Camera Shop Charges $30 “Explanation Fee” for Handling Its Cameras

Here’s another sign of the changing times: so many camera shoppers are turning to the Internet for deals that some cameras shops are now charging fees for customers who want to test out their cameras. The Daily Telegraph writes,

Camera House Caringbah owner Craig Mackenzie charges a $30 “explanation fee” to customers looking to test out his high-end cameras.”I’ve got to pick the people who won’t screw me over,” Mr Mackenzie said.

“If I pick the wrong one, he’ll waste half an hour of my time and will then ask me to write it all down.”

A survey conducted by the paper of more than 1000 people also revealed that 61% had tried out products in local stores before actually buying them online, and half of those people had done so more than five times.

(via Daily Telegraph via Sydney Morning Herald)

Image credit: Camera Store by Helga’s Lobster Stew

  • Spider- Man

    If I could find a local store that sold stuff I needed I would buy there! Till then B&H!

  • Guest

    This is stupid. Camera stores already have insane prices. The lens I bought the other day was $20 more than canon’s suggested retail price! and $30 more than Amazon. 

  • Jeremiah Warren

    They should remove the $30 fee if someone buys it from that store, would be a good incentive. 

  • Michael Thompson

    If someone said that to me in a store, see ya, I’m off down the street.

  • Megan R.

    This is ridiculous. Who cares if people are buying online after trying out the cameras in stores? It’s the shop’s responsibility to give service to all customers equally, even the window shoppers. A more sane option would be to simply ask whether their intentions were to buy elsewhere and give first priority to other customers, helping the online shoppers afterward. So in the end even if you want to purchase in the store you still have to pay a 30 dollar mark up to legitimize the labor that naturally arises from customer service.

  • Rick Bennett

    That’s a tough call. I certainly understand retailers’ frustration at competition from internet retailers. If they brick&mortar retailer performs a service for the customer, then they should be compensated. Knowing exactly what size dress or ski boot or wet suit you need? That’s something you can’t easily get from the internet. The camera store has a tricky balancing act though–give the customer a disincentive to come in and they’ll think twice before setting foot in your store. At what point does learning about a camera’s features become technical training? Definitely a tough business climate out there.

  • Wanderingbear

    Oh, Ok,! os if I have to get my info from the internet, then I will get my Camera from the internet too.  He will be go bust soon with “great’ Customer service like that. All the times I have been to B&H their advisors give me quality advice, I can try gear, & I ALWAYS buy more than I went in there for…… Being nice & helpful still is profitable.

  • Al

    That is moronic! If a store that I chose to patronize wanted to charge me a $30 fee to handle a high end camera that I MIGHT buy, guess what I won’t patronize the establishment. Just a dumb move, major turn off.

  • Anonymous

    Above SRP is always ridiculous.  But if it were SRP and only $30 more than Amazon, it’s not a bad deal just to be able to get it locally.  Sometimes I buy using Amazon because none of the local stores stock it.

  • Casey Myers

    The store should just match the online prices that way the customer has no excuse not to by from the them. Local camera shops are going out of business becouse their prices are just to high.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think it’s that simple, though this store owner probably needs to find a better way.  It’s not the store front’s responsibility to be the no-cost showroom for an internet competitor.

    The problem with asking about their buying intentions is that it’s easy to lie, so your suggestion doesn’t seem workable either.

  • Flgraphics

    Great way to drive more customers to buy from the web… great idea dude

  • mrinsane

    Sure – except what about the fact they will go broke by matching online prices? You understand that physical stores carry alot more staff than online ones, and obviously then there’s the expense of the shopfront itself – it all has to be paid somehow.

  • Frankanthony00

    I often buy from my local camera store, even though I know Im paying more. Camera stores offer personal service, and expertise, online stores do not have showrooms, giving them a competitive advantage. Im sure this store doesnt charge it’s regular clientele this fee, if they do then that is very stupid, but to charge window shoppers that only go buy on the internet to save a few bucks, I totally agree.
     I would hate to see the last remaining camera stores close shop.   

  • Anonymous

    Online retailers very often sell for less than what the brick and mortar stores have to pay just to stock the item. And even more often the online retailers are selling below MAP, which the brick and mortar stores are required to sell at. It’s not that easy, just lowering prices. It’s like telling mom and pop grocers to go eff themselves because they cannot compete with walmart prices. Do you really want all walmart all the time?

  • Anonymous

    This is how people need to think. Thanks for keeping your head on straight Frank.

  • NDT

    You’ve obviously never tried running a business. Do you seriously think a physical store with overheads like sales staff, retail rent, cleaners, and myriad other costs can compete with a warehouse style streamlined operation with minimal operating costs???  You pay more because you are getting advice and the ability to touch and hold the product before purchase, and you have somewhere physical to return if there are any problems. The problem these days is that all people care about is price, and believe me, most people would drive 10miles to save a dollar.

  • NDT

    Further to my post, i would like to add that physical stores will certainly compete on price, and you should never pay the ticket price, but people have to realise that its hard for them to sell for what these bulk order online stores sell for, people need to understand the value of a physical store and that the small premium you pay for your product is buying much more than your item. You should be more concerned about companies  region-fixing prices, thats where the consumer REALLY gets screwed, grey market products from other countries are sometimes insanely cheaper that local prices. Just look at Adobe products

  • Stacia7

    Not everyone can walk into B&H and handle equipment though… 

  • Stacia7

    Hard for local camera stores to buy the amounts of goods that online retailers can – therefore they do not get prices like online retailers.  Do you really think there is a huge amount of profit in lenses and bodies?  Think again…

  • Stacia7

    Go Christian!  I personally hope for more choices than all walmart (which is not always that cheap) all the time!

  • NDT

    The shop has no responsibility to you unless you are a legitimate customer. You as an online shopper are not worth 1 second of the retailers time. They dont owe you a damn thing.

  • RobL

    Hi All. One thing you have to realise is that this is an Australian store. We here in Australia can pay >MUCH< higher prices that you people in the US do for the same items. We call it the "Australia" tax (not an "official" tax – just that we have to pay premium prices). I'm happy paying a moderate premium for service and the fact that it's a local distributor, but the savings made by buying online can be huge. For instance, I bought a lens recently. The cheapest retail price I could find was AU$850. Over the net, including a premium UV filter and insured shipping I got it for less than $AU700. Another example, I bought a camera bag at a bricks and mortar store. It cost me AU$15, after a cash discount. At the time, this same bag was listed at about US$75 on the B&H website (but shipping to AUS was ~$99, wiping out the savings!) Note: the AU$ is about par with the US$, so exchange rates aren't an issue.
    Charging $30 to look at a camera – this is cutting off your nose to spite your face. I think it will backfire for them in the long term.

  • RobL

    Edit – the camera bag was $150 not $15…

  • Richard Ford

    Well if they charged competitive prices in the first place and overhauled their business processes then they wouldn’t have a problem.

  • NDT

    This is a result (usually) of inflated region pricing, not retail mark-up. They cant be (as) competitive if the wholesale is higher to begin with.

  • Foveator

    Here’s what will happen in the stores that survive: The store will charge you $30 or whatever is reasonable… or perhaps a wee bit unreasonable… so you can decide what camera you want with what features. You will have hands on training and know the feel and actions of the camera first hand. If you decide to buy the camera from that store, you will be credited the $30. If you buy elsewhere, the camera store has provided a service and you paid them for it. What’s fair is fair.

  • headhunter666


  • Sharon

    I work in a camera store, but in the minilab not sales, so while I don’t do actual camera sales I do see the business side of it every day. 

    Camera shops would love to be able to match the online retailer’s prices. Unfortunately it’s really not possible. There really isn’t a very big markup on a lot of the cameras & lenses. If I had a dollar for every customer who’s asked us to match B&H’s price only for us to see that our cost is more than B&H is selling the same item for I’d be able to get myself a nice camera upgrade! 

    And then there are the customers who want to buy from us when the price is close, but they want us to not charge the sales tax. We’re not breaking the law for you! “I don’t pay sales tax if I buy it online” is not a valid argument! If you get audited you will find that just because the online retailer doesn’t collect sales tax from you, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay it. 

    Charging the $30 fee for someone to look at cameras is going a bit too far, but I understand the frustration that led to it. We’ve had people come in, look at cameras, go home and buy one online, and then bring it in to ask for help on how to use it. There is, unfortunately, no good solution. That customer who brings in the camera he bought online to ask you questions may end up buying a bunch of accessories from you. Or he may buy his next camera from you because of the service he got. With sales what they are you can’t afford to turn away customers and you never know which of the browsers may just become a real customer. 

  • 8fps

    Most camera stores offer their stuff online in parallel.

  • DC

    I buy my lenses on the internet -new, not used- sometimes paying >400€ less than what they cost in stores here in Portugal.;) Now that’s ridiculous.

  • Iatetheman

    Pretty sure this story is BS, this store is not five minutes from where i live, i went to buy a polarizing filter from there, a okish hoya, asking price was $90 and laughed, without saying anything they offered it to me for 60.  Its always better to spend a little bit extra and support a local business.

  • PJ

    As an employee of a retail store, there is nothing more discouraging than investing time and energy in a customer and to have them come back later to buy… accessories because they bought the camera online to save sales tax.  Didn’t they drive on roads that were paid for in part with sales tax.

  • camera_store_employee

    As someone who makes their living selling cameras and services I can tell you that I have this happen all the time.
    Our store price matches all licensed dealers (Including those online) and most of the time it is cheaper.  However this still happens because taxes not being collected online cause a price difference.
    I still provide service to everyone but it does suck that a window browser costs me money by taking up my time when I could be selling a camera to someone else.
    The sense of entitlement to service without paying for it is pretty rampant and personally if I need information when going to a shop I will let them know that I am just browsing and that if another customer comes in please help them.  
    I find a simple questions like are you thinking about buying today, and if not why.  If it’s a price objection I will try to get you the best price we can offer even if it costs me money.  If they tell me they are looking and planning on buying online and I can’t match the price I will still offer you service but I will ask if it’s okay if I go sell a camera and return to you.  Lets face it I need to put food on my plate and dog food in my dogs bowl. 

  • Eddie Smith

    After 25 years in CE retail (including Cameras), i can sympathize. The fee is the wrong reaction though. if he wants to compete he has to price match and offer service the online guys can’t (one local chain here offers courses for instance)
    the toughest part is for US stores where you can avoid the tax by shipping across a state border. this is just stupid on the Gov’t part lost revenue for all the states.
    In Canada you charge the tax of the province you ship to, and if it is coming in from out of the country the courier/postal service is required to collect the taxes (and any duties – couriers also charge a hefty admin fee for this the post office doesn’t charge anywhere near as much)

    Probably one of the reasons we still have a reasonably good B&M presence.

    At a bare minimum if he persists in the fee he should offer double the fee back on higher price items if purchased from him to give an incentive to return. That and the service better be damn good but it’s probably not given his attitude

    Personally when buying new I will buy locally if it is competitive and available (and it usually is)
    Used gear I will buy where i can find the piece i want at the price i want (frequently KEH but i buy local as well)

  • Michael

    Living in Walmart’s corporate backyard I can say with absolute certainty that ‘mom and pop’ grocers CAN compete with Walmart and be successful.  It’s all about differentiating themselves on products and services offered.

  • Karkuk14

    this is an incredible story, the guy is a total prick! fortunately this is in Australia, but why its incredible to me is that it proves that most camera shops seller and people are total pricks. this is the very reason i stopped buying locally, it had nothing to do with the prices at first, at least thats in michigan where i live. As soon as you go on and ask a question especially if its a amateur question since i am one, they immediately belittle you, and almost bully you the way they answer you. i have had this experience in 4 out 5 stores i went so did my other colleagues. but this guy is flat out stupid this will surely back fire on him and drive more business through the internet, i mean the price different alone can come out to saving over 300 to 500$ on some lenses not just a merely tax!! AND you cannot compare the evil empire of walmart with mom and pop grocery shops, which i support 100%, this is an electronic shop that charge premium for no good F*****ING reason other than their arrogance, and i will never feel sorry that they need to put food on their plate or there dog, like the other guy said in an earlier post, come on get real! there is no reason not to shop on internet, you get reviews you get sample photos, you get to ask question of other owners of equipment all without the hassle of an arrogant salesman. plus these shops will only tell you BS info they have never let me touch or take out a lens and see it but that i can understand, its their arrogance and price hikes that they can shove it!

  • Guest

    I think you meant MAP, not MSRP.  No one is able to actually sell at MSRP.  The fact is, Canon allows dealers to make about 7% margin on their lenses if you sell at MAP (which you have to in order to sell merchandise).  Pay with a credit card, and now t hat store is making MAYBE 4%.  So that $1000 lens you just bought – the store maybe made $40.  Sad, huh?  

  • Charlie

    Why are you clowns bagging the retailer?  It’s the manufacturers and importers you should be going after.  It is they who charge a massive markup on stock they sell, and are driving camera stores out of business.  Just compare prices on Sony Style AU to Sony Style US.  The Oz prices are on average 40% higher, and that’s with an exchange rate that is roughly parity.To all the Americans on here, you have no conception of the markup we have to pay here in Oz for the privelige of a ‘genuine’ import. 

  • Tobias Roybal

    B&H is not an internet store in New York, meaning they have a store you can walk into as well. So they must have workers in the store to sell you items as well. So to me B&H and Adorama have figured out the business and how to get ahead by having a store front as well as a presence on the web.  So everyone stating internet prices are cheaper (at B&H and Adorama) they can be cheaper at local camera stores too?  

  • Tiktian C

    how do they know which is which?

  • Tiktian C

    In hong kong I can just go to the nikon or canon or whatnot showrooms and play with d4’s and 1dx’s… what’s the difference?