Shopping Safely on the Internet
Top Ways to Spot and Avoid Unscrupulous Dealers on the Internet
We hope you haven't had a bad experience while shopping on the internet. Unfortunately, there are folks out there who are trying to rip you off. We get calls all the time asking us to match a price. And if it is a legitmate authorized dealer that is quoting a price, we do our best to match prices. But the real scary calls are those where a customer is getting a price quote from a dealer who has a selling price that is far below what an authorized dealer is paying to buy the item from the manufacturer. So, we KNOW that the dealer is trying to pull a scam. We want to educate you so you can avoid being ripped off.
We believe the single most important factor for safe internet buying is to make sure you purchase from a dealer that is authorized by the manufacturer to sell their products. How does that help you? In MANY ways! For instance, both JVC and Panasonic have programs that protect customers from getting a defective product. But ONLY if you buy from their authorized dealers. How about support? Authorized dealers have the full resources of the manufacturer to assist you with technical support. What about rebates? Again, manufacturer's rebates specify that you must purchase from an authorized dealer. Product availablity? Authorized dealers can call the manufacturer directly to find out if something is in stock. And finally, you can count on the fact that the manufacturer has thoroughly investigated a dealer before allowing that dealer to represent them. Manufacturers do not want to have their products sold by unethical companies that will reflect badly upon themselves!
So, here are some of the top indicators that you might be getting ripped off when shopping on the internet:
1) No address. There is no physical address listed anywhere on the website for the dealer. You might see a vague location (i.e. Brooklyn, NY), but no real address. Also, be careful if the dealer's local phone number is in one state and his fax number is in another state.
2) Low low selling price. Their selling price is significantly lower than any of the the authorized legitimate dealers. Unless you are in the retail business, you would not be able to easily tell if a dealer just has a great price or if he is a con man. However, we notice that most of the places that are unauthorized are actually selling products below the cost that a legitimate dealer pays to buy the same item from the manufacturer. The LOW PRICE is the lure. Think of it like fishing - they have dangled a low low price in front of you to get your attention and they are hoping you are going to bite.
3) Standard accessories are not included. So you bite on the low price bait and call them. Now you find out that their price is lower because all the standard accessories (that the manufacturer includes in their factory sealed box) are not actually included. The lens (or whatever) will cost you $ more. The battery (or whatever) will cost you an additional $. If you are not careful you are going to pay more for the item because of the add-ons (that you were supposed to get for free) which have increased the price above what a legitimate dealer sells it for.
When they pull that game, first ask them if the item is in stock. If yes, try asking them if you could just buy the main piece that they were advertising, but insist that you get a factory sealed box. Remember, the manual is going to tell you what standard accessories you are supposed to get, so it's going to be very difficult for the unauthorized dealer to take items out and still give you a factory sealed box.
Since you have caught them at their game, they are going to tell you that they are out of stock (even if a few minutes earlier they had it available). They CANNOT give you a factory sealed box with all the standard accessories at the price you saw advertised on the internet. Time to move on to the next step:
4) Call the manufacturer. If you suspect a dealer is not legitimate, ask him if he is an authorized dealer for the product you want to buy. If he says yes, then ask him specifically if he buys the product directly from the manufacturer. Then call the manufacturer and ask if that dealer is really an authorized dealer. When you do this, be sure to give the manufacturer the name of the company, not the website. For instance, if you wanted to call Panasonic and ask about us, you would need to ask if G&G Technologies is one of their dealers. If you ask if GGVIDEO is one of their dealers, they will tell you no.
5) Refund policy is a rip-off. If the unauthorized dealer does not have the product in stock, but still wants you to pay for it, be sure to ask about their sales policies, in particular how they refund orders that are never shipped. Many of the unauthorized dealers WILL NEVER GET THE PRODUCT in stock. That is actually their game plan! They just want to take your money and when you get fed up enough that you have not received the order, they will refund your order less 15%. This is one way that they make their money. It certainly is unethical.
6) Ridiculous shipping prices. We had a customer tell us how one of these unauthorized dealers was selling a camera for several hundred dollars less than our price. But he wanted $600 to ship it (as opposed to our $50 shipping cost). Some unethical dealers will ship a defective product, have the customer return it and refund the full price, but NOT the shipping cost. The practice of not refunding shipping costs is usually a legitimate and fair method of most businesses unless the original shipping cost was a blatant rip-off.
7) Fake comparison shopping sites. Be careful when using shopping comparison sites. We found one for video products in which EVERY company that was being compared was actually the SAME company using a different name. They had set up a series of fake web sites for each company AND the comparison shopping site! One of the fake sites even had the gall to say it had received an award as one of the best dealers in the country. They included lots of fake customer reviews touting how wonderful they were. The real (and horrible!) reviews of those companies can be found in the next step:
8) Dealer review sites. There are a few legitimate review sites that allow customers to post reviews of dealers on the internet. We have found the following two sites to be useful:
These sites will allow you to read customer reviews of various dealers. Don't put too much emphasis into any single review, but if you see a trend of negative reviews about certain dealers, you will be able to avoid making a bad purchase from them.
So shop smart. Shop safely. Buy from authorized dealers!