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Merchants go feral?

2016: The more things change…

  1. Intention: purchase a used 28mm Elarmit-R v2 from a (formerly) reputable online USA Leica dealer
  2. Action: register on their website; go through the transaction; enter my valid credit card and address details and make the purchase for $US 2460 (inc. delivery)
  3. Snafu: Purchase cancelled by the merchant without warning because, as a non-USA customer, I must use Paypal or bank-transfer if I wish to have the item delivered to my work address
  4. Correspondence: emails to clarify my position — no sale
  5. Conclusion: A brisk email exchange…
Subject: Re: POPFLASH PHOTO: New Order Received - 41525
Date: July 13, 2016 at 2:32:35 PM PDT

Hello Alex,

Well unfortunately it looks like we can't do business this time. There is no meeting of minds, no goods will be supplied and therefore no payment need be made.

Paypal cannot be trusted for large $ transactions and I, as the person supplying thousands of dollars, insist the item be delivered wherever I wish.

I assume that you have cancelled the Mastercard charge.

Regards - AZN

BTW you may wish to google "leica faq" to see the online resource I put together when I was more active in Leica online community =) 

Which immediately attracted this professional and courteous response from the proprietor, Tony Rose:

Subject: Re: POPFLASH PHOTO: New Order Received - 41525
Date: 14 July 2016 at 8:17:37 AM AEST


My son lives in Melbourne for the past 15 years and go there twice a year. We have many monthly OZ customers who trade with us for the past 10 years. Sorry your dollar is only worth 0.75AUD

You are the first Aussie who sits there berating us and MY business ethics. I love the Land of OZ and do every thing we can to to help all of our OZ customers… 90% do Paypal and many do Bank Wire Transfer.

We are having a difficult time with your tone is of discontent… but then again we never have met a bogan before.


Sigh. After all this time, some merchants still don't get it when it comes online transactions.

2004: The year of the bad camera deal?

Maybe I was unlucky, but in 2004 I sure had a lot of trouble trying to buy cameras mail-order or online. What made it so galling was that it was from otherwise reputable dealers…

Case studies

Here are a few transactions within a six month period which all went bad:

March 2004: Additional charges after transaction is completed

Upon my recommendation, a friend buys a camera from a well-known NYC Leica dealer. Friend pays in full, has the gear shipped across the world, pays all the local import duties etc., takes delivery of the camera, and starts using it.

Without warning, a week later the merchant demands additional (substantial) payment for shipping. After some discussion, friend informs merchant that this won't happen — he has paid everything he needed to pay and has taken unencumbered delivery of the goods. As far as he was concerned, the deal was done.

Merchant goes ballistic, sends rambling, verbose emails punctuated with threats and expletives. He even drags me into the fight. I point out the validity of my friend's argument: you cannot unilaterally vary the terms of a sale after a deal is concluded. This should be obvious, you don't have to get your parents to send you to law-school to know it. Merchant gets very upset. More expletives…

OK, haha, it is all a good laugh, you f***ked me out of a few dollars but next time when you have to order from the big stores that won't do anything near a favour and charge you full price + a handling charge the joke will be on you.

Needless to say, said merchant is quickly expunged from this FAQ.

Sep 2004: online bait-n-switch

Act One of The Great Rolleiflex Fiasco. A (formerly) reputable Rollei dealer is recommended by a number of Rollei enthusiasts. All say how honest he is, how he only stocks equipment which is in the best condition etc. So I check out his website, choose a few items and send an email about them. He replies the next day, but it turns out none of the items exist:

Sorry I haven't updated my website in awhile and I don't have any of those three items at this time. The only TLR I have right now is a 2.8F 12/24 Planar - $US 1400.

Interestingly, weeks later he still had not found time to update his website. Hmmm… Maybe he enjoys luring suckers with phantom $US 650 cameras, and then pulling a switcheroo with items which cost twice as much?

Sep 2004: sale done, money paid, dealer reneges

TGRF continues. A week later I see a Planar 3.5F advertised at a good price by a Sydney based dealer in Australian Photographic Trader magazine. I phone to discuss and then agree to buy it. Or at least I thought I did. I hand over my credit-card details and the merchant says he will ship the camera later that afternoon (from a store located 75km away).

I wait. Multiple days pass in silence. I phone merchant again. Er, where's my camera please?…


Ah I thought you'd call. I've discussed the Rollei with my co-worker and we've decided not to go ahead with the sale as we think the camera's owner would consider the asking price too low [the sale was on consignment]. We haven't been able to get in touch with the owner to confirm this, so until we do we don't feel we can sell it to you at the price we agreed. I've taken down the website listing and have amended our ad for the next edition of the Trader. Don't worry, we haven't charged your credit card.

Well that's a relief. How very considerate.

Sep 2004: "Recent CLA / Ex++ condition" means something quite different

TGRF reaches a climax. I admit I tend to mangle my prose at times, but I don't think I would ever get so muddled that I would confuse "Ex++ Condition" with "Requires Extensive Repairs"…

I bought a Xenotar 3.5F from an Ohio dealer, paid top dollar for it, and had it trans-shipped it to Harry Fleenor to have a Maxwell focus screen installed. Upon receipt of the camera, Mr Fleenor sent me the following email.

Rolleiflex 3.5F defects on receipt: bumps under leather focus side, front out of alignment-tilted. Received also leather case w/strap & satin chrome lens cap.
Service required: install Maxwell Hi-lux plain screen with grid $125.00, secure tripod mount plate (loose) $16.00, re-align, collimate & adjust focus $110.00, overhaul transport (stiff) $134.00, USPS shipping $43.00, total is $428.00.

This hardly sounds like something which was (quote) "In beautiful condition & just CLA'd three weeks ago", does it? I inform Mr Fleenor to send the Lemon back to the merchant immediately. Simultaneously I demand a full refund from the dealer with no "re-stocking fees" thankyou. After a bit of sulking he reluctantly agrees. I'm $US 36 out for shipping across the USA, but it is better than paying hundreds of dollars to repair serious faults I was never warned about, right?

Meanwhile, a week before the refund came through, the dealer posted the camera back on his website, same price, same claim about "excellent condition, recent CLA".

Come in spinner. Wouldn't this bloke feel more at home on eBay?…

Oct 2004: Want a Rolleiflex TLR? Here, check out this Pearl River TLR instead…

TGRF final straw. I drop into Sydney camera dealer and ask if he has any Rolleiflexes, or maybe knows of anyone, anywhere, in the whole wide world, who might. Of course he doesn't, but he then proceeds to ram a Pearl River piece-o-junk down my throat. "It's actually better than a Rollei 'cause it's new."

Uh-huh. Goodbye. Good riddance. Rollei dealers can all go to Hell.

Not Robinson Crusoe

Unfortunately I'm not alone in my less than satisfactory merchant interactions. For example the experiences of David Ray Carson. He bought a used Noctilux, which arrived in a significantly different condition to that described. He insisted on a refund and lived to tell the tale of what happened when he dared to not kiss the feet of the popular US Leica dealer. Lots of angry emails back and forth. Apparently things degenerated to a stage where both sides started waving lawyers at each other (although subsequently things cooled down).


So what's going on? Why the used-car dealer ethics? Are merchants becoming unhinged by eBay or the digital onslaught (where cameras are now commodities and can be bought from any Walmart type discounter)?

Am I alone in thinking that perhaps some dealers are becoming a little too tricky when selling used gear? Who knows, but there sure appears to be an upsurge in chicanery :?(


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