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Shopping in downtown Crooklyn
Random update, because this story is too funny to be left untold.

I decided that my current pocket digital camera, a Pentax Optio S, is getting a little long in the tooth (and, besides, I can't find it), so I decide that I really want that Optio S6 that Costco had. So, I got one today. $300 plus tax, but includes the belt pouch and a memory card. I decided to see what kind of deals were to be had on-line.

A quick Google search for pentax optio 6s returned me this link to digital saver. it's not the site I normally go to for price comparisons, but this was just an academic exercise.

The first 5 shops displayed all had prices around the $240 mark. For a few seconds, I was thinking "Oh man, even with the pouch and memory card, that's a big difference." But then I remembered that those really shady camera places in Brooklyn, NY, post these insanely cheap prices, but their gear is grey market, missing bunches of stuff, and they're really nasty to deal with. So... I do some research.

First entry: Preferred Photo. Yep, in Brooklyn.

Second entry: Prestige Camera. Brooklyn again.

Third entry: Broadway Photo. Now, their contact page didn't list their B&M address, but I decided to
dig deeper, and I checked the Better Business Bureau for information on the company, and found lots of interesting stuff.

Not only are they in Brooklyn (no surprise), and not only have they got a nice collection of complaints - not all resolved - against them (again, no surprise), but check out the list of Additional Business Names:
  • A&M Photo World
  • Digital Liquidators LLC
  • Preferred Photo
  • Prestige Camera
  • Regal Camera
And compare that against the first five entries on the Digital Saver website:
  • Preferred Photo
  • Prestige Camera
  • Broadway Photo
  • A&M Photo World
  • Digiral Liquidators
The first five companies listed on Digital Savers are all the same damn company. No wonder they all have a roughly $240 price tag. The next entry, if you click on Show all 11 stores, is Ritz Camera which sells the camera for a more believable $300.

So, here's some interesting things we can extrapolate from this:
  • Digital Saver may very well be a front for Broadway Photo, who just happen to list a few other retailers to give it the appearance of being a legitimate comparison site.
  • Broadway Photo may have intentionally set up exactly 5 companies, knowing that 5 entires is what it takes to 'hide' the other retailers.
  • By listing numerous sites with the same, low low price, it gives that price the air of legitimacy. After all, if you saw 10 retailers with a $300 price, and one retailer with a $240 price, you'd have second-thoughts about going with that retailer, wouldn't you? Well, with five retailers with a $240 price, then it seems more sensible. And doubly so if you never see the more expensive prices in the reduced view.
  • The prices between all five aren't exactly the same, so the buyer doesn't suspect that they're in collusion, or different 'fronts' for the same company.

What scum.

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Teko and I got boned by trying to buy some unusually cheap cameras off some of the dealers on Amazon.com. Unsurprisingly, they took the money and never sent our cameras, but fortunately, Amazon refunded the money to us.

And that's amazingly scumtastic of Broadway Photo.

Update on DigitalSaver

A 'whois' search on digitalsaver.com returns the address for "Domains by Proxy". So, sounds like someone doesn't want us to know who is really behind this comparison site.

Also, there's a big fat ad for Broadway Photo on the front page of digitalsaver.com. Of course, that's not indicative in itself, but things are looking mighty suspicious :)

Thanks for the warning. I'll avoid both the site and the related companies.

1.32!!! Worst. Score. Ever. :)

Its bizarre, when I started reading this, I went "Prestige Cameras? Aren;t they the really shady folks I read about a while back" and indeed they are. Thats certainly saying something when you consider I don't live in the US and aren't looking at buying a camera, but know their reputation. There was a link I followed a while back (off Slashdot?) where someone did exactly what you've done, unearthed the tangle of dealers and its amazing how many come back to the same place.

Yes. I remember that article. It was surrounding a place called 'priceritephoto' (website now non-existant), and turned into some excellent articles on sheddingsomelight.com.

It took some digging, but I did find the site of a fellow that's spent years photographing the place of business of all these shady New York camera and electronics dealers. Many of my searches for good prices on broadcast video equipment lead me to the same group of stores. My favorite was the DVCPRO deck for $800 less than anyone else, but had $290 in ground shipping charges.

General rule of thumb: If it's an address anywhere close to Brooklyn, don't buy from them. One notable exception is B&H Photo, which is a legitimate, and very large, retailer.

Agreed. B&H has a rabidly loyal following, and has earned it. I'm among them... they are the source of all of my gift-giving to friends who are into photography. Their selection is unmatched, and their customer service is excellent. These days, for A/V or photo products, the only e-tailers I'll touch are Amazon (not their affiliates, but Amazon itself) and B&H. Otherwise, it's a storefront.

B&H does do grey-market. In those cases, B&H handles the warranty themselves, offering identical terms. The other primary difference is rebates. Grey market == no rebate.

If you're curious about their pricing.

I was looking up digitial cameras a few months back and ran across all of them too, but i also did my homework and checked up on their ratings online. Sadly i bet most people dont research who they are buying from.. :/

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