Saturday, November 7, 2009

Criminal Minds Revisited, and Bootlegged!

I know I could have responded to my previous post on this topic but I have enough to say about it that it does deserve its own post. I have now seen every episode of Criminal Minds ever aired, and am totally hooked on the show which, in the previous post, I did blast, rather.

Nothing I said was untrue and I stand by it all. However, I have since been able to appreciate all of the actors and all of the characters, and their uniqueness (some of which was in question), much better for having seen more. In particular I have come to enjoy Kirsten Vangsness' Penelope Garcia, who at first reminded me of whatshername in NCIS, a show I really, REALLY dislike (I must, or I'd be watching it for the marvelous David McCallum): you know, the gothy girl. I thought Garcia was CM's answer to NCIS. She's not. She's herself, a very GOOD self, too. I also have come to appreciate Paget Bewster's Emily Prentice (and her uniqueness) quite a bit more than when I saw her as a replacement for Lola Glaudini's ever-staring Elle Greenaway based PURELY on her having long, dark hair (not to upset the balance in the full-cast picture; I saw their choice of Joe Mantegna's David Rossi as a replacement for Mandy Patinkin's Jason Gideon the same way -- dark-haired white men -- except that I was already very familiar with both actors and despite my opinion of how Mantegna may have been chosen, was glad to see him on the show; I should add that I don't hate Glaudini but she really never drew me in, even when she was the focus of the show and should have done so.) Brewster creates a much fuller character, whose depths have not even yet been plumbed by the writers, who are by and large (not without exceptions, alas) turning out better material than they once did (although an early two-parter, "The Big Game" and "Revelations" was flawless and played a large part in my becoming completely hooked on the show).

But I am not here to write a review (nor, as I may have implied, to apologize for the previous post). I am here to tell you a story about international deceit, if not intrigue.

I asked my fiancé to buy me the boxed set of the first four seasons (for those not familiar with the show, the current season is number five and only a handful of episodes have aired, so this won't be available for a while) if I could find a fantastic price. Amazon's SALE price is $135 plus shipping (or maybe shipping is free, who knows?) I've seen it go on eBbay for as little as $77 (but that was unusual; more often it has sold for $90-120). We decided $75 was our limit. Then he upped it to $80 and then to $100 (which I refused to do; that's too much, as we are impoverished; we should not even have considered spending $75 but for what was being sold and considering the going rate, that would have been a good price). I bid a few times, lost all those times.

Then I clicked on one of eBbay's sponsored links, where the same item was being sold for $49.99 plus $14 shipping. Good price, yes? Not an insignificant amount of money, if you don't happen to be rich, but less than the lowest price winning such an auction, and not itself an auction. It was also not the only sponsored link and the others were a tad higher but comparable, so I did not think it was "too low" (meaning likely a scam). The site, at dvdscollection.com, looked like any other store of its type, with a nice enough picture of the product and an assurance that it was available in both NSTC and PAL formats (a little odd since DVDs are generall classified by regions, not formats, and at any rate there was nothing on the page to permit anyone to choose between those formats). It looked okay and the price was right -- only a little under the lowest winning eBay auction I'd seen for that item. A lot less... yuou have to wonder why. A little less? You grab it!

My fiancé handed me his credit card and hovered while I paid for the item (he himself being hopeless on the computer). Easy, right? Wrong. I was briefly shown a page that said the payment would be verified in 24 hours, and then, without my clicking anything, was redirected to an order page showing the following order status: order confirmed, unpaid, unshipped.

Now, a credit card charge may take time to post, but it gets verified or rejected right away, so what was with the 24 hours to verify? While I pondered that, I received an email with a subject heading indicating that I should confirm (it didn't say precisely what, and the order page showed my order status as confirmed). I opened the email and read an affirmation that I had purchased the item, nowhere in the email was I asked to confirm anything, nor was I provided with a URL or link, nor given instructions (not even "reply to this email). I replied to the email, asking why and what I had to confirm, how to do so, if necessary, and why it would take 24 hours to confirm a credit card payment.

After sending this rather baffled and somewhat cranky email, I returned to the order page and found a new message: I need to confirm my order; click here to have confirmation email sent to me! Irked, I clicked, and to my guarded relif, such an email DID arrive, this time containing a link (or a url anyway, I forget whether it was clickable). I used the link or url and reached a page completely in Chinese, except for the letters HTTP and the number 404.

A moment of stunned silence, please, to match my own when I reached that informative page.

As soon as I overcame my momentary astoundment, I quickly rechecked the order page, which still told me my order was confirmed (without any messages telling me to confirm it, again or otherwise), unpaid and unshipped.

The site is entirely in English (despite that one Chinese confirmation page). The prices are all listed in U.S. dollars. There is no physical address or phone number offered under Contact Information (or anywhere else) but there is an email address -- the same one from which they sent both confirmation requests, the ridiculous one and the actual but useless one. I wrote to them asking to explain what was going on, and why even after much more than 24 hours they had not yet confirmed the payment. They wrote back saying they could not confirm the payment because the name on the card wasn't the same as the name of the person ordering the DVDs. That is when I realized they had not asked for a billing address, which would be different from my mailing address, as my fiancé was paying. They requested that I fill out a form (attached to the email) and send them a picture of both sides of my fiancé's credit card, for our security. I did not download the attachment and Ii wrote back that under no circumstances was I going to send them a picture of the card, which would at any rate prove nothing, since I had already given them the card number, expiration date and three-digit security code. Would my having the card in my possession prove I hadn't stolen it?

They backed down, and four days after payment was made, it was finally acknowledged on the order page as confirmed. It posted a day or two later to my fiancé's bank account... in a slightly higher amount. When we asked the bank what was going on they said the extra (approximately) two bucks was a currency exchange fee (as I understand it, if the price is listed in U.S. dollars, that means, in the absence of notification prior to purchase -- and we didn't get any even AFTER purchase! the order page to this DAY says we were charged $60.99!) -- THEY eat any exchange rate fees or wobbles. The banker disagreed; the customer pays the fee. (But why was that not part of the agreement? We were not buying an item whose price was listed in a foreign currency; had it been, we would have expected such a fee. Why did we need to pay a fee to convert U.S. dollars into U.S. dollars?) The banker was confused, though, about our confusion; hadn't we physically been present in a store to buy this item? After all, the card had been physically SWIPED.

Some at the company with which we were more and more regretting our interaction had made a physical copy of my fiancé's credit card. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that considered at the very least NOT NICE? I am not conversant in international law but I can't imagine there is a reasonably developed country that hasn't got some kind of law against that!

Two weeks after making this order I received notice of an attempt to deliver a package. My fiancé picked it up for me at the post office. The package was from Beijing, People's Republic of China, and had, of course, a different company name on the packing slip than the one on the website. Instead of Dvds Collection, this company now turned out to be (or claim to be) Yan Hai Electronic Commerce (Beijing) Ltd. Nowhere on the site is there any indication that the company has another name (not so much as a dba), or a physical location at all (it floats in space?)

I was quite relieved to receive the boxed set lafter all that; it looked gorgeous but when I opened it up, the DVDswere in plain plastic slips, without episode titles, and there were no episode titles or descriptions anywhere on or in the box (no literature at all). The only information on the DVDs individual labels were the season and disc number (Season 1, Disk 4, for example. I had to play each one to see what was on it, and while all the episodes from all four seasons were represented, there was something else wrong: some of the discs had proper warnings and distribution credits on them, and came with extras, and had episodes complete and uncut, including end credits, but most of the discs were VERY obviously recorded from television broadcast! The CBS or CTV logo was at the bottom of the screen for the duration of an episode, while promos for those channels' shows would pop up the way they do when you watch a tv show being broadcast, the segues (where commercials were cut) were sometimes ept and sometimes inept, and without exception the end credits were missing. Shows ended abruptly with a freeze frame on the producer credit that appears at the end of a show, without regard for whether or not the music had finished fading. It was truly shoddy.

One could argue that you get what you pay for. I would counter by saying this was not a watch sold on a street corner. It was a product sold by an ebay sponsor, for a price not so VERY much less, once shipping was added, than the lowest winning auction price, and that at ANY rate, promises should be kept. By pretending to be a legitimate company, these folks promised me the real article and I got a bootleg, and a poor one at that. Ignoring for the moment the hassle they put us through just to get the order made, consider, please, the fact that they effectively stole my fiancé's credit card! (We're dealing with it, thanks, and the idiots, not asking for a billing address, probably can't use what they have anyway.)

I am not certain how to pursue this, since the company is in China, but I am starting with a complaint to my state Attorney General's Office, and I am sure they will direct me to someone who will direct me to someone who will direct me, ad infinitum, either to the right party or to a dead end.

Meanwhile I have now seen (as I mentioned at the beginning of this post) every episode of Criminal Minds ever aired, albeit most of them I have only seen slightly butchered, and without end credits, and sans extras, even though I have the DVD boxed set. Kind of.

19 comments:

sophia said...

yes dear you are right it is the best show on the tv. like you i have also seen all the Criminal Minds episodes and right now i am watching its 5th season and it is awesome so far.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Thanks so much for taking the time to write your review of "dvdscollection.com".I thought their web site seamed a little fishy and found your post when looking for some background info. I'm sure you saved me a world of hurt... and anybody else that takes the time to do a search on these SHYSTERS!
Thanks again,
K.

genessa said...

you're welcome k!

as an update i should say that the company and i went back and forth with ridiculous emails in which i would say "you sent me crap bootlegs, send me the fourth season NOW and the missing third reason disc" and they'd say "these are the asian versions, no extras (never addressing the fact that the discs were simply copied from broadcast tv!) and they'd offer me eight bucks and then i wouldn't have to return the discs... and on and on. finally they promised a full refund including shipping. it's been weeks. no refund. we are continuing our dispute with the bank, who is cooperating. we'll see.

g

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your review of the dvdscollection.com website! I thought it looked a little suspicious. Thanks for warning others who might be fooled by them.

Trudy said...

I am glad to hear you did receive the item you purchased... I on the other hand, received a 50g bar of silver from the 1998 Beijing Olympics when I ordered a Nikon D90 camera from that same company (Yan Hai Electronic Commerce (beijing) Co, Ltd. I'm fighting the credit card company now to get my $$ back. :(

genessa said...

hi trudy. actually i didn't get what i purchased but i admit that what i got at least RESEMBLED what i purchased -- it was a cd package containing episodes of criminal minds. it wasn't the professionally (or complete) recorded set i ordered. but you got something WAY different from what you ordered!

the bank did decide the dispute in our favor; we got out money back (and i keep the cds, for what they're worth). i hope your bank is as reasonable.

g

kloearomatics said...

hi there, I have just used this website, to get Greys Anatomy 5 and also realised something was wrong at the end of the transaction but too late... am now awaiting this 24hr confirmation that they have my payment but think I will get onto my bank and just cancel it..... I feel like such a fool. Of course this was a fishy website and I should have known better. Thanks for posting your experience - I wish I had checked it out beforehand...... argh. Live and learn.

genessa said...

kle you are wise to cancel sooner than later; after you get the product, if any, and whatever it would turn out to be, is more of a pain, and takes more time and more explanation. i am glad my warning is of help.

g

Anonymous said...

I have bought a phone from Yan Hai Electronic Commurce ( Beijing) co, Ltd.

I want a refund but they did not give me the address to refund it back to. i bought it off and english site called dhgate.com.

The phone was not the same as th images displayed and they are trying to take there time giving me there address. i am extrealy angry to find out that they have conned so may buyers.

They also did not write there company name on there website and there is no contact at all.

I am persistant to get my refund and would take your advice to go to the bank and let them know my sitiuation.

Thank you for your posts it has helped me alot.

Anonymous said...

I was concerned with the too good to be true price so your piece very much verified my suspicions.

I am looking at buying the series set, and have found them for sale on eBay, and this dvdscollection website. It's going for $185 on ebay, but just $100 on the latter. Too good to be true. No way can the studios and the creators, et al make money off of a $100 series set when a season alone can cost $40. I guess the same may be true for the ebay price. Will do some investigating of the set with the ebay seller and ask some questions.

Thank you for sharing your experience.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tipoff ... I was going to order The Tudors and Madmen ... not now ...

justin said...

Criminal Minds TV Show is my favorite show and I do not miss any episode of this show. You can also get this show by visiting this link.

Anonymous said...

I was going to spend £70.00 on an amazingly cheap CSI offer. Thought it sounded too good to be true so I Googled it before I entered any card details and found your blog.
They do say on the site these are Asian copies and having had genuine cheap X-Files sets from Hong Kong that raised no alarm bells. Nowhere does it say these are copies from TV broadcasts, cheeky gits :)

genessa said...

indeed cheeky! if they now say the copies are asian that's an improvement over their silence on the matter when i purchased my set. but yes, selling copies they made from tv broadcast, and not only performing that illegal act but 1. copying it from broadcasts that edited to make room for commercials, so the shows are actually incomplete, and 2. shaving off the credits out of shear (pun intended) laziness... that's beyond cheek. that's what lies between cheeks.

g

Rosemary said...

Hi there,
My sister just bought Crim Minds season 5 from this website, and although it arrived in a timely manner, it's the same deal as yours: copied from TV, incomplete, etc. May I ask you to reiterate a couple of things? 1. Did I understand correctly when you wrote that the vendors made a physical copy of your boyfriends credit card to enable the transaction?, and 2. Did you actually receive your full refund from the vendors themselves? I can't understand why scammers like these are still in business. Surely there's been many, many complaints to authorities all over the world. Too bad my sister didn't do a better check of their website before ordering. She just thought it seemed legit.

Pamela said...

So it's been over a year since you first posted this and I'm wondering, did anyone ever report this site to eBay?

I and other content writers are having an issue with them displaying our copyright protected articles and it is that problem that prompted me to search them out online where I found this. I've been in the process of reporting them to every site that displays anything about them since I can't seem to get them to remove the articles. It's amazing the website is still up. In any case, thanks for this post. I'm still sifting through and reporting them everywhere I see them. I don't take kindly to my hard work being stolen. :-/

genessa said...

ebay has offered no way to report sponsors unless you HAPPEN to see their (rotating) ads by chance, which rarely happens after the fact. if the company had listed its product on ebay, i would have recourse through ebay, who on the other hand seems not to care at ALL what its sponsors do. it apparently only cares if you're offended by the advertisement. i have not seen the sponsored listing, as they call such ads, since making the purchase.

good luck with your fight to keep copyright protection ENFORCED. not everyone realizes its importance!

g

Pamela said...

Just wanted to let you know, the might government took down the site. :)

http://writing4ac.blogspot.com/2010/11/i-won-war-against-plagiarizer-i-guess.html

genessa said...

i posted ths at pamela's blog in response to hers and thought it might be appropriate to cross-post it here too:

thanks for letting me know. as i hope i mentioned in my blog, i did report the one with which i had the encounter, to everyone i could think of, including the fbi. i think in that case they had enough evidence to pull the site. i don't know how international law works in terms of enforcement; who conducts a trial, who metes out punishment to the guilty? if an individual or a nation is the victim, that makes the answer clear, but copyright law itself is international and everyone suffers from its breachment. so i'm afraid i don't feel dirty at all here. in fact it makes me feel good that my reports were not ignored, as i feared they were; they certainly didn't consult ME about any of this! of course they didn't have to. i probably gave them moe information than they needed, and what i left out, i trust you filled in! (i am glad you went after the plagiarists too.)

i will repost my response here on my blog as well at http://genessa18.blogspot.com/2009/11/criminal-minds-revisited-and-bootlegged.html to make sure anyone who was concerned there is informed. again, thnks for letting me know.

g