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).
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.