Back in November, Thomas Hawk ordered a camera online from PriceRitePhoto. There were several “problems” with the order, according to PriceRitePhoto…most seemingly stemming from Thomas’s unwillingness to succumb to the pressure being put on him to buy extra memory, batteries, extended warranties, and the like. Things got heated on both sides, the fulfillment of the order was dragging on and on, and words were exchanged. Eventually, the PriceRitePhoto manager, Steve Phillips, gets into the act. Thomas:
“So today I checked on my order online again and saw that it had not been routed to shipping and called the company back again. Four times I was put on hold for a substantial amount of time and had to hang up and call the company again. Finally I was able to connect with an individual who said his name was Steve Phillips. Steve Phillips abruptly told me that the camera was out of stock. When I protested and told him that it was confirmed online yesterday and verbally by his sales rep he refused to budge.
At this point I thanked him and informed him that I would be writing an article about my experience with his company. It was at this point that he went ballistic. He first told me that if I did this that he would not cancel my order but just never fill it. If I cancelled it he said he’d charge me a 15% restocking fee. When I told him that that would be unethical he went nuts. He accused me of trying to “extort” him and said that he was going to have two local police officers come over and arrest me. He then went on to say that as a “professional photographer” I should have known better than to try and buy a camera this way and that he was an attorney and would sue me if I wrote an article about my experience.”
Thomas wrote up the story, it was picked up by Digg, BoingBoing and others, and it became a phenomenon. Again, Thomas Hawk:
“I think that the popularity of this story comes in large part because the message resonates so strongly with all of us. Although in a sense it is the classic tale of David and Goliath retold, it is much more than this. We all have at one point or another in our lives been bullied and most of us have been defrauded or ripped off. The fact that so many times in the past there was nothing we could do about it makes us feel all that much better about the fact that in today’s internet and blogosphere we actually CAN do something about it.
Out of all of this, hopefully more than anything, this story will serve as a reminder to shady businesses everywhere that in the end fraud and abusive behavior towards customers does not pay. Perhaps I’m being overly idealistic here and perhaps this incident is the smallest possible blip in the greater world of internet fraud — but one thing I do know is that the power of the consumer is growing. And in a new world today with tools like blogs and Slashdot and Digg the consumer is empowered in great ways that they never have been in the past.”
Now, in the span of just a few weeks, the story is in The New York Times (reg. req’d, excerpts here) and the PriceRitePhoto warehouse space seems to have been abandoned. Additionally, according to the article in the Times, no one has picked up PriceRitePhoto’s mail in over two months. (Note: It also appears the PriceRitePhoto has been trying to reinvent itself as Barclaysphoto on Ebay, and has also registered Barclaysphoto.com.)
Thomas, I salute you. And to all the PriceRitePhotos of the world…well, there are some dishes best served cold.
(slingshot photo: http://www.mwart.com, hat tip: jeff jarvis)