I am upset, because I just had an unsavory experience with an unethical merchant. Recently, I had the unfortunate opportunity to deal with a company called 86th Street Photo & Video (86photovideo.com). Last Friday, my wife placed an order online for a Sanyo Xacti VPC-E1 digital camcorder for $365 — what a great deal right? Wrong! This is the beginning of our problem.
Photo from Amazon.com
First, we got an email on Sunday that said:
“In order to further verify your order, we will need to speak with you on the phone. Please call our Verification department at 1-800-815-2040 Ext. so we may verify and complete processing your order.”
When we called, the man on the line said we didn’t use the $30 off coupon, and the conversation went something like this:
Man: “Would you like to use your $30 coupon?”
Us: “Sure, what do you recommend?”
Man: “Most of our customers get the 1GB high-speed SD card” and he launched into why we needed the high-speed card as opposed to the normal one.
Us: “How much is that?”
Man: “We normally sell it for $169.99, but you can get it for $139.99 with the coupon”
Us: “No thanks, how about an extra battery” (typical price for 1GB high-speed SD card is about $20)
Man: Launched into the virtue of extended-life battery, and finally said, “…the battery is $199.99, or $169.99 with the coupon.”
Us: “No thanks. Just send us the camcorder please.” (we can get this battery for $50 at Amazon.com)
Man: Try to sell us extended warranty and told us he can ask his manager for special first-time customer discount
Us: “No thanks. Just send us the camcorder please.”
Basically, he was using the “use the $30 coupon now, or lose” tactic to pressure us to make on-the-spot buying decision s. Now, that’s unethical up-selling.
It would have been fine if the story ends there, but we received this email right after we hung up:
“Unfortunately the item you ordered is on a current 2-3 week backorder, we have not billed your credit card and we will notify you when tracking # is available.”
On Monday morning, I called them back:
Me: “Can you tell me if you have the white Sanyo Xacti VPC-E1 in stock?”
Me: “Please pull up order # XYZ and tell me why it’s on backorder?”
Man: Some lame excuse about the one I ordered was a package that’s on backorder and the one he said in stock is just the camcorder sold for $449.99
…what kind of lame B.S. is that?
At this point, I’d canceled the order, but I still haven’t receive the confirmation from them yet. As a precaution, I also reported my credit card lost because my credit card information is now in the hands of an unethical online merchant (effectively stolen). I will also be filing this incident with the Better Business Bureau.
In retrospect, there were several warning signs that we were dealing with a bad company:
- The confirmation email didn’t have the product or total price listed
- The log-in we created to track our order on their site did not work
- They provided no physical business address on the web site
- They overpriced their accessories and use pressure to create up-selling opportunities
- They delayed our order intentionally when we didn’t fall for their scam
- They didn’t comply to our cancellation request
After this debacle, we will be ordering our Sanyo Xacti VPC-E1 from Amazon.com, and stick to large reputable companies from now on. Sorry small business owners, but you know what they said, “one bad apple spoils the bunch.” This is another reason why it is so hard for small businesses to succeed.
PS: If you purchased from them please add your rating and comment at ResellerRatings.com. I believe the three perfect 10s were done by 86th’s staff because they don’t rate anything else nor participate in the forum, but left perfect reviews for this store only.
Pinyo is the owner of Moolanomy Personal Finance and a Realtor® licensed in Virginia and Maryland. Over the past 20 years, Pinyo has enjoyed a diverse career as an investor, entrepreneur, business executive, educator, financial literacy author, and Realtor®.