If you read about some of the deals I post here, I absolutely love the open-box items from some retailers. Not all of them are ones I would trust but there are a few that I have bought from (some on a regular basis!) that I absolutely trust and find no problems with whatsoever.
A Bad Open-Box Experience
Why Buy Open-Box
The great thing about open-box electronics is that you can get an item that may have been just opened and then returned for a significant discount. Depending on the store representative that accepted the return, the discount could be as high as 20% off for some items, plus (depending on the store) it still may be eligible for the manufacturer warranty! With the discounts and warranty, there is almost no reason to not look for open-box items when shopping for something!
In all the years of my open-box shopping, I have had almost a perfect record in regards to quality of the items. But, that took a big twist with a recent purchase. I am a bit of a tech guy and love getting gear open-box, using it for a while, selling it at cost or for profit, and getting something else.
What Happened With This Open-Box Order
I did this recently with a camera and got a great deal on the new camera I wanted to use for a while. I purchased it from Best Buy and had to wait a couple of weeks to get it as my family was bringing it to me. The big day came when I got it and was eager to hook up a couple of great lenses to it to try it out myself.
Of course, I had to charge the battery first and while it was charging, I was looking around this nice, new camera. It was then that I discovered it was missing a port that this model has on it. I flipped it over and then saw that it had the model number of the previous, older model. The two models are identical in form and size so this is why it was not caught before.
What had likely happened is that someone purchased it from Best Buy, put their older model camera in the newer model box, and returned it. Worst case, they get caught and apologize based on the similarities. Best case, they have gotten the new camera for free and cheated Best Buy.
And that is what happened. The loser at this point? The new buyer who opened the sealed box and found the wrong camera in it and had to convince Best Buy that it was their fault – that person was me. The camera had been ordered online so it was sent to me by mail and I did not get a chance to check it in store.
What Best Buy Did About It
I called Best Buy and explained everything. I was really hoping that Best Buy would believe my account and that I would not get stuck with this older model. Fortunately, I had a wonderful customer service person that believed me and even went ahead and cleared it with a supervisor to send me another one – before I even sent this one back in! This would let my discounts and credits stay intact and I would not have to deal with it all over again. Great job, Best Buy, in helping out the customer!
So what happens with this camera that goes back? It is likely not possible to even go back to the customer that returned it as they have no proof that it was the customer and not someone in the Best Buy service chain that replaced the camera (I am not saying it was a Best Buy employee, just explaining why it would be difficult to put it on the customer). They will likely either sell it on their outlet at a bigger discount than it would go for otherwise (since it is in the wrong box).
Tips for Buying Open-Box
I remember hearing stories of how people used to buy iPads, replace the iPad in the box with paper notebooks, shrink wrap it and return it for a refund. That is difficult for the end-user since they are buying a “new” item and they would have a hard time proving that it was not their fault.
In-Store: What you should do if buying an open-box item is to open it right in the store and check it out. This is good even if this had not happened to me. Whenever I buy an open-box item in the store, I always open it in front of store personnel in case there are problems with it.
Online: If you purchase it online, it makes it a little more difficult. If it is a high dollar item, I would suggest grabbing your smartphone (or some other camera) and video the whole experience of opening the box (which would be sealed with their tamper-proof tape). This way, if there is something wrong with it, you have video proof that it was not on you. Fortunately, I am able to return this but I should have thought of that myself beforehand!
Another thing you could do is to pay a few dollars more (if available) for a Geek Squad-certified open-box as that has been checked over by their tech team and any different item would be spotted. This way, you are still able to get a good deal but have the extra assurance that your item will be what you ordered and in good shape.
Credit Card: Depending on the credit card you use, there could also be some buyer’s protection if something goes really bad as well. If you have proof and the store will not believe you, you could always take it up with the credit card company and let them deal with it. Credit card protection is just one more reason to use a credit card instead of cash when making purchases!
I have had nothing but great experiences with Best Buy and buying open-box items. It has saved me thousands of dollars over the years and even allowed me to continually trade up each year without paying anything extra! Will I keep buying open-box? Absolutely! But, I will take some extra measures to make sure something like this does not stick me with a big problem and a loss of money. Hopefully, this will help you as well!