(I didn't make a hyperlink from this page's title to their website because I don't want my cherished readers to click through and risk having the misfortune of buying something from these people!)

Here's the way these guys operate.

  1. You want to buy some nice bit of consumer electronics (say, a digital camera or a GPS unit).  You go online and find out from a websearch on Google or a product search on Froogle that FotoConnection has a great price on the gadget in question.
  2. You go to their website and place an order from them for exactly the product you want.
  3. The next day, they call you back to "confirm" your order.  You say that you want exactly what you ordered, and they work very hard to entice you to upgrade and buy various "extras", some of which might not even exist.  If you hold firm, apparently they will tell you a variety of things, such as that what you ordered isn't in stock (even though their website says it is) or that it's an "international version" that doesn't come with a warranty.
  4. You decide to upgrade your order a bit.
  5. When the product arrives, you see that it's basically just what you ordered originally-- but at a much higher price because of the "extras", many of which are nonexistent.
Although it really makes me look like a grade-A moron, I guess I'll have to 'fess up and outline the exact details of my 2004 October transaction with these guys when I purchased a Garmin Quest GPS unit from them.  There's plenty more information online about FotoConnection and their business practices-- see ResellerRatings.  Too bad I didn't check this out before I ordered from them!

Why I might only be a grade-B moron.

Before I give the nasty details, I'm going to list two rather minor points in my defense.  My hope is that when you take into account these points, you'll decide that I'm only a grade-B moron, rather than a grade-A moron.
  1. I'm very shortly going on a trip for which I really want to have a GPS unit.  I did enough research to ascertain that the Garmin Quest was definitely the unit I wanted to buy.
  2. Before ordering from FotoConnection, I ordered from two other suppliers (not at the same time!).  It turned out that neither of them had the unit in stock, unfortunately, although it took a day or two each time for me to ascertain that.  So it seemed pretty clear that this unit was in fairly short supply.

My pathetic story (told in the present tense so you, dear reader, can feel like you're there living it with me!).

I order just the basic Garmin Quest unit for $479 from the FotoConnection website with "3 Day Select" shipping for $29.99.  Total: $508.99.

The next day, I get a phone call from a sales representative (my receipt says his name was "William").  He asks me what else I want to order.  I say "Nothing, thanks."  He tells me that the unit I ordered is pretty much unusable because you can hardly fit anything into the 115Mbytes of memory that it comes with, and that I'll want to upgrade to a "US" version with a full Gigabyte of memory that also comes pre-loaded with full maps for the United States.

Furthermore, I'll want an extended warranty-- $249 for three years.  This warranty will provide me with service (of course) but will also enable me to get upgrades-- if I don't buy the warranty, I'll have to send the unit out and pay $100 each time I want it upgraded.

Because I really want to get the GPS unit in time for my trip and because I'm clearly a moron of some grade, I let William talk me into the 1Gbyte "US" version upgrade and a one-year warranty (it's "only" $49 for one year).

He tells me he'll upgrade me from three-day shipping to two-day shipping.  I say OK, assuming that this upgrade won't cost me anything.  No shipping costs are mentioned, in fact; the only dollar figure I hear from him towards the end of our interaction was $599.99, which I assumed was the total amount I would be charged.

When the unit arrives, the receipt says I have the "Garmin Quest In-dash Navigation System USA Model Kit" for $599.99 with $39.99 for shipping.  Total: $639.98.

My Quest is not a 1Gbyte unit.  In fact, there's no such thing!  The manual-- and Garmin's website-- make it clear that in the United States, Quest units have 115Mbytes.  Furthermore, the United States maps aren't pre-loaded-- only the usual very imprecise base map for the planet is pre-loaded, as it always is.  I even called Garmin's technical support to confirm that that's what's out there: 115Mbyte units with just the base map in memory.

In addition, the manual that comes with the Quest unit indicates that I get software upgrades free from the Garmin website for the life of the unit-- so I have to figure that the costly upgrades William was talking about are wholly fictional.

And of course, I was charged an extra $10 for a shipping upgrade that wasn't my idea at all.

I call FotoConnection to complain.  I am given two options: keep the unit, or return it, subject to a 15% (!) restocking fee.  Since I really want to have the unit in hand for my upcoming trip, I don't want to return it.  So I decide to put up a web page describing my experience with FotoConnection.

P.S. The Garmin Quest itself seems very cool!  I haven't played with it much yet, but my preliminary impressions are very positive!

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