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June 29th, 2006
Those of you that know me know I like to take pictures. Until recently, I had two cameras, a little Sony P73 and an Olympus E-10. Notice I used the past tense. That applies to the Olympus. The Sony is just for “party use” and to grab for a quick no-brainer shot. The E-10 was my pride and joy. The big E10 is more for pros or serious enthusiasts (I fall into the second category) and requires setting lotsa stuff. Maria just wants to aim it a take it, so she uses the Sony.
When the E10 came out, it was REALLY expensive… like $4,000.00… and built for serious camera buffs. I paid a fraction of that from a good friend who wanted fast cash, but in my mind, it was ALWAYS expensive. It took incredible photos, and I had no desire to ever make a change.
Sadly, on or about Thanksgiving last,the E-10, instead of displaying the normal set of options in its little screen, instead displayed an error number. NOT a good sign. Nothing worked.
At the time, I was not too worried. I called Olympus in the US (there are no Olympus repair depots in CR), gave them the error number, and in about 1 minute, they told me the problem. The cost would be about $200.00 and I thought that was just fine. A $200 repair for a 5 years old camera seemed reasonable. I figured I’d just send it back to the USA by Fed Ex or DHL, pay my money and have my baby back home in a thrice. Oh little did I know!
It seems that sending a camera, and by extension probably any electronic device, back to the USA is not quite that easy… nor cheap. First, I did not declare this item when I moved here. Who does? No reason to (I thought). Well here is the little catch-22 courtesy of my buddy Charlie Zeller of ABC Mudanzas (movers). You can SEND the item back to the USA for repair or replacement, but to get it BACK means you must import it unless you declared it coming in! Duties then must be paid in addition to the freight (both ways).
So I say to myself, “Self? Let’s just do it! This should be easy.”.
Well as anyone who lives here can verify, nothing is “easy” in Costa Rica. I get out the calculator.
Fed-Ex wants about $100.00 to ship it.
Olympus wants $212.00 to fix it.
There is another $100.00 to get it back to CR, but it goes not to ME, it goes to aduana, (the collection location for duties). They will want another $100.00 or more, to import it. I cannot get anyone to tell me how much is that figure, but clearly we are now up to over $400.00 and the figure could get as high as $500.00 or more. Hmmm.
So I hop onto eBay for a quick looksy. Wowser! My $4,000 camera can NOW be had for about $200.00. What’s more, there are maybe 30 for sale! I love my E-10, but this does not seem to be good economics.
So now, my mind starts thinking maybe a NEW digital camera might be fun, so I begin looking at every digital camera review I can find. So much for my loyalty. That search turns out to be about 1,000 web pages of info. After maybe 2 weeks of reading, I narrow the search to 2-3 cameras, and I figure I’ll just buy it here in Costa Rica in case anything goes wrong. Also, I want to touch it, see it, smell it, whatever, before I buy.
Now you would think that someone who has lived here as long as I would know how things work. I’ll tell you, no matter how many years you live here, Costa Rica can always surprise.
Surprise one. There are no “real” camera stores in San Jose, and by extension, probably not in the country. I go to maybe 8 of those that advertise themselves as camera shops. They are not. Almost all sell the cheap little point and shoot stuff not even of the quality of my Sony.
In two of the stores though, I was able to find Nikon cameras and two of the models I wanted to see, the D-100 and the D-70s. After searching everywhere, I could not find a Canon or Olympus dealer. However, as the two Nikons were 1-2 on my list, I was sort of happy. Happy until the P word came up. P of course, is PRICE.
Now I expected to pay more to buy the camera here. Costa Rica import duties are famous (and unfathomable). I spent about an hour playing with the two cameras, reading the box, the usual stuff. I decided on the Nikon D70s. That, of course. meant we needed to discuss PRICE! Well after all those hours of research, I knew what the camera would cost me in the USA. I saw many offers for about $1,000.00 including the 8-70mm AF-S DX and 55-200mm AF-S DX Lenses. In colones, that comes out to be a bit over 500,000 colones. I expected to pay maybe 15% – 20% over.
Thus, you might imagine my reaction when the sales clerk tells me I must pony up 2,300,460.00 colones. Yes folks, that IS 2.3 million colones or in todays dollars, Forty freaking five hundred bucks! $4,500.00. Four times the cost in the USA.
After adjusting my pacemaker, I suggested that perhaps the clerk was making an error and pricing the more expensive D100 Nikon (or maybe had been smoking something back in his darkroom). No, I didn’t really mention the darkroom. He assured my that the price IS correct and that the D100 is closer to 4 MILLION colones. Gee!
I thank him politely and go to the other Nikon reseller in downtown San Jose. He quotes me his heavily discounted price of… oh… $20.00 less.
About the time I am leaving the store, my son Bill calls me to say his is traveling back to the USA for 4-5 days for a training seminar. I get his hotel info, surf the net for best prices on a D70s, find it at Beach Camera, order it (no sales tax) have it overnighted to his hotel in Mountainview ($48.00), he brings it back in 4 days for a TOTAL price of $1,100.00 including a TON of goodies, 4 lenses, memory, the works. He carries it through customs sin problemas. Oddly, there was no place at the airport to ask about how he could show it as imported to avoid the Olympus fiasco, but I’ll figure it out.
I now have my new camera, and I am a happy camper. At left is the very first photo taken with the D70. The subject is our bi-lingual, bi-polar Amazon Green parrot.
I’ll get better as I learn about this camera.
Lessons to learn.
If you are moving here, this may be a subject you may wish to discuss with your mover. Unless you KNOW that your camera, PC, laptop, DVD, TV whatever has local service AND will honor a US warranty (most do not), you should consider being proactive and getting this stuff nailed down in advance of the big day.Filed under Cameras & Photography, Costa Rica, Humor, Immigration & Residency, Life in Costa Rica, Moving to Costa Rica, Other Stuff, Rants | Comments (33)