in the mood for a bargain and a chance to save some money.  And, $350 is not a bad discount to take.  Though I’m up for a good deal, something seemed a little odd.  The price at Amazon is actually quite discounted already.  The lens can easily go for up to $1800.  How was this company (Sonic Cameras) able to price this so much lower than even Amazon?  With today’s technological tools there’s little excuse for being a lazy consumer.  Before we even took the time to consider purchasing from this company, I decided to do some research.

What set me off first was the price.  It was just a little too low for me to trust it.  While I like a good deal, I’m suspicious when it’s too good.  The second thing that troubeled me was the company.  It wasn’t anything more than the fact that I’d never heard of them.  I’m very cautious about just purchasing something from a company I’ve never heard of.  At least with Amazon I have a history and they’ve developed pattern of trust.  The third thing that stuck out to me was that when I put the lens in the Gooogle search, it didn’t show up in the shopping results.  It merely came up as a sponsored link at the top of the search.  These may not necessarily be deal breakers, but they certainly caught my eye and caused me to do more research into the company.

My results were not good.  In fact I could not find a good review.  I even found a whole webpage called Sonic Camera’s Sucks.  I also read a number of reviews on sights like Rip-off Report and Yelp.  The big problem with Sonic camera’s turned out to be their tendency to pull the old bait and switch.  Many of the reviewers told stories about ordering an item and them being sold something different that was supposed to be better.  In some cases the product (usually a lens) turned out to be completely incompatable with their camera.  Others reported they experienced the upsell, where they were asked endlessly to add other items to the order.  Unlike most companies online, Sonic Cameras calls to confirm your order and get your information, though the primary reason appears to be getting more stuff onto your order.

The real point here is to be aware of where you shop online.  This is especially important with big purchases.  You should have sense of the price range of the product you’re looking for.  If it’s outside of that range, then there has to be a reason.  So either find out why, or go somewhere else.  Finding customer reviews of businesses is essential for businesses that you’ve never done business with and who don’t have an established reputation.  Reviews are helpful too, so that you know how to handle things if there is a problem.  Many reviewers offer very detailed reports of how they handled things and how well problems are resolved.  There’s no excuse for not doing your research and it’s better to learn from somebody else’s mistake.

It looks like we’ll be shelling out the the whole $1200 for the lens, but at least it’s from a retailer that we can trust.

One Response to “Too good to be True”

  1. AConn

    27. Jan, 2009

    I almost dished out $800 for a Canon GL2 last April from Best Price Cameras. I believe that at the time, the camera was going for over $2000 at the likes of Ritz camera, and although I thought it was too low of a price to be true, I placed my order and when they wanted to “verify” my order over the phone, I cancelled it when they told me that the lens was not included and would cost an additional $500. The bastard hung up on me when I cancelled it, never got the email confirming I cancelled. Being that I work at a bank (all too familiar with fraud, should have noticed this before!), I cancelled my card and got a new one to avoid getting screwed over in the future. Like the article says, fork out more money if it is a retailer you trust.

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