Living in a small rural community, I rely on the Internet to make a lot of my speciallized purchases, things I can’t find locally. Most of the time making my purchases off of the Internet saves me time, fuel, and money. However, this is a tale of how some unscrupulous people are using the Internet to rip off people over and over.
I had heard about the Pentax Optio WPi camera about a year ago and I thought it would make a great snapshot camera to always carry around. Since it is waterproof, it would be great to use for my work with the Ferndale Volunteer Fire Department, and in our very wet Ferndale climate. I finally decided to purchase one in March of 2006, so I went back to the Pentax web site to research it again and saw that they had just announced a successor model, the Optio W10.
I happened to be in the Bay Area a week later, so I stopped by my favorite camera store, Keeble and Schuchat to check it out. They didn’t have them yet, but I did check out the WPi and liked it. The W10 has better movie capabilities, and a bigger LCD screen though so I really wanted that model.
Back at home, I did a Google search to see where I could purchase the new model. At the top of the list was a sponsored link for DigitalSaver.com. Prestige Camera was listed as the low price leader, and they had a 5 star rating. Trusting that 5 star rating is where I got into trouble. I don’t know how DigitalSaver.compiles their ratings, but checking their web site later, I couldn’t find any way to see actual reviews or individual ratings of the listed vendors, or any way to enter my own rating. Had I checked other sites, I would have found that there are plenty of other web sites that document complaints similar to mine against Prestige Camera. Had I checked those sites first, I would have taken my business elsewhere. I plan to follow up with DigitalSaver.com to find out where their ranking information comes from. But at this point I would take their rating info with a grain of salt. (Going back to the DigitalSaver.com site after writing this article, I noticed that all five stores listed, Preferrred Photo, Prestige Camera, Broadway Photo, A&M Photoworld, and Digital Liquidators, are all really the same company. An easy assumption then is that DigitalSaver.com is hardly independent and is just a stooge company (read their contact page for a laugh). The digitalsaver.com domain is registered anonymously, but you can find this address on their privacy page. If you think this is at all deceptive, you can file a complaint with Google and/or the FTC.)
I placed my order for the W10 with Prestige Camera on March 21. I later received a message saying I needed to call them to confirm the shipping address. I thought this was weird because even though my credit card bills to a PO box, my street address is registered with my credit card company as an alternate shipping address. I called back and the person I needed to talk with wasn’t there, so I left a message. They called back the next day, and it became clear that the real reason they wanted to talk to me was to upsell. The salesman asked if I wanted an extra battery and I said no. Actually, I figured I would eventually need an extra battery but I wanted to get the camera first and see how long it lasted on one. He went on to explain that they had a special on extra batteries at 50% off if I purchased it with the camera. He also said that it would last twice as long as the standard battery included with the camera. He quoted a price of $40 for the extra battery, so I specifically asked if it was a Pentax branded battery, as I had heard about complaints against cheap third party batteries. He answered, yes, it is a Pentax battery. So at that point figuring I was going to buy one later anyways, I might as well get it now and save some money. (From reading other complaints on the web, probably if I had refused to purchase the battery, they probably would have cancelled my order or just refused to ship it. Selling cheap batteries at outrageous prices is how they can afford to sell their cameras so cheaply.)
On March 30, I received the package from Prestige Camera. Checking the contents I find the extra battery, and my first concern is that it’s not a Pentax battery. What brand it is I couldn’t tell you, because apparently the manufacturer isn’t too proud of who they are or they want to remain anonymous. If this battery were any more generic, it would be white with a black stripe on it. Checking it further I see that it is rated at 650mAh. mAh stands for milli-Amp hours, and it is a measure of how much energy the battery can store. I look at the Pentax battery that comes with the camera and it is rated for 710mAh. Now without even getting out my calculator, I could figure out that 650 is not twice 710. Starting to feel like I got ripped off, I look up the Pentax battery and find that they are available for about $45. But no name third party D-LI8 batteries could be found for as little as $13. Comparing my invoice to the order confirmation, I see that I was charged $49.99 for the battery, plus an additional $5 dollars to ship it. Now I know I’ve been ripped off.
I called Prestige Camera on March 31, and talked to a customer service rep. I explained what I ordered, that I was told I would be receiving a Pentax battery that was twice the capacity of the standard included battery, and that I wasn’t very happy I received a battery that had even less capacity than the standard one. He responded with a B.S. story of how the original camera that I ordered was an import model and that the battery that ships with them is a lower capacity battery than the American version. Now I doubt that Pentax puts different batteries in the camera depending on what country they are eventually shipped to, but I have no way of proving that.
Update: 5/25/06 – While resolving this issue with my credit card company, I decided to give Pentax a call and ask them about the batteries shipped with W10s. Chris, in their customer service department told me that all W10s are shipped with D-LI8 batteries rated at 710mAh.
I did tell him that the salesman confirmed that the extra battery was indeed a Pentax battery, and the C.S. rep had no response, other than he would take everything back and replace it with the imported model that I originally ordered. I mentioned that on the page where I placed the order, there was no mention of the camera being imported or gray market. I told him that if I place an order in America, from a reputable dealer, I expect to get a camera made for the American market and with a valid American warranty. The key word there, I guess is reputable, which obviously at this point I figured out Prestige Camera did not fit into that definition. The C.S. rep was very rude during the whole conversation and it left me wondering how people like him sleep at night.
Their invoice states that they will take returns for a 5% restocking charge, but I’d have to return the whole package, not just the battery. So 5% of $290.99 is $14.55, plus I would have been out the $19.99 shipping charge, plus another $7.59 to ship it back. A total loss of $42.13 to get credited for a $49.99 battery. That didn’t seem like a good way to go. So instead I figured I’d take it up with my credit card company, and try to warn others to stay away from Prestige Camera. If I thought this was an isolated incident I would have accepted my losses and considered it a lesson learned. But from what I’ve seen on the following sites, this is just their standard M.O. and people need to be warned to stay away from Prestige Camera. Next time I make an expensive Internet purchase from an unknown company, you can bet I won’t be trusting any 5 star ratings. What I will do is Google their company name and see what real people have to say about dealing with them.
Does this look like a real camera store?
How about this view?
Here are some sites where you can find similar complaints against Prestige Camera. My favorite is Reseller Ratings, who had to stop accepting ratings for Prestige Camera, because they were able to identify fake positive postings being entered repeatedly. So it makes you wonder how much worse all of these ratings would be if Prestige Camera wasn’t trying to taint them in their favor. (It just amazes me the trouble this company goes to just to continue deceiving people. Creating shell companies, writing fake reviews… Why not run an honest business and have satisfied customers?)
- Better Business Bureau
- Citysearch (Brooklyn)
- Complaints.com – Search for Prestige Camera
- Digital Photography Review
- Reseller Ratings
- RipOff Report – Report after report filed by people ripped off by this shady conglomerate.
- Shedding Some Light – Great research site that backs up my own conclusions.
Prestige Camera also does business under these names:
- A&M Photo World
- Broadway Photo
- Digital Liquidators LLC
- Ghu, LLC
- Preferred Photo
- Regal Camera
After I put this page up I was surprised at the number of emails and phone calls I’ve received from people thanking me for this info. Unfortunately, too many of them were like me, doing the research after they got burned. But it is rewarding to me to know that I’ve saved a lot of people from making the same mistake of doing business with Prestige Camera, and that I have cost them far more in lost sales than a simple return would have cost them.
Here’s just a few of the comments I’ve received in emails:
Just to let you know, you’re NOT ALONE! Prestige is horribly crooked – I don’t know how they do any business. I ordered a Nikon D70s, Sigma lens and ended up with a 5 year warranty on the lens I DID NOT ORDER!! Same deal, phone call added it to the order – rude clerk said I wanted it, etc. I tried to protest the bill via my credit card and somehow Prestige won out because I never received any paperwork of anything fraudulent. They’re very slick! Will never order again! I LOVE the camera and lens though. (I bravely ordered a Sigma lens 18-200 and am very pleased).
I enjoyed seeing your article. Wish we could put folks like this out of business! Meanwhile, I’m sure they continue to scam folks like we were.Bev – 10/7/2006
I just wanted to say I had the same rip off from prestige camera – plus the treatment from them was appalling.Lani – 10/12/2006
I saw your posting on Prestige Camera. I wish I saw that before I had order from them. This is what happen with my order.I purchased a camera on www.prestigecamera.com on Oct 11. I got a call from their customer service confirming the order.
The CSR I talk to is Bernard. He offer me to upgrade to a package with an extra battery. I told him I will call him back in 5 minutes and let him know. I call him back and told him I just wanted to stay with the camera that I order online. He said okay. When I receive the package on Oct 18 I got the camera and the extra battery. Charge me $353.99 total. But I only agree on getting the camera for $288.99. I called Prestige Camera on Oct 19 let them know I order the camera only and the CSR denied and said “I don’t believe that mama.” He also said if I want just the camera, I would have to return the whole package, paid for 5% restocking, and shipping. Then if I want just the camera I have to repurchase just the camera. I told him I am not paying for the 5% restocking or shipping for something they make a mistake on. He denied everything. Therefore, I told him unless he agrees on paying me back the full amount and return shipping or I will keep the items and disputed it with my credit card company. I had filed a complain with BBB and Consumer Affairs.Katherine – 10/19/2006
I wish I had seen your review on Prestige camera. We found them off of Shopcartusa.com, and it stated that the Canon XTi body only came with a USA warranty. Thinking that it was then a USA model, we ordered it, and found that it was actually a Kiss X model from Japan. When I called and asked about the “USA Warranty” they said it was a USA warranty offered by THEM, (not Canon). They gave me an RMA #, minus the $30 restocking fee, of course. I shipped it back to them today.
What was your luck with your credit card company? I might consider taking it up with them to fight for my $30, but not sure if it’s worth the trouble. All the reviews from shopcartusa.com were positive about the company. Even the most negative reviews were decent. I wonder if it’s a scam website too that deletes negative reviews like the other website you mentioned?Peter – 10/27/06
Unfortunately, I didn’t find your site until after I had placed my order. I have not yet received the shipment … Because of your info, I will certainly SCRUTINIZE the shipment when (if, ???? that’s scary) it arrives. And certainly know enough to complain bitterly if they do unto ME as they have done unto YOU !!!!
Even if you didn’t save me from dealing with the &*^%$%^* s you did alert me to be careful about accepting the order … and pointed me in the direction of possible sources of support.
You did good work and I thank you for it. I wait — with trepidation — hoping that I might possibly be more lucky… Thanx!Mary – 11/18/2006
I am having a similar experience with Prestige. I changed my mind on purchasing a warranty and I have dealt with horrible customer service people. One person even told me that I was the worst customer he’d ever dealt with and that he was going to have my name red-flagged so that Prestige will never do business with me again. That’s fine with me, since I will never do business with them. No one should be treated that way by customer service. They are giving me the same bull story that since it is a package I can’t return it and I have to pay a restocking fee, etc.Cheryl – 12/4/2006
Thank you for your article on Prestige. Unfortunately, my husband was also scammed by them. Our story is similar, but our brand new camera didn’t work just after a few weeks/months. We sent it back for repair (Still not knowing how badly we were scammed-yet) and they kept the camera for so long they ran out our warranty. It still doesn’t work. We believe it was a lemon to begin withand they were doing a re-sale on a so called “new camera”…. Then we started looking around at the internet….and we found your article amongst others…
Lesson learned…. but I think we (everyone who was also scammed) should fight them together!!
We have filed with the BBB and are interested in Class Action. If you are interested, I am going to seek out an attorney who may want to take this on. I will file with the FTC this week.
I will let you know if I discover anything. I would be surprised if there isn’t already a class action filed!!
Thanks again for your words and putting the info out there for others. Hopefully, we can stop these criminals from victimizing others.Kelly – 1/10/2007
Thank you for putting your story on the web. Unfortunately I didn’t see it until after I ordered over $1,000 worth of equipment. To make a long story short I got ripped off. I, too got the email instructing me to call, blah, blah, blah. I, too got the old “bait and switch” routine and the whole experience has left me angry and disappointed. The salesman flat out lied to me about the package contents. He tried the battery song and dance with me also. The scary part of it is that I was purchasing this camera for a friend of mine, I know my Nikons and they almost got me for $299.00. Had I not known what I was talking about they would have easily taken me. I just bought a Nikon D200 in Sept. I knew it came packaged with the external charger and battery. The salesman at Prestige Camera told me that it came with a small battery that had to be charged internally and the “longer lasting” battery with the external charger would be an additional $299. I argued with him and eventually told him to cancel my order. He finally “gave in” and agreed to send me what I wanted. The package arrived today. The camera was exactly what I wanted but guess what, they sent the wrong lens. The lens was supposed to be an 18-135mm, they sent an 18 – 55mm. When I called they refused to send me the correct lens they told me to pack it up and send it all back. I told him that they are going to refund the $47 shipping (which is another outrageous rip off) and he agreed (twice). I’m sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that they won’t refund it. I am furious. I will definitely be contacting the better business bureau and I will tell everyone I know or ever run into not to ever try to purchase something from them. I don’t know how they stay in business. What a bunch of con artists. I’m sure they rip off unknowing people for thousands of dollars on a daily basis. It’s sickening. Thanks for letting me vent and thanks for trying to warn me even though I saw it too late. I too, took the 5 star rating seriously.Karla – 2/8/2007
Boy did you hit the nail on the head! These guys are tolally Slime!!!
I ordered a $374 Hitachi video cam on line and got an email that I had to call to “confirm the order”. I called and got the battery story “the battery shipped is only a 30 minute battery” and if I wanted a heavier duty it would cost me $149.
Total BS of course. Who ships a video cam with a 30 min Battery?
I said I’d take my chances with the OEM battery and buy an after market battery of my choice if I felt it was needed. He (Jordan) said “you need an extended service plan. I said noooot for me. He said then that the camera I ordered was a “foreign” version. I asked what that meant and that it stated nowhere on the web page that I was ordering anything other than an American version. He said it meant all the menus etc. were in a “foreign language”. I said ” which foreign language, I speak 10 of them?
He said I could have the “American” version for $449 and would not find it cheaper anywhere.
I said “if you were to sell it to me now at $100 less than the original price I would not buy it from you! Cancel the order!
He did (I think).
I was lucky.Tom – 3/6/2007
My story was pretty much the same as yours except I bought an Olympus Stylus 740. Same line, except they told me that the battery that came with it would only last about 20 min. I STARTED to buy the extra battery and they started on memory cards. Then I told them that I would shop around on the net. At that point he said, “why don’t you just buy the Japanese camera, it comes with the larger battery for only $25 more” he proceeded to tell me that I had purchased a japanese camera and all the online information would be in Japanese, but for $25 more I could get the American version with the larger battery. I agreed, when I should have just cancelled the order. Basically they just raised the price on me after the sale. After hearing your story I think I will file a complaint with the credit card company and not pay the bill. It would interesting to see them fight for it.Dave – 3/16/2007
I was looking for the lowest price on a Panasonic DVD D-300 camcorder and this outfit turned up on Google. I was lucky enough to find your listing there because no physical address was given – one of the caveats I have always operated under. I never trusted the easily manipulated star ratings and always check further. I have – thanks to your “forum” – not suffered the experience of others because I trusted your warning and the horror stories you cited.
Allow me to add that Buydig.com in New Jersey has been my best experience with several purchases and they get 4-1/2 stars consistently. One rule of thumb – maybe not fair for reliable dealers in Brooklyn – is the address in what some call “Crooklyn”. Generally, dealers who give their physical locations and phone numbers can be assumed to be more “legit” than those who hide their whereabouts.Gunther – 4/4/2007
I want to write and thank you for posting this. Even though I did get jerked over, I am glad to know I am not alone. And that maybe others will be warned.
I purchased a Sanyo Xacti HD2 from them for $569. I took the ShopcartUsa.com rating as gospel – over 1000 ratings and all 5 stars!
When I called, I placed the order. He asked if I needed anything else. I told him a battery and a memory card. I was thinking – what a great price! – and we discussed the particulars.
He then told me he was sending a 2GB SD Delkin memory card for $119.00. I asked him about other 2 GB cards that sold for less. He told me they were generic cards – this one is designed to work for the camcorder I purchased. I also ordered a battery. Thank goodness I ordered the cheaper of the two. I ordered it and asked to be sent overnight.
I did a bunch of research on memory cards overnight. I found the Delkin 2GB Xtra SD for about $110 – $125. I figured it was an okay deal.
I got the package in the mail the next day. I had a Transcend 2GB SD card that you can buy at Amazon for $15.
I called them and they said the Transcend cards were better. That I got an “error free” card that sold for about $150. I asked if I called Transcend that they would verify this. He wouldn’t comment. I called Transcend and gave them the serial number for the item. He told me it retails for $17-$20.
I called back. Angry. I asked for the supervisor – who – cut me off in mid-sentence and kept me on hold for 10 minutes. I then got switched to 4 other customer service reps who kept me on the line for another 20 minutes. I think they thought I’d give up. In the mean time, I researched the battery they sent me. They charged me $55 for a battery I can buy at Amazon for $22.
I finally got the supervisor – Leon – he said his name was. Him and I went back and forth for another 30 minutes. He eventually admitted that they mark up their products/accessories to make money. I got $40 off my order and another SD card that retails for $25.
He was right about one thing. I was rooked and there was no getting out of it. I already spent $48 in overnight shipping. I would HAVE TO return the WHOLE thing – not simply the card and the battery. I would be subject to a 5% restocking fee plus the shipping and handling. That would come to about another $60. ONCE I PLACED MY ORDER I WAS DONE. There was nothing I could do about it.
I am happy with the camcorder – so far. I am also going to file something with the Better Business Bureau. In fact, I asked him about it. He hemmed and hawed as if he didn’t know who regulated their company.
In any event, thank you so much for putting this up on your web page. I feel not so bad because I know I am not alone. I have a cause! If there is a class action suit, please let me know.Nichole – 4/6/2007
I just wanted to let you know that I had the exact same experience with these jokers. I ended up canceling my order because I refused to buy their up-sell crap. Finally, they start talking down to me, telling me I was wrong, how could I use a camera for only 20-30 minutes, etc. I have never been treated so bad by customer service!
I threw a review on yelp and I am trying to spread the word.
I wish I stumbled across your site earlier.Scott – 4/7/2007
Wow I don’t want to sound like a broken record but thanks for putting up this page.Same story just a differant person. I needed to call in to “verify” my address. Then the high pressure sales. I was even told that the camera I bought didn’t have a year warrenty. ???? The web site says you do and so does SONY. Then I was told the battary only lasted 30 minutes. What a load of crap. I think they’re reading this all off some sort of transcript. This is the worst company out there and only get’s by from people who don’t know what to do. I sent the camera back after getting the RMA # and immedatly called my credit card company and disputied the charge. The camera box had 3 differant SONY tapes strips on it. Well I found out why. There was a pixel burnt out right in the middle of the screen. I have never met a group of people more dishonest in my life. To Kelly – 1/10/2007 : I think everyone here would like to see a class action law suite against them. I have you book marked so please let us know if the is a suit against them. And I plan to get this page out to as many people as I can via any and all rating site. ThanksJason – 5/5/2007
Thank you for your site. Seems like they do this to a lot of people. I got an e-mail that told me to call and verify my billing address. When I did this the customer service representative tried to add on more things to my camera. I specifically said “I do not want anything that costs money”. They said “Ok, then your order will be shipped today” and hung up. Then, I checked my credit card and the charge was much more than it should have been. I immediately called them back and they told me that I had requested an upgrade from a Japanese verison to a US version. For one, their website does not say a single thing about a Japanese camera. Then, my husband called back and they told him that the reason it cost more is because I requested a battery upgrade. Both of the reasons they gave for the billing cost are flat out lies. Then I was told that I would be charged a restocking fee after I sent the camera back. They also laughed at me on the phone when I told them that I would be contacting my credit card company to dispute the charge.
I encourage everyone to dispute their charges!!!! My company did with no questions asked. I also reported them to the BBB.Jennifer – 5/14/2007
I read your info regarding prestige photo after ordering a canon digital camera. I found your info after telling them to cancel my order when I realized that, like you, they were trying to “upsell” me with $40 batteries as well. I told them I already had rechargeable batteries that would work (AA, 2500). The slimy rep told me that they would not work, which is not true. He then went on trying to sell me for an additional $11 a “free” camera case and other things. It suddenly clicked with me that something wasn’t right. The rep then went on to ask me what model I had ordered. He told me that for $10 more I could get a U.S.A. warranty. (Now, since I live in the U.S. why wouldn’t I be getting it anyway.) My response was “don’t screw with me!!” He responded, “excuse me?!??” After going back and forth a couple more times I told him to cancel my order. He said “good luck at finding such a low price”. I said “what low price it just keeps going up”. He hung up. I wish you the best and I will look to buy the camera either online from someone like circuit city or a reputable store that is relatively local. It’s amazing to me that these business’ are not only able to survive but thrive.Patrick – 5/15/2007
Thanks a lot for the warning about prestige camera. I am the kind of person who likes to do a lot of research before buying from a new store. Still I was duped by the ratings of the store in ShopCartUsa.com. I was almost about to give the order, when my instinct told me (since I felt it was like “too good to be true”) to do a google search on the store ratings. And your review popped up. I was saved. I am saving for a whole year to buy my Digital SLR, and I did not want to throw it down the drain.
Again, thanks a lot!!Chayan – 5/23/2007
Update 11/13/2009 – This article was originally written before I started my blog, and it was moved over to the blog at a later time. I was originally adding comments that people sent to me via email. By 2007 I figured there were enough comments to demonstrate this isn’t a rogue complaint against Prestige Camera. In fact from the date of the original article I have received a steady stream of emails and phone calls either thanking me for putting this information out there or wanting information on what to do after they had been ripped off too.