The first step in video shopping is deciding what type of camera to use. Once a shopper has chosen between wired or wireless, button, glasses, pen, or whatever camera mode he or she wants, that person must next decide where to shop for it. Can a shopper just drop by their closest big-box store or do they need to go to find other options?
First, regular electronic stores generally don’t carry this equipment. While they might carry cameras and camcorders, they do not deal with the “body worn” equipment that shoppers need (although a search on Sears.com turned up a button camera). Camera stores such as Ritz Camera have few to no such items either. Body-worn equipment is considered investigative, a niche field, and not for the general public.
Some brick-and-motor stores exist that offer shoppers a wider selection, including the Spy Exchange & Security Center in Austin, Texas and U-Spy Enterprises, Inc. in Chicago. Going to a physical location gives shoppers certain advantages. “Shoppers get first-hand knowledge of the products,” said Erica, Inventory Manager of U-Spy. “We’ll show them how it works and we’ll show them video samples.” Todd Morris, CEO of Brickhouse Security, added, “People think you can buy a camera and it just works.” He explained that being in a showroom (Brickhouse recently opened a showroom in NYC) allows the staff to help a customer choose the right camera based on height, body size, purpose, and other factors.
However, if one can’t “spy” an appropriate store nearby, there are several online stores that offer many types of products. They include:
PIMall.com – This web site features products from Lawmate America, including the respected PV-series of camera recorders, ranging from the 500 to the 1000 series. This company is recommended by several MSCs and videographers. One reason is because of the wide range of products offered. Mystery shoppers can also get discounts on their orders, depending on the product. The PV500 Lite 2 (non HD), for example, is normally $295; shoppers can buy it for $220, according to Ethan, a sales rep there. PIMall.com is the online site for Spy Exchange & Security Center, Austin, Texas, however, the web site also lists Lawmate America’s many other distributors and their store locations.
Warranties & Return Policies: There is a one-year warranty on all purchases. No refunds. If a product malfunctions within the first year, it will either be fixed in the store or replaced.
Shipping: Same day shipping if the order is placed before 2 PM CST; otherwise, it can take between three to seven business days, depending on the package destination. Second-day and next day mail options are also available. General shipping for single items over $50 is $18.
Tech support: A tech support person is on staff, but anyone can answer questions that come in.
Brickhousesecurity.com – Brickhouse Security has several online products for the shopper, including pens, key chains, neckties and glasses, and it is utilized by some MSCs for their camera inventories. This site allows one to select desired features for their camera from a list on the left side of the page, making it easier to find the desired product. There is also a section with online manuals and some Q&As about the products.
Warranties & Return Policies: 90-day.
Shipping: Same day if the order is placed before 2 PM EST. Standard rate is $6.95. Next day and second day options are available.
Tech support: Phone support is always available along with videos for certain products.
Lawmate-Technology.com: A wholesaler of Lawmate America, this web site has several categories of cameras; be sure to check them all out. One nice feature included in the product descriptions is an explanation of why that particular product works well in certain situations. The descriptions also include Q&As about the item.
Warranties & Return Policies: It appears that some items, such as the key chain, come with a warranty. It is not clear if all of the body-worn items have one. A defective item may be returned once all technical support options have been exhausted. No full refunds after five business days.
Shipping: Two to three days. Price is calculated per order.
Tech support: The return policy implies that there is tech support available, but it is not overtly advertised.
USpyStore.com – Their body-worn camera inventory includes pens, glasses, watches, ear phones and even smiley buttons! This is the online site for U-Spy Enterprises, Chicago.
Warranties & Return Policies: Minimum 90 day warranty. All sales are final for spy products.
Shipping: Shipped same day if the order is placed before 3 PM EST. Free shipping for all orders over $75 within the continental United States (48 States). Shipping charges apply to all other orders shipped to Hawaii, Alaska and outside the USA (as well as expedited shipping methods if desired).
Tech support: Free lifetime tech support.
There are many other sites available. In looking online, I suggest trying key words such as “spy” and “body-worn cameras.” These turned up the most appropriate listings for the type of camera that mystery shoppers would need. Good luck with your shopping!
Editor’s Note: Please make sure that the equipment you purchase meets the requirements of the MSCs. You can find the specs for current video equipment on the VSN website.