I decided to post this as a word of caution and to gain suggestions from you on any further actions I might need to take to help improve the photographic marketplace. As many of USA dealers are also present on this forum I would appreciate any comments from them.
Because this is now in a return process with the seller who has a good return policy for defective and not as described items (at least on paper that is) I think it is fair not to name names, nonetheless because I was so shocked to receive what I have received from a respected dealer please bear with me and I hope you read the whole post.
1. The dealer
The dealer is a well respected UK dealer for Mamiya, Phase One, Broncolor, Profoto amongst others. They state on their website they are established for nearly 40 years serving the professional photographic market and they do rental, hire, Phase One medium format digital, large format technical cameras, film, lighting hire, sale of tungsten and flash lights, stands and grip equipment, DSLR rigs and studios accessories. They have an on-line store and an Ebay.co.uk store. However, they are not listed on the Profoto website as a dealer for the UK.
I have previously bought two Phase One value added roller cases from their on-line store with great service.
2. The marketplace
The dealers Ebay.co.uk store where they are selling only small and clearance items.
3. The item advertised
The item advertised was “Profoto Honeycomb Grid 5 Degree (100646)« with item condition »New other (see details)« and stated under details / product description »Clearance Profoto Honeycomb Grid 5 Degree (100646) Grid for Standard Zoom Reflector«. The picture used was a proper photo of a new Profoto grid from the official Profoto site. Also, on the dealers on-line store (main website) they use the same description “Profoto Honeycomb Grid 5 Degree, Grid Honeycomb 5°, Grid for Standard Zoom Reflector” and use the exact same picture.
4. Price, quantity and offer time
On the dealers on-line store (main website) the price including VAT is £ 124.02 but for this clearance item they offered a price of just £ 50.00. A discount of 60%! They put the item on Ebay on Christmas Day (24 December) with available quantity of 3. All 3 were sold, mine first on 25 December followed by two others on 1 and 3 January.
5. My purchase motivation
I already have a lot of Profoto gear, all bought from my official Slovenian Profoto dealer which is listed on the Profoto website as a dealer and distributor for Slovenia. From him I get occasional discounts in the range from 10% to 30% and up to 50% on clearance items. So I already have a Profoto grid kit (a 5, 10 and 20 degrees grids with a bag) and one extra 10 degree grid with another bag. As I often use grids with zoom reflectors in combos of two for rim lights I decided to go with another 5 degree grid as I already have two 10 degree grids and a 20 degree is too wide for me and get rarely used.
My Slovenian dealer offered me a 10% discount on RRP for a 5 degree grid and after scouting for other options on Ebay.de and Ebay.co.uk I saw this ad from the UK dealer offering a 60% discount on RRP and reasonable postage cost for a total of 50% effective discount on RRP. As this was a respected dealer and the item was described as new but clearance and it was clearly stated it is a Profoto item (it was not ... for Profoto but Profoto ...) using also the official Profoto product code of 100646 and official Profoto photo of the product I jumped to the occasion for a Christmas treat or so I thought.
6. The item received
I received the item yesterday. After opening the parcel there was a faded white box without any Profoto logo or barcode or product code as I am accustomed with my other Profoto purchases. On the box there was only a stamped number 100606 suggesting there is a 20 degree Profoto grid in it. After opening the box there was a big surprise. And I mean BIG!
In a plain plastic bag there were two grids I am assuming a Chinese knock-off versions. I immediately knew these are not original Profoto because I already own 4 original Profoto grids as explained above and the differences are immediately apparent. The difference is like day and night:
1. the received grids (a knock off 20 and 5 degree, remember I bought just the 5 degree one) have no lip with Profoto logo and degree marking on it
2. they are not even rounded shape but instead a bit oval in shape with curvatures going off here and there
3. there are many imperfections in craftmanship of the product not seen in any of my Profoto originals (I assume these imperfections would not pass Profoto quality control)
4. they are lighter and feel cheap in the hand, thus assuming they are made from a different and less longstanding material than the Profotos
5. there is an obvious difference in material and finish.
7. The action taken
I have filed a return request with the seller awaiting his approval. I have also written an e-mail to the manager of this dealer if by any chance he is not aware of their ebay store managing. Also I have informed Profoto UK because in my opinion this can affect their good name. If someone would not know how the original Profoto grid looks and feels and he would receive what I have received he would assume the Profoto grids are of poor quality because the item was selling as a Profoto.
8. The bottom line
I cannot find the answer to the question: How it is possible that a respected dealer who sells Profoto gear even stocks items of this low quality and how it is possible he is able to sell them as Profoto?
Also, I have already lost £ 10.00 for initial postage which will not be refunded under the sellers return T&C and will lose another £ 10.00 or so for returning the item back to the seller. Also and more important I have lost my confidence in this UK dealer and the mantra “Buy only from a respected dealer” does not work for me anymore. As of now I only trust my respected LOCAL dealer who is serving me well for over 4 years and will buy internationally only from respected dealers who are listed on the manufactures websites.
It sadness me that the photographic marketplace has become what it is.
Your comments and suggestions are welcomed and will be appreciated.
I will post some pics of my originals compared to these knock-offs later today when I will be home from work.