I’ve been in a photographic funk. You can probably tell that by the lack of blog posts. Part of the reason is the weather, as it’s been one hellaciously brutal winter. Not great for birds, or bird photography! But part of it is that I just need something…new. Something to jump start the passion.
One thing we’re doing this summer will DEFINITELY jump start that passion…3 weeks in Australia! We’re flying into Sydney and spending time there, but also have time near Coffs Harbor, Brisbane, and Port Douglas. The last is the most exciting to me, as we’ll be adjacent to both the Great Barrier Reef, and Daintree Forest, the only place on the planet where two World Heritage sites are adjacent to each other! It’s going to be the trip of a lifetime for our little family who hasn’t been outside of the US, other than Canada. And from a birding standpoint, it should be spectacular.
To prepare for that trip, I wanted to get a new lens. Literally 99% of all photos of my website have been taken with the same lens…a Canon 400mm 5.6L. It’s a wonderfully sharp lens! I’ve had it over 15 years and it’s served me VERY well. But it has limitations. As a prime, I miss out on other wildlife situations when I’m out shooting, as it’s too long sometimes for bigger critters. It also is one of the older Canon “L” professional lenses, and lacks Image Stabilization. For a relatively slow 5.6L max aperature and a lack of IS, you really need good light to have a great shot at sharp photos.
Before heading to Australia, I thus wanted to buy a Canon 100-400mm L IS ii lens. The 2nd version of this lens gets truly incredibly reviews, and with the broad zoom range and a wonderfully reviewed IS, it meets my needs. It’s a lot for me to spend though, with most places charging $2049. I was thus really excited when I saw one place offering it for an amazing $600 less than that! I knew it was likely ‘grey market’ (imported directly, not eligible for a Canon warranty), but at that price, it would have been worth it.
The seller was Abe’s of Maine. I’d never used them, but I’d heard of them over the years. Note though it’s been many years since I’ve bought new equipment, so I didn’t know that in the last decade they’ve 1) gone bankrupt, and 2) had a new owner operate the name out of New Jersey. A new owner with a truly god-awful reputation.
I can attest that reputation is WELL deserved! After I excitedly placed the order Sunday, today (Monday) I started getting phone calls and emails. “Ted” from Abe’s left a message, stating that he needed to confirm my order. When I had time, I called. At first he was nice. At first. That didn’t last long. He asked about my equipment, then explained that the lens I ordered wasn’t the “retail version”, and didn’t include:
- Lens caps (!!!)
- Tripod foot/shoe
- Tripod Collar
The last one was REALLY a shocker to me, because on this lens…THE TRIPOD COLLAR IS INTEGRATED INTO THE LENS AND ISN’T REMOVABLE!!! I audibly LAUGHED when he told me the last one and called BS on him. He got very defensive and assured me that all of these items simply aren’t included with the lens, but for $1999 (A mere $550 above the website price!!) he could give me the lens with these “extras”.
Again, I called BS on him and asked if he was going to honor the offer online. He started going off again about the “retail” version, and I said CANCEL MY ORDER!! and hung up on good ol’ Ted.
And immediately I got a call (which I didn’t answer). Then another. Then two emails. In one email he said I hung up too early, and that he thinks he could offer the “retail version” for $1799. There was NO way I was going to deal with this company after the bait-and-switch, so I emailed back three simple words. CANCEL MY ORDER. A little later I got another email. No, the order hadn’t been cancelled yet! No, now suddenly he could offer it at $1699. So again, I replied, this time stating CANCEL…THE DAMN…ORDER.
Awhile later, I did finally get an email that they cancelled the order. But this whole episode went on for the better part of a day. After that first call, I started reading the horror stories about Abe’s. One “feature” of their business is that they evidently often charge a 15% “restocking fee”, and not only for returned items, but sometimes for items that were cancelled before shipping!! When I read that, somewhere in between his 4th and 5th attempt to call me and his 4th email attempt, I called my credit card company and CANCELLED that card, ordering a new one. I was NOT going to give this crappy company a chance to charge ANY sort of fee, particularly not this bogus restocking fee.
I’m 52 years old. I should have known it was too good to be true, but I couldn’t resist that price. There are PLENTY of bad reviews for the “new” Abe’s…take them to heart. Also note they clearly spam the review sites with their own, perfect reviews…don’t believe it. As one reviewer noted, Abe’s is the ONLY place he knows of where “if you buy a TV, they’ll charge you, then call you back and ask if you want to pay extra for the remote“.
Here’s another warning: