Bait And Switch Online

from the tricky-to-buy-a-camera dept

I’ve heard about this problem before – and for some reason it always has to do with online camera sales people. I hadn’t realized that camera merchants were such a sneaky bunch. Anyway, they’ve taken the “bait-and-switch” concept (where you advertise something at a very low price, but when someone actually tries to buy it, you force them to buy something more expensive) online. The way it works is they advertise a camera below cost and say that it’s in stock. Then they try to get you to buy an expensive (and high margin) add on pack. If you decline the add on pack, suddenly the camera is out of stock. Isn’t it great to see that slimey salespeople exist everywhere – both online and off?

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Comments on “Bait And Switch Online”

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Ed says:

Camera Mail Order

Mail order companies selling cameras (the old-fashioned film kind, as well as camcorders) have always been sleazy like this. I’m not sure why practices like that are so prevalent for cameras but much less so (in my experience) for computer equipment. In fact, a while back I complained to one of the online price-comparison places (CNET, I think), because the digital camera price comparisons were worthless. The places which were basically camera merchants would advertise lowball prices then play games with gray-market items (no warranty) or turning bundled items into add-ons, while the computer merchants would be more or less straightforward with their prices.
One hope I had for e-commerce was that the dodgy mail order houses that play bait-and-switch games lose their business to more reputable online merchants, but with everybody looking for a buck these days, maybe the sleaze will win out in the end.

Dan Miller (profile) says:

Re: Camera Mail Order

The problem of fraud online is no different than the problem with fraud offline. The same resellers who attempt to bait and switch on the Web have been doing it for years through retail store fronts. While it may be true that the Web gives them a larger audience and a more efficient means to perform their dirty work, the Web is not anymore responsible for the problems than the landlord of one of the retail establishments.
You referenced the CNET site in your message and I felt that I should respond specifically to that. As the Director of CNET I can tell you (and Mike can affirm this) that we take every single complaint that comes in about the resellers on our site seriously. If the reseller is a CNET Certified Store we solve the problem brought to our attention in less than 48 hours for 99% of the cases brought to our attention. If the user chooses to buy from a non-certified store we will still attempt to assist the user in solving a problem but we cannot guarantee a solution for these non-certified stores.
We actively police resellers and take appropriate actions against those that violate both our certified store program and our reseller code of conduct which explicitly states that the sale of goods cannot be tied to the sale of accessories. We do our own test purchases on a regular basis. I doubt you will find another shopping engine on the Web that can say they do all that.
Thanks for your note.
Dan Miller
Director, CNET

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Camera Mail Order

I just wanted to vouch for Dan on this one. He puts a huge amount of time and effort into making sure that is as useful a site as it can be – and making sure that (1) there are as few problems as possible and (2) when problems do arise that they’re taken care of quickly and in as professional a manner as possible.

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