Caveat Emptor: Receiving a Used “New” Camera From Amazon


This is a cautionary tale about a recent experience with Amazon. For Christmas I was the lucky recipient of a Pentax K-5 — a gift from a family member who bought it from my Amazon wish list (Yeah me!). Unfortunately, unwrapping was the last happy moment in this tale.

As soon as I opened the box I suspected that someone had preceded me. I can’t tell you what made me think that, but there was something not right.

When I put the battery in the charger and it immediately showed fully charged, I got more suspicious. I popped the battery in the camera and instead of being greeted by the normal Pentax setup screen, the camera was ready to go with the previously used settings.

I quickly attached a lens and took a single picture, which I then uploaded to CameraShutterCount. The result? My “new” camera had been used 2244 times already:


Final confirmation came when I checked the settings — the time was correct and set for “Chicago” (Central Time) for “Home” and “Travel” zones and some of the custom settings were different from the factory defaults.

Knowing that accidents happen, I contacted Beach Camera. The camera had been ordered and fulfilled by Amazon, but had actually been sold by Beach (at least according to the invoice).

After I explained the situation, Beach asked for the order number/invoice number. I gave them every number on my invoice, and they then declared that the camera had not come from them but from Amazon, and that I would need to talk to Amazon.

Off I went to the Amazon website, where I entered my information and requested an immediate call. Seconds later my phone rang. That would be the last good interaction with Amazon.

The Amazon representative insisted that the issue was with Beach, and after 25 minutes she connected me directly with Beach to work it out with them.

20 more minutes with Beach and more denials. I will say that Beach was pretty convincing. The representative described what one of their invoices should look like and what I had was not even close. Unless they are running a very sophisticated scam, they were telling the truth.

Back I went to the Amazon website to again ask for an immediate call.

The second Amazon representative said that while Amazon had fulfilled the order, it was from Beach stock and not Amazon stock. Despite that, she was attempting to make things right. Unfortunately her options were limited.

The easy fix would have been for Amazon to send me a new camera and for me to send back the “used” one. Not an option. I could return the camera and Amazon would issue me a gift certificate for the purchase price ($749). I could then order a new — really new this time — camera from Amazon.

The only problem was that the only seller who sold a K-5 for $749 was… Beach Camera. I asked if they could guarantee that I would get a new K-5 and not just the same used one again and she admitted she could not. The next closest price was from Adorama for $799. The price from Amazon itself was $950.

After much discussion/yelling/time on hold she offered this: $850 in “credit” for a camera from a non-Amazon retailer or $900 for Amazon itself. What she couldn’t do was offer me the full Amazon price or a one for one swap.

In hindsight I should have taken the $850 and rolled my dice with Adorama, but there was also the time factor. It was going to take a week+ for the return/reorder sequence and I was going to see the giver of the gift in 4 days. The last thing I wanted was for the giver to know any of this. Who wants to find out that instead of being very very generous you got ripped off and gave used goods?

After another stint on hold, the representative came back with a final offer: keep the “used” camera and Amazon would refund half the price as a gift certificate. It was a generous offer that solved my time problem and made getting a used camera a little better. I would have preferred a one for one swap but this was the next best thing and I was already thinking about what lens I could buy.

After almost 2 1/2 hours and three calls we had managed to split the baby and while not happy, I was not angry anymore. A few minutes after hanging up I received this email:


A week passed and I had not received any email with any code, so I called to find out the status of my refund. Instead of getting a status I was told that no refund would be coming. In accordance with Amazon policy, my only option was to return the item for a credit of the purchase price of $749.

The previous offer was made in error and the representative would be disciplined.

To make matters worse, no one, not even Beach, sold a K-5 for $749 any more, so I would have to make up any difference.

At this point I was boiling mad and yelling to the point of my daughter leaving the room. After multiple times on hold I was told return and credit was my only option.

“So what you are telling me is that Amazon fraudulently sold a used camera as new and you are refusing to replace it with a new one or honor your previous agreement to refund half the purchase price”


I was stunned.

Let me say that I have been an Amazon customer since 1999 and have spent thousands of dollars with them. My wife (customer since 2000), daughter (2011) and I are all Prime members and as soon as my son turns 18 he will be too.

I probably buy 80-90% of all non-food items from Amazon and give Amazon gift cards to family/friends who don’t maintain Amazon wish lists. Amazon knows me so well that I actually appreciate the emails telling me about items I might be interested in buying because I probably end up buying one of those items at least once a month. The little box really does bring a big smile for me.

Thus, it would be an understatement to say I felt betrayed.

More yelling and another trip to hold. When the representative returned I was offered the same 50% credit I had originally called to check on. Now that offer was no longer against policy and I am assuming the previous representative no longer faced discipline but I no longer trusted anything I was hearing.

After making the representative repeat the offer, I asked when I would receive the credit and I was assured it would happen now.

Back on hold. After an extended wait the representative came back and explained that instead of a gift card/code they could apply $275 to my credit card and $100 to my account which could only be used on items sold by Amazon. After again being told that Amazon refused to replace my “used but sold as new” camera with a “really new” camera, I reluctantly accepted the offer.


So now I will wait to see if my credit card really does get credited. I have no way of verifying the $100 credit to my Amazon account without purchasing something from Amazon and not a third-party selling on Amazon’s site. For some reason the representative could not understand why I did not trust that the credit is there.

I won’t say that Amazon has lost me as a customer but they have already lost some business. Two days after my initial conversation with them, I braved after-Christmas sale crowds at Best Buy to pick up Journey Collectors Edition (PS3 game) and a Logitech PlayStation 3 Driving Force GT Racing Wheel rather than buy them from Amazon.

Call it reverse “Showrooming” because I did all the research on Amazon but spent my $150 at a brick and mortar store.

Had my account been credited immediately I probably would have spent most of it on a K-01 or all of it on a 70-200mm f/2.8.

Now I will likely apply the $275 toward an Alien Bees 400, and I won’t be ordering anything from Beach Camera either. They might not have been entirely responsible for this, but if you read the reviews for them shipping a used camera would not be out of character for them. Fool me once.

My lessons from this? First, don’t assume that just because you bought something from Amazon they will stand behind the product. Second, whenever you buy a “new” camera, use a shutter count tool to verify that it really is new.

Editor’s note: Robert’s last name has been changed for privacy

  • Libby Stack

    I don’t buy cameras, at least DSLRs, from Amazon anymore. Several years ago a Nikon D200 sent to me was grey market. Now I go direct to a reputable dealer.

  • hawk1500

    But if a product was fulfilled by Amazon, then it means Beach sent the camera to Amazon and all Amazon does is ship it to you when it is sold…it really isn’t Amazon’s product. To be honest, I am surprised that you got half credit for this…although I do realize being on hold, getting the run around and being told conflicting things suck.

  • Chris Newhall

    So you could have had the issue fully taken care of early on, Amazon was trying to get you as many different options as possible, but due to your impatience you screwed it all up.

  • Chris Newhall

    If I was the gift giver I would be more hurt by how stupidly you dealt with this and not at all by the fact that an online resaler made a mistake and sent me a used camera to gift to you.

  • Kieran Grasby

    Ah yes, yelling. That time honoured way of coming off as a reasonable, balanced individual, who has taken the situation on board and is acting accordingly. Oh wait, my bad, it makes you come across as an ass. At what point did you need to yell at anyone during this?

  • David Neitz

    All you need to do is put a product in your cart and go to checkout and you will see if the promo has been applied. Also do not buy anything from Amazon that is not sold by Amazon. Anything that says sold by Amazon or Fulfilled by Amazon leaves their warehouse, if not it’s from a third party source. I thought that was a given…

  • King Lau

    This by far the most ignorant post I have read on PP by far. Seeing the comments below I can see that I am not the only one who shares this opinion. I suggest the OP do some more research before posting a scathing piece blasting a company because he just showed the world how foolish he is. I don’t know what this piece was about other than a personal rant that served to teach people nothing. Amazon’s policies are clear on third party sellers. As a fulfiller all Amazon does is distribute the product of its sellers. If you understood how third party sellers works on Amazon to begin with, then this would have never have happened to you and you would know who to hold accountable. Amazon worked with you and gave you so many options but you rejected them because you didn’t satisfy your need to be completely in the right. So sad. You first mistake was buying Pentax.

  • gochugogi

    I bought a Billingham bag from Amazon and it was obviously used and returned. Even had a clothing store receipt tucked in a pocket from the previous customer! I’ve bought hundreds of items from them without a problem and simply returned the item as defective using their UPS mail label. I received a full credit a 4 or 5 days later. Sheesh, why diddle away your time and energy making a huge deal out of something so easily and quickly fixed?

  • Sean Simpson

    now you know why cheap is cheap.

  • abc

    you know that the site you used to check the shutter count is not completely reliable?

  • Chris

    Amazon owed you a refund. This is the end of the story.

  • mclarlm

    Wow, Amazon really went above and beyond. To the point of taking a loss on the sale. I’ve never read such an entitled rant before.

  • Chris Newhall

    Plus, based off of what you said, it wasn’t even Amazon’s issue. It was the Beach company, even if they kept denying it (that is when you threaten legal action).

    I think that this is a perfect example of Amazon’s amazing customer service. At first they were willing to basically trade the camera out for the equivalent one from a reputable dealer (that was more expensive), and when you refused that they still ended up refunding half the purchase price in the end despite how rude you were..

  • Adam Correia

    You know, buying in a store would have prevented all of the above problems. Just more reasons why consumers still need to rely on retail stores and professionals for advice and proper care.

  • Serhei

    When will they ever learn? You’ve got the lowest legal price at Adorama and BH in the US, everything lower has a catch.

  • Mansgame

    At first I was cynical because who in the right mind buys Pentax and is taken seriously, but then I thought that is wrong and not everybody wants to use the best products for the best prices that you can easily find parts for so I decided to give this a chance.
    Boy did you disappoint me. When you buy from an amazon marketplace vendor, you already know you’re not dealing with amazon. Unless you’re over 60 and are scared of the internet you should know this already.

    What a cry baby.

  • Denisio Fabuloso

    The story reads like my problem with a Canon S100 and the ongoing ‘lens Error Problem’. Six weeks of miserable and unhelpful hell. And still not resolved. Unlike the previous correspondent, it is definitely never again for this sucker.

  • Foster

    No love for amazon here as well. Over the holiday season I had some problems with amazon and they were NOT helpful. They need to be careful or they will push us back to bestbuy (shutter)

  • Foster

    I love the S90, 95, 100 ect but I think I am officially gun-shy to buy another Canon non DSLR. I can not spend 500 bucks on a camera that does not last…can anyone?

  • Juan

    This is really not Amazon’s fault. Is Beach camera’s, they sent a used camera to Amazon’s warehouses to fulfill instead of sending brand new devices. So Amazon actually went beyond their responsibility!!

  • tonyl

    I ran an online store for a few years and for some reason this sort of store brings out the extreme tight wads. They expect better service than a bricks and mortar store provides but will not pay for it. If something goes wrong they expect compensation rather than just a refund.

    Most online sellers’ liability is limited to refunding the money and accepting a return on the product. Customers asking for more than this have personality disorders/control issues/passive aggressive tendencies. It is not the sellers problem if the client is in a hurry.

  • tonyl

    If a client is truly not happy with a product then they should be happy to send it back.
    Some will want to keep the product because they are actually happy with it but they want to use the problem as an excuse to reduce the price.
    It is annoying that the product sent was not what was described. However, luckily you lose nothing by sending it back. This is the risk with buying products which are too cheap to be true. There is always a reason why it is so cheap.

  • Chris Lyn

    What’s wrong with Pentax DSLRs?
    I bet you haven’t even used one.

  • mclarlm

    Indeed. And this guy wants compensation for his time and anguish. Amazon doesn’t need this “customer”.

  • Itto O.

    Dude, it was only $250 more for a genuine Amazon guaranteed new camera. You should have taken the $850 offer and bought the Amazon camera for $100 more. How can you get so wrapped up in the finicky details that you missed the best solution?!

  • KH

    TLDR – at least the comments told me what I needed to know. Glad I didn’t bother.

  • SCRich

    Beach Camera has been around since I was a teenager, even younger and grew up in the North East. They had always been one of the armpits of the industry!! I eventually got into the NYC Camera Sales arena for 2 years and had to get out since I could not stand being disgusted with myself or my employers every night. There are only 2 dealers I would feel 100% comfortable with and that is BH Photo and Adorama. There may be more now but honestly they are the only ones I will deal with if I do not deal with a local.

  • Ridiculous

    You clearly do not understand the difference between Amazon and 3rd-party sellers who use Amazon’s warehouse/shipping services. Your complaint was with Beach Camera, and Amazon did the right thing when they offered to refund your $750 and have you return the unacceptable product. Everything you did after that point was unbelievably rude (yelling at multiple CSRs?!?) but it sounds like Amazon tried to accomodate you as best they could. What an a#!hole.

  • Dave Wetty

    Instead of yelling, I just ask for the reps name, their supervisors name, and address. Them I tell them I’m off to the Better Business Bureau to file a complaint. That gets everything sorted in a hurry.

  • D. W.

    It was a gift from a family member…but you are getting reimbursed….does that sound right to anyone?

  • kwaphoto

    I had the same with an Olympus OM-D shipped and sold by Amazon. It arrived open condition with 1024 actuations. They sent out a new one overnight. It was fine. I still need to return the old one (4 days have passed) as I’ve not been home when UPS has tried to pick it up. Amazon wouldn’t let me just print a return shipping label. No, it had to be a UPS pickup for some odd reason. Not smooth, but not too bad either.

  • Francois

    The two screenshots of the emails are swapped around in this article.

  • eraserhead12

    had the whole “order new, receive used” happen multiple times on Amazon, both directly and via 3rd parties. Thankfully, nothing was worth more than $40, and it would have been too much trouble to deal with CS.

  • Eziz

    Short summary: “The guy was offered store credit, but he couldn’t wait a week”

  • Adam Gasson

    I thought the same – camera for free and $375 back as well. I wish I had the same problem when I bought cameras.

  • Adam Gasson

    The product costs a set amount so the more you save isn’t coming off the product cost it’ll be coming off the services around it (i.e. customer service). I think Amazon did everything they could – sounds more like Beach have successfully duped a seller into thinking it isn’t their problem.

  • Jason

    A very similar thing happened to me when I purchased my Pentax K-7 through Amazon in late 2010. When I received the camera, which was packaged to perfection as new, when I checked the settings, they had been set already and the shutter count was over 700. I immediately contacted Amazon back with my concern via a very detailed email to customer service. The same day, I received a reply back with an apology and their guarantee the camera was advertised as new and was supposed to be delivered as new. Without any argument, they offered to take the camera back for a full refund or offered me a 25% refund to my credit card if I wanted to keep the camera. After 3 days of use and checking it out thoroughly, I decided to keep the camera and accepted the 25% refund, which was around $300 and lived happily ever after. No shouting, being an ass, etc, just a nice level headed email and was returned with a very reasonable offer to return or discount.

  • JJ

    Hey at least he wasn’t sent laminate flooring lol

  • BW

    “You first mistake was buying Pentax.” What a piece of bulls**t man. Pentax makes great cameras! The K5 is one of the best APSC-DSLRs out there.

  • Ivan

    Really? Could you elaborate please?

  • zaak

    guess youve never yelled at anyone before oh great one of patience.

  • zaak

    eff Amazon. always go B&H or Adorama. Beach camera is known to be shady.

  • Darius

    “You first mistake was buying Pentax.”
    Have you ever used a Pentax? If not how do you know that was a mistake? Tell us Mr. Canikon.

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  • Michael Zhang

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention

  • Mead

    One reason to shop for “important” equipment from a brick and mortar store……

  • bob cooley

    You have to check the listings carefully – and you can always ask (via email) before if the item is grey or US warranty.

  • bob cooley

    I’ve bought a ton of equipment through buydig, Beach’s online retailer, and have never had a problem across a dozen orders and over $10k in gear. I’m surprised that the brick and mortar store would be a problem…

  • Huckle_Cat

    Great – you try to share an experience with people and all they do is jump all over you as if it were your fault. Gotta love the internet! While I do believe it was Beach’s fault, it was Amazon’s duty to stand behind their 3rd party vendor and at least put pressure on Beach to correct it for you. I heard that they really lean on the little Marketplace vendors so they could certainly have leaned on Beach if they didn’t want to issue you the refund.

    I also wanted to mention that I had a similar experience with B&H a little over a year ago when I bought a Canon G12 from them. The camera was in cheap scotch-taped bubble wrap, and the wrist strap had been attached. I called to complain and they claimed that that serial number had never been sold. I said that perhaps it was a floor model and would they even give me a small discount because I could have walked into any store locally and been sure that I had a “virgin” camera. They flat out refused, which shocked me because they would know how picky photographers are about expecting a brand-new camera for a brand-new price (i.e., not even on sale). B&H has an excellent reputation but it sounds like they aren’t the only ones to try a bait-and-switch with a used camera for a customer 1500 miles away.

  • umer

    For this very reason I only buy from Adorama. Perfect online store with great customer service, and GOD Forbid if you need to see someone in person for whatever reason, you always can. Lovely people, good business ethics, and pretty high on keeping their customers loyal. Thankyou Adorama, I love you guys.