By Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist
Today’s technology is constantly being replaced by updated models with newer, more exciting features. To keep up with the latest technology, more and more retailers are offering consumers buy-back programs.
Typical programs require a one-time fee that is paid at the time of the original gadget purchase. As long as your gadget is in good condition, many buy-back 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.
"If you are an individual that likes to stay on top of the latest and greatest technology, then a buy-back program may be for you," Stephen A. Cox, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, said in a statement. "But, as with anything else, you will need to do your research to find out if the program is worth the cost."
The BBB recommends that consumers consider the advantages and disadvantages before taking part in a retailer’s buy-back program:
Buy-back programs can provide a sense of insurance on your product. Buy-back programs guarantee a resale value, meaning they act as insurance against loss of value. But like any insurance policy, its true value can become hard to define. Before becoming a member of a buy-back program, make sure to read the fine print. Many buy-back options have conditions that could keep you from being able to sell back your used gadget.
Remember that the deal usually favors the retailer. In exchange for your old gadget, your return often will be given as a gift card. The plan and gift card mean you’re required to use the retailer for your next technology purchase. In addition, you may end up paying triple the sales tax when the exchanges are done. While sales tax rules vary from state to state and buy-back programs vary from program to program, you’re 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 sales tax.
Gadget-buy backs may be a problem 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 buy-back programs insist that the original items be brought back to the store at the time of the exchange.
Mobile phone contracts aren’t covered. When you purchase a new phone and add the retailer’s buy-back program, you can resell your phone back to the retailer for the agreed on dollar amount. However, your cell phone provider will keep billing you for the length of your contract.
You can compromise your identity. Many electronic items such as your smartphone or laptop can hold large amounts of personal information. If this information gets into the wrong hands, your identity could be stolen. Be sure to fully wipe out all personal data.
You could get more for your electronic gadgets elsewhere. Reselling electronics isn’t new. Many consumers use sites like eBay and Craigslist to sell their gadgets. In most cases, you could get more for your electronics by using these sites than opting for a retailer’s buy-back program.