Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Top Choice Digital Is A Scam

Recently I was in the market for a new compact digital camera. I looked online at the most popular models and read user reviews. I looked at sample shots, video reviews on YouTube, and compared specs on DPReview. After a couple of weeks, I chose "the one" for me.

I wanted to get the best price so I checked around on Amazon, eBay, Froogle, and PriceGrabber. My research led me to one merchant whose price on the camera was significantly lower than all of the competitors. The camera I wanted was selling for $269 at Amazon and $289 at B&H Photo, yet this merchant had it for $219. That merchant was

Before buying, I scoped out the website for contact information but couldn't find much. The website looked cheesy and I should have trusted my instincts and gone somewhere else, but this price was just too good to pass up! I went and ordered the camera from them.

After placing my order and completing the online checkout, I had this lingering bad feeling and decided to see what I could find on the company. A quick Google search led me to Complaints Board, Reseller Ratings, and numerous other sites warning people not to buy from TopChoiceDigital. Now I was starting to sweat.

Through user reviews and comments, I quickly began to understand the scam. It's a classic "bait and switch" technique. Once you take the bait and order the low priced item, TopChoiceDigital emails you and makes you call to confirm the order. When you call in, they try to upsell you on accessories. I felt I had made a grave mistake in ordering from TopChoiceDigital.

I ordered my camera on a Sunday night. Sure enough, I got an email on Tuesday that my order needed to be confirmed by telephone before it could ship. This defeats the purpose of ordering online, it is neither fast nor convenient! The telephone confirmation is the critical part of the TopChoiceDigital scam.

I had to call four times before I could get a person on the line, and this was during the middle of the day. The person who finally answered asked for my confirmation number without so much as a "Hello." He confirmed the model number of the camera and I asked for the final price. He quoted me the same price as the email I had received.

Just as I thought we were finished, the salesman asked me "You do know the battery that comes with the camera will only last 30 minutes, right? Would you be interested in an additional high-capacity battery today?" Aha! I was prepared for this, and politely told him no.

He persisted, and then tried to sell me a memory card. I told him I already had one and that I just needed the camera today. He scoffed at me and told me that the camera takes a new type of memory card and that these high capacity cards are not sold in stores! The man was flat out lying to me! Of course they sell them in stores! Best Buy, Wal-Mart, and Fry's Electronics all carry SDHC memory cards. I have seen 4GB cards for sale at under $30 in these stores. Not only are they widely available, they are fairly inexpensive.

I said no, no, and no again. This guy was persistent! He tried to get me to upgrade to a "battery, memory card, and cleaning kit" package plus the camera for $280. That's $60 dollars for accessories that are not necessary to use the camera!

He finally realized he wasn't going to upsell me, and then hit me with the clincher: the "required" shipping insurance of $13 dollars. At this point I should have just cancelled the order, but alas I did not want to be on the phone any longer and said "OK."

The camera finally arrived nine days after placing the original order. I bought a high-capacity Kodak SD card from Wal-Mart for $20.88. Since the date of purchase I have taken over 200 pictures with the image stabilization turned on, and the camera still shows 2/3 battery life remaining.

Everything the Top Choice Digital salesman told me about the battery and memory card was a confirmed lie. I knew he was lying because 1) there's no way a reputable camera maker like Panasonic would produce a camera with a 30-minute battery life, and 2) I read plenty of user reviews that discussed battery life on this camera in depth before buying. I knew exactly what I was getting.

I was very fortunate to have received the item I ordered at all. Other TopChoiceDigital customers have posted horror stories involving missing or partial shipments and fighting credit card companies for a chargeback. Don't let this happen to you!

The bottom line is this: DO NOT buy from They are a bunch of liars and scam artists and are not to be trusted. They will try to sell you accessories you don't need and add bogus insurance fees to your order.