As a side-effect of running the world’s largest registry for photo and video equipment (both stolen and yet to be stolen), I’m currently occupying the role of the Internet’s Stolen Camera Grief Counselor. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard about every possible way photographers can be relieved of the gear they use to make their art and keep food on the table. It’s awful and terrible and until people stop buying stolen gear so the economic incentive to steal it disappears, it’s going to be a fact of life.
However, when the theft happens because of (at best) bureaucracy or (at worst) callous indifference to a customer who forked over thousands of dollars, it needs to be brought to the fore immediately because if we make enough noise, we can fix it today.
I’m writing because Canadian Photographer and Lenstag user Michael Bemma recently purchased Nikon’s new full frame mirrorless camera – the Z7 – from Amazon in Canada and instead of a camera he got a Nikon Z7 box containing a bag of modeling clay. The camera retails on amazon.ca for $3599 at the time of me typing this.
And to be clear, this was an Amazon Prime purchase that was fulfilled and sold by Amazon. Not a third-party deal, this was direct from Jeff Bezos’ amazing logistics machine and trillion dollar juggernaut he’s built up over the last couple decades. And even though it’s a trillion dollar company, more than a month later it’s refusing to refund or replace the missing Nikon Z7.
I’ve been conversing with Michael Bemma over the last month or so just to keep tabs on how the process was going, thinking Amazon was going to make good on this (because why not), but it seems they’re not going to do anything about it so here I am telling you the story. If you don’t want to read it, at least share the post so someone at Amazon that can fix this, sees it. You should read it, though, because if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably a photographer like Michael and you probably buy stuff off of Amazon like everyone else.
Michael ordered the Nikon Z7 (and a lens adapter which was delivered) on April 26th, 2019 and he received the shipment on May 1st. The weight of the camera box was roughly what it should have weighed but when he opened it up, he found a “hunk of clay” instead of the camera. He immediately called Amazon that morning and Amazon said they would ship him a Nikon Z7 and that he didn’t have to ship the clay one back, pending authorization. Upon checking for authorization, the Amazon telephone rep said that they would have to do an investigation and Michael received an email stating that the investigation would take 1-2 days.
On May 3rd, Michael called Amazon again to check the status of the investigation. The telephone rep stated that Amazon needed a police report and then once the police report was obtained, they would ship out the Nikon Z7.
The following day and per Amazon’s instructions, Michael filed a police report with the Durham Regional Police and forwarded it to Amazon. Amazon stated that they could not verify the report and to call them during normal business hours. On May 6th, he contacted Amazon several times throughout the day via email. May 7th, Michael called Amazon and they confirmed the validity of the police report but refused to send the camera, even though they already agreed to do so.
Michael subsequently reached out to his credit card company, Costco Mastercard, and they replied stating that they needed a “camera expert report” to verify that the hunk of clay inside the Nikon Z7 box was, indeed, not a camera. A camera shop local to Michael refused to do this (probably because it’s strange and absurd – it doesn’t take an expert to “prove” a hunk of clay is not a camera). Not sure what else to do, Michael gave the camera’s serial from the box to both Nikon and Lenstag to report it simply stolen – stolen before he even got a chance to own it.
The RCMP anti-fraud department told Michael to contact the credit card company.
Ontario Consumer Protection said to contact the credit card company. Everyone who can make Michael whole again is pointing fingers everyone but themselves.
That’s the story. I’m hoping that this whole thing is just a mistake and Michael fell through the cracks somehow. But if it’s not a random stroke of misfortune, it’s seems as though Amazon’s famous supply chain is compromised in a very real, material way and worse – they’re unwilling to do anything about it.
Things you might think work to prevent this from happening to you but won’t:
- “I’ll just inspect the contents of the package before signing for it.”
- This doesn’t actually work because with UPS, FedEx and all the rest, you’re signing for proof of delivery and not for the thing you’ve ordered. Freight shipping seems to work differently, but for regular packages, the shipper needs to file a claim with the shipping agent.
Things that will help but might cost you more:
- Buy local. If you buy from an actual physical store, you can see the thing you’re buying when you buy it and make sure it’s not modeling clay.
Things that will solve the bigger problem:
- Lenstag’s goal is to make it not worth it for thieves to take the time to steal cameras, lenses and everything related. If there is no market for stolen photo and video equipment, they’ll steal something else. Maybe a stereo, maybe a car, but whatever. Stereotag and Cartag can deal with that. Why do photographers have to be only the artists that get their tools stolen? We can fix this so sign up now if you haven’t yet and update your gear list if you have. You don’t want to be that guy or gal that has the police bang on their door to take away gear that belongs to someone else.
Michael Bemma is a photographer based in Canada. His Instagram is @bemmaphotography, you can find him on Facebook at BemmaPhotography and his website is ontariofantasymovies.ca. Photo at top is by Michael Bemma and is the clay Amazon sent him. It would be a way better photo if Amazon had sent him the camera they said they were going to.
Trevor Sehrer is the founder/developer/support guy/everything at Lenstag, has a day job and is a former Google engineer. He works on Lenstag during his nights, weekends and vacations. He endeavors to get more sleep and his Instagram is @trevorsehrer.