The Joys of Living Abroad

Joy of Living AbroadInsert a healthy dose of sarcasm to the title of this post. After close to forty hours of research, I finally settled on the new camera I wanted to purchase. Being serious about photography, taking camera reviews seriously is intense work. My current camera, bought in Hungary has had issues for the last three years. With the money spent on repairs, it could have been a healthy deposit on a new camera. None of the repairs lasted more than a few months.

I spent a good 40 hours hunting, searching, reading, reading some more, reading other points of view, and reading user comments from those who purchased the cameras.
First, I checked online articles for “Best mirrorless cameras for under $1,000”. This of course brought up more than several articles, most of them from camera magazines, which are my first resource. I did read other reviews as well, like

After hours of reading, sensory overload sets in action. This is where the “Cons” part of reviews comes in handy. This guided me to narrow down the choices to about six cameras. Just for the heck of it, I tried using Google+ and found it a great resource for more reviews on the individual cameras that were shortlisted.

Of the six, each is best in class for various reasons. The one considered best for videos, is not as great for still photography. Video is not that high a priority. One was best for action shots like sports, not my cup of tea. Finally, the choice came down to the best for travel photography and general still photos. As a final decisive factor, I looked at sites where people commented after their purchase to see what they thought.

Finally, it is the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II 16.1 Megapixel Mirrorless Camera with Lens – 14 Mm – 42 MM that won my contest. Placing my order with started to be a problem from the start. Their ordering page does not allow for international billing addresses. There was a work-around for this. I called AMEX to make sure they had a secondary address on my account, which is my long time friend’s in New Mexico. We use her address for other things as well.

Back to, I placed the order with a NM billing address and a shipping address in olympus-om-d-e-m10-mark-ii-01Oregon. Our friend Kim is meeting up with us so she will be my camera mule. This all happened last Sunday. Today, there still was no tracking information available making me uneasy. I called the customer service line.

Thankfully, using Skype, all US toll-free numbers are easy to call, which was extra fortunate because I was on hold for 15 minutes 43 seconds. Skype keeps the clock running, so you know the length of a call. The recording continually assured me I was first in line for the next available agent.

When I did reach the agent, he could not use the ultra-long string of numbers that was marked as the order number. He had to root around this computer until he found my order. This is where it gets hairy.

“Jordon is your sale representative and he is not in yet. You will have to deal with him. He is the only one who can assist you. I can see from his record notes that he tried calling you, but the answering machine only offered the names Ellie and Daphnee, but not yours. Since the shipping address is different from the billing address, he was not able to confirm the order.” He then offered to transfer me to Jordon’s voice mail after learning that Jordon should have been at his desk by now, but is not.
I left Jordon a message explaining why my name is not on the voicemail and said he should have called AMEX for approval. Explaining e-mail was the only way to reach me, since he cannot Skype me back, we would deal with it this way.

After thinking about this for a half hour, I called back thinking I would try to place the order again with a live person to explain the situation, thus avoiding the run around once more. When I called back, the young man who answered after a 16-minute period of hearing my call was Numero Uno when the next agent became available, allowed me to go through the entire speech. Then he said “Didn’t I just speak with you?” Suddenly recognizing his voice, confirmations made, he told me I would have to speak with Jordon to place the order.

“Jordon is on the phone. Can he call you back?” I had to repeat my prepared speech stating that I am in South America “He cannot call me on Skype can he?” Jokingly, asking if they only had a couple of salespeople, he confirmed this was accurate, saying they are a small company. Asking permission to put me on hold, he actually did transfer me to Jordon when Jordon finished his call.

Jordon explained that they could verify the billing address, but since the shipping address was different, my order was booted up to the VP in charge of denying orders. She canceled the order due to fraud concerns. Once the reasons were elucidated, I understood their concerns. Someone could have had my billing info and credit card number, but have merchandise sent to phony addresses to steal the merchandise. The company holds the responsibility.

Remembering, the company does accept PayPal, I suggested using that as a payment source. That would be perfect according to Jordon. It would process immediately. Great, this was the solution. Using their website once again, completed my initial order all over again and this time clicked on the PayPal button for payment. Thinking this was a done deal, was false security. “This merchant does not accept PayPal payments from accounts outside the US.” DAMN!!!

With much gratitude, Jordon offered his direct number so there was no hold time if he was available. Immediately, I called him to share the bad news. He suggested I call AMEX to ask that they put the OR shipping address on my account, so it can be verified. I had never heard of this, but he insisted the possibility existed.

AMEX has excellent customer service. Within minutes, this task was completed. I called Jordon, my new good friend to share the news. He reordered the camera with the three-year security protection plan for me. About 30 minutes later, I received a confirmation.

The real question is whether  I would use this company again in the future. The answer is “Of course!” Yes, there were glitches, but once they explained their liability issues, I understood. They taught me how to circumvent them. I do wish they had sent me an e-mail, but at least all is well…I hope.

After completing my Ed.D., the frustration of finding a teaching position where I was willing to live, led to Ron and I leaving the country. We intended to travel for a year before settling somewhere in MA or RI. We left the US without any credit card debt, no car payments and our house mortgage paid by renters. We had $10,000 in the bank to make our way through a year.