Don’t Fall for Phony Buyback Programs

Today’s technology is constantly being replaced with updated models that showcase newer, cooler features.  To keep up with the latest technology, many consumers are tempted by the increasing number of retailer buyback programs.  Better Business Bureau advises consumers to weigh the pros and cons of the program before parting with their money.

Typical programs come in the form of a one-time fee that is acquired at the time of the original gadget purchase. To avoid falling short of the latest technology, many consumers opt-in to a buyback program to ensure that their gadget doesn’t fall victim to digital dust. As long as your gadget is in good condition, many buyback programs allow you to trade-up items such as your cell phone, laptop, tablet, and television for a percentage of its current value. Usually, this credit will come in the form of a gift card that can be used toward the purchase of a newer model.

BBB recommends that consumers weigh the pros and cons before participating in a retailer’s buyback program:

Buyback programs can provide a sense of insurance on your product.  Buyback programs essentially guarantee a resale value, meaning they act as insurance against loss of value. But like any insurance policy, its true value can become nominal and hard to define. Before becoming a member of a buyback program, make sure to read the fine print. Many buyback options have conditions and constraints that could ultimately keep you from being able to sell back your used gadget.

Remember that the interest of the retailer is usually at heart.  In exchange for your old gadget, your return will come back in the form of a gift card more times than not .The plan and gift card mean you are locked into using the issuing retailer for your next technology purchase.  Not to mention, that you may end up paying triple the sales tax when all exchanges are said and done. While sales tax rules vary from state to state and buyback programs vary from program to program, you are the one responsible for paying the tax. By paying the tax once when you buy the gadget and again when you return it, and then again when you use the gift card, you could end up paying triple the tax in the end.

Gadget buybacks are not ideal for the forgetful or the disorganized. If you haven’t saved your original receipts, power cords and manuals, you could be at a loss or your payout could be less than expected. Most buyback programs insist that the original items be brought back to the store at the time of the exchange.

Mobile phone contracts are not covered.
  When you purchase a new phone and add the retailer’s buyback program, you can resell your phone back to the retailer for the agreed upon dollar amount. But, keep in mind that even when you sell your phone back to the retailer, your cell phone provider will keep billing you for the duration of your contract.

You can compromise your identity. 
 Before selling your electronics back to the retailer take care of your personal data.  Many electronic items such as your smartphone or laptop can hold a ton of personal information.  If this information gets into the wrong hands, your identity could be compromised.  Be sure to fully wipe out all personal data.

You could get more for your electronic gadgets elsewhere. 
 Reselling electronics is not new.  Many consumers use sites like eBay and Craigslist to sell their gadgets.  In most instances you could get more for your electronics by using these sites than opting for a retailer’s buyback program.

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About Kelsey Owen

Kelsey Owen is the Director of Communications and Public Affairs for the Better Business Bureau serving Metro Washington DC and Eastern PA (@BBB_DCPA). Prior to December 2014, Kelsey was the Communications and Marketing Coordinator for the Council of Better Business Bureaus based out of Arlington, VA. Kelsey graduated from Denison University with a degree in economics and communication and holds a master's degree in media entrepreneurship from American University.