CURRENT 2012 BLACKLIST SELLERS (UPDATED JANUARY 11, 2012)
www.bhphotovideo.com (Updated to list March 19, 2012)
( http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/790529-REG/Avangard_Optics_AN_P001_USB_Pen_Camera.html )
http://www.starzmart.com/High-Resolution-1280-x-960-Spy-Pen-Digital-Video-Recorder-Pin-Hole-Camera.html (A reader sent us this link on other reviews for these guys as well: http://www.trustpilot.co.uk/review/starzmart.com)
Ebay.com (See Our Article on The Problems With Ebay CLICK HERE)
What is the Blacklist?
After months of first hand research at Spy Pen Headquarters, numerous emails from frustrated and angry regular everyday users and correspondence from fellow Private Investigators across the country (and Canada), we proudly present the NEW 2012 pen camera BLACKLIST. Instead of wasting your time with long in-depth individual reviews for these dollar-store, fly by night pump-and-dump pen camera operations, we elected to compile a single list in which we can lump them all together and save you, our valuable readers, the hair-pulling headaches of falling victim to these borderline scams (make no mistake, that is what these are). These are the devices to avoid at all cost, the bottom of the barrel in terms of reliability, value, video quality, warranty, customer service (this one’s a joke, there is no customer service!) and any other metric of which you’re concerned. If you find a seller you wish to add to the blacklist, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Here is an example of the ridiculous manuals these Blacklist companies send you (click image to enlarge):
- PRICE – Low price DOES NOT mean you are getting a deal or saving money. Take Heed!
Time and time again we get emails from frustrated readers along these lines (paraphrasing here); “Dear Spy Pen Headquarters, can you write a review on company xxxx’s pen camera? People need to know they are selling junk. I paid $49.99 but the device DIDN’T even work when it arrived, and I cannot get a hold of anybody to speak with, help!”
This is an unbelievably common complaint. First-time buyers have no idea just how high the defect rate is on pen cameras. It’s an industry secret. Here is how they suck you in: PRICE. They price these devices at $39-$99 bucks because they purchase them in bulk for as LOW AS $2 bucks a pen. Dead serious. Doesn’t feel like such a good deal now does it? These guys are charging you as much as 5000% mark-up. It’s insulting. But for those in the know, low price is the honey they use to lure you into the trap. Make no mistake, it IS a trap. Classic pump and dump can’t-get-a-hold-of-anyone-because-they-are-all-in-China runaround. They operate on volume, selling these based on eye-catching prices. You are not getting a deal whatsoever, and this should bother you. These are pens that can be sold at your local Dollar Store. And we are paying $40 plus dollars for them? What a ripoff.
At the end of the day, it is the consumer that loses and these companies that profit. Think about it. What is the point of spending money on a device that has such a high risk of failure? (not to mention the poor quality). It is playing the lottery hoping to get one that works. Here is a reader email we received recently (name and company withheld):
From: [Withheld for privacy]
So I wanted to send you guys a quick email about a pen camera/spy pen I recently got so you can use it in a review. Feel free to use this if you want. Anyway, it’s from [EDITOR: withheld - it is a seller on our list however] and it’s the 4GB model. I paid about 70 bucks with shipping. Took 3 weeks to get here from China. Anyway I got the device for personal reasons I’m not going to share, but the damn thing was broke a week later. I had it set up perfectly, and it actually failed right when I needed it. Like literally right at the moment. I cannot get a hold of anyone from [withheld] who knows anything. I can’t even confirm the address to ship the device back to and it only had a 60-day warranty which will be over soon. Complete waste of money please alert your readers about [withheld].
Thanks a bunch,
Unfortunately this email contains a not so uncommon message. We could post more but hopefully you get the picture. Please, buyer beware.
- WARRANTY? BETTER START PRACTICING YOUR CHINESE….
The title may be a little dramatic, but it rings 100% true. TIP: PAY ATTENTION TO THE WARRANTY OFFERED, THE LONGER THE BETTER. Sellers that offer longer warranties stand behind their product. It’s expensive to offer such insurance against defect, but those distributors who do so can afford it because their statistics show just how realiable their device is.
Meanwhile, the longest warranty found on the 2012 BLACKLIST of sellers is 1-year–which is bad enough as it is–but the real insult to the customer is this: You cannot get a hold of ANYONE. The numbers they provide are outsourced telemarketing firms, these people know NOTHING of the product they sell. In fact, some of the BLACKLIST sellers distribute hundreds of different products that all originate from the same factory. The pen cameras are an afterthought, a ‘hey, sure let’s pump some of these too’ . Here is the (notso)funny part. If you bother digging deep enough you can get to someone, but this takes so much time and effort it should be a crime. And unfortunately more often than not that person is a factory floor manager in Shenzen province China. This actually happened. As I didn’t have a translator on hand (nor could I even make out what he was saying due to the horrible reception) I hung up, defeated. Save yourself the mind-numbing headache, avoid these cheap fly-by-night operations like the plague.
Plain and simple, these devices are cheap beyond belief. As mentioned above, they are purchased in bulk for a few bucks per pen. This is a FACT. They are no different than those hilariously junky MP3 players the dollar store is selling these days. They probably come from the same factory. It REALLY gets me going (if you can’t tell) when I hear readers and other investigators paying $40, $50 even $100 bucks for these plastic paperweights. Do you remember when cell phones were first capable of video? This is going back some years now, but I am sure you recall the grainy, 3-frame per second catastrophe of colors and garbled sound. These pens are worse.
A co-worker of mine recently joked about some of these devices belonging in the bottom of a cereal box. In hindsight, I don’t think that’s doing enough justice…to the cereal makers.
From: [Withheld for privacy]
Hi, I like your blog/site. I wish I found it earlier, before I bought my son one of these things for his birthday. I don’t see the [Withheld] reviewed on your site yet, but thought I would let you know we were really disappointed with the quality of it. The video and audio playback are totally unwatchable and the video demo on their site was highly misleading, wasn’t like that at all. It kept making this annoying ‘Quaking’ (like a duck) over and over, completely ruining it for my son. We are going to try and send it back and just buy elsewhere….[Editor: She continued with the email saying she was trying to contact returns. Mam, if you are reading this please write us and let us know how it worked out for you]
- Here is a Secret They Don’t Wan’t You To Know:
They are selling the EXACT same pen, Most of these BLACKLIST distributors utilize one of only a few factories selling THE EXACT SAME SHODDY DEVICE with only slightly differnt marketing. Same junk sensors, same plastic lens, same 2-bit mic, etc. These factories pump out plastic gizmos like their life depended on it. There is NO quality control. Their business model is PUMP and DUMP on consumers. People keep getting suckered into the low price points, that’s why these sites keep springing up. You think the Better Business Bureau has any sway on these Chinese operations? It just isnt worth the few dollars you ‘save’, because in the end you will be left holding the bag (in this case a broken pen camera)
If you don’t have the picture yet, let me sum it up for you. Most of these sellers are selling us on low price TO SIMPLY PUSH THE PRODUCT. THERE IS NO AFTERCARE, NO RELIABILITY, NO BENEFIT. Please folks, do your due dilligence and either follow our reviews or do some digging on your own if you have the time. Make calls, do Google searches, etc.
- PROTECT YOURSELF (CHECK LIST TO AVOID THESE SELLERS)
1) If You Find Yourself in A Situation With A Broken Pen Still Under “Warranty” But Cannot Get A Hold Of Anyone, Your Only Real Recourse Is To Dispute The Charge With Paypal Or Your Credit Card Company.
2) As mentioned above, do your research (we hope our reviews help). Check the following:
Where does it ship from? As mentioned above, spy cameras shipping from the continental U.S are one metric you should check before ordering. It is by no means a guarantee for anything, there are indeed a number of U.S based distributors who are utterly horrible at dealing with customers (i.e, they don’t) and happily sell dollar store defects. But U.S based sellers are typically held to a higher level of accountability.
How long is the warranty? This is a crucial factor to consider prior to making a purchase. When it comes to pinhole cameras, reliability is the number one necessity. If the spy pen does not work the moment you needed it, then your money was wasted. Sellers who offer longer warranties stand behind their product. This is the BEST indicator of the pen camera’s future reliability. Do not overlook this. Check out our REVIEW of the SecuritySystems pen which comes with a lifetime warranty.
Does the seller have an easy to find telephone number and contact information? This is a great indicator of not only customer service should you have any questions regarding the spy camera, but also the legitimacy of the seller. BUT BE WARNED. Many sites (we have reviewed some) have telephone numbers that are constantly *busy* or *out of service*. Also, and this one drives me NUTS, the vendor has a *live chat* window. Thing is, it is never on (goes to an email form instead)! This is simply a marketing tactic to dupe you into believing the operation is larger and more official than it really is.
More Reader Emails:
After reading your blacklist for spy pens, I have to send you this message so other people can be aware.
This is the spy pen. It actually looks too good to be true.
However, you can even get this spy pen for only $28 via deal website such as Groupon.
I bought two coupons, and ordered the pens, but after 3 weeks, I sent a message to the seller. A week later (yesterday, for a total of 1 month), not getting a reply from the website, I emailed Groupon to get a refund. Today, the seller answered my email from last week, saying that they were on vacations, but my products were not dispatched because international transfers take time. I don’t believe that with all the technologies we have nowadays that it can take up to a month for a transfer to be confirmed. This is ridiculous.
Also, after checking on Groupon’s facebook page, I found out that 2-3 other people had problems with this deal, not receiving their products and being asked to resend their payments. You can add Starzmart to the blacklist. I hope people will stay away.
Here are two sites which had reviews of Starzmart.com
I can’t believe I got into a scam before reading about it, but at the time, I only checked the reviews of the products on the website. I’ll make sure I’ll check about the websites before buying from them.
Have a great day, thanks for this wonderful website.
[EDITOR: Name Withheld For Privacy]
Another perfect example of why readers and fellow P.I’s have to be cautious of all the junk scams out there. If price seems too good to be true, it likely is. Do your due diligence.
If you think a seller should be added to the BLACKLIST, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org