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Caveat Emptor

Shifty dealings in the video industry By Stephen Schleicher
It is nothing new to hear of less than honest people in the video industry. How many of us have run across a young starlet who has had a casting couch try out, or have met someone who slips you his or her card and says, "Iím a producer, Iíll make you famous"? While there are those less than honest people floating around, we would hope that those retailers, where we buy our production equipment, are a little more honest. Thatís not what Iíve found out over the last couple of weeks.

The following is a tale that is important for anyone purchasing software, animation packages, plug-ins, or hardware.

The Sony DSR PD-150, a great camera for indie projects, streaming video, and video shoots
Iím in the market to buy my own Sony PD-150 for a few projects Iím about to undertake. Iíve used the DMN West Coast offices camera a lot and some of you have probably seen me in the past at trade shows shooting video like crazy with this small compact DV camera. Even though Iím still a dot-com millionaire, when it comes to purchasing equipment, I still donít like to pay full price. And why should I, or anyone for that matter? But it was in my quest for the best buy, that I discovered major scams running wild with video equipment dealers nationwide.

The first scam I ran across is the classic Bait and Switch ploy that business have been running for years on unsuspecting old ladies and retirees. It works like this; the company advertises a product that is below any other competitor. Lured in, you contact the dealer and make a purchase. It is only then that you discover you are not really buying what you thought you were buying. My first call was to a company in New York (a city full of honesty), who had advertised in a major video magazine that their DSR PD-150 sells for $2700. Iím not going to name names, but I can drop a hint - they have video in their name as well as a famous street in New York. Flip to the back of any video magazine and youíll find their ad. Surely this must be a reputable company as they have been advertising in this magazine for years and as everyone knows the more business a company does, the cheaper they can offer their products. I picked up the phone and called them direct.

After being transferred to at least three people, I finally was able to get someone in their video camera department. Being a smart consumer I had many questions to ask before making a purchase. These questions were all answered, but you should get in the habit of asking these same questions when dealing with any retailer.

What ships with the product the company is advertising?
Is this a new original or a return?
Why are you selling these items so cheap?
Do you have the item in stock?

After asking these questions the person on the other end asked rather rudely, "So you gonna buy this, or what?"

One final question, "Is this the NTSC model of the PD-150?" This is really a very important question to ask, and no one should purchase a camera without asking this question. You may even have to ask it several times. Another company assured me three times that it was the NTSC camera, but calling them on another day I found out it wasn't.

"No," was the reply, "The NTSC model sells for $3700. The $2700 is for the international (read PAL) camera."

Did you see that? That was the switch. I mentioned to the person that the model number for the PAL PD-150 is the DSR PD-150P. Since the ad says the PD-150 is $2700 and the company is really talking about the DSR PD-150P version, then they are guilty of false advertising.

Needless to say, I hung up on that joker. If you have figured out what company I am talking about, my suggestion is to avoid them.

The next place I found that had a relatively low price was an Internet company. Also, located in New York. They advertised their PD-150 for $2800. And yes, this was for an NTSC model.

As I was to find out, this company actually employs two scams to get your money.

Again, after being transferred several times I was able to talk to Alex, another "polite" dealer. I asked my questions again, and he was able to answer them all to my satisfaction. I decided to go ahead and make a purchase.

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