there are some serious drawbacks to purchasing expensive gear on amazon…
I once mentioned that people looking to buy art supplies should not be looking on Amazon… the prices are significantly above regular prices, are sold by suspect third parties, with a more limited selection, and no guarantee of a good customer experience that I guarantee you’ll get at Jerry’s Artarama or Dick Blick.
Well… that’s art supplies. Amazon must surely do better with a more serious, expensive, mass market product category like photography equipment right?
L O L
Let me show you why you should not blindly trust the Amazon dot com.
My Own Example
There I was looking for a B+W XS-Pro lens filter… trying to maximize my $$$, I checked prices at Adorama and B&H… and this time Amazon as well.
And I stumble upon a listing at Amazon for $9 less (almost 25% less) than the price of the exact same filter at B&H and Adorama.
What a steal I thought…
And then I did what we should all do at times like that… I questioned why it was a steal.
It’s priced at 25% less than at anywhere else.
This is one of B+W premium products. B+W doesn’t seem to allow any of their products to be regularly discounted by retailers. B+W prices are almost identical, only varying by a few cents, across retailers. Why would B+W let a minuscule Amazon seller undercut their other retailer’s prices by so much?
Where are these filters coming from?
Why do all of their reviews sound generic and fake?
Questions, questions, and more questions.
Now let’s think of some answers…
The reviews look like generic reviews meant to trick people into trusting the seller. Many people do not thoroughly go through product reviews and instead go off the overall star rating and the first reviews they see. What’s more, because it’s an identical product offered by multiple sellers… the product reviews are included on all of the listings from multiple sellers. The person you’re buying from does not have 200 reviews of filters they’ve sold… multiple sellers do. Again this makes the seller look even more legitimate.
The lens filter’s price undercuts other sellers by just enough to entice customers into purchasing the lens filter while not being enough to be suspicious.
The filters are warehoused and fulfilled by Amazon, which customers will assume means that the filters are real and magically guaranteed by Amazon to be authentic.
Lens filters are a straightforward, small form factor, high cost product… which makes it an easy mark for counterfeiting.
More answers… I looked deeper into the Amazon seller. They have no description, no bio, and no web presence. You can only find a couple of references to them on Cambodian language (Khmer) websites… which only lead back to their Amazon store.
Ultimately, this seller has all of the hallmarks of a scam. I never purchased the filter from them and I’m glad I didn’t.
Please note that I am not absolutely certain that this is a scam, I suspect that it is, everything points towards it being a scam, but I can not tell you that I am 100% certain.
Do you see what I’m talking about? When it comes to photography equipment, Amazon is not the straightforward trustworthy experience you’d get at Adorama or B&H.
Another Person’s Example
If my own small example hasn’t convinced you to be more suspicious of photography gear on Amazon… here’s a story from a guy who was bilked out of $1500 on Amazon…
Here’s the story of how I fell victim to this used lens scam.
On June 29th, I ordered a used lens through Amazon Marketplace, and the seller’s name was “Lana’s Store”. The lens is a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 II, which normally runs around between $1,500 and $1,600 used. The description of the used lens indicated the lens is in excellent condition and the price seemed very good… maybe too good:
The seller had one good review but didn’t appear to be selling anything else. I figure it was just a person selling their used items.
On July 8th, I received a status update for the order. It was marked as “shipped” along with a USPS tracking number. Finally, it shipped! I had waited a week and a half patiently since sometimes private sellers take some time to ship. Unfortunately, after looking at the package tracking information, my happiness was immediately wiped away:
It appears the package was delivered to the door and signed by someone I don’t know! At first, I panicked, went looking for a package, and asking neighbors if they knew this Mr. “R” person who had signed for my package. After calming down a little I realized that there is this section of the tracking page:
I filled the form and within a minute received a PDF file with the “proof of delivery”:
So apparently the package was delivered and signed by “L” who has the same last name as “R”. Also, it’s a good thing that USPS makes you write the first line of your address. So, apparently, my package was delivered to the wrong address, which explains why I didn’t get it and why someone else would sign for it.
If you read the story, you’ll notice how unhelpful Amazon’s customer service was. If the fellow ever gets his money back from Amazon, it’ll be because of the media attention the story got… not because they want to do the right thing.
I am not saying you should absolutely avoid purchasing photography equipment on Amazon… I’m saying you need to be more careful, much more careful, then you would if you were purchasing from companies that live and breathe photography gear (Adorama and B&H).
Be careful out there…..
As a reminder, I am in no way compensated by B&H or Adorama or anybody else for my writing. I do this stuff to try to be helpful... I don't want to see you get scammed out of your money... I don't do this to trick you into buying from somebody.