Traveling Around China

Buying a camera in Hong Kong – Don’t! (Part 3)

Still smiling few hours before scam number 2. Trying to act like a real expat!

Earlier this week I told you how I ended up buying my camera in Guangzhou because the prices were the same (or higher) in Hong Kong. Other reason to do that was that I got fooled really badly while trying to buy Canon 1000d. But that wasn’t the end for my camera hunt. I still needed one more scam to get me run back to mainland.

Scam number 2

(Lory, this is also a true story!)

This also happened in TST, but I don’t remember the street. So play it safe and avoid all the cheap camera stores in Hong Kong!

We had a long chat with this salesman, but here’s a short version of our discussion:

Me: Hi! I’m buying a camera and would like to know how much this Canon 1000d costs.

Salesman: That’s 4000HKD.

Me: Really, that’s quite expensive.

Salesman: Come inside, take a seat and you can try it.

Lots of small talk like where are you from, where do you live, do you know any Cantonese and so on.

Me: It was closer to 3000HKD in one other store.

Salesman: Let me see if I can make a better deal for you.

Me: 3500HKD, that’s still on the high end. I have quite tight budget.

Salesman: Come on, this is a very low price.

Me: And you surely have the camera? I just want to ask because in the other store they sold the camera to me and then they didn’t have it!

Salesman: Of course we have it. You pay, you get the camera. That’s how we do business.

Me: Well, that’s still little bit too much for me. I buy it right now if I can get it with 3200HKD.

Salesman trying to bargain like he really was selling me the camera.

Salesman: Okey, this price just for you. You pay now and we get the camera for you.

Me: Where do you get the camera?

Salesman: This is little bit older model so we don’t have it in the store. I have to get it from my office.

Me: I don’t know. I got fooled once in this same situation today and don’t want to see that happen again.

Salesman: That is not going to happen. I know that other stores do business like that, but we don’t.

Me: You are absolutely hundred percent sure you have the camera and I can buy it?

Salesman: Absolutely!

Me: Fine. Here’s the cash, go get the camera.

Salesman: While we are waiting I can show you another camera that you can buy next when you come back.

Showing the same Fujifilm camera that they tried to sell me in the first scam. Now the tricks come along. He also changed the white balance settings in the Canon and compared it to Fujifilm. Then he started talking about flash and other gear I should get.

Me: I have already decided which camera I’m going to buy.

Waiting for few minutes while the Salesman realises that I’m not going to buy the Fujifilm.

Salesman: Hey, I just heard that we don’t have the Canon.

Me: What?! You said that you are absolutely sure you have it! So you do business like the rest of the stores!

Salesman: (Don’t remember how he exactly said it, but something like this:) So why you trust people.

Me: So you tell me I shouldn’t have trusted you! How can you even make business like this?! Lying to my face! Give me my money back right now!

Salesman: Here’s the money, you can count it.

Again cursing my way out of the store. Unfortunately I only cursed in Finnish even I can curse in Cantonese too.

What just happened (again)

I just couldn’t believe what happened and it was the second time on the same day! I became so angry that my friend suggested we go to a nearby Irish Pub to cool down.

So why did I believe him? In the beginning he didn’t use any tricks, in the beginning he didn’t try to sell me something else. Those tricks only started after I paid. And again I want to remind you, that in Guangzhou it’s normal in wholesale stores that you pay first and then get you product from the storage.


  • If you want to buy a camera in Hong Kong you should go to the big stores like Fortress, Broadway and Suning.
  • Don’t believe salesmen.
  • Do your research well before buying. Check the prices and ask around.
  • In Hong Kong get the product first and only after that give the money.


  • xiaozhoucoldsea

    Normally we call such people in the Chinese term “jiangshang”(奸商) which means the seller cheating or making tricks in the trade of commodities..From the talks with this jianshang it seems that u r so smart and shrewd even more shrewd than most of the Chinese哈哈.Considering that the nubmer of jiangshang is huge in China espesially in mainland,it’s better to shop online ,for instance,Newegg(chinese version).u can get it at relative low price and the same after-sales service as that shopped from the local solid shops.
    Genarally speaking most of the digital products other than cameras r much cheaper in HK or other western countries than in China.It sounds little bit ridiculous that such things all made in China r sold at highest price in the original place China in the end.The trueth is that spare money we chinese payed has flooded into the ccp government’s purse in the form of tax.So life is tough in China:we get the lowest wage all over the world and buy the relative most expensive stuff.
    Recently I’m struggling in learning English and the sentence I wrote may seem not very fluent even to comprehend them need to experience great bitterness.Would u mind if I leave a reply on ur blog,Sara?And sincerely wish u good luck in next shopping and never encouter 奸商 again.

    Sara Reply:

    Thank you for joining the discussion xiaozhoucoldsea! And for teaching me the word 奸商! (It seems to be jianshang, not jiangshang.) I really appreciate that you and other fellow Chinese people come here and tell us more about your country and your experiences.

    You are doing good job with your English!

    xiaozhoucoldsea Reply:

    Sorry about that,Sara!it’s a typo:(
    And it’s kind of you to reply each comment whatever you like or not which can hardly be seen in any other blog.

    Sara Reply:

    I try to do my best on answering most of the comments I get. I think that when you see the effort of reading my posts and leaving those great comments, it’s my job to answer.

  • ge

    and i always thought it just happens in the mainland. well, for the third time, maybe ask to see the product first before paying. it’s annoying how they can ask for money first before the item! and be careful, they might have switched you money to fakes.

    Sara Reply:

    Ge, Luckily the next time I’m buying something from Hong Kong, it’s not going to be a camera. I learned my lesson!

  • thenakedlistener

    Ohhhhh, that’s not the way to go about things, Sara. You should have just asked for the product by name, and say it’s over what you can afford (or some other shop is offering a better deal). If they wince and squirm at this, just tell them (words to the effect), “Well, what other product are you going to offer instead of what I want? If it’s going to be a substitute, it’s going to have to be lower in price.”

    Pay now, get later? “How about get now, pay on collect? I’ll wait for you. Your godown [warehouse] is upstairs or nearby. Do you want me to shop here or your friend’s shop, huh? By the way, no water goods [pirated goods] please. You give me a good deal, I have to come back next month for my next purchase. Go now, I’ll wait for you.”

    When I get into these difficult situations (trust me, I’ve been in some really, really difficult ones before), I always say somewhere along the line, “Hey, do you want to see the colour of my money or not?”

    Sometimes, they’ll hit back with that great americanism, “No ticket, no laundry.” I say, “Yeah, no laundry, no ticket, pal.”

    That’s the way you deal with these shysters (xiaozhoucoldsea: that’s the English word for ‘jianshang’).

    Sara Reply:

    Good lines thenakedlistener! Usually only after something have happened, I come up with all the things I should have said.

    thenakedlistener Reply:

    Thank you, Sara. Just memorise those lines. I won’t charge you legal consultation fees for them! Hehehe.

    Sara Reply:

    You’re so generous!

    BerndR Reply:

    “Water goods” are grey imports and usually way cheaper than the official imports. They usually come with a Hong Kong only warranty (from the shop). So if you’re okay with this, buy. Of course not at the TST and Causeway Bay shops that don’t have their own names up but just the camera brands. That said, there are also “real” camera shops in these areas, such as Tin Cheung Camera (TST, CWB), Shogun Camera (TST), Sim City, and some more. Another good place to start is (google translate can help to figure out the addresses).

    allhallowseve Reply:

    Shyster is a poor choice of words, unless you’re intentionally being anti-Semitic. It’s derived from Shakespeare’s Shylock, and equivelant to saying they’ll “Jew you” … out of it, or down, or up (in price… ). Very bad form.

  • ordinary malaysian

    I have not been to Hong Kong, but I have heard horror stories of sales personnel there. It is really unethical of them to say that they have the model or product you want and then when you pay up they tell you they don’t have it and then try to sell you another model that they have. I don’t know why tourist still like Hong Kong as a shoppers’ paradise. I guess people are basically masochists. Here in Malaysia I am happy to report that when a shop does not have the model or product you want they are honest enough to tell you so, and then ask if you mind another model or product.

    Sara Reply:

    Guangzhou can be a bit mafan 麻烦 (inconvenient / troublesome) when shopping, but I still haven’t encountered the same that in Hong Kong. I’m just thinking can they really make money with this kind of business style? Are some buyers really that clueless that they buy what ever you sell them? Don’t they consider that every time you make a scam like this, the customer will ther his/her friends about this and you will lose business?

    thenakedlistener Reply:

    The truth is, Hong Kong is no better or worse than many other places around the world. The difference is that there might have been more horror stories coming out of Hong Kong, mainly because of a perception that this sort of shady business practice doesn’t happen here. Basically, the bigger chainstores such as Fortress and Broadway are safe bets, and whilst their prices are relatively higher, you get what you want problem-free. But the government here in many ways is fighting a losing battle with the smaller AV shops that dot the Tsimshatsui district – although I’m making no representations about those shops there in general.

  • lory

    yeah,wherever in the world has “jianshang”,i don’t know how foreign salemen operate,but i think this experience is not China,one with expertise is popular because people don’t know about the area must ask to them for the product,which can help them buy the most suitable goods.

    Sara Reply:

    Lory, I’m sorry but I have to say that sometimes I have small problems on understanding your comments. What you mean by “but i think this experience is not bad”?

    thenakedlistener Reply:

    I think what Lory meant to say was that she reckons this sort of episode happens wherever there are shysters, even though she doesn’t know how salespeople operate in other countries. I reckon Lory also meant that your episode probably isn’t as bad as it seems. I reckon Lory also meant that, in the PRC, shops with knowledgeable salespeople are more popular with people, mainly because customers who are unfamiliar with the area must rely on these knowledgeable salespeople to get get what they want. (Yeah, it’s kind of hard to read Chinese with English words with run-in sentences.) (*Sorry, Lory*)

    xiaozhoucoldsea Reply:

    Thx for your interpretation and the word “shysters”,thenakedlistener.and here is my Chinese simplified interpreting version>_<:
    世界上(in the world)每个地方(each place)都有(has)奸商(shysters)。在其他国家(in other countries)我不知道(i duno)外国商人(foreign salesman)怎样(how)卖东西(to operate),但是(but)我不认为(i dunt think)这个经历(this experience)不好(bad)。在中国(in china),有购买经验的人(one that has expertise in purchsing)很受欢迎(is popular)因为(because) 有些人(some people)不知道(duno)地址(the shopping area),所以(so)他们(they)必须(must)求助(ask help for)有购买经验的人(one that has expertise in purchsing):他们(they)能(can)帮助(help)你(you)买到(get)最合适的(optimum) 东西(things)。

    Sara Reply:

    Thanks! This is good for my Chinese too :)

    thenakedlistener Reply:

    Looks like my 20 out of 25 marks isn’t too bad after all.

    C Reply:

    i agree… it could have been worse.. they could have tailed you back to your hotel!

    C Reply:

    and they actually gave you back your money… consider yourself Lucky

  • Nomad

    I bought my favorite camera (which was later stolen in the mainland) from HK. Toured first the shops which had the camera ON VIEW, compared the prices and then bought the cheapest. Thought it was quite easy.

    Sara Reply:

    Good to hear that you had a much easier buying experience!

  • Katja

    Syväluotaavaan tapaan:

    Sulla on tuossa se ihana Vilan laukku kun aloitit hissan. Nyt se reissaa mukana uusissa seikkailuissa :) Tuli muistoja mieleen.

    Sara Reply:

    Oletpas tarkkaavainen Katja! Valitettavasti tuon Vilan laukun olkahihnat ovat jo hieman karsineet. Nahtavasti on tullut kannettua liian painavia kirjoja :) Seuraavan laukun olen paattanyt ostaa nahkaisena ja toivoa, etta se kestaisi vuosikausia.

  • dingle

    almost exactly the same happened to me about 5 years ago in HK, it’s known as bait and switch. They entice you with a particular product then try to switch you to something else which is more profitable to them.
    In my case I also wanted to buy a camera and similarly to you I paid for it before seeing the actual goods. As soon as I paid the guy started telling me what a bad choice I was making, the camera I wanted to buy wasn’t good, I should choose this other camera for the same price which was MUCH better (I knew very well that this was a significantly cheaper camera). When I insisted on buying the original camera I’d paid for I ended up having to get into a huge argument to get my money back, of course they hadn’t got it…

    Never hand over cash without seeing the goods!

    Sara Reply:

    It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one who have experienced this. Good that you too got your money back dingle!

  • Frank Psaila

    Very good insight to how business happens in both countries. The lesson out of this is to know the price beforehand and never ever pay over +10% of the online price. The reason being that buying certain stuff like cameras online is a risk in itself due to mishandling and most of the time carriers are not responsible for the deliveries. It happened to me many times since i live in China for many years now.

    BTW. great photo of yours above.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    I really learned my lesson with this experience. Like you said, knowing the price is very important and if something is too cheap to be true, then it probably isn’t true.

  • Elena

    I will spend 3 month in Zhuhai this summer. I will visit Hong Kong as well.
    Is it better to buy camera in China or Hong Kong? and is the camera in Hong Kong cheaper than in Europe?

    Thank you!!

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    According to my experiences the prices between China and Hong Kong doesn’t always have a big difference. You could do some comparison by visiting online stores like Fortress and Suning in Hong Kong. Just be careful if you go to those cheap camera shops in TST or Mongkok area, if something sound too cheap, it probably isn’t true.

    Frank Reply:

    Don’t forget that you might get charged the tax if you enter with the new thing back into China. They have strict new customs rules now, so if you manage to get a good deal from Hong Kong throw away the package before you enter China or you’ll get charged customs duty at the border.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Good point, Frank!

  • MGana

    I want to complain about an overpriced purchase I made last Friday, Sept. 27,2013. I bought a Canon 6D from Artek Digital Equipment Co. Shop A4 GF HK Mansion 1Yee Wo Street, Causeway Bay,Hongkong. I was made to pay an additional 9,400HKD for a lens valued at 3,900 HKD. The lens is a 28-135 mm Canon ULtrasonic. The sellers were shouting and bullying me. I initially paid 11,000 cash for the body. Then they were switching lenses. When I was feeling harassed with their changing lenses I asked for my money back!…. They refused. I got scared. Wanting to complete the sale I just did what they said and charged the rest through my credit card. The next day I asked my daughter to go back and claim the other items they did not give me She went with the receipt. I did not get the receipt back. Now I just confirmed the fraud and I want to open a dispute case with my credit card bank. However, I do not have their email or fax. Can you please give me some lead. At least I want to get a refund of 7,000 HKD.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if that pushy and rude salesman pocketed some of that cash.

  • Rainer Lucks

    Thank you soo much for sharing your experience and passing it on for other potential victims.
    Much appreciated and will heed your advise.
    best wishes

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you for reading!