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Smart Consumer: Don't lose your focus with the hard sell on cameras

It's sunny and you're relaxed, strolling down the street in happy holiday mode. You pass by a shop and are cajoled into going inside with the promise of amazing offers on electronics. Once there, the hard sell starts.

No matter where you are headed, there is almost always something you need to be on the lookout for, and if you are headed to the Canaries, then this is where you'll need to be extra vigilant if buying a camera or camcorder.

Typically you could end up buying a camera under the impression that it is a well-known make, only to find out that it has a similar name but is not the big brand you thought it was. Instead it is a 'lookalike' brand, but you paid the 'big brand' price.

Or, you are shown and described one type of camera but a different, inferior model ends up in the box.

You might be told the expensive camera you are buying is selling at a knock-down price and comes with all the bells and whistles. Instead, it is overpriced, and doesn't come with all the functions described to you.

Basically, at the end of the day you could end up paying more than €1,000 for something worth €100.

"We've seen quite a lot of this," says Caroline Curneen of Ireland's European Consumer Centre. "In fact, we received a lot of complaints last January when people returned from a winter sun break, and we expect the same in September after the summer holiday season."

The common denominator in these scenarios is the hard sell. If you express interest in a particular model, sometimes sales assistants will direct you to another, saying it is a top-of-the-range model at a much better price that you would pay at home. They reassure you of the quality of the product, often keeping you in the shop for a long while and maybe adding in extras as a sweetener.

Once you have purchased the camera and realise something is amiss, it can be very difficult to get a remedy, because you'll have to prove what description was given to you in the shop.

According to Curneen, older people, who might be less savvy about brands and technical functions, are most likely to get stung.

Far better is to avoid getting into this situation in the first place:

1 Before you buy, do some research on what type of camera and what functions you want.

2 If you feel the shop assistant is pressuring you into buying something you're unsure about, walk away.

3 Take your time. If the seller claims the offer is only for that day, be wary.

4 If you are interested in the offer, take a note of the make and model on offer, and go online to check it out to discover whether or not it's a worthwhile purchase.

5 If you do buy, make sure you get the name and address of the shop, so you are able to contact them later should you have a complaint.

Useful website: www.ecc ireland.ie for assistance with cross-border consumer complaints.

Irish Independent