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February 22, 2013

Gear Shopping 101: How to Spot a Deal to Avoid: Olympus E-M5 for $895 by Unknown Seller

This is an example of what to look for in an unknown and unauthorized third-party seller and not fall into the trap simply because the price is lower or clueless websites or forums are mentioning it. A third-party seller named "wesaveyou$" is offering the Olympus E-M5 body for $895 as the lowest featured price at Amazon.

Here are some of the red flags:

+ not an authorized Olympus dealer

+ no concrete information about the company is provided in their Detailed Seller page. Compare the details on their Seller page to those of well-known and well-vetted camera retailers like Adorama and Norman Camera and Samy's Camera and Murphy's Camera and Beach Camera. Compare and contrast. Notice any differences?

+ their store front has no customization, it's just a bunch of products listed. Compare and contrast to the storefronts of Adorama and Cameta and Willoughby's and Murphy's Camera. Compare and contrast, notice any differences?

+ they have at least one 1/5 negative review per day but they are buried by an avalanche of 5/5. Because of the way Feedback is posted on Amazon, you cannot review the reviewer or the purchase, so you cannot give proper weight to the feedback given. For example, one can pile up a lot of positive ratings on $5 items and be a disaster on big ticket items

+ you are buying a $900 camera. The level of scrutiny should be much higher compared to buying a $10 book or DVD from a random seller

+ remember, Amazon is an open marketplace. Almost anyone with a pulse can list products there, be it $10 books or $1000 cameras. Just because something is listed at Amazon, it does not mean it is safe to buy. Make sure you buy from itself as the seller or well-known and well-vetted retailers that sell on Amazon like J&R World, Calumet, Vanns, OneCall, Adorama, Norman Camera, Beach Camera, Samy's Camera, etc.

+ on a side note, products "Fulfilled by Amazon" have some benefits when dealing with unknown/unvetted retailers, but if the selling retailer is not authorized, the manufacturer will likely not recognize the purchase as authorized because Amazon is only providing the infrastructure, they are not the actual seller. Fulfilled by Amazon, in a nutshell, means a seller sends a big box of things to an Amazon warehouse/facility and Amazon processes the orders/shipments/returns/etc instead of the actual seller

+ you are the one who is going to have to deal with the consequences when making a risky purchase. Unless you are a super savvy shopper _and_ you enjoy the frustrations of dealing with the consequences of such purchases (some people do love a good crisis or a good drama) and you have the time to spend on all that, you are better off avoiding high risk purchases. Of course it is your life and your money, you can do whatever you want. I am just pointing out the distilled essence of what millions of online shoppers have already discovered through trial and error.

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