Camera returns ethics

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by spinyman, Aug 22, 2012.

  1. spinyman

    spinyman Mu-43 Top Veteran

    603
    Nov 19, 2010
    San Diego
    Is it wrong to buy a camera just to try it out,then return it because we can?Since diving into this hobby, I have bought and sold a fair amount of cameras and lenses.Camera bodies are released with breathtaking speed and I want to try them all.In my area,San Diego, the camera stores consist of FRYS and Bestbuy,neither of which will carry the newest bodies when they are new.So, like you, my gear comes from the internet stores.When I received my E-m5, I disliked it so much that I took to these pages to vent about all the perceived shortcomings of it.This was after using the camera for three days.Three months later and I love it.If I hadn't been committed to giving it a really good test period, i would have missed out on owning a great camera.
    How many of us are not fully vetting these new purchases before they are sent back to the store and bad mouthed on forums for not meeting our expectations?
    Is it possible to test out a new body within 200 actuations?And, even though it is store policy,do we have a duty to at least have a reasonable intent to keep a camera that we have purchased as opposed to just trying it out?
     
  2. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    That's a tough one. I say it's OK, and here's why. On-line outlets are putting brick and mortar out of business. There was another article about Best Buy in the WSJ. Their earnings were off like 98% or something, and they've suspended forward looking earnings predictions (never a good sign).

    What else are you supposed to do? But, I used to do it a lot more, and it's tiring, and your money gets tied up in refund timing, and you have to ship back, so I'm doing more research, or trying to stick with what I have longer. For an OMD, I actually rented it from Lens Rentals, and am fine that I did. It cost me about $80-90 for 4 days, but I figured I would have lost that buying and selling it, and there was no guilt about opening up and returning. I didn't think I wanted the OMD anyway. If I did think I would have kept it, I would have bought it. That's what I did with the RX100. Tried it out and kept it.

    We will all pay for it in higher prices, or (eventually) re-stock fees. I wouldn't mind 5-10% restock fees, but Best Buy tried a 15% once, and that's about the time I started buying everything from Amazon (or B&H).

    So, I use 3 methods: buy used, buy with possibility to return, or rent. The former is for readily available items and especially where there's a big price difference (e.g. I wouldn't get a PL25 used, as I don't think the price spread warrants it). Buy and return is for things I figure I'm going to keep and I just can't get used. Renting is for things I've very iffy on, and likely to return, or I have a specific use case for (like a weekend shoot with a very long, bright prime).
     
  3. WoodWorks

    WoodWorks Mu-43 Regular

    180
    Oct 10, 2011
    Ashland, OR USA
    David
    In matters of ethics, the first test I use is: What if someone else was doing this to me? And using that test, it's pretty much a slam dunk for me to decide that it's unethical to "buy" a camera with the intent of returning it. A returned camera can no longer be sold as "new," therefore it has lost value, and the seller has lost money. If the "buyer" has no intention of keeping it, it's no different from reaching into the till and taking some money. It is stealing.

    But if you're buying it with the intention to keep it, and it doesn't work out, that's different. Yes, the seller is out the same amount. But at least your conscience is clear.

    That's the way I see it, anyway.

    David
     
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  4. spinyman

    spinyman Mu-43 Top Veteran

    603
    Nov 19, 2010
    San Diego
    Thoughtful answers,both of you.And you present two sides of the argument.I saw that article on bestbuy as well.I am just like everyone else who goes in their store and window shops,then goes online to buy.We know it is just a matter of time before they fold along with most real stores, no matter what goods they sell.Even cars are not immune.It is the internet world we live in.The great level playing field.
     
  5. Hikari

    Hikari Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 26, 2010
    It is so easy to research a camera today. I'm am unsure why a manufacturer would have to suffer for essentially your choice and you make a mistake. I do not buy a camera unless I am going to keep it. That is my responsibility.
     
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  6. Hikari

    Hikari Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 26, 2010
    If I walk into a store to find out about a product, then I return to that store to purchase it. Why should one business subsidize another? Why should I take advantage of that?
     
  7. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy
    Okay, but what about if it was already purchased used or open box? B&H, Adorama, etc sell plenty of that stuff too.
     
  8. newbert

    newbert Mu-43 Veteran

    292
    Jul 22, 2012
    Glens Falls, NY
    I agree 100% with this. A few weeks ago, I rented a lens because I wanted to try it out before committing substantial $$$ to buy it. Someone (on this forum, in fact) asked what I paid for the rental, then responded: That's pricey, I think that I'll just buy it from ____ with their 30-day return policy -----or words to that effect.

    To be honest, that really rubbed me the wrong way - but I kept my mouth shut. We all have to live with ourselves, I guess. I just couldn't do that if I had an expectation that I wouldn't be keeping the "purchase".

    I have a feeling that this will be an interesting thread.....
     
  9. RobWatson

    RobWatson Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    If you tell the vendor up front you plan only to test drive then return it if unsatisfied then no problem. Otherwise you are not really intending to do what your actions imply - thus unethical.

    Being sold a bill of goods that does not deliver as promised is something else.
     
  10. I think that the liberal returns policies benefit the online stores at least as much as the consumer. What better way to get you to part with hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a product that you probably haven't even handled than to offer you a safety net if you don't like it? The nature of buying online is that the retailer needs to convince you to buy without first seeing, touching, and trying. Of course, once said product is in your hands you are far more likely to keep it than return it, and it would be very easy to exceed their maximum limit of shutter releases for returns. I think that there was once a term in the car business called puppy-dogging, where they let you take a car home for a night with no obligations. Once you'd driven it, parked it in your driveway, and shown it to your neighbours, it would be hard to go back the next day and tell them that you didn't want it.
     
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  11. WoodWorks

    WoodWorks Mu-43 Regular

    180
    Oct 10, 2011
    Ashland, OR USA
    David
    Oooooh! A grey area! I love it! We're you schooled by Jesuits like I was? :biggrin:

    You might argue that the cost to the seller is less in this case, since the original "new" value has already been lost. But again, if you have no intention of keeping it, then I think the ethics of it are just as wrong. And even if it's an open-box item, the cost of all these "try-outs" gets passed on to all of the rest of us.

    It's an unfortunate problem. Where I live there are no brick and mortar camera stores. And I can't go in and look at a display camera or lens to check it out. So I usually wait until I'm going down to San Francisco or up to Portland (300 miles either way) if I'm contemplating a big purchase. Otherwise I do as much research as possible online and takes my chances.

    But if the purchase doesn't work out for me, I never return it to the store unless the item was defective. I put it up on ebay and eat the loss in value myself. It was, after all, my decision to buy the thing.

    David
     
  12. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Nov 7, 2010
    I agree that one should not buy an item with intent to return it. And you certainly see that happen. People buy a lens or camera for a specific event, then ship it back for a refund. Or people buy 2 or 3 different cameras to test and compare, knowing they will only keep one. I think those approaches are just plain wrong, and if they proliferate it will hurt us to the tune of higher prices and/or more restrictive return policies.

    I also agree with Nic regarding the internet business model. I buy many things without having used or handled them. With a camera than can be a big deal. I would not feel guilty (though I have not done it) about returning a new camera because I didn't like the ergonomics. I think some low level of returns for non-defective reasons are built in to the business model. If we don't abuse that I think we are all ahead in the long run, with competitive prices and a safety net in case a purchase just doesn't work for us.

    My reality though is that I mostly buy used gear. I've gotten hooked on trying different cameras and lenses, and I've found it relatively easy to buy used, try and often re-sell without taking much of a hit.
     
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  13. JJJPhoto

    JJJPhoto Mu-43 Veteran

    252
    Jul 8, 2011
    Cincinnati, OH
    Jerry Jackson Jr
    In general, I'd have to say it's completely unethical to purchase a camera with the intent that you're going to return it. If for no other reason you should refrain from such activity simply because of the burden you're placing on the store owners.

    That said, I'm sure I've benefited from other people buying cameras and immediately returning them. I purchased an Olympus E-P3 last year from a small brick-and-mortar store that also sold gear online. When the camera arrived and I opened the box I discovered that it had been opened previously and the camera had been used ... although I suspect the average consumer might not have noticed. The menus had been changed from the default settings, the image counter started at an odd number, and one of the accessories was missing from the box. Other than that, the camera was flawless.

    I immediately contacted the seller about the fact that they sold me a used camera at full retail price. They apologized and said I could either return the camera for a full refund or keep it and they would refund $400 (almost half the purchase price at the time). I decided to keep the camera and take the partial refund.

    I wouldn't have gotten that awesome deal if someone hadn't returned the camera to the store after using it.
     
  14. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    Texas
    Anyone successful in buying a car and returning it in 30 days for their money back?
     
  15. RevBob

    RevBob Super Moderator

    Jun 4, 2011
    NorthWestern PA
    Bob
    This is a real dilemma for folks who don't have a camera store where they can hold a camera and test it to see if they like it. The internet has become the marketplace for many.
    Still, it is wrong to purchase an item expecting to return it if you don't like it - unless the seller has a specific policy to that effect. Some retailers invite folks to try an item with the possibility of a no hassle return to solve the problem of not having a hands on experience. They urge folks to try an item and then return it if not completely satisfied. But not all retailers operate that way and only expect returns if there is a problem.
    The internet affords anyone the ability to research a product very extensively before purchasing. That doesn't quite replace hands-on experience, but it comes pretty close if a person is diligent in their research.
     
  16. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    I would not have purchased the RX100 if there wasn't the return policy, and if I hadn't bought and returned before.

    What I think is unethical is buying a camera to use for a week with the INTENT to return it. To use it for purpose and return it. But to buy it to try it out because you might want it -- I don't agree that's unethical.
     
  17. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    I also think there is a dividing line here -- local mom and pop vs. big corporate store.

    Local mom and pops HAVE to match the return policies of the corporate/on-line, and they have price pressure. IF you want them around, you need to think about buy and return.

    WHAT THAT HAS LEAD ME TO, to be honest, is that the ONE last camera store (which is still a good 30 minutes from me through nasty traffic) doesn't get business from me anymore. On one hand, I feel bad if I waste their time window shopping and not buying anything, on the other hand, I feel bad if I buy and return. This "ethical" approach has led to zero business from me. I wonder which they would prefer? Zero business, or my usual routine of buying cameras, and selling them as used within 6 months, though I might have a return or two over 2 years?

    On a related issue;

    There's an interesting book called "Against the Gods, the Remarkable Story of Risk" One of the big premises in that book is that the modern age came about -- not just because of the renaissance or science discoveries, but because we learned that you can manage risk. Not everything has to be perfectly executed. We sent people to the moon because we KNEW we would lose fuel, we KNEW about friction loss, and we built redundant systems where needed, which is one example from the book. The ability to provide insurance is another major application of the understanding of risk.

    This concept is MAJORLY applied in business. Returns are factored into the price as friction in the channel. We do that in my business. We forecast the number of units that will fail, the number that will be returned, and we price accordingly. The system breaks down of course if EVERYONE does it, but then the business will adapt. If returns spike up, prices will spike up and/or perks will drop down.

    Again, this mainly applies to large corporates (which have the power to set the pricing and return policies for mom and pop stores). I guarantee the Amazon pricing algorithm has this friction in the model and is priced accordingly. If Amazon prices wrong, or a new distribution model arises (as happened to Best Buy) then they will go under, but a new channel will emerge.

    Adapt and change.
     
  18. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    Also, I feel it's unethical to lie about your return. I've gotten dinged with a restocking fee from Amazon, when I returned something because I decided I didn't need it, though I could have chosen a more fee-free reason. I'm actually OK with restocking fees, of 5-10%. There's a lot of good in them, for the buyer and the seller (i.e. makes me double-think the purchase before buying :)
     
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  19. newbert

    newbert Mu-43 Veteran

    292
    Jul 22, 2012
    Glens Falls, NY
    Exactly. There's a price to eventually be paid if enough people return "purchases" after "buy to try (or use)". Just because the system allows you to do something doesn't mean you SHOULD. Unfortunately it seems that an increasing number of people can't seem to grasp that distinction nowadays....
     
  20. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    Texas
    Have no fear...
    One can always rent the body of their choice from lensrentals.com :smile:
     
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