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I spent days looking at specs before deciding which digicam I wanted for Christmas, but it all boiled down to one thing: the Canon PowerShot A50 has the widest lens.

Most digicams with zooms cover about the same as a 35mm lens on a 35mm camera, although Kodak has a few models that are equivalent to a 30mm lens. But the PowerShot A50, that one reaches a bit wider, covering as much as a 28mm wide-angle lens.

I'd like more, but that's as wide as they go today.

Beyond that, the Canon is very affordable, very compact, and has a very good reputation. I'm looking forward to getting one.

Getting one - now that was an interesting experience.

This is the Christmas of ecommerce. The hot new site: mySimon, which can compare prices from dozens of different source. The real trick is to sort by price, since that's not how mySimon initially lists its findings.

Last Wednesday, I checked Buy.com, who had the lowest price. No stock.

Next on the list was TriState Camera at $339.95. So I went online and placed the order. I even paid the long dollar for two-day shipping so I could have it for the weekend (last weekend). For $368.50, I'd have the PowerShot I wanted.

But it was not to be. Instead of calling me at work, they left a message on my home answering machine. "Call Jay." Thursday morning, I did that.

He wondered if I wanted the rechargeable batteries or more memory?

No, I just want the camera. That's why it's all I ordered. And I wanted it shipped second day so I could have it for the weekend.

Uh, let me check stock.

Turns out TriState didn't have the camera in stock and couldn't tell me if they'd have any before Christmas.

Cancel the order.

This attempted transaction shows some serious flaws in the way some people do ecommerce:

  1. Assume the customer know what he wants. If I don't order it, I probably don't want it - at least not now.
  2. Don't phone the customer hours later trying to add on to the sale, especially if they're paying for priority shipping! Call immediately and use email.
  3. Most of all, if you're out of stock, make sure your site tells me that. I shouldn't have to call you back to find out I've ordered something you don't have.

After all, I tried to do my homework. If a site said they were out of stock, I didn't try to order the PowerShot.

So, Thursday morning I start all over again. I finally found the A50 in stock at State Street Direct Online for $369.95. Being yet another day closer to Christmas, I opted for UPS Express delivery, which cost me $12.15 and promises third day delivery.

December 21, 1999. The day I'm expecting my first digicam to arrive. Too bad I didn't have it last weekend for the family Christmas get together, but we'll be doing Christmas with the in-laws this coming weekend.

But I definitely learned my lesson: never buy online from a site that doesn't indicate the item is in stock. Had TriState indicated the item might not have been available for immediate delivery, I would have looked elsewhere and not become a disgruntled almost customer.

UPDATE: The package from State Street Direct Online arrived on Tuesday. I can hardly wait for Christmas to receive it (my wife wrapped it before I got home).

Further Reading

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Buying My Digicam Online

Dec. 21, 1999
Dan Knight



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