Tourist issues warning on rip-offs

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 March, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 March, 2002, 12:00am

An American tourist has issued a warning to fellow travellers after he was cheated by a Nathan Road store when he paid $6,000 for what he thought was a camcorder but was in fact a digital camera worth a third of the price.

The Consumer Council is now monitoring the store for further breaches, but said it was difficult to prove a case of criminal deception.

Council spokesman Kenneth So Wai-sang said the shop had used classic 'bait and switch' tactics - using cheap prices to attract customers but then telling them the product was out of stock after they had paid and then offering an alternative.

San Francisco tourist Vijay Sundaram said he went straight to the police when he realised what had happened last Sunday.

'I wanted to buy a Sony camcorder. When I saw the model I wanted in the shop window we haggled the price down from $6,000 to $4,750,' Mr Sundaram said.

'The salesman gave me an invoice and got my credit card imprint and then he asked me to wait because he said he had to go somewhere else to get the model.

'He took me into a room where he wanted to show me how the Sony worked.'

Mr Sundaram said he thought the images on the television screen were too dull.

'The salesman agreed and said the Sanyo was much better so he took the Sanyo and scanned the room and the picture quality was a lot better.

'He was very slick and kept pushing the Sanyo which he wanted $8,000 for and which I negotiated down to $6,000.'

Mr Sundaram realised he had been cheated only after leaving the store when he discovered that the Sanyo model was actually a digital camera with limited video capability and not a camcorder.

The same Sanyo digital camera sells locally in chain stores for about $2,000. 'The store refused to provide me with a refund or exchange and instead offered to throw some other accessory in for free,' Mr Sundaram said.

'This confirmed to me that it was a bogus transaction so I went to the nearest police station and reported the matter.'

Police escorted him to the store, where the shopkeeper agreed to provide a refund.

'The officer later advised me to do business with reputable stores, but that's not going to help out the next unwitting tourist,' he said. 'This is an unethical business practice and other tourists should know that they don't have to accept this.'

A Police Public Relations Bureau spokeswoman said there was no need for further action because the case had been settled.

Mr So warned consumers to be on the alert for 'bait and switch' tactics.

'Once people have made their choice they should insist on it and not be pressured into something else. It is also advisable to have some knowledge about the product before you go shopping,' he said.

'We have named a number of shops frequented by tourists. I don't recall this one being named before but we will certainly keep an eye on it.'