This is a photo of Hannah Vassallo.
You may or may not know who Hannah Vassallo is, but by the end of this post, you will know all the details you need to know about Hannah Vassallo.
Here is what I know about Hannah Vassallo:
- At one point, Hannah Vassallo lived in the Boston area, which is when I encountered her.
- Hannah Vassallo came from Australia, and speaks with a noticeable Australian accent.
- She is not the actress/dancer of the same name.
Why am I so interested in the life of Hannah Vassallo? Because on Saturday, April 9, 2011, Hannah Vassallo scammed me out of $570. The details are below.
On the morning of April 9, 2011, I responded to an ad on Craigslist advertising a Canon 50D. The Canon 50D is an older model, positioned by Canon as part of its "prosumer" line between its amateur and professional lines of cameras. I had been looking for a camera of this type to be able to take with me to photo gigs and the 50D fit my requirements nicely. The link to the original ad is probably no longer functional, but I've screencapped it for posterity. The ad reads that she "purchased this camera in August last year" and that it's "still in perfect working order." The quoted price was $1600 for the camera and lens, but Hannah said she was "open to negotiate."
I didn't need a lens, so I asked Hannah if she'd be willing to sell me the camera body only for $600 (they are going for between $500 and $700 on eBay, so I thought $600 was a fair price). Hannah agreed. In a separate e-mail, she mentioned that she was missing the body cap on the camera, so she was willing to shave off $30 off the price. Even better.
I brought $570 in cash with me and met her in Davis Square. We exchanged pleasantries and ended up talking about photography for a few minutes. I was really impressed with the photos on her website and told her so.
I tested the camera out and took some practice photos. I did NOT have a compact flash card with me, so I took several photos with the camera in "No Card" mode, which allows you to take photos and see them on the screen without actually saving them. Everything seemed in working order. Hannah behaved completely normally during the entire process. It was just a regular conversation between two people transacting business on Craigslist. During our conversation, I learned all the information I referenced above about Hannah. We parted on good terms, her with the cash, me with the Canon 50D and a camera bag that Hannah generously decided to throw in with the purchase.
When I got home, I noticed one problem immediately: the battery charger used a different type of plug. I assumed this was since Hannah had purchased the camera in Australia, a detail she mentioned when we spoke. This meant I'd need to purchase a new battery charger, or an adapter. A minor annoyance, but not a deal breaker.
The more significant problem was when I tried to save photos to one of my compact flash cards. I kept getting a card-reading error. I formatted my cards and tried again. Nothing worked. After a little bit of Google detective work, I discovered that this is something that happens when the compact flash card reader is broken. I was unable to save any photos to compact flash.
So, in essence, I had just purchased a $570 broken camera.
I called Hannah immediately. No answer. I left a message. I e-mailed her and explained there might be an issue with the camera, and could you please call me when you have a chance? No response.
The next day (Sunday), I did the exact same thing. I told her I was willing to be reasonable. I could pay her for her time, if we could just trade back the money for the camera. I was even willing to still keep the camera, so long as she fronted the repair costs. But Hannah never responded.
So now I'm sitting here in my room with a broken camera, $570 poorer, and trying to explain exactly why it is that Hannah Vassallo vexes me. Ideally, I should have tested the card reader, but honestly the thought never occurred to me. The camera appeared to be working fine and was almost perfect, cosmetically. I've purchased things of this magnitude off Craigslist before and never thought someone would be so brazen in selling me a lemon, especially someone who used her real name and phone number and (I'm guessing) e-mail address, and who invited me to check out more of her photos on her Facebook page (I offered to send her my photos too. I like supporting local photographers).
The money I can make back, eventually. My steadily eroding trust in humanity will be harder to regain. If you know Hannah Vassallo, please tell her that, won't you?
Update: Hannah ended up responding to my e-mail. Her e-mail was suspicious, unconvincing, and unsatisfying. Here it is in part:
I apologise so much for not replying to this sooner. My fiance and I are currently in the process of moving interstate so we have not been connected to the internet. I imagine you have been trying to contact me via my cell phone which has been misplaced during the move. [...]
I've never had this problem before. My suggestion is to try another memory card as some of the cheaper brands can be almost useless. I apologise profusely for any inconvenience this has caused you, but I really encourage you to try another memory card as I have encountered that type of problem with
cheaper cameras and friends cameras.
Two things to note: 1) I called Hannah's cell phone several times, beginning one hour after we initially met. If her claims are to be believed, she must have lost the phone almost immediately after we spoke. 2) Obviously I tried all manner of high-end compact flash cards on this thing. It wasn't my flash cards that were the problem. It was the camera.
I e-mailed Hannah two more times: once to re-explain the situation and another time after $200 worth of repairs had been completed by Canon's New Jersey service center to provide her proof that the camera had in fact been broken in the way I described. Both times, I asked for some sort of compensation for my troubles (I would have accepted virtually any amount). She never responded. I would not have either, if I were her.
The bottom line is that buying this camera has been one of my biggest mistakes of the past few months. My lesson learned? As a friend of mine put it, cameras are such delicate devices. As a result of this experience, I'll probably never buy used again.