Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Lords of Flatbush





Being a photographer and a native of Brooklyn, I'm always interested in any news relating to the two subjects. But when there's news relating to photographs of Brooklyn or photographers, I'm in heaven.

However, while this bit of news relates to both my favorite subjects, it's far from pleasant and does not make me happy. In fact, it makes me mad.

It seems that Brooklyn photographer Don Wiss -- who among other things has been photographing the buildings of the sleaze merchants that pretend to be Brooklyn-based photographic equipment retailers -- has received death threats because of his actions. Wiss posts the photos of these sleazemeisters' storefronts on his web site.

I've been to a number of these retailers in my time in Brooklyn and actually successfully bought some stuff from them. Back then, if you dealt with them in person, they were less likely to try and rip you off than if you dealt with them on the phone. But these days, with the Internet, their scams have flowered. They constantly pull stunts like "bait-and-switch" or they sell you a camera cheap and then try and charge you exorbitant amounts for accessories that the manufacturer includes for free like lens caps and straps.

According to Wiss, writing on the rec.photo.digital news group:

...[T]oday [December 13, 2005] I got several threatening calls. First they called my home and left a message calling me a no good mother fucker and things like that. Then on my answering machine I have my work number. So he called me there. He had a thick Jewish accent. He said he had my home address, my parents names and address and he was going to post them all over the web. He was blaming me for putting them out-of-business and that they had already shut down.

While he didn't identify himself, he did say he was part of the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn. He then called back about 10 minutes later. He told me to watch my back. And that if I didn't leave the country I would be killed.


It seems the trouble started when an article appeared on the Slashdot web site about Thomas Hawk's attempt to buy a Canon EOS 5D camera from C&A Marketing, better known as PriceRightPhoto.com in Brooklyn. Hawk, a San Francisco-based blogger, said after the retailer tried to scam him with bait-and-switch, he was threatened with legal action and worse because he told the retailer he would write about his experience in his blog. The Slashdot article mentioned Wiss as well.

It's been known for years that many of these Brooklyn retailers are scam artists. But with the rise of online shopping, their thievery has found a new outlet.

But the fact that some of these sleaze merchants are now threatening people with physical harm is troubling. Where is the Better Business Bureau in all this? And where is New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer? His office is responsible for policing these retailers. He has the power to put these people out of business.

It's obvious that no one should buy anything from these people. It's also obvious that the ones that have made death threats against Wiss and Hawk should be in jail.

A.G. Spitzer, are you listening?

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