Sunday, June 25, 2006

Shades of Grey - Part 2

"Liar Liar Pants on Fire." Somehow that still didn't make me feel any better. So I immediately called Visa and told them I would be disputing the charge. We talked about the situation and they categorized it as "Poor Quality of Product or Services" and told me that the entire charge would be taken off my bill until the issue was resolved. Now I was starting to feel a little better.
There were two days of Jewish holidays where Radio Active Deals was closed, so I couldn't call them until Friday. I spoke to "Henry", the customer service manager. Going to the dentist (and I hate going to the dentist) is more fun than talking to Henry. The entire phone call took just about 1/2 hour where I was told:
a) It was not a grey market camera
b) It was a US model that was just manufactured on a different manufacturing line
c) It had US electricity plugs and had english menus so it couldn't possibly be a Japanese model
d) Nikon would definitely service grey market camera bodies
e) It came with a 1 year warranty and was otherwise exactly the same as a US model so why did I care anyway?

He very much wanted me to "open" the package and take the camera out and use it. Ostensibly so that I could see it was "just a regular D200 camera". He was very upset with me that I would not open it up. Eventually, he told me he would send me the Cancellation/Return Form via email, but I think it was only because I told him I had already disputed the charge with my credit card company. I filled out the form and faxed it back to them. On Monday, I received another form via email that contained my RMA number to use to ship it back.
It only cost me $32.05 in postage and insurance to send it back. I also paid for a signature confirmation .... not because I didn't trust them of course.

About 2 weeks later, I received a letter from Visa informing me that the credit I received was less than the original charge. This was due to "non-refundable fees charged by the merchant, such as shipping and handling fees", and if I felt I was entitled to the difference, I should contact the merchant directly. Peachy. There's that "going to the dentist" butterflies in the stomach feeling again. I have to call and talk to Henry again. I decide to just play it direct. I have a very quick and precise conversation this time:
- "You didn't send me what I ordered"
- "Yes we did"
- "Are you going to refund the $401.33 difference to me"
- "No, we don't refund shipping charges and we keep 15% restocking fee as per our corporate policy"
- "Thank you, good-bye".
Moments later I'm talking to Matia, a Financial Service Advisor at Visa. She's never heard of a grey market before and doesn't know much about cameras. I don't know what state she's talking to me from or what time zone she's in, but it's late afternoon in Hawaii which means she's working the really late shift somewhere else. I explain the situation and tell her that I have photos of the box to prove that it was a grey market version. She tells me to "hold one moment please".
The hold muzak plays the Carpenters. At least one whole song, seemed like more. Matia comes back on the line and says "Mrs. MeGoffin?" And now there is music to my ears. "We will be refunding the additional $401.33 to your card today and will attempt to charge it to the merchants account for payment. You should receive the confirmation letter in 3 to 5 days. Is there anything else I can help you with today?"

I think I re-learned again, at least for awhile anyway, that if it seems too good to be true, it is. I learned that sales people will tell a bald faced lie in order to make a sale. (I always knew they would stretch the truth or not answer a question you did not ask directly, but a bald faced lie was over the top for me). And I learned what a "reputable dealer" means and that they are worthwhile to deal with, even if you "could" order it from somewhere else. The point of the story is then - perhaps you can learn my lessons vicariously and not have to learn them on your own.

P.S. Happy Ending #2 - I received my new D200 (US model) in the mail from Ritz Camera on June 6. The happy brown UPS bus still goes beep beep beep backwards down the driveway.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Shades of Grey - Part 1

I have cam'itis. No, it's not a transmitted disease so you're OK. I spent alot of time on boats while growing up on the waters of the Gulf Islands and Sunshine Coast in BC. We had a great boat - The Blue Doll. But we would always stare wistfully at the bigger, better, newer, flashier boats than ours and dreamed of "upgrading". My Dad called that foot'itis - you always wanted one larger than the one you had or just bought. I have a Nikon D100 camera and had been staring wistfully at the D200.
It's such a popular camera, that Nikon manufacturing hasn't been able to keep up with the demand and all of the shops were "out of stock" for months. I found a small shop online called Radio Active Deals that said they had some in stock. So I called them up and talked to "Allen" and verified that it was a US model camera and not a grey market version.
What's a grey market version you ask? Well, it simply means that the camera (or lens or whathave you) was not brought into the country by a Nikon authorized distributor, but by someone else. In bypassing the distributor, the item can be sold much cheaper. Nikon USA has taken a particularly strong stance in this area and will not warranty or service a grey market item under any circumstances. You can't pay them any amount of money large enough to service it. Sometimes, that's OK. But for little ol me on an island at least 2500 miles from the nearest camera service center, I want to be able to send it to Nikon USA and say "fix it". Now.
So Allen says "Yes, of course it's a US model camera". I say "Are you sure?" and he confirms that it is. "Well, how come you are the only folks in town with some in stock?" and he says, "Well, because we're a smaller shop and don't have the turnover that the larger places do, and we have only 2 left so you should order it right now". {Oh my gawd do people really expect that sales crap to work?}
So I tell him that I need to think about it and will call back which makes him very happy. I wait 1/2 hour and talk to Greg and decide that I'll go for it and order one. But I'll reverify that it's REALLY a US model before ordering. I call back and ask for Allen and ask him again about it being a US model which he confirms. I ask if it comes with a 1 year warranty from Nikon and he confirms this and then get's mad at me for not believing him. "We're not like those other New York shops - we pride ourselves on our integrity and customer services".
So I give him the credit card number and order it. With an extra battery. And wait anxiously for the tracking information to arrive in email. I watch and watch as UPS wings my new toy across the ocean to my doorstep. On Tuesday April 18, 2006 I wait at home for the magic brown bus to beep beep beep backwards down my driveway. I open the package and pull out the yellow box and ... and ... and ... it's a grey market version. The side of the box is covered in Japanese characters and it says D200(J) above the serial number.