If you read slashdot, odds are that you’ve heard this story of scam artists getting their karmic reward. One rarely finds a better example of the internet living up to its full potential as a small-town lynch mob. As Luke Hutterman, creator of my RSS aggregator SharpReader points out, the difference between an enforcement agency and a mob is that an agency has the obligation to verify the original accusation. I think that the story is probably true (see below), but we internet dwellers should keep in mind how often we go off bearing torches after some bugbear that isn’t. The White Phosphorus debate seems to me a classic example of that, as well as any number of bogus Drudge scoops.
As for me, I once made the mistake of ordering a computer from one of those small-print back-of-the-magazine outfits that for some reason always seem to operate out of Brooklyn. I wanted a sub-notebook badly, and at that time my options were basically limited to small manufacturers who were practically impossible to find locally. So against my better judgment I ordered an Austin Steplite from the only place I could find, a Brooklyn outfit whose name I’ve long forgotten. It took three months and sixteen or seventeen phone calls before they put it in the mail (“we really, truly mean it this time”) and sent me a tracking number. Windows 95 refused to boot, which seemed strange. In the RAM compartment I found a measly four megs, and when I demanded the sixteen I’d paid for they got really belligerent. By the time it came they’d tried threatening to call my boss (heh), threatening to call the police and tearfully accusing me of poisoning the customer-merchant relationship. They disappeared into the aether a year later. So if the original blog post is accurate, go mob. This will make the sham operators think twice in the future.
Scratch the last cautionary bit. The more pressure we put on the sham outfits the more honest they’ll be.
Thomas Hawk just received a formal apology from the owner of the offending business, PriceRitePhoto.com . Changed business practices sure to follow (not). A few more like this and I may be able to say that without irony.
Those of you who’ve suffered through marginal-warehouse-vendor hell will recognize just how sweet this really is. Go mob!
Hi John…just for the record, I know Thomas (a fantastic photographer BTW), and he seems fairminded enough. I personally take his word for it…
The photos of the “storeshops” in Brooklyn were priceless! Let The Buyer Beware indeed.
Yeah, those little computer dealers were a nightmare. A lot of people I knew pooh-poohed Dell and said they would save a bunch of money by using them, but I usually saw those sitting next to a dark screen yelling at someone on the phone a couple weeks later.
Yeah, I always go with Dell. I’m sure there are lots of good, reliable small computer dealers out there, but if you don’t know which ones are good and which ones are crooked, you’re in for a world of frustration.
Randi in CA
I bought my Athlon online from a small (Neo Computers)company about 5 years ago It’s still running just fine, and I saved a bunch of money, especially sales tax,at the time. Buyer beware, of course, but some sites have customer ratings….pay attention to them!
re: shopping for inexpensive computer stuff online… I shop at newegg. Low prices, good stuff, reasonable shipping, I’ve bought a few things through them and never had a problem. And as a side note, I especially like the UPS tracking numbers–those things are handy (What Can Brown Do For You? Tracking numbers, apparently).
This was one of the great features about user communities when BBS’s sprung up in the 80s. There was infamous computer retailer in the back of the original issues of MacWorld (either NorthEastern Computers or NorthWestern Computer — Google gives me nothing on this) in the mid 80s. They were cheap, but you would be lucky if you ever saw anything. They could keep something on back-order for months, but they went ahead an charged you anyway.
Anyway, word got out about them on the Mac BBS’s at the time. The community decided to get together an complain to MacWorld about this. They recieved enough complaints that they dropped this outfit as an advertiser.
So do I. Very good outfit.
Leaving aside the obvious lack of ethics, what motivates people to make absurd threats like this? Are there people out there who will actually take such threats seriously? Or are these scam artists also delusional megalomaniacs?
Reminds me a bit of the old Michael’s Computers saga from a year back where the guy made some incredible performance claims from relatively common beige-box components that he tweaked: http://www.tgdaily.com/2004/03/17/too_good_to_be_true/index.html
I buy computer stuff from mwave.com, newegg.com, zipzoomfly.com and have not had problems. About 10 years ago I bought a motherboard from some outfit out of San Francisco which didn’t really work well. But that was back in the day when I had no money, and the industry sucked and so motherboards were always a problematic purchase.
These days, I buy Intel boards, intel processors… and I never have problems. I buy nVidia cards from any old maker it seems and they work because they use the reference design from nVidia. Harddrives from Seagate or Western Digital. CDROM drives from Sony. Although my DVD writer is a Liteon which I only trusted after reading many good reviews. My cases are Antec. My fans are Antec, Zalman or Vantec.
Life is really good these days. I don’t know if it’s just that now I hav emore money and so can be more picky about what I’m buying… or if the parts are just better.
As for cameras. I’ve bought stuff from B&H Photo. I think they’re out of New York, but they’re huge and seem really good.
I seem to have more trouble with shipping than I do with the actual stores (I generally use amazon, btw, but have had success with overstock, ebay, newegg, and I used to use ubid all thetime).
I am also to the point now that other than groceries and some specific clothing items, the vast majority of my purchases (to include my banking and utilities) is done online.
I’m in the same boat these days. The main problem is that a vast majority of stores seem to focus on stocking a large volume of a narrow product line while “carrying” a much wider array of items. The problem then becomes (and I just ran into this last week running around town trying to replace a pair of sunglasses) these stores trying to keep your business by ordering the items for you. They lack a competitive advantage there because I can go home, order the item for the same price, although often not paying tax, and have it shipped just like they do, except *to my home*. (and the conclusion of my sunglass escapade ends with me ordering a pair of brand-new overstocks on eBay for $50 less than I would have paid at the store; it’s almost pathetic enough to get me to go back to the store and tell them how badly I beat their price on an item they would have had to order as well)
Good point. Earlier this year I ordered a kitchen sink(yes, I do everything online, including kitchen sinks!) from a site called absolutehome.com. Home Depot had the same exact sink, but it was a special order item in their catalog. They made a point of mentioning that they would drop ship it to my home. But so too would this internet website. And the internet company was $100 cheaper.
It appears that for home improvement products like this, there are a number of websites which are nothing but online catalogs. They just collect the money, give it to the manufacturer(minus a small percentage) and the maker does the shipping. So these places have really low overhead as they have no stock.
My girlfriend ordered a Yamaha classical guitar from music123.com. Free shipping, no sales tax. Saved about $70 over getting it and the case from the local music store… who didn’t have it in stock anyway and was going to have to also order it.
I really do prefer giving my business to local retailers, but it is getting harder. Too many of them don’t carry what I want specifically.
I love the internet. I’m really glad that Al Gore had the foresight to take the initiative to move forward those bills which helped make it possible.
Great work John, within hours of your post an official apology was made! Once the story made Balloon-Juice this guy knew he was beat ;)
Oops, make that great work Tim! I need to start reading bylines.
Thanks for the newegg tip guys.
“Or are these scam artists also delusional megalomaniacs”?
I think you have them confused with politicians.
Newegg is great.
The ppG family has done somewhere around $12-15k worth of business over the Internet over the last ten years, which includes virtually all books and music, all software, half a dozen computers, furniture, electronics ….
We’ve never had any failure to perform by a vendor out there. We stick to “brand name” e-commerce operations like Amazon and Best Buy and mostly publicy-traded companies with mature websites. We don’t go for the lowest possible price but prefer the best possible execution. We also do plane tickets, rental cars … I even found a piano tuner on the Internet.
I can recall exactly one purchase that wasn’t a hundred percent satisfying out of the wrapper, and that was a freak thing ivolving a broken part in the product. A one-in-ten-thousand possibility. The vendor replaced the broken item and paid for shipment to return the defective one. We waited 3 weeks for the turnaround because they had sold out of the product and had to wait for a new shipment. No big deal.
Anyway, careful shopping and attention to detail pay off.
Same with picking your politicians ;-)