Liberal Return Policies vs. "has my camera been used?": A way to Solve This

Started 7 months ago | Discussions
ne beginner
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Liberal Return Policies vs. "has my camera been used?": A way to Solve This
7 months ago

There seems to be endless debate here and elsewhere about how many actuations a new, out of the box, camera should have.... or not have. Or what is ethical and\or legal about retailers re-selling returned cameras and lenses as new as long as there is no apparent damage.

Many point of view drive these opinions. Some people are not concerned about receiving an item, and paying full retail price, if it has been pre-sold, used, and returned. Others are not willing to accept that, at least unknowingly. Some people argue that accepting that you may get returned items now and then is acceptable because if keeps retails lower, and allows them to return something without paying a re-stocking fee.

The real question comes down to retailers liberal return policies. It's because of these policies that questions arise in the first place about weather or not an item received is new or used.

It seems to me this this whole issue can be easily resolved if manufacturer ship cameras and lenses with a factory applied seal, like software or other high end electronics. Here's how this would work:

  1. Manufacturers ship cameras and lenses with factory applied seal
  2. As long as the seal is untack, everyone can be 100% assured that their camera or lens is new, out-of-the-box, unused equipment

Retailers can still choose to have liberal return policies. Retailers making that decision are, logically, also choosing to increase their cost in returned goods. They are using this as a marketing tactic to increase top line sales and create customer loyalty. As such, the incremental hit to the return line on their P&L is a marketing expense.

The problem is some retailers also elect to cut corners, and re-sell as new to unsuspecting customers items that have been sold, used, and returned.

Factory sealed cameras and lenses eliminate that problem. They also don't really cost consumer more:

  • Honest retailers who choose liberal return policies will continue to be able to off-set their higher returns costs by the increases revenue and long term loyalty these policies generate. Their prices won't change because that have not been cutting corners all along.
  • Dishonest retailers who choose to cut corners by "recycling" returned items, i.e. re-selling them to unsuspecting customers, at new out-of-the-box prices will be forced, by default, to discontinue that practice.
  • Dishonest retailers who find that they cannot afford their liberal return policies can chooses other marketing tactics that offer better ROI. Either their prices will go up, to their policies will change.

Retailers who want to continue to use liberal return policies as a marketing tactic, but refuse to accept or cannot absorb the higher returns department cost that comes from an honest execution of this tactic, can modify their current plans. Here are a few examples of how to do so:

  • Negotiate a returns allowance with the manufacturer that helps off-set the of cost of selling returns as open boxed items at a discount. Manufacturers already do that, but it is possible that a few retailers are somehow unaware of that.
  • Charge a re-stocking fee to cover the open boxed discount. I'll bet most honest customers would be more than willing to pay a 5% restocking fee for the opportunity to try a camera or lens out, and have be able to return it if you don't like it.
  • Continue to recycle returns, but rather than dishonestly (and illegally) mis-represent those as new out-of-the-box units to unsuspecting customers, come clean and be honest. State clearly, in all posted and public sales and return policies,  that returned items that are determined to be in new working condition are recycled. By letting customers know they may be getting a recycled item on a random bases, they can choose to buy from these retailers. Retailers can advertise that this allows them to have lower everyday prices.

In this way, everyone gets what they expect. What do you think?

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Patrick McMahon
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no thanks....
In reply to ne beginner, 7 months ago

I think a quicker and much less convoluted answer would be to have all retailers collect sales tax. It may not seem like it remotely addresses the issue, but I think it would to a degree, and on all goods too.

It would encourage people to buy from their "local" camera store. I say parens local because that can now be pretty far. And develop a relationship of trust.

It would also encourage our brick and mortars that are getting destroyed by patently unfair business practices...

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michaeladawson
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Re: no thanks....
In reply to Patrick McMahon, 7 months ago

Patrick McMahon wrote:

I think a quicker and much less convoluted answer would be to have all retailers collect sales tax. It may not seem like it remotely addresses the issue, but I think it would to a degree, and on all goods too.

It would encourage people to buy from their "local" camera store. I say parens local because that can now be pretty far. And develop a relationship of trust.

It would also encourage our brick and mortars that are getting destroyed by patently unfair business practices...

Putting aside for the moment whether state sales tax collection would solve the originally stated problem...

What is your objection to putting a seal on the box?

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Nikon J
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Re: Liberal Return Policies vs. "has my camera been used?": A way to Solve This
In reply to ne beginner, 7 months ago

I think it's a good idea.  Dishonest retailers might still find a way around that. It still comes down to buying from someone that you trust. Whether a local B&M, or place like B&H that does a huge  volume of online sales.

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Patrick McMahon
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Re: no thanks....
In reply to michaeladawson, 7 months ago

It is not so much an objection to the seal, but the added burden the seal places on a brick and mortar as opposed to a large retailer like amazon who can have much more influence over a manufacturer.

I like to go in and try out a lenses. The idea that my asking a camera shop to try a lens would effectively reduce the value of a lens because of a seal is unfair. Additionally, the notion that a shop should have one extra of every lens as a trial places another unfair burden on them. Lens are not raspberries, they are not going to be bruised and destroyed by people handling them under the supervision of a sales technician.

I get the concept... but again, if this is something that concerns people then stop shopping at Amazon. And if you don't want to buy from a local, trusted camera shop then buy from a retailer who charges a 20% restocking fee.

And if you buy from Amazon and know that you have a camera that is a return, and it bothers you in some subjective way... return it.

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ne beginner
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More than just the sales tax ...
In reply to Patrick McMahon, 7 months ago

Patrick McMahon wrote:

I think a quicker and much less convoluted answer would be to have all retailers collect sales tax. It may not seem like it remotely addresses the issue, but I think it would to a degree, and on all goods too.

It would encourage people to buy from their "local" camera store. I say parens local because that can now be pretty far. And develop a relationship of trust.

It would also encourage our brick and mortars that are getting destroyed by patently unfair business practices...

From what I can see, the "local camera stores" are getting beat in price as well. As I understand this, local small camera stores have to go through a distributor or wholesaler, which adds a level the chains can avoid. The the chains can negotiate volume discounts. When manufacturers need a bump in sales, they will go to their large customers and offer a deal, so again the chains and wholesalers can get additional discounts. Chains are typically more efficient, due their scale, in negotiating fixed expenses, like overhead, so they can spread their costs out more, and work off lower margins, than the small local guys.

So, all that said, while tax is a part of it,  I believe there are many disadvantages, besides taxes that, added together, contribute to more to the gap.

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Patrick McMahon
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Re: More than just the sales tax ...
In reply to ne beginner, 7 months ago

ne beginner wrote:

Patrick McMahon wrote:

I think a quicker and much less convoluted answer would be to have all retailers collect sales tax. It may not seem like it remotely addresses the issue, but I think it would to a degree, and on all goods too.

It would encourage people to buy from their "local" camera store. I say parens local because that can now be pretty far. And develop a relationship of trust.

It would also encourage our brick and mortars that are getting destroyed by patently unfair business practices...

From what I can see, the "local camera stores" are getting beat in price as well. As I understand this, local small camera stores have to go through a distributor or wholesaler, which adds a level the chains can avoid. The the chains can negotiate volume discounts. When manufacturers need a bump in sales, they will go to their large customers and offer a deal, so again the chains and wholesalers can get additional discounts. Chains are typically more efficient, due their scale, in negotiating fixed expenses, like overhead, so they can spread their costs out more, and work off lower margins, than the small local guys.

So, all that said, while tax is a part of it, I believe there are many disadvantages, besides taxes that, added together, contribute to more to the gap.

The beauty is that we have minimum price requirements by the manufacturers. You take away the $200 to $500 price difference that a brick and mortar is forced to bear- you get them back in the ball game. That is huge money! Any store- no matter the product - will tell you that is why internet retailers inflict the pain.

You have a new Nikon DSLR selling for the sale amount of money across the board- you have more brick and mortars and more trust.

The very notion that a D4s would effectively "lose value" because someone simply broke the seal on a box is ridiculous to me. This high precision, tough, flagship camera should be devalued even if it had never been touched after leaving the factory. Remember- the broken seal on program was different, you could NOT return it.

Again, I think my solutions regarding the shopping habits of an individual concerned with this is the fairest. It seems unfair to burden small business with trust issue you have with your online retailer. I think it is far better for the consumer to take the (very easy and uncomplicated) responsibility rather than impose the proposed "regulatory scheme."

And, hey, if we are going to impose some Amazon.com friendly restraints on the little guy, lets make it fun! How about rather than a seal we put a dye pack that can only be de-activated if the 2nd purchaser is provided a "nullifier" which by virtue of it's being provided signals it is a resale. Man I would purchase all second hand gifts and leave out the "nullifier"... "Happy Birthday!" "Oh, you shouldn't have! BOOM!" Or when you return a camera you spray paint it pink so the next person knows it was a return.

I mean- if you are going to kill what little business my local retailer has left, make it creative.

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Full Frame
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Re: Liberal Return Policies vs. "has my camera been used?": A way to Solve This
In reply to ne beginner, 7 months ago

I am sure that every X amount of cameras are pulled from the assembly line and tested. Are they used. What is acceptable actuations. What about having outside of every box shipped from manufacturer and retailer have the number of actuations on it. This way you know what you are buying.

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Patrick McMahon
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Re: Liberal Return Policies vs. "has my camera been used?": A way to Solve This
In reply to Full Frame, 7 months ago

Full Frame wrote:

I am sure that every X amount of cameras are pulled from the assembly line and tested. Are they used. What is acceptable actuations. What about having outside of every box shipped from manufacturer and retailer have the number of actuations on it. This way you know what you are buying.

My Df had 200+ which I (and others) welcomed, they upped their QC. To some though, that is a 1% use of the shutters life.

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Pathopfinger
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Re: Liberal Return Policies vs. "has my camera been used?": A way to Solve This
In reply to Full Frame, 7 months ago

I would have purchased my latest camera at the local B&M as they were quoting the same price as a large mail order firm, but they didn't have it in stock.  Granted I didn't pay sales tax and the mail order outfit included a few extras, but having the camera in hand today was the deciding factor.  Said another way the going with mail order did not save me hundreds.

BTW the B&M still doesn't have the camera in stock though they said they expected it last week.

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ne beginner
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But to some people, those 200 actuations ...
In reply to Patrick McMahon, 7 months ago

Patrick McMahon wrote:

My Df had 200+ which I (and others) welcomed, they upped their QC. To some though, that is a 1% use of the shutters life.

To some people it seems, those 200 actuations you discovered on a supposedly factory new camera could also mean the retailer sold it, let some one use it, then return in for whatever reason, and sell it to you.

After all, we don't know for sure that its Nikon testing these at the factory. We're just supposing that's the case, based on what some camera store sales reps are telling customers who question them about the actuations.

Why not put a factory seal on the box? Then there would be zero question that Nikon technicians did it at the factory, and the camera was 100% new.

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ne beginner
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Why not just put a factory seal on the box?
In reply to Full Frame, 7 months ago

Full Frame wrote:

I am sure that every X amount of cameras are pulled from the assembly line and tested. Are they used. What is acceptable actuations. What about having outside of every box shipped from manufacturer and retailer have the number of actuations on it. This way you know what you are buying.

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That way, everyone would know with 100% certainty that the new camera or lens they purchased was not sold, returned, then resold? On a camera, any actuations would have been performed at the factory by Nikon technicians.

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Peter Jonas
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Re: Liberal Return Policies vs. "has my camera been used?": A way to Solve This
In reply to Patrick McMahon, 7 months ago

Patrick McMahon wrote:

Full Frame wrote:

I am sure that every X amount of cameras are pulled from the assembly line and tested. Are they used. What is acceptable actuations. What about having outside of every box shipped from manufacturer and retailer have the number of actuations on it. This way you know what you are buying.

My Df had 200+ which I (and others) welcomed, they upped their QC. To some though, that is a 1% use of the shutters life.

If the 200 actuations were infact were part of a factory QA testing I would not mind it at all.

I would agree however, that a note in the box from the manufacturer to that effect would be useful.

The 200 actuations are closer to being 0.1% of the Df's shutter life.

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Peter Jonas

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ne beginner
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Re: More than just the sales tax ...
In reply to Patrick McMahon, 7 months ago

Patrick McMahon wrote:

The beauty is that we have minimum price requirements by the manufacturers. You take away the $200 to $500 price difference that a brick and mortar is forced to bear- you get them back in the ball game. That is huge money! Any store- no matter the product - will tell you that is why internet retailers inflict the pain.

You have a new Nikon DSLR selling for the sale amount of money across the board- you have more brick and mortars and more trust.

Do you mean MAP pricing?  Minimum advertised price?  Yes, that would make it harder for a large chain to sell a camera or lens for less than the MAP.  But that still does not level the playing field.

Suppose I am a manufacturer, and I sell a camera body for $1,000 to anyone that buys it directly from me. To do that, they must buy a minimum quantity per order.  So a chain and a wholesaler can meet that minimum, but you as an independent must buy from a wholesaler. The wholesaler sell it to you for $1,250.  I then set a MAP of $1,500.  The chain can sell it for $1,500 and make 33% margin. Do to their efficiencies, they need 12% to cover their overhead. Let's say they need 12% for promotion and advertising. That leaves 9% profit.  You the independent need 15% just for overhead. That leaves you with 2%. But you need 5% for advertising just to maintain minimum awareness in the market that you exist.  So you are loosing money if you match the big guys.

The very notion that a D4s would effectively "lose value" because someone simply broke the seal on a box is ridiculous to me. This high precision, tough, flagship camera should be devalued even if it had never been touched after leaving the factory. Remember- the broken seal on program was different, you could NOT return it.

I agree, it is a precision piece of equipment. It is tough, built for the way a pro in the field would use it.  But not all Nikon DSLR's are D4's, and not all lenses are 24-70 f2.8's.

You are assuming that breaking the seal means a careful and respectful guy like you just wants to hold it in the shop, snap off a few shots maybe. If that were the case, I'm cool with it.

But when a camera or lens is sold, it leaves the store for a period of time. For 14 to as many as 30 days.  Suppose the guy bought the camera to use at a boat race because he didn't want to risk getting his own camera exposed to salt air.  He's gonna return it anyway, so he leaves the lens off for 10, 15 minutes at a time, body up ... on the beach blanket, while the kids toss a frisbee around.

Or maybe the guy is just like you, but when carefully taking that 70-100 f2.8 lens off his body, he does the unthinkable and drops it.  Luckily there was a thin carpet over the hard wood, so there's no visible damage. And not tinkle when you shake it. It will still AF, but everything on the left is OOF from 2.8 to 5.6. He feels guilty, but if he fesses up, he's out $2,500 and has to send the lens in for major out of warranty service.

I don't want either of those items. Do you?

Again, I think my solutions regarding the shopping habits of an individual concerned with this is the fairest. It seems unfair to burden small business with trust issue you have with your online retailer. I think it is far better for the consumer to take the (very easy and uncomplicated) responsibility rather than impose the proposed "regulatory scheme."

What burden? What regulatory scheme?  I'm talking about a seal on the box that guarantees the camera has not been sold, mishandled, returned, then sold unknowingly to me ... who paid full price for it.

And, hey, if we are going to impose some Amazon.com friendly restraints on the little guy, lets make it fun! How about rather than a seal we put a dye pack that can only be de-activated if the 2nd purchaser is provided a "nullifier" which by virtue of it's being provided signals it is a resale. Man I would purchase all second hand gifts and leave out the "nullifier"... "Happy Birthday!" "Oh, you shouldn't have! BOOM!" Or when you return a camera you spray paint it pink so the next person knows it was a return.

How does a seal hurt the little guy? Or Amazon? Unless the little guy ... or big guy ... wants to sell and resell the same item over and over again?  And if you want to do that, you can still do it ... the only difference is that the consumer who paid good money for it knows the score.

I mean- if you are going to kill what little business my local retailer has left, make it creative.

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Peter Jonas
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Re: But to some people, those 200 actuations ...
In reply to ne beginner, 7 months ago

ne beginner wrote:

Patrick McMahon wrote:

My Df had 200+ which I (and others) welcomed, they upped their QC. To some though, that is a 1% use of the shutters life.

To some people it seems, those 200 actuations you discovered on a supposedly factory new camera could also mean the retailer sold it, let some one use it, then return in for whatever reason, and sell it to you.

After all, we don't know for sure that its Nikon testing these at the factory. We're just supposing that's the case, based on what some camera store sales reps are telling customers who question them about the actuations.

If the language and date/time settings are not done, one can be reasonably confident (although perhaps not 100% certain) that the camera has not been sold before.

Why not put a factory seal on the box? Then there would be zero question that Nikon technicians did it at the factory, and the camera was 100% new.

I would agree the seal would help a lot. I am not quite sure why manufacturers don't do it. Although, when I recently bought my Fuji camera, not the box, but the plastic bag in which the camera was wrapped inside the box was sealed. That's OK too.

Consumer protection legislation could also help. Simply could make it illegal to sell an item as new when it has been previously sold.

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ne beginner
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It's not the 1% of shutter life ... it's who was doing the clicking, and where ...
In reply to Peter Jonas, 7 months ago

Peter Jonas wrote:

Patrick McMahon wrote:

Full Frame wrote:

I am sure that every X amount of cameras are pulled from the assembly line and tested. Are they used. What is acceptable actuations. What about having outside of every box shipped from manufacturer and retailer have the number of actuations on it. This way you know what you are buying.

My Df had 200+ which I (and others) welcomed, they upped their QC. To some though, that is a 1% use of the shutters life.

If the 200 actuations were infact were part of a factory QA testing I would not mind it at all.

I would agree however, that a note in the box from the manufacturer to that effect would be useful.

The 200 actuations are closer to being 0.1% of the Df's shutter life.

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Cheers,
Peter Jonas

Same here.  If Nikon did it at the factory, great. It probably means extra attention checking in something ... something that if they did not check it, I might have to discover ... and deal with ... all on my own later.

It's not the 200 actuations, or the % of shutter life. It's who was clicking away.  Some guy in the beach with sand blowing around? Or a Nikon technician making sure everything was 100% right?

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ne beginner
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Re: But to some people, those 200 actuations ...
In reply to Peter Jonas, 7 months ago

Peter Jonas wrote:

ne beginner wrote:

Patrick McMahon wrote:

My Df had 200+ which I (and others) welcomed, they upped their QC. To some though, that is a 1% use of the shutters life.

To some people it seems, those 200 actuations you discovered on a supposedly factory new camera could also mean the retailer sold it, let some one use it, then return in for whatever reason, and sell it to you.

After all, we don't know for sure that its Nikon testing these at the factory. We're just supposing that's the case, based on what some camera store sales reps are telling customers who question them about the actuations.

If the language and date/time settings are not done, one can be reasonably confident (although perhaps not 100% certain) that the camera has not been sold before.

Why not put a factory seal on the box? Then there would be zero question that Nikon technicians did it at the factory, and the camera was 100% new.

I would agree the seal would help a lot. I am not quite sure why manufacturers don't do it. Although, when I recently bought my Fuji camera, not the box, but the plastic bag in which the camera was wrapped inside the box was sealed. That's OK too.

Yes, on the item itself, sealed inside the box is just as good, I would think.  One reason they may not seal the box is so they can get inside and change out the literature, add something, etc.  Some cameras may be intended for more than once country of sale, so the contents of the box, the language, adapter, etc may be added downstream from the factory.

But I also suspect this is a grandfather thing, from when expensive cameras and lenses were sold by local stores and not big boxes and mail order, where the local sales person showed you how to use your new gear.  Part of that was probably the local camera store sales person being able to show you different lenses and cameras, when they could not have demo units for everything.

The difference was of course that the local camera guy was with you, like a new car test drive. He had a vested interested that the gear was carefully handled.  He was not letting you test drive it on your own for a week or so.

Consumer protection legislation could also help. Simply could make it illegal to sell an item as new when it has been previously sold.

It is, in most states, but I suspect not enforced.

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Cheers,
Peter Jonas

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Selling My Nikon Stuff
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Eliminate Retailers
In reply to ne beginner, 7 months ago

I would be in favor of eliminating retailers altogether and buying cameras and lenses straight from the manufacturer. That way the manufacturer can recertify and refurbish returned items, and save buyers the dealer profit.

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Full Frame
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Re: It's not the 1% of shutter life ... it's who was doing the clicking, and where ...
In reply to ne beginner, 7 months ago

ne beginner wrote:

Peter Jonas wrote:

Patrick McMahon wrote:

Full Frame wrote:

I am sure that every X amount of cameras are pulled from the assembly line and tested. Are they used. What is acceptable actuations. What about having outside of every box shipped from manufacturer and retailer have the number of actuations on it. This way you know what you are buying.

My Df had 200+ which I (and others) welcomed, they upped their QC. To some though, that is a 1% use of the shutters life.

If the 200 actuations were infact were part of a factory QA testing I would not mind it at all.

I would agree however, that a note in the box from the manufacturer to that effect would be useful.

The 200 actuations are closer to being 0.1% of the Df's shutter life.

-- hide signature --

Cheers,
Peter Jonas

Same here. If Nikon did it at the factory, great. It probably means extra attention checking in something ... something that if they did not check it, I might have to discover ... and deal with ... all on my own later.

It's not the 200 actuations, or the % of shutter life. It's who was clicking away. Some guy in the beach with sand blowing around? Or a Nikon technician making sure everything was 100% right?

Think about it, what incentive do thy have to do anything. It is not in their interest. We have to pull teeth just to get a software upgrade. Lets see what happens with the trap focus for D800.

 Full Frame's gear list:Full Frame's gear list
Nikon D800 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR Sigma 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM
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Patrick McMahon
Senior MemberPosts: 1,212Gear list
Like?
Re: More than just the sales tax ...
In reply to ne beginner, 7 months ago

There is a whole host of "what if's" and "how abouts..." that boil down to a consumer either:

1. Not taking responsibility for their own informed choice of retailer.

2. Choosing to purchase from an online retailer to avoid tax.

3. Choosing to purchase from a retailer to potentially take advantage of a liberal return policy if they have buyers remorse/ unhappy.

And I think it is mostly a combination of the the three.

Your initial post contains a whole host of various rules and hoops a retailer may be forced to jump through that Amazon and Alibaba will negotiate away with the greatest of ease.

Like I said, I like to go in and try things out. Last thing I tried was a piece of Zeiss glass under "supervision." Your regulatory scheme would have that camera store take a completely unnecessary loss on that lens (hundreds of lenses)... Amazon would never take such a loss by virtue of its business model.

So in order to try a lens I would need to purchase from Amazon because of their liberal return policies...

Again, if you purchase a piece of equipment which you know has been used and it subjectively bothers you, return it and stop doing business with them. If it is simply a case of black helicopter paranoia then... well... I don't know what to say.

Is my "nullifier" idea going to get panned? I mean what would be more fun than that!

 Patrick McMahon's gear list:Patrick McMahon's gear list
Nikon D700 Nikon Df Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II Nikon AF Nikkor 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5D IF ED Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED +6 more
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