THE TENERIFE CAMERA SCAM
As a resident or visitor to Tenerife, you might have heard about the ubiquitous Tenerife camera scam. There are several pages on the subject right here on eTenerife (see Related Links in the sidebar), full of comments from those who have first hand experience of it. One thing that all the commenters have in common – apart from a lighter wallet – is a feeling of disbelief and anger at themselves for having been conned.
There are also one or two unsympathetic responses to comments. These tend to be along the lines of ‘buyer beware’, and blame the victims for being gullible. No doubt those that were conned beat themselves up about it quite enough without this negativity but what the critics do not take into account is the sophistication and determination of the scam-artists. The following true story may give more insight into what happens in a typical Tenerife Camera Scam scenario:
This is an account of what happened to my wife and I on a recent visit to Tenerife. I have given an account of the sequence of events as I can best remember them.
While in the shop the man offered to sell us a small Sony camcorder for €39 euros. “On special offer – a very good deal” he said. He gave us a little demonstration and it certainly seemed like a nice item. “We’ll think about” I said and we returned to the Hotel. The next day I decided “well why not” it wasn’t too expensive and could be a worthwhile buy.
Camcorders were not something I’d previously taken much interest in and was unfamiliar with their general values and capabilities. This gap in my knowledge was not a good thing as we shall see.
So we returned to the shop the next day and I decided to ask about the camcorder. Ok, I thought it ‘was’ a good deal and handed over the €39. The shopkeeper then introduced us to another man, a tall Indian chap, who he described as the technical expert who would demonstrate and talk about the camcorders capabilities. We were offered seats and a drink. My wife took a coke and he gave me a can of beer.
The ‘technical expert’ then went on to describe a couple of accessories that would be essential to get the best from the camcorder. He was friendly and seemed reasonable so I decided to upgrade my purchase to include the items he recommended (and also two pairs of clip-on Polaroid sunglasses – not cheap). “It would be easy to pay by card” he said. When I think back this was the turning point, we should have taken the camcorder and left – isn’t hindsight a wonderful but useless thing?
And so I paid by card for what seemed like pricey but necessary items to go along with the camcorder. Now that I was hooked, he started talking about the camcorder’s capabilities and introduced a Jessops catalogue showing large UK prices for related accessory items. He said that after 30 minutes use you have to purchase a new battery to continue using the camera, approx 69 UK pounds a pop according to the catalogue. “Whoa whoa whats going on here… that’s no use!” I said. The technical expert then started berating the original salesman for not properly informing me about the camcorder’s limitations and specifications. “That’s your commission cancelled!” he told him. On cue I protested about the draconian measure against the salesman. I realise now that this was a little rehearsed drama being played out between the pair.
A more expensive camera was now presented a Yashica-Europe X-8 16.0 Mega Pixels which was re-chargeable and with much better specifications (he said) – the prices were now rising dramatically. I was beginning to feel very uncomfortable that things were starting to get out of my control.
Noticing that I was becoming anxious, the Indian man began talking quickly and re-assuring me about what a good deal it was and how the new camcorder was so much better. He demonstrated it on a TV screen to supposedly show the better picture quality all the while spouting technical jargon. My wife was also looking on apprehensively and could see me getting more uncomfortable. At this stage I was very much regretting coming into the shop and mentioned cancelling the the whole deal but the ‘expert’ pointed out to me that I’d already paid for the first camcorder and accessories and that this upgrade to a better camera was a wise move. By now I was pacing up and down and feeling pressured into making a decision.. “Ok ok!” I said “I’ll do it!”
At that point all my rationality went out the window. He kept presenting me with large euro sums for “…essential accessories…so much cheaper than the UK”. One of his lines was don’t worry if you’re not happy you can re-sell the camcorder in the UK and you won’t lose out. I used my card again to pay a large sum but it was not quite enough to cover the ‘essential’ costs’ so we went to a cash-teller machine and I tried to draw out more but it was now blocked (thank goodness!) and that particular avenue to funds was closed.
Not satisfied, the technical salesman advised me to phone my bank and get them to unblock or transfer money from another account but I was unable to supply the bank with the correct information and it was refused (thank goodness again). The salesman said the deal was nearly done and invited my wife and I to lunch in a nearby cafe while the guarantee was being prepared. We were both unable to eat as the anxiety we both felt was too much to contemplate consuming food.
When we returned to the shop, we were once again bombarded with jargon and I was presented with another euro bill which of course I was unable to meet. In a final gesture to meet the costs I handed over the notes I had in my wallet which was about €100 euros and 200 pound sterling. By this point all financial common sense on my part was gone. I told him that I was now totally cleaned out and had nothing left, The camera items were then handed to me along with my original €39 euros and we left the premises after being in the shop for nearly two hours. It was a great relief to escape but we both felt totally drained.
The holiday was now near it’s end and after a sleepless night we travelled home on the Saturday morning. Before leaving to go on the holiday my current account contained what I considered to be a healthy £1550 give or take a little. At the first opportunity on our return I checked the balance on a teller machine it was now showing £350 overdrawn and was well and truly blocked. I haven’t checked the exact figures but I estimate the whole enterprise had cost me at least £2200. I immediately phoned my bank and arranged an appointment for Monday morning to sort out the mess.
On the journey home within the UK and against all my instincts I held onto the belief that perhaps everything was legit and the camera and items had some value. But of course a quick search on the internet revealed many stories of this type of scam taking place in the Canary Islands, and without a doubt I had been well and truly duped. As far as I can find out, in reality the camera is worth a fraction of what I paid.
I feel such a fool for being taken in and would strongly advise holiday companies operating to the Canary Islands to make a point of warning their clients to be aware of this type of scam.
And as for my £2200 well I’ll have to take it on the chin as a lesson painfully learned. Now poorer and hopefully a little wiser.
Name and Shame
Hopefully, John will do more than ‘take it on the chin’. If still in Tenerife he could start by filling out the Hojas de Reclamation form which is a complaints book that all shops must display. As he is not on the island, the resources on the Ripped Off in Tenerife page may help him recover some of his money or at the very least, gain some satisfaction by lodging an official complaint against the shop and salesmen.
Hopefully, in telling his story, John has saved some others from making the same mistake and this thought will give him sme satisfaction. I urge everyone who has fallen into any kind of tourist trap in Tenerife to talk about it. Name and shame! Please contact me here if you would like to do that:
Alleged Camera Shop Cowboys
We receive regular comments and emails from those who have been ripped off in Tenerife. Obviously we have no way of checking whether every one of the shops listed here are using heavy-handed or unfair tactics to sell second rate products.
It is entirely possible that one scummy cowboy came across this page by accident and decided to send numerous emails and comments over a number of years bad-mouthing his competitors. Possible but unlikely. So if after reading lal the cautionary tales on eTenerife you are still determined to buy that camera, steer clear of anything branded Yashica and take extra caution if dealing with any of these shops:
- TEAM Cash and Carry
- Dream Cash and Carry
- Goodwill S. C.
- Buy & Fly
- Tip Top Regalos
- Media World