Why I’m Losing Faith in B&H Photo

It's been a month since I last wrote about this issue, but I STILL have no received the rest of my order from B&H Photo since I wrote this post on August 23. The last communication I had from B&H was on August 24th, promising action that never came.

Before Photoshop World, I learned of a couple of new products from Lastolite that I thought would be perfect to take with me to the conference. One was called a Brolly Grip,  and the other was a 32″ umbrella that collapsed to eight inches. I knew I'd be running around with my camera and a messenger bag, so these sounded like the perfect solution to make some portraits of friends on-the-go. If you're curious, here's a video about the products.

The web page noted that the product would ship within 7-14 days.  Considering I placed my order August 13th, that seemed like I'd have it in time before heading to Las Vegas on September 3rd. On August 15th, I received an e-mail from B&H telling me that my order would be drop-shipped from the manufacturer. However, I didn't get a tracking number, so the next day I wrote to B&H support to request it.

Skip ahead four days. Despite a few more e-mails telling me how much they value my business and that they would check on my order status, I haven't heard anything. On August 19th, I figured it was time to call. It turns out that the distributor (Manfrotto) is waiting for the products from the Italian manufacturer. OK, it doesn't seem likely that I'll have these in time for Photoshop World after all.  However, I notice another problem.

Upon checking my American Express statement, I see that B&H has already charged me for these products.  Why? They haven't shipped. According to B&H policy, they do not charge until they ship the product (note the yellow box on the screen shot below).

B&H Screen Shot
B&H Product Page

That's the page as it looks now. The Yellow Information box was present when I placed my order, though the Estimated Arrival time was shorter at 7-14  days when I placed my order (as you can see on my previous post). However, it clearly stated then, as it does now, that the order will be charged at the time of shipment. So why was I charged when the order didn't ship?

It seems that B&H gives itself an excuse to charge when an order is drop-shipped from a vendor.

The reason why your credit card was charged right away, and not held until shipped. Is because, the product is not being shipped from us, but being dropped shipped from the vendor to you. The vendor does not update us when they ship the product, unless we put in a request at the time of shipping. Understanding in this case the vendor still does not have the product, however once they receive the product they will ship it out to you right away, with out informing us. That is why we charged your card right away. We apologize for this inconvenience.

That was August 19th.  I requested that my charges be refunded until the items actually shipped, as per their written policy. B&H declined. They told me on August 22nd that the umbrella would ship soon, as early as the next day.  The Brolly Grip would be longer and it would ship (probably) right after Labor Day.

Actually, the Brolly Grip arrived just before Photoshop World. The umbrella has yet to arrive. My last communication from B&H was on August 25th telling me that they were working with the manufacturer to give my order a priority for shipping. You can see how well that's worked out. Whatever happened, they decided to stop updating me on my order status.

So now B&H has my money for a product that has, to my knowledge, never shipped. B&H refuses to refund my money. B&H absolves itself of any responsibility for the product that I ordered. Basically, I'm fucked.

Mind you, we aren't talking about a lot of money here. It's an umbrella, not a D3s. The principle remains the same regardless of the expense of the item, though. B&H didn't follow it's stated policy to charge on shipment. There was no warning to me, as a consumer, that they would change the rules because this product would be drop-shipped.  I had no way of knowing it would be drop-shipped.  Instead, I expected they would receive it in their warehouse and process the order like everything else I've bought from them in the past.

For a while, I was content to continue doing business with B&H, but that's changed with this latest month without communication or delivery.  I wrote to them again this weekend and hope to have some notice of my order.  Considering all of the excuses I've received instead of good consumer action, I merely expect more excuses.

That's why I've started buying elsewhere. Adorama is getting more of my business, but so is Amazon.com. Lately, Amazon is stepping up its photography business and carrying many more products that it used to outsource. I've bought Elinchrom soft boxes and other light modifiers for comparable (and sometimes better) prices than B&H. Combined with Amazon Prime for 2-day shipping, it's turning into a great resource.

My message to B&H is pretty simple. Money goes where it's treated well. When you take my money without delivering my order, you aren't treating my money well.  When you violate your own written policy and leave me as a sucker waiting for something that may never come, you aren't treating me well. You're losing my business. When it comes time for me to recommend a place to buy gear, you're losing out to Amazon.

It's not really the money, B&H.  It's the poor customer service attitude you've shown me that's causing me to lose my faith in you.

25 thoughts on “Why I’m Losing Faith in B&H Photo”

  1. That is indeed pretty lousy of them. I mean, using drop-shipping as an excuse for not having to provide proper customer service… that’s pretty foul.

    I hope you get the umbrella. It does look pretty cool! =)

  2. William:
    You know we appreciate your business and regret that Lastolite has been unable to supply the Trifold umbrella you purchased. We understand and appreciate that this delay has inconvenienced you and we apologize. To clarify the policy you alluded to — B&H charges a customer’s credit card on shipping for domestic orders excepting drop-ship and certain special order items. The notation you quoted on our site is necessarily brief and perhaps insufficiently complete. I will ask our web design team to consider revising this to make it more accurate.

    I will be happy to bring this to both our buyer’s attention and to that of our contacts at Manfrotto, Lastolite’s USA distributor yet again on your behalf.


    Henry Posner
    B&H Photo-Video

  3. Thanks for posting this. I’m looking at a very specific item that seems too new to be carried by anyone. B+H lists it as a “special order” with 7-14 business day shipping time. After your post, I am VERY skeptical of B+H’s “special order” terms and will hold off on giving them money until this item is “in stock.”

  4. I recently had a similar issue with B&H. I ordered some lectrosonic wireless gear and lavs to go with them. Everything arrived in a few days except the lavs which were suppose to arrive 7-10 days since they we’re drop shipped. I was ok with that but they never arrived. I emailed B&H and got the same kinda of run around you did. They promised shipment at the 14 day mark. That didn’t happen so I insisted on a refund. B&H didn’t comply and sent me another notice saying that finally they would be sent on the 20th day. It is now the 23rd day since the order was placed and nothing.

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  6. I recently bought an LG chromebase from B&H photo.
    Little did I know that B & H photo does not return computers. The big problem here is when I got it and opened up the box the computer was smashed from shipping. When I called them and told them what happened they asked me if I opened the box. Well of course I opened the box. That’s when I found out that it got damaged from shipping. They will absolutely not take this computer back. They were very rude with me on the phone and did not do anything to help me whatsoever. Long story short stay away from B&H Photo there are better retailers out there that take care of their customers.

    1. I used to be very happy about dealing with B&H, but things are changing. I’m more inclined to go with Amazon for my purchases these days. That’s starting to show on my site, as I’m removing my affiliate links to B&H and only offering them for Amazon. Still more work to do, but the changes are in progress.

  7. You guys should try doing a chargeback on your credit card. If enough time has passed on your order the CC company will contact B&H for shipping information, if not provided they will perform the chargeback no questions asked.

  8. I received a lens from b and h used department that was clearly defective out of the box and while they acknowledged that it seemed so, I was told it could only be returned for repair. My call was escalated twice and in the end I was told there was nothing else they were willing to do. I phoned PayPal and thankfully received a decision on the spot that b and h would have to accept the return and a full refund would be issued. When I asked how PayPal could make this decision without b and h having the right to dispute it, I was told although the rep didn’t know it was the case specifically with b and h, that companies that have an excessive number of claims are required to relinquish control of refund decisions to PayPal in order to keep offering PayPal for payments. An unnerving enough experience and enough out of character for them that I’ve decided that’s the end of my 25 year relationship with them. Really makes me wonder if Amazon isn’t really putting the hurt on them and they’re starting to go into a kind of panic.

    1. I’ve heard similar stories. That’s one of the reasons I use a card with good customer protection for damaged items. It’s nice to know that Paypal supported you. As I’ve said in my podcast (http://williambeem.com/episode10 – Are You Still Shopping at B&H Photo?), I’m no longer doing business with them. Not only have I gone through some bad customer experiences, but I’m also concerned about the number of issues with the Department of Labor and lawsuits about how some employees were treated.

      Amazon isn’t perfect, but I don’t have any personal complaints with them, the prices are competitive and shipping is fast. I’ve removed my affiliate links with B&H and now only use Amazon for recommended photography products on my site.

  9. Second day now and order not shipped, their bull shit web site said NEXT DAY DELIVERY , I’m done from these liers for good, last order for me B&H

  10. B and H knowingly sold us an expensive set of Sony lav mics that they new were not the correct frequency to comply with new FCC BS, and did not help us in the least, and Sony refuses to help, either. Screw both of these companies, I’ll never deal with them again.

  11. I decided to try B&H for the first time – in this case because they were one of the few stores to actually have an Arturia Keystep MIDI controller in stock. I purchased it from their site on 3/20/2018 and was delighted to see that it was scheduled for FEDEX delivery the following day to my home the next day…Great! Until…The package went to CT, then OH, then IL, then KS, then CO, and then back to B&H. It arrived in their shop on 3/27 at around 11 am. Great, they’ll resend it! Wrong. after waiting for over a day for an update, I pleaded with several folks including being told how to escalate to a supervisor, which went unanswered. As of today (3/30/2018) they are now closed for 8+ days in observance of a religious holiday. I am so frustrated with them, I realize that I don’t matter to them. You don’t judge true customer satisfaction by doing what you do properly; the real measure is problem resolution. In this case, I’ve concluded that the people that run this business from day to day are either inept, or don’t really value their customers, or both. At this point I am extremely doubtful that they will resolve my issue, and I will never again give them my business. They took my money, all I want them to do is send the package to me – properly.

  12. I’ve been buying from B&H for about 18 years. Tens of thousands of dollars worth of high end cinema cameras and lenses, lighting, stands, etc. and most recently, components for a new computer. I cannot recall a single instance where I had a problem with something they sold me, or with getting something serviced.

    It’s unfortunate that the writer did not have a clear understanding of B & H’s drop ship policy, but it’s logical that the control of the product leaves B & H’s hands in a drop ship and thus they want to get paid up front in that case. Perfectly reasonable.

    The good thing about B & H is that they protect your confidential purchase information. When CT DRS demanded Newegg and other vendors turn over purchase data so CT could prosecute buyers, most of these vendors caved in to the demands and snitched on their customers. That’s why I’ll never do business again with Newegg. B and H stood tough and gave the policy serious though. They instead chose to get a tax license for CT, instead of giving up their customers for possible fines and imprisonment.

    1. Hi Mark,

      Thank you for leaving a comment with your perspective. There are a lot of people who are satisfied with B&H and turn to them first for their products. I used to be one of them.

      As you can tell from the article, I had my reasons for losing faith in B&H. While this may have been a drop-shipped item, it doesn’t matter. I bought from B&H. They wanted my business and my money, but didn’t really want to communicate with me about the issues going on with my order. It is not the customer’s responsibility to figure this out, particularly without any notice from the vendor who has their money. Perhaps you think it’s perfectly reasonable to pay and not receive your product, but I’m of a different opinion.

      I’m also not fond of the frequent reports of employee treatment at B&H. Many people gripe about jobs and I understand that, but I don’t condone a dangerous work environment and that seems to come up time and again.

      Once again, thank you for leaving a comment with your experiences and some of the positive things that B&H does. It’s always best when people can get more than one side of a story so they can decide whether to do business with B&H or not.

  13. And another B&H victim here – I purchased a Philips audio recorder from them four months ago. When it failed just the other day, well within the one-year warranty, I contacted the manufacturer. They told me to contact my vendor for warranty replacement. So I reached out to B&H — first via chat, and then by telephone, and they made absolutely no attempt at resolution, insisting that their policy was no returns after 30 days and to contact Philips. I told the agent(s) that it was Philips who instructed me to contact them, yet they continue to refuse to help me. Perhaps my credit card company can help – I’ll be reaching out to them next. And I’m definitely telling everyone I know about my experience with B&H, in hopes that they don’t also become victims of the once-reputable dealer.

    1. Hi Michael,

      Thanks for the comment. I’m sorry that B&H disappointed you. It seems to be a growing trend, and I wouldn’t recommend them anymore.

  14. B&H may have gotten too large. Customer service has been slipping for years, little by little. This is so unfortunate because they’ve become dominant a force in the photography marketplace. But big problems come with size and they’ve faced multi-million dollar discrimination lawsuits, union difficulties, expansion, etc. Mr. Posner has his hands full trying to clean blood off the decks, but ultimately its about who they want to be. I read somewhere the owner is nearly a billionaire now. Good for him! My take is to support LOCAL small business, and if you must shop B&H, then buyer beware. You’re not dealing with a concerned retail partner who cares to know anything about you or your business.

    1. B&H is the “go to” store for many people and businesses. I’m sure they’ve earned it. I’m also sure that the majority of people who do business with them never think twice about it. As long as their orders get fulfilled and shipped promptly, then they think all is well.

      For me, and apparently many others, it’s a different story. I used to shop with B&H because of a recommendation from a reliable friend and resource. I’ve lost faith in them and haven’t done any business since I wrote the article.

      Instead, I’m shopping at Adorama. From what I’ve heard, there’s a relationship between the two businesses. Perhaps so. All I know is that I’ve had better treatment and respect at Adorama than B&H.

  15. B&H are terrible they sell USA products that blow when you plug them in to 240V, and now refuse to help me
    DO NOT BUY FROM THOSE COWBOYS

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