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Dollars and Sense Behind the Best Buy’s Buy Back Program

A few months ago, Best Buy introduced their Buy Back Program. The general idea of the program is that Best Buy will buy back your old electronics when you are ready to upgrade. As everyone knows, technology changes so often. That means yesterday’s new item is today’s closet stuffer. On the surface, this fact makes the buy back plan sound good. In fact, Best Buy have a really snazzy commercial that promotes the program effectively. But, after reading the fine print and a bit of logical thinking, is this program worth it?

For me, I always begin with the premise that any program a business comes up with is meant to screw me and make money for corporate America. This is generally a good rule to live by when dealing with large, publicly traded companies. And, believe it or not, this is often true. When corporations start a program, most consumers will fall into their money making trap, meaning: corporate America will be able to get their expected gains from them. Only a small percentage of consumers will yield them serious gains, however, a small percentage of customers will also beat their system. If you are familiar with mathematics or engineering, their expectations fit into a bell or Gaussian curve.

So, how does a consumer beat the buy back system? First, to beat any system, one must first understand the rules of the system. So let us look at the program:

What does it cost? – Based on the Best Buy website the price ranges between $7.99 and $179.99. The price is based on the type of item purchased and the overall cost. Comment: You had to figure there is a cost for the program. This is not like your college book buy back program.

What needs to be kept in order to submit at the time of buy back? – You will be required to have the original Best Buy receipt, the device, all manufacturers’ accessories which came with the device, and government issued photo identification. Comment: I wonder if I can find all that on any item I purchased more than a month ago. I am pretty good at keeping important documents, and even I am unsure about this.

What are you required to do? – You agree to comply with all requirements necessary to enforce all device manufacturer warranty and service plan rights, and if the device breaks while under manufacturer warranty or a service plan, you agree to make the manufacturer or service plan issuer to perform the appropriate repairs before you initiate a claim for your buy back amount pursuant to the agreement. Also, if there is a recall and the manufacturer will fix the item, you need to get it fixed. Furthermore, if you are given a replacement item (example refurbished), you must notify Best Buy and Chartis WarrantyGuard, Inc.(CWG), the enforcer of the plan, of the new serial number and maintain the service records. Comment: Sounds like work for the consumer.

Who determines the condition? – Best Buy determines whether an item is in good, fair, or any other condition. Comment: Determining the condition is subjective, and it always seems like the customer loses. Do you remember your college’s book buy back program, your apartment complex’s final inspection, or do you remember when you traded in your last car. You always feel like you got screwed. That is probably because you did.

How are you paid when you initiate a claim? – In-store credit and instant Best Buy gift cards are how you will be paid. Comments: You have no ability to shop around for your next purchase. You are stuck with Best Buy so you better hope they treated you fairly through the buy back process and you better hope the price on your next purchase is competitive.

Is there sales tax on the buy back program? – Yes, and you are responsible for paying and accounting for any sales tax that may be applicable to you in your home state for the sale of the device to CWG. Comment: Call me crazy, but when I purchase an item I, the buyer, pay the sales tax, but not in this deal. Instead you, the seller, pay the sales tax.

How much do you get back? – You cannot submit a claim for a buy back amount until thirty-one (31) days after the purchase date. After that date, you must return on schedule because time is of the essence. The amount a consumer receives is dependent upon when they submit it. On most items, if a consumer initiates a claim 6 months or less they will get up to 50% back. Initiate a claim after 6 months and up to 12 months and get up to 40%. Initiate a claim after 12 months and up to 18 months and get up to 30% back. Finally, if they initiate a claim more than 18 months and up to 2 years and they will receive up to 20% back. Comment: Technology doubles every 12 to 18 months. Even if you turn in the product in perfect condition, example fresh out the box, you have already lost money. The item will be equal to half the value at the 12 to 18 month mark based on Moore’s law.

Are there any gotchas? – If you purchase a cell phone, remember that the cell plans usually include a 1 or 2 year contract. If you break that contract there are penalties that you may have to pay.

So now that you know how the plan works, how do you beat the system? Well, in order to beat this system you will need luck and some logical (or rather illogical strategic planning). You will need to do the following or fit into the following categories (said sarcastically):

  1. You have to live in a state, city or county with no sales tax.
  2. Do not purchase a cell phone along with the buy back plan unless it comes without a contract.
  3. Keep your receipt out of direct light and do not fold it in order to prevent fading. This way they can read it when you ready to initiate a claim.
  4. Register your device so that you know if there is a recall on the item and so you can get the manufacturers’ warranty.
  5. Keep the purchased item in the original wrapping.
  6. Wear gloves when you handle the device.
  7. Never drop the device. Never spill liquids or food on the device. In fact, treat the device like an anthropologist would treat old excavated bones.
  8. Store all contents (accessories, manuals, and even the electronic device) in safe deposit box.
  9. Take lots of videos of you taking your electronic device out of the safety deposit box using it in the way an anthropologist would treat old bones so you may have a fighting chance of winning any disputes over the condition of the device.

After all of this, you will still be screwed financially, but Best Buy and CWG will not make as much money off of you as they probably estimated they would make. In short, this is not for me. I do not see how I could possibly be in the group that beats the buy back program system.

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