Circuit City Sells Counterfeit Camera For $1134.99, Customer Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Circuit City sold Ronald a fake camera for $1134.99, and now they’re holding the fake and his money hostage. The camera was no Kodak disposable, but a Nikon D90 Digital SLR. When he opened the box at home, inside was a D50 covered with crappy D90 stickers and affixed with a fake serial plate. Circuit City should give him his money back or a new D90. Why should Ronald be punished for Circuit City’s inability to maintain control over their supply chain? He shouldn’t. He should file a chargeback with his credit card company. Ronald’s letter of complaint to Circuit City’s consumer affairs group (, inside…

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to convey my displeasure concerning an ongoing, completely unsatisfactory retail experience with Circuit City. Yesterday, October 28, 2008, I purchased a Nikon D90 Digital SLR camera at store number 854 for $1021.49 ($1134.99 -10% coupon) plus Maryland state sales tax. It was sold as new and unopened. Upon unboxing later that evening, I discovered the camera was in fact counterfeit. A lesser model, the D50, had been altered to appear to be a D90. Crude D90 stickers covered the model badging and a false serial plate was placed on the underside. A number of accessories were also missing and the included product information was entirely Spanish. (If needed, I can provide all serial numbers attributed to the box and its contents and photos to support my statements)

I contacted the store via telephone early this morning and explained my findings to the Floor Leader, Charles. He was immediately suspicious of me and first and foremost explained that I should not expect an immediate refund or exchange, and that they needed the camera to “investigate.” I visited the store this afternoon to return the camera and review my options with Charles. Charles again stated he would not refund or exchange the counterfeit camera and stated loss prevention was going to investigate, and that I would be contacted in 24-48 hours. He was not open to, nor would he discuss any alternatives. The Manager on duty made no attempt to address the situation. The Floor Leader simply ran back and forth between me and the manager conveying next steps and my options.

I returned to the store later in the afternoon on October 30, 2008 to take pictures of the counterfeit camera for my reference and to obtain a record from the store stating they were in possession of the merchandise. The gentleman I worked with earlier in the morning, Charles, was “on his way out the door” and would not see me. The Manager on duty would not see me either. The CSA Supervisor stated he was the Manager and would help me. The record I obtained from the store to state they are in possession of the counterfeit camera was a handwritten note and initials on the bottom of my receipt. This is simply unbelievable for a major retail chain. I was told “Nikon was tracking the serial numbers.” I frankly do not understand why I am being held “hostage” in this matter. The fact that Circuit City has somehow allowed counterfeit/altered products into its supply chain is not the consumers’ problem, yet, the consumer is being held at fault for this issue. The store and it’s staff have from my perspective, labeled me guilty until proven innocent.

The customer service staff made no effort to apologize for my inconvenience ( I live 30 miles from the store, and I’m facing four to five trips to take care of this) or for the sheer embarrassment of a major specialty retail outlet selling customers counterfeit merchandise. I am deeply disappointed in Circuit City’s handling of this situation thus far.

In the end, I sit here writing this account with no faith in the company or it’s store employees, no camera, and Circuit City holding approximately $1100 of my funds.

I hope to expedite the handling of this issue and pass along my observations of store personnel and vague policies that continue to damage the reputation of your company.


Ronald P.


Edit Your Comment

  1. DJBS77 says:

    I guess this is a little better than opening what appeared to be a brand new box and finding a bunch of bathroom tile.

    • Anonymous says:


      Exactly. I bought a Seagate HDD at Best Buy…one that was on sale and hard to find. Three stores later, I found one left on the shelf, new and shrinkwrapped. Got home….there was a full can of Pepsi and some yellowbook pages inside.

      Took it back to the BB closest to me and the manager refused to return it, saying it was the store’s issue where I bought it, not his. I stood my ground and told him there was no way I was leaving without a) a new HDD or b) a full refund – I told him to check my Rewards card to see I had spent thousands there within the past year and I wasn’t about to scam them over $125.

      As for this story and Circuit City – we were perplexed when they opened a brand new store next to our house this summer…..some 11 miles from one that’s been there for years and literally in view of a Best Buy that’s new and not all that busy. I’d venture a guess the existing CC will close and the new one will stay open.

  2. SkokieGuy says:

    Interesting issue. Obviously the OP expects to be believed and taken at face value.

    Assuming he is telling the truth, how does any business, even sucktastick CC determine his legitimate issue from someone buying a camera from a street vendor and trying to return it claiming the exact same scenario?

    • JohnDeere says:

      @SkokieGuy: open another one. if its in the supply chain more than one will be there. they have shrinkwrap machines they can make it look new again.

    • Corporate_guy says:

      @SkokieGuy: It’s simple. Circuit city does not have policies in place to prevent items like this from being returned and resold. So it doesn’t matter if they believe him or not. Next time instead of just validating serial numbers at the time of return(assuming they even did that), they should log serials that are sold and returned. If they did that they would know within seconds if the item was a return and they should also know the employee who accepted the fraudulent return and should have logged the dln number of the person who returned it. Circuit city, with minimal effort, could prevent things like this. They did not, they need to take the hit. Not the customer.

      • SkokieGuy says:

        @Corporate_guy: This is still trusting CC to do everything you propose. I assume they already have procedures in place (open the box, make sure everything inside) that clearly, based on other Consumerist stories, are not being followed.

        Increasing the return documentation will likely decrease compliance, but regardless, it still puts the consumer in the position of trusting the store to create a return trail to prevent this.

        Frankly, opening the box and matching box and product serial numbers while in the store is the consumer’s only real protection.

    • stacye says:

      @SkokieGuy: My guess is if he had been trying to scam CC, he would have just returned the camera without a mention of it being a knock-off. Also, he probably wouldn’t have attempted to talk to a manger, have his case sent to fraud department, and continued to follow-up on everything.

      There are far easier ways to scam a company, and if that is what he’s doing – he sucks at it.

    • DePaulBlueDemon says:


      Last year I had to return a desktop computer to Circuit City because it crapped out within a few hours of purchase (it wouldn’t turn on at all, I think the PSU was fried or something). Anyway, when I was returning it the manager of the store checked EVERYTHING. He made sure it was the same computer that was supposed to be in the box, he verified serial numbers, he even had a computer salesperson open it up to make sure nothing was removed. Sure it was a pain in the butt for me, but it makes sense. They should do that with every return.

      Also, either retailers or the manufacturers need to place tamper-proof tape on the box to make sure the box has not been opened. (Some do, but I think this needs to be universal).

  3. nicemarmot617 says:

    I’d have just charged it back, personally. Although I would never have spent so much cash at CC – it’s just asking to be kicked in the face.

    • Real Cheese Flavor says:

      @nicemarmot617: You guys are getting quicker, only three posts before the “durrr, you got what you deserve for shopping at xxxx” post.

      • little stripes says:

        @Piedmont: I know, right? Someone actually ads some detail and uses “expedite” which is, I guess, now considered a “big scary word” and he’s being too detailed? Whut? Something tells me illtron doesn’t read much outside of e-mails and texts.

      • Corporate_guy says:

        @Real Cheese Flavor: In this case it is a valid point. They are going under. Warranties and returns via circuit are not guaranteed.

      • nicemarmot617 says:

        @Real Cheese Flavor: Consumers have to take some responsibility for their actions. Spending a huge amount of money at a company that is going out of business is not a good idea. Yes obviously CC shouldn’t have sold him that fake camera – but expecting good customer service from them at this point is just dumb. Plus, as an earlier poster mentioned, you can’t really blame CC for being suspicious. Wouldn’t you be?

    • joel. says:

      @nicemarmot617: for real. He could’ve gotten a better price at any of the online photo store (legitimate ones of course). For “prosumer” equipment, you shouldn’t go to a consumer electronics store.

  4. DrWebster says:

    Sounds like someone bought the camera before him, swapped it out with their own D50, and returned it. IIRC Nikon does not seal camera boxes, so you cannot tell if a box has been opened before.

    • Subliminal0182 says:

      @DrWebster: Or it could be the employees. He was at the store on 40W: 6026 Baltimore National Park, Catonsville, MD. I’ve been in that store several times and the employees are SUCH a-holes. Same w/ the one in Frederick. A friend went to several CC stores around the area looking for Wii Fit (when it was newly released). All stores told him it was sold out, and the last store was in Frederick. He is told they’re sold out, so he asks a ‘floor manager’ or w/e and as it turns out, the employees were hiding 10 Wii Fits for themselves.

      The store the OP went to is notorious. I bought an Xbox 360 Elite last November from that store, and [because I read the bathroom tile stories] I checked the box in the parking lot to make sure everything was there. There were supposed to be two games in there (Forza Motorsport 2 and some super-hero game)…lo and behold, they weren’t in there! I go back into the store (5 mins after purchase), explain what happened to the kid who rang me up, and he looked like he knew that was going to happen, not surprised at all. It’s kind of ridiculous when you have to be suspect of this stuff.

      • supercollider says:

        @Subliminal0182: Same thing happened to me when World of Warcraft limited edition something or other came out about a year ago. The computer at customer service said there should be about 20 copies left, but for some reason the dufus working the software department had never heard of, “Whirl of Horsecraft? Girl of Smurfshaft? Durhurhur!” He was lying through his teeth and visably sweating. The limited edition was selling for 400% of the retail price on ebay at the time.. I’m certain they were stashed away in the back somewhere.

    • Anonymous says:

      @DrWebster: I experienced the same “brick in a box” issue with Circuit City. My brother in law bought a Linksys router. When I opened the shinkwrapped box to install there was an outdated Intel hub inside. We had to escalate to the store general manager to get it resolved. Turns out they could tell it had been switched by the type of shink wrap used to conceal the brick. Looks like a similar scam, but unfortunate that CC still has not learned to inspect returns…

  5. kthxbai says:

    Yeah man, Thats, so wrong, so horribly wrong. I would have walked down chargeback road and gotten my money back. Hopefully you took pictures of the camera before you returned it. (NO PUN INTENDED) Maybee small claims court or EECB? Good Luck Ronald!!!

  6. SkokieGuy says:

    Hello Mr. Store Manager of [insert store here]. I just opened the factory sealed box of my [big screen TV / dishwasher / DVD recorder]. Instead of having the correct product, it was filled with [floor tile / used gym shoes / kittens]. I am outraged that you [don’t believe me / actually want to ‘investigate’ before handing me a cash refund / are wearing that tie].

    Rinse / lather / repeat.

    • VigilanteKitteh says:

      @SkokieGuy: if a [big screen TV / dishwasher / DVD recorder] box was filled with kittens, I wouldn’t complain!

    • Parting says:

      @SkokieGuy: A moral of the story : ”OPEN your box right on the spot”! Since this type of stories tend to repeat a lot, lately.

      • katylostherart says:

        @Victo: at least with really really really REALLY expensive purchases at large chains. if this was a little mom n pop camera shop it probably would’ve been handled differently.

      • VigilanteKitteh says:

        @Victo: True that! Also, if the box mews, that’s a sure sign to open it on the spot, but I digress.

    • zentec says:


      Yes, let’s blame the consumer here since there is no way that this could happen at Circuit City nor any other retailer.

      Sarcasm aside, it can and does happen. It’s happened for years and years because like bad retailers, there are bad consumers.

      I’ve had bad “opened” box experiences with:

      Target: Someone bought a new Xbox, stuffed their old broken one in the box and returned it. I bought this one for my kid for Xmas. Nice surprise Xmas day, and I received a whole world of grief and the ol’ stink eye from Target over this one. Thank GOD American Express went to bat for me. As far as Target is concerned, will never step foot in there again.

      Lowes: New pressure washer was missing two parts because some moron ruined their unit, went and bought this one, put their old pump on this one and returned it.

      Best Buy: Canon ELPH camera missing battery.

      It’s important for retailers and manufacturers to get their poop in a group concerning returns and restocking because there are people taking advantage of it, regardless which side of the game Ronald P. is playing.

      • coren says:

        @zentec: He’s not blaming the consumer. He’s saying they might have unreasonable expectations in the matter.

      • mac-phisto says:

        @zentec: exactly. & quite frankly, stores don’t want to spend the time/energy/money training folks to reduce their exposure to return theft.

        as a former electronics clerk for a retailer, i can say with some authority that return abuse is often a bigger problem than shoplifting. i know it was in our store.

        • TrevorYYC says:


          This is something that both astonishes and infuriates me as I recently had the experience with Canadian Best Buy subsidiary Futureshop selling me a box of garbage that had obviously came from another retailer, but just the other day I returned a fairly expensive iPod dock to Wal-Mart because it was defective and they didn’t even open the box. The lady at the counter just picked up the intercom and said would somebody from electronics please pick up their returns and she gave me a refund and started to talk about how she was going to buy an iPod for her grand daughter’s birthday. The damn thing was back on the shelf before I left the store.

          I also recently returned a satellite radio to Future Shop because the serial number didn’t seem to be valid and as I stood at the return counter I began to unpackage it, show the cashier that the serial number matched the receipt and that all the accessories like the antenna were there and she said “what the hell are you doing that for?”

          And that my friends is where the “box of crap” comes from.

      • gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

        @zentec: i’ve gone in to Lowes/Home Depot/etc before because of missing parts, and their solution is to open ANOTHER box and take parts out. on at least one occasion i can think of, the employee closed up the box again and left it on the shelf.

  7. Southern says:

    Sounds like a perfect time for a chargeback.

  8. illtron says:

    Good god, this guy sure does like his flowery writing. A word to the wise: If your letter is unnecessarily long and it looks like every third word is plucked straight from Roget’s, people are going to think you’re an idiot trying to sound smart.

    • Parting says:

      @illtron: Blogging for too long? This is how English look like in textbooks…

      • kaizoku80 says:


        ^ This isn’t.

      • illtron says:

        @Victo: Textbook writers get paid by the length of their writing, not the quality.

        I may not use my Journalism degree very often, but I still had to earn it. This guy needs a copy of Strunk & White.

        • Beerad says:

          @illtron: Yeah, I gotta say, I don’t think anything this guy said sounds out of line. Sure, it’s a bit long, but he wasn’t trying to meet a 300 word limit for a column in Time or anything. Too bad he’s trying to be complete and explain things, guess that makes it “flowery”. If only we all had Journalism degrees, huh?

    • Piedmont says:

      @illtron: Seriously, what’s wrong with the letter he wrote? I don’t see the “flowery” aspect to it that you mentioned, nor are there are any really uncommon words used. It would seem to me that the more detail provided in the letter the better, especially considering the lack of documentation provided by Circuit City in terms of the repossession of the camera he purchased, but maybe I’m wrong. If anything, I sincerely doubt the letter is going to make him look like an idiot.

    • tande04 says:

      @illtron: I don’t see it either.

      “Expedite” is the closest I see to what you’re complaining about. Just because he didn’t include emoticons doesn’t mean its overly complex.

    • KhaiJB says:

      @illtron: how dare he sound smart!

    • InThrees says:


      So has anyone seen Idiocracy? I can picture illtron calling Not Sure a you-know-what.

    • parkerjh says:

      Are you kidding me illtron?
      Flowery? It appears the only idiot trying to sound smart is the one that tossed out the “Roget’s” reference. The letter was not too long and used words I hear in every day conversation. A word to the wise: You seem like an idiot.

    • redkamel says:

      @illtron: you mean: this guy sure likes to write like someone with a college degree they actually studied for? The letter is clear, succinct, and details his case clearly.

    • zumdish says:

      @illtron: Yeah, a friend of mine writes like this, but worse (lots of behooving), still I’d cut him some slack, at least he made an effort.

  9. pmcpa2 says:

    I see both sides here… CC does need to investigate, and the consumer wants his money back. Consumer should contact this credit card company and tell them the situation, and they should start their own investigation. Should get things moving. Also should contact the local police and make sure forms are filled out and both sides of the story are documented.

    • Corporate-Shill says:


      Finally, the voice of reason.

    • tande04 says:

      @pmcpa2: From my point of view the problem with that is that CC isn’t the FBI.

      How much investigation can they really do? Not very freaking much. They can check if they’ve had a D90 returned recently and even then it would only partial support the guy’s claim. How far back do they want to check? I don’t know how often they go though D90s but if its anything like retail stores I’ve worked in you sell so few of those in the first place that the return could of been 6 months back and the wrong camera sitting on the shelf for that long.

      Maybe the guys in the back switched it out. Their buddy comes in buys the cheaper D50 and the warehouse guy swaps out the camera in the back before giving it out. So you’d have to look at all your recent D50 sales.

      All of this (again based on my experiance) could be done in 30 minutes in a back room and in the end all you’ve got is more maybes and probablys. Their “investigation” will never definitively show that the op was or wasn’t the one who swapped the camera so to play otherwise is silly.

      Thats the game though. What CC is doing is seeing if the guy follows through. If he really calls back, comes in to check on the camera, and writes a letter to the company. He is probably on the level. If the guy made a stink at first but never follows up, you’ve got to give him the benifit of the doubt because you’ll never prove otherwise and any further action is just going to make it worse for the company.

      • Sure I could agree with you, but then we'd BOTH be wrong. says:


        FWIW … The Nikon D90 is a brand new camera — It was only released about a month ago, give or take a week. So, in looking for “returns” of a D90, there is not that far, at this point, to go back.

        Were it someone on the “inside” then the chances are they did not just buy a D50, but had one for some time, and found this method to “upgrade” his model.

        However, looking through surveillance footage may help.

        • tande04 says:

          @Dooley: It being a newer camera doesn’t really change my overall point which was that CC’s “investigation” is so limited in what it can find that the only reason they’re doing this in the first place is to play a game which in this case may of cost them more then they thought it would.

          Even if it is new in the system you still only have two outcomes. 1. You have had a recent return which means he might be telling the truth 2. You haven’t had one yet which means he might be lying but neither proves anything either way.

          You’re looking at the D50 part a bit differently then I did. When I was thinking of a person on the inside I was thinking of them in conjunction with someone on the “outside” who buys the cheaper model knowing that his friend in the back will replace it with the more expensive one. Yours works as well though. In either case it only illustrates that CC’s “investigation” is limited to what it can find. It may give them a starting point to look at tape but even then depending on the store’s inventory controls it could be a needle in a hay stack thing anyway. I’ve seen stores who’s inventory controls are so lax that you’ve got so many people handling things like that at so many different points that a starting point isn’t going to help.

          The only investigation they’re really doing is investigating if the guy takes the time and effort to throw a fit. The draw back to that investigation is that some times like in this case they go far beyond throwing the normal fit.

  10. Parting says:

    Well, shopping as Circuit City has always been a dangerous adventure.

    Now even more…

    I wonder, how many other customers, less tech savvy, but wanting a higher end model, fell for the scam?

  11. ztoop says:

    CC should offer him his refund on the condition that he provide them with sufficient identifying information (i.e. his name, and address). If he used a credit card, they probably can find a way to get it already. So what is the point of them keeping the money and the camera? I’m sure they could negotiate some sort of transaction with the credit card company as well if he turns out to be a fake.

  12. ztoop says:

    On a side note, what I suspect they want to do is just give him another camera in the end so that they don’t lose the sale. Of course, now the guy is going to return it and buy it somewhere else.

  13. Modred189 says:

    Such a tough call on everyone’s part. The store/company wants to protect themselves from people doing this on purpose, but the customer is being treated as guilty, and really given no breathing room.

    Lose-lose situation, but I think the customer is being a TAD impatient. It’s only been two or three days, and this is no small issue. I think if he is a bit calmer and more patient with the guys/gals at CC, he might have better success.
    NOT to say he is wrong, just needs more patience.

    • stacye says:

      @Modred189: To be fair to the OP, the management of the store blew him off, made the Supervisor run back and forth as though they were playing “Telephone,” and wouldn’t even directly acknowledge his problem.

      Also, he waited 24-48 hours before returning back to the store for an answer – which is what they told him to do.

      $1,100 is a lot of money. At least one of the two managers should come down from their ivory towers and talk to him.

      • little stripes says:

        @stacye: THIS. He’s been perfectly patient. If they were, oh, I don’t know, professional toward him instead of literally blowing him off, I’d agree — but they are blowing him off completely.

    • JeffMc says:

      @Modred189: Yeah, it’s a bad situation. But the way I look at it is that if I decided I wanted to take a camera home to make sure it wasn’t a fake and promised to pay CC once I’d checked with Nikon I’d end up in jail. So why does CC get any lee way?

      On a side note, if I got caught trying to return a D50 in a D90 box…I’d go to jail. Even if I said someone else did the switch. So why’s it ok for these big stores to pull that trick?

  14. Namrepus says:

    This is why I open ANY product I buy like a camera, a computer, or anything inside the store.

    This way they can’t tell me “You took it to your car and switched it on us you scam artist” as I’ve never left the store

    • Fishy007 says:


      Agreed. I get nasty looks from retailers sometimes, but I always pay for the purchase and then move off to the side of the counter to open up the merchandise. I do this even for games and CDs now….it’s what the world has come to.

      • tande04 says:

        @Fishy007: I’ve had to do that with DVDs. I had bought a two disc set and it kept coming with two disc 1s. First time it happened I knew that wal-mart would take it back no questions asked (after all it isn’t a $1,000 camera) second time it happened with the same DVD I knew there would be questions (too which my answer would of been “don’t you think if I was doing it the first time their would of been two disc 1 and the second time two disc 2s? What good does multiple copies of the same disc do me?”). The third time it happened I borrowed their box cutter and opened the DVD at the register. Then we went back and cut open all the DVDs until we found one with the correct amount of discs.

  15. Fishy007 says:

    A similar thing happened to me. I purchased a funky new router last year at Futureshop in Canada and took it home only to see that the inside of the box was filled with old Xbox games.

    Upon returning to the store, I told the manager that I had not touched the xbox games and I had documented everything. If he couldn’t help me I’d simply go to the local police and let them know of this fraud. I’d assume that fingerprints on the games would at least be entered into some database.

    When the manager heard my proposed course of action, he was only too happy to refund my money.

  16. JayDeEm says:

    CC’s handling of this situation is nothing new. I worked at one many years ago and we used to see the ‘bricks in the box’ situation several times a year. It always went to loss prevention for investigation. The reason for this is pretty obvious, if a store develops a reputation for being easy to scam this way, they will be buying back lots of worthless crap from people who want free merchandise.

    I’m not saying that the consumer is trying to scam CC though. The most likely scenario is that an inattentive CSR took the remarked camera back from someone else and this guy was unlucky enough to pick that one from the shelf. In these situations the honest guy pretty much always gets screwed in some way. I would just hope that it ends favorably, with CC offering some kind of compensation for the inconvenience.

  17. Corporate-Shill says:

    So, how many scam artists will try this same crap with CC/BB in the next 24 hours?

    Sad but true, way too many of these scams are daily events. I wonder how many submitters to The Consumerist are actually trying to assist their scam efforts by generating additional outrage?

    And let’s not forget…. BB employees with nothing better to do than creating consumer outrage at their competition.

    Does this crap really happen? You bet it does. So why not give the company a chance to fix the problem before firing off a letter to The Consumerist?

    • Anonymous says:


      I believe the company already had more than a reasonable chance. They haven’t dealt with this in a manner that is reassuring to the customer, and quite frankly, they’ve acted more like this is a big deal to them, not to him. Seeing as how they retail to consumers, and seeing as how they’ve done a bad job in this case, Ronald has every right and reason to write this letter.

    • JeffMc says:

      @Corporate-Shill: At least your user name is appropriate.

      • Corporate-Shill says:



        Actually in my mind everything is suspect till proven otherwise.

        In the anti BB forum threads I always suspect CC employees, and visa versa. Employees for big companies always have free time on their hands and with a little effort do quite a bit of damage to the competition.

        • FaustianSlip says:

          @Corporate-Shill: Seriously, as someone who’s worked retail for a while (at a big box store, as it happens), I don’t know a single person with whom I work who loves our company enough/loathes our competition enough to even consider pulling someone like that. Not a single, solitary soul. On the contrary, most lower-level retail employees feel kicked around by the corporate component in their chain, are overworked, undervalued and haven’t had nearly enough kool-aid to make themselves think that this would be a good idea. If you honestly think that the average Best Buy/Circuit City is spending his/her free time sitting around plotting ways to ruin the competition, I’ve gotta say, you have a pretty poor understanding of the mindset of the average retail employee. I’m sure there are a couple of exceptions, but honestly, the average management/corporate drone almost invariably has a much bigger hard-on for the company (and vested interest in ensuring that it goes to the top, top, top) than an entry-level employee.

          Honestly, theft of this nature, assuming that it’s not some shady customer running this scam in a variety of different stores, is almost guaranteed to be an internal job. Especially thinking of a company like Circuit City that’s in dire straits financially, on the way down, about to lay off thousands of employees… I can completely see some of the more bitter ones deciding to “stick it to the man,” so to speak and try taking a lovely parting gift (or three).

    • tande04 says:

      @Corporate-Shill: I’ve kinda had that in the back of my mind with every story like this too.

      Sure the fact that the guy writes into consumerist and coporate means he is probably one the up and up but maybe its just a smarter criminal who knows a little public pressure will help grease the wheels overall.

      I don’t think its worth it though. If you’re running the scam which is easier? Taking the time to write letters hoping that it will make a consumer site and create out rage or just run the scam again and again and again until it works?

      Its option 2 ;)

      • Corporate-Shill says:


        I don’t think it is worth it either.

        That said, I have seen people figuritively jump through hoops of flames to abuse a business into giving them a free BigMac (or whatever). So why wouldn’t a professional scam team use The Consumerist and EECB to scam BB/CC out of dozens (or even hundreds) of high end cameras etc?

  18. Canino says:

    While I believe the letter is very good, it should be understood that the store is not a government entity, and is therefore not obligated to assume someone is “innocent until proven guilty”. The store is absolutely within its rights to assume the person is “guilty until proven innocent”.

    Please do not confuse the Constitution and the protections afforded by it with whatever remedies might be available to you under civil law.

    • little stripes says:

      @Canino: I’m pretty sure he was just trying to add some emotion to the letter to help get his point across: “Hey, you’re treating me like a freakin’ criminal here, when I am the one that got screwed!”

      Man, some people here take everything SO literal.

  19. NikonGal says:

    Seems like CC should inspect all returns before putting the box back on the shelf. I have returned items before (not necessarily to CC) and no store ever actually looks inside the box to verify the item. In this day and age, it should be store policy everywhere. And no, I wouldn’t be offended.

  20. tmed says:

    I think it’s time to involve the cops and district management.

  21. LancerReiNi says:

    My comment might receive some harsh replies but hopefully it’ll attain some fair and well made replies instead.

    I am somewhat sympathetic to the store. Not Circuit City but the particular store itself. I have worked on the retail end when I was younger and have experienced several cons’ where customers would return items that were obviously replaced with dupes. The great 56k modem scam of 1990, where people would buy a 56k modem and replace the internals with parts of an old 28.8 modem. I had one instance where I was literally chewed out because a customer decided to bring it upon himself to return a 50gig harddrive inside the box of a 100gig’er. Stuff like this happens all the time.

    Now I’m not saying that the customer is 100% guilty or not, there’s very little chain stores can do in terms of investigating the events. It’s literally a “He said, She said” kind of thing. I’m surprised though that Circuit City would challenge a customer though, most of the time. The customer will get a refund or replacement. These stores don’t have much to do in terms of retaliation.

    Plus, it’s definitely the right of the store to hold the item & the $$$. That’s just wrong.

    • LancerReiNi says:

      @LancerReiNi: definitely “not” the right of the store. Sorry for the type-o.

      • FaustianSlip says:

        @LancerReiNi: Yeah, I agree. I have also served my sentence in retail, and scams like this aren’t at all uncommon. It blows my mind, sometimes, the things that people try to pull. And I hasten to add that it’s not the majority by any stretch, but it’s not a tiny, miniscule minority, either, that tries to get away with this kind of stuff. And when you work in a retail job for a while and see enough of it, I do think it’s easy to get jaded.

        All of that said, I agree that CC’s way, way off base hanging on to both the money and the camera. Give the guy one or the other- you don’t get to keep both. Now, personally, were I the store manager, I’d probably take the guy’s name, license number, et cetera, flag it in the system somehow (because people who actually try this stuff as a scam are usually repeat offenders) and exchange the camera for him. In a case like this, he’s drawing way too much attention to himself to be trying to pull something; yeah, it’s possible he’s a scam artist, but it’s more likely that he’s a legitimately wronged customer. So bite the bullet, take care of the customer and swap out the camera. Then investigate where this theft may have actually occurred.

  22. BuddyGuyMontag says:

    1) The letter is too long.

    2) I agree with corporate shill. This just happened IN THE LAST 48 HOURS. Why not give CC a chance to fix the problem?

    3) How the heck did his get a D90 for so cheap? 1021.99 with a lens is ridiculously low even for CC. On CC’s website, it lists for 1300.

    4) For someone so empowered to email consumerist, why didn’t he photograph the counterfeit BEFORE he gave it back to CC?

    5) You go to B&H.

  23. little stripes says:

    Contact the cops. Seriously.

  24. mariospants says:

    Recently, I purchased some decidedly low-tech floor joists at a hardware supermart and 3 of the boxes were missing the pins. Seriously, there are 4 heavy metal parts in every box, how could anyone fuck that up?

    I, too, have taken to examining purchases at the cash… even low-tech simple ones.

  25. altryan says:

    When I worked at Circuit City, no one ever checked the boxes of returned merch. It was ridiculous. I think that when a company sells merchandise they should be held for fraud. All it would take is making sure CSR’s are checking boxes. CC is responsible for the items they sell in the store. Saying that this poor guy is responsible for some bums scam is ludicrous.

  26. discounteggroll says:

    I used to work at a locally owned camera store and we opened the box of every camera sold in front of the customer (anything from a point & shoot pentax’s to the 1Ds MkIII’s

    a minute of prevention cures a lot of time/money/loss down the road

  27. clevershark says:

    That’s why you should make the rep open the box and inspect the contents before you get your CC out to pay for an expensive item like that.

  28. __Ken__ says:

    Why is this tagged [Nikon] and not [Circuit City]

  29. dhmosquito says:

    Sorry this happened to the OP. Here’s some advice for the future: B&H Photo.


    Disclaimer: I don’t work for them, but they’ve sold me great equipment. Always trouble-free. Had a problem once with grit on an internal element of a lens, and it was past the return window, so I sent to manufacturer for repair. No problem.

    Of course YMMV.

  30. TonySoprano says:

    HRMMMM sounds strangely familiar to my own circuit city story….


    Hope it works out Ronald, I only got mine fixed because i worked there at the time.

  31. Triborough says:

    Yet another reason I don’t shop at these sorts of stores for that sort of purchase.

  32. winstonthorne says:

    You’re misunderstanding the situation dude – CC isn’t being a dickheaded customer-unfriendly company; they literally don’t have the $1100 to give you.

  33. tinyrobot says:

    I would also include Nikon in this, with correspondence cc’d to CC. The reason being they’re an authorized Nikon dealer, and if they pulling crap like this, Nikon has a vested interest in making sure their dealers aren’t hawking counterfiet or grey-market goods – it’s a really important part of their whole supply chain in fact (authorized dealers, that is).

    Other than that, I’d call the cops, report this as fraud, keep hammering away on the EECB front, and get your credit card company (you did purchase it on a card I hope…) involved. Big purchases like this always warrant use of a decent a credit card, even if you plan to pay off the balance that night, for the warranty extension and buyer protection.

    The GOOD news is, once you finally get a real D90, you’ll be in heaven. It’s the most amazing camera I’ve ever used.

  34. ColoradoShark says:

    Ben, I think a nice feature would be to boil down all the comments and update the piece with a “moral to the story”. The obvious moral to this story is, “Open the box in front of the cashier before you leave the store.”

  35. Anonymous says:

    Most of the time at Circuit City we do inspect returns/exchanges (Or at least we’re supposed to). And when something like a camera has been opened and a customer wants to return it, we sell it as open box, so in this case if a customer did indeed return it, it shouldn’t have been sealed, sitting with the brand new cameras.

    That said, I like how in the letter Circuit is accused of not being able to “control” their inventory. LOL! Hell, a dishonest employee at a Nikon plant could have dumped an old camera in the box and stolen the new one. It could have came that way. How could Circuit or any company for that matter know unless they opened all their products as soon as they were delivered?

    That said, I do think management should have handled it a little better. The store director or OPS manager should have been directly involved with the customer and not had someone running back and forth relaying information. That is the only place I really think Circuit dropped the ball.

    If indeed the camera was returned previously by a customer and they swapped it, then Circuit dropped the ball there too. But, you can’t really prove that is what happened. As I said before, it could have came from Nikon like that, or someone at a distribution center could have stolen it. The store would never know unless they inspected every single thing they got at that is next to impossible, unless you want to talk about doing it company wide and having box inspectors at every retail chain. LOL!

    In any case no matter how he was treated in the store he will have to wait for a resolution. This type of situation cannot be solved in a day or two, even a week probably. I have no doubt that Circuit can track down if the camera had ever been bought and returned and or if the customer is being honest. He just has to be patient and wait.

    Like I said, the management should have handled it a little more professionally, but outright blaming Circuit from the get go is a little premature when you don’t even know how the stolen camera got in there.

    People on this site are so quick to jump on every company that gets posted about and scream, “Give the customer their money back”. Come on now…

  36. jpdanzig says:

    I think they’re punishing Ronald because he doesn’t know the proper possessive of the word “it”, which is “its”, NOT “it’s”.

    The number-one grammar error in the English language…

  37. shepd says:

    Small claims. Now. Don’t waste your time. Just go there and file. You have the proof (pictures). It doesn’t matter one way or the other for the serials. Just sue and be done with it. Don’t waste any more time on these losers.

  38. floraposte says:

    A claim filed with the Maryland Attorney General, cc:ed to the store and regional managers, might also be a fruitful move.

    It’s not the customer’s fault that the store is plagued with fraud, and it’s not his obligation to absorb the cost when the store can’t curb it.

  39. Admiral_John says:

    Whenever I buy any kind of hardware at CC I open the box to inspect its contents before I exit the store, specifically because of stories like this.

  40. Anonymous says:

    maybe I’m naive but people who draw this much attention to something like this are probably not going to make fake claims on the consumerist. If you want to get away with something you stay quiet and let the situation pass…you do not get a frequented weblog involved or go up the company chain.

    • tande04 says:

      @DionneRalla: I don’t think you’re being naive, just logical.

      The person who really did something like this dishonestly still got what they wanted, the D90. There is a cost of buisness in crime too whether you’re talking jail time, fines, fees, or the cost of some one calling you on the scam and scamming you. In any case it is not worth your time or effort to draw attention to your self since you’re just increasing your cost (greater risk of jail time, fines, fees, not to mention the time you’re putting in when you could be running more scams).

      I’m pretty sure thats CC’s logic here too. Thats why I agree with others that the whole thing is going to get taken care of itself after the 48 hrs. CC management/ loss prevention knows that a real scammer isn’t going to take the time to come back, call back, etc. What they didn’t count on is the fact that this person was going to go above and beyond that and write corporate and the consumerist.

  41. Anonymous says:

    When I used to work at best buy, an employee got fired for returning a satelite dish without opening the box to verify the product. what was in the box? a couple of blocks and tiles wrapped in plastic bags tightly. customer got away with the product and his money back. hi5

  42. Joeyjojo says:

    Can we all agree to stop buying stuff from CC? Has anyone EVER had a GOOD experience with this ugly company?

    • tande04 says:

      @Joeyjojo: Has anyone had a good BB experience? Or a good Sears experiance? Or Radio Shack or Wal-mart or Target…

      If I stopped shopping at every store that consumerist had a post about I don’t think I’d have a B&M store left to vist.

  43. skloon says:

    Hmm I am on the fence, I suspect though if the customer was trying to pull a fast one they would have replaced the camera with something else (the aforementioned brick or kitten perhaps ) I did work in a retail stockroom during university and was instructed by others on how to open boxes and remove the goodies inside leaving little to no trace. THe judicious application of heat/solvents razor blades/microwave engergy kept a lot of the staff in gifts and goodies. So if one of my larcenous previous co-workers were there they may have swapped the cameras in order that an accomplice could buy the other one. With that though there is the different stickers on the camera though, perhaps the store manager was tempted to purchase a load of cameras that ‘fell off a truck’ and got ripped off himself.

  44. idip says:

    I worked at a Target before and I saw a normally shirnk wrapped DSL router unwrapped with the plastic laying next to it. I thought it was odd so I opened the unsealed box and found that the actual serial number on the router did not match the serial number on the box.

    What did I do? I told the ETL-AP (The Assets Protection Manager) what did he say? “Put it back on the shelf, we’ll deal with it when it sells”

    I could not believe he told me to do that. The item had been clearly swapped in store or returned with a broken router.

    Instead of taking a report he very harshly questioned me for twenty minutes in front of my coworkers about why i opened it. Apparently, “It looked suspcious” wasn’t an appropriate answer.

    I refused to put the item back on the floor for sale and he eventually took it to the AP office.

    Sometimes AP/LP/Security aren’t always the cleaniest of people either. Sigh.

  45. Craig says:

    I would have called the cops from the store the moment the manager refused to do an exchange and then started the chargeback process when I got home.

  46. Cupajo says:

    Even if it was a legit D90, he payed too much. I just got one from Best Buy for $700. If he had an extra lens or a speedlight in the package…maybe.

  47. Lepoth says:

    Wow, just the kind of press CC needs right now.

  48. technopimp says:

    Speaking as someone who has had things like this happen to him before (albeit on a smaller scale than a D90), it’s pretty irritating again read all of the comments from people who are assuming that this person is the one at fault here. I certainly love to buy something out of town only to get it home and discover that, while the product that I just purchase had its shrink wrap (and often its “security” tape still intact), the product in question is either not what I had purchased, or not there at all (my favorite was when I bought an XBOX 360 game which was still in the shrink wrap with the hologram seal on it, and inside was a cardboard cut-out of a DVD). The only thing that makes it even better is then having to take it back to the store (at my expense) and explain what happened and watch while I am stared at as if I am a criminal. Like someone else said, I now open everything in front of the cashier unless I absolutely don’t have time. One time I had bought a DVD which was empty, and had the clerk accuse me to her supervisor of stealing it. I told them I wanted the exact same DVD (which is why I had bought it), and said I would be happy to open it in front of them. We went through 4 before we found one which contained anything besides air.

  49. redkamel says:

    ..and thats why I only buy high end equipment from stores I trust, usually online. Maybe I pay a little more, but its worth the peace of mind.

  50. jgonzz says:

    i buy all kinds of electronic nonsense, however never from CC. its not worth the risk. About four years ago I bet a friend that CC was gonna’ go “under”, a $100 bet. At that time I had zero confidence with the employees that worked at the 86th and 2Ave location, Manhattan. I was actually amazed at how clueless my ‘helper’ seemed to be..

    New York, NY

  51. dottat1 says:

    I would get this handled BEFORE they file for bankruptcy and the OP is screwed

  52. AlexandraCurvus says:

    And the response he will get fro CC:

    “Oh, for please to take our apologies. I had to leave the 7-11 unattended for 15 minutes to tell you how seriously we take these concerns sir. It will be my pleasure to pass on your note to corporate in order for to fix these concerns in the future. Thank you and we appreciate your business”

  53. edrebber says:

    The credit card companies only require one good faith attempt to return the item. You returned the item and the store refused to refund the money. End of story. File the chargeback and purchase the item elsewhere.

    Circuit City has no legal right to hold the item and the money. File a police report and contact your State’s Attorney General.

  54. Codis says:

    Next time buy from B&H. As a professional photographer, there are not many other camera stores that can beat them. The D90 you can pickup for $999 with free shipping. Just saved yourself $134+tax AND all that fuel cost you’re now wasting to drive back and forth.

  55. Anonymous says:

    I find it very interesting that you are upset with Circuit City for trying to find out what is going on. I hope you don’t actually think that they did that to you on purpose? Or that issues like this can be solved over night. If you look at it from their perspective you are of course the first person to suspect. Any retailer would be the same way. They have to protect their inventory. People pull this type of scam all the time and that may be what happened to that camera before you bought it.
    I hate this website because it’s goal is not really to help people with consumer issues or to think things through relationally its to make all businesses look terrible. The site is 100% one sided and 100% biased Way to help out the economy by bad mouthing the engine of the economy. I think Circuit City is a great Company. But you won’t ever see an artical on this site about how well I am treated every time I go in there or how much money I have saved by getting the Protection plans from them. I do agree that the management at that particular location may need to be addressed for not trying harder to help you out but again look at it from their side. They likely have already called the police to investigate the issue.

  56. legolasfan411 says:

    This once again proves the ignorance of Circuit City employee’s. When you have untrained and unknowing people taking back returns you have this problem, not to mention internal theft and things like that. Now, its still to early to make a final decision on this, but the consumer does live 30 MILES away, and I certainly wouldn’t drive 30 MILES just to make a fake exchange, nor would I just throw $1300 out in cash just to try and get it back. Even if the guy did manage to buy a fake camera from someone off the street or something, usually they still sell for $500 or half of what retail is. Not to mention 2 important points:
    1) The product was sealed. Usually knock off products have been opened and have no shrinkwrap.
    2) The camera is imported. Anything could have happened on its way to Circuit City.
    Because of CC’s bad history, I would most likely say the guy is right, if I were him I would have demanded to talk to a manager, especially with that much money at stake, if it was a $200 camera it’s a different story, but it’s not. Don’t think he’s making a big deal, because I have seen and dealt with plenty of consumers giving hell over something as simple as $10 or $20.

  57. Anonymous says:

    I did buy a Sony Mavica back in july 2001 and I remember talking to the sales guy “I hope you guys don’t go out of business like the last company did when I purchased my first camcorder”. He said ” Man don’t worry about that We will never go out of business, wer’e too big”. Guess where I purchased my new Sony Camcorder? Circus City! Hey CD why wont my password work?

  58. ThunderRoad says:

    Charge it back. CC is just stalling until they can go bankrupt and you have to compete with the liquidation vultures for your money.

    Charge it back and order the same from Amazon or B&H or other such reputable dealer.