Best Buy’s Buy-Back Program: Good Buy or Goodbye?

If you’re a fan of Super Bowl commercials, maybe you saw the one featuring Ozzy Osbourne mumbling about the difficulties of keeping up with modern technology, followed by Justin Bieber pushing Best Buy’s handy solution: a buy-back program that allows you to sell your dated technology back to the company months, or even years, after you buy it.

While the idea of being able to instantly unload your old stuff at a pre-arranged price sounds convenient, like many heavily-advertised services, the sizzle seems better than the steak.

Start by checking out the following news story turned in by reporter Jim Robinson, then meet me on the other side for more…

So, as Jim suggested and The Consumerist confirmed, Best Buy’s program isn’t for everyone. But I think that’s being kind, because when you start plugging in examples, it really doesn’t seem to be for anyone.

Buy-back programs aren’t new, nor are they exclusive to Best Buy. Gazelle offers a similar service, as does TechForward and even eBay, to name a few. So if they’re such a good deal, why haven’t you heard of them before? Could be because other services haven’t advertised during the Super Bowl, but it might also be because these types of programs aren’t all that great to begin with.

To summarize the problems with Best Buy’s version:

1. You don’t get enough back: Jim gave you one example of how little you’d get back on a big-screen TV in the news story above, and there are additional examples in various other news stories around the web. According to this article from Geek.com, for example, if you spend $2,000 on an iMac and decide to sell it back one year later, you’d only get 30 percent back, or $666 – way less than you’d likely get by selling it on Craigslist or eBay. Here’s how much you’d get back, cut-and-pasted from the Q&A page of BestBuy.com:

  • Redeem your Buy Back within 6 months of purchase, and get up to 50% of your purchase price
  • Redeem your Buy Back within 6-12 months of purchase, and get up to 40%
  • Redeem your Buy Back within 12-18 months of purchase, and get up to 30%
  • Redeem your Buy Back within 18-24 months of purchase, and get up to 20%
  • For TVs only, redeem your Buy Back within 24-48 months of purchase, and get up to 10%

2. You have to pay for the program: Because of the small amount you’ll receive when you return your electronics to Best Buy, they should be paying you to join their program. Instead, you’re expected to pay them. Here’s the program cost for various stuff, again taken from the Buy Back FAQ

PRODUCT PRODUCT PRICE BUY BACK PROGRAM PRICE
Laptops and Netbooks ALL $69.99
Tablets ALL $69.99
Mobile Phones $349.99 or less $39.99
Mobile Phones $350 and more $59.99
TVs $499.99 or less $59.99
TVs $500-$1,199.99 $99.99
TVs $1,200-$2,499.99 $179.99
TVs $2,500-$4,999.99 $299.

3. You have to haul your stuff back to Best Buy: No worries if it’s a laptop, but what if it’s a 55-inch TV? In its ads, Best Buy points out that with its program, you won’t have to deal with strangers when you sell your used equipment. True, but at least the person you sell to on Craigslist will come over and pick up the TV.

4. Condition matters, and that’s their call: Whatever you return will be subject to “acceptance testing,” during which it will be assigned a grade ranging from “good,” which will earn you the maximum buy-back, to “substantially impaired,” for which you’ll receive zip. As you might expect, that determination is made solely at their discretion.

5. You don’t get cash back: Best Buy may be agree to buy your stuff back at heavily-discounted rates, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be opening the register. While you’ll pay cash up front for their buy-back program, they’ll pay you with a Best Buy gift card. Which means they get to double dip by paying you in products they buy wholesale and sell to you at retail.

Conclusion: good buy or goodbye?

When you read about this program, does it ring any bells? Think about it – something you’re paying for upf ront that you may never use…a service rather than a product…seems kind of insurance-like…is over-priced relative to its likely return. Does it remind you of anything?

It should: Best Buy’s buy-back program is administered by a company called Chartis Warrantyguard (CWG), which – surprise! – also offers extended warranty plans.

Bottom line? It’s hard to imagine a consumer who will benefit more from a program like Best Buy’s than from selling their outdated equipment elsewhere. But you should check it out for yourself by seeing what things are selling for on Craigslist and/or eBay and comparing those prices to what Best Buy would pay – and don’t forget to subtract the cost of the program.

As for the hassle of selling stuff yourself: While I’ve found selling on eBay sometimes cumbersome and confusing, placing an ad on Craigslist is simple, takes less than 5 minutes, and doesn’t cost a thing. If you’ve got outdated electronics lying around, try it – you’ll almost certainly get more money than you will from Best Buy’s Buy Back Program. And if you’d like to save tons of money, try buying stuff this way while you’re at it.

Follow reporter Jim Robinson and Money Talks News on Twitter.

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