before buying any camera on the internet! You'll pay for that great deal... eventually.
Almost all of the amazing deals found on the internet are gray market products. These are products that are made by a popular, reputable manufacturer, and intended for and shipped to a foreign market. They are purchased by a dealer that accepts gray market products, and then resold in the US, usually at a discount. While it may seem like a bargain to buy the same name brand at a lower cost, the risks and headaches that come with it usually far outweigh the few dollars saved, and you could end up with a camera you can't even use.
Warranty? What warranty?
Aside from manuals and menus that may not be in a language you even recognize, and cords that won't plug in to American systems without some adapter, these purchases maintain one overriding risk. They do not come with a US warranty from the manufacturer. This means that if something, anything, goes wrong with that camera, you may be completely out of luck. In fact, some manufacturers will not service gray market cameras in the US at all, even if you are willing to pay for it yourself. So if you want to get that camera fixed, it may require shipping it to a foreign country and hoping for the best.
Mike's Camera gray market policy
Mike's Camera does not sell any gray market cameras... ever. The inevitable problems associated with gray market cameras are far too numerous to risk by offering these products. We stand behind all our sales. From our return policy to the fact that 100% of our new cameras come with a US manufacturer's warranty, with Mike's Camera, you always know exactly what you are getting.
How can I spot Gray Market "deals"
US Manufacturer's Warranty- This is the first tip off. If the product advertised does not come with its manufacturer's US warranty (make sure it actually says it's both a US warranty and a manufacturer's warranty), chances are you are getting gray market.
Authorized Dealer- If the site is not an authorized dealer for that brand, you don't know what you are getting. Authorized dealers usually stay away from gray market products, as this tends to hurt the manufacturer, jeopardize the camera retailer's dealership, and most importantly, hurts the consumer.
Fine print- Many websites will attempt to cover themselves by burying details about the nature of their products in the fine print descriptions. Any site that mentions "May be missing original packaging, cables, manuals etc." should be avoided, unless you want to risk buying an incomplete camera.
Ask- Not many people bother to ask about gray market products. If you see a deal that seems too good to be true? take the time to call them and ask. Most sites will be up front about it, if asked directly, and it?s better to be safe than sorry.
What is a Grey Market?
Manufacturers have different product specifications for each country that they do business in.
This may be due to different standards, languages or economic considerations specific to each country. A gray market product is any product that was built with the specifications for another country, but resold in the US.
Aren't the products destined for Europe or Asia made to the same specs as the ones for the US?
Absolutely not! While the quality of these products may be similar, they are designed with features that may not work properly in the US. For instance, one popular digital camera has the following warning on the manufacturers site: European specification cameras are set up for the PAL video standard and therefore are not compatible with the NTSC standard in the U.S.A., thereby disabling the important video preview feature. (This feature is not correctable). It further warns that cameras originating from Asia will not have English language menus. Each market requires different specifications, and a product destined for one market is simply not the same as one intended for another.
Won't my warranty cover me if I get a defective product anyway?
No. If the product did not come with a US manufacturer's warranty (which gray market products won't have) it will not be covered under warranty in the US. In fact, you may not be able to get the camera serviced at all within the US, even if you are willing to pay for it entirely yourself. So your only option for getting that camera fixed may be shipping it back to the country of origin and hoping it comes back working.
Are there other problems with gray market?
Yes. Aside from the often missing cables and accessories, gray market products frequently come with outdated software, manuals in another language and jacks and adapters that may not be compatible with other components in your system. Depending on the country of origin, the quality standards may also be lower than US standards.
So what do I look for to spot gray market deals?
First look for the US manufacturer's warranty. Many gray market sites will either offer a manufacturer's warranty, which will only be good in the country of origin, or a US warranty, which is merely an aftermarket warranty provided by the company running the website. If you don't see both of these components together, chances are it is gray market. Also look (in the fine print) for phrases that talk about may be missing some original packaging, cables, etc.. Dealers that operate on the level receive their products packaged complete from the manufacturer, and you should be wary of any that dont sell their products the same way. Lastly, give them a call and ask. Most will be honest about whether they sell gray market or not.