We’re all for saving money with refurbished electronics. Refurbished products are items that have been opened or used before, but they’ve gone through rigorous testing and come with guarantees and warranties to protect you in the event that something goes wrong. But open box items aren’t quite as good of a buy. That’s because open box items, like Best Buy open box products, are goods returned by customers, inspected by the retailers, and then resold at a discount instead of being returned to the manufacturer, according to Consumer Reports.
That’s not necessarily a problem in itself, since some estimate that just 5% of retail returns are actually defective. Odds are good that Best Buy open box products, as well as those from other retailers, are going to work fine and were returned for other reasons. They may have scratches or dents, but will typically have all of their accessories. The problem is that many retailers sell open box items as is, with no warranties, guarantees, or returns. And that’s not the only reason why open box items aren’t always as good of a deal as they appear. Let’s take a look at those other reasons.
1. Best Buy open box products aren’t repaired by the factory
Best Buy open box items are all tested and inspected to verify that they work correctly, and to assign them a condition: Excellent-Certified, Excellent, Satisfactory, or Fair. But the company’s open box items aren’t inspected or repaired by the factory or by a factory-authorized facility. A small number of open box products were returned due to a defect and repaired. It’s impossible to know whether the model you’re considering was repaired, and if so, how thoroughly it’s been tested.
However, some product categories at Best Buy are eligible to be Geek Squad certified. According to a Geek Squad document (PDF), open box products in this condition look brand-new, without physical flaws, and include the original parts, accessories, and the original box. Additionally, the product has been professionally cleaned and then repackaged to offer the closest experience to buying new. If you’re wary of Best Buy open box products but find a certified model at significant savings, that can be a good compromise and get you what you want with less risk than the typical open box device.
2. Some Best Buy open box products were used as display models
Best Buy’s outlet center buying guide lays out exactly what Best Buy open box products are. The company explains that some are products returned “for a variety of reasons — a gift was the wrong color or model, or the TV or appliance was too big to fit.” But other open box products “served as in-store displays.” That’s something that you want to avoid, even though every item is tested and inspected to verify that it’s in working order. Because a display model has been used continuously for an indeterminate period of time, it’s hard to gauge how much wear and tear it’s been subjected to before being taken off the shelf and repackaged for sale.
If you can find the information, it’s important to investigate why a product is being sold open box. Sometimes, you can find a label on the product indicating why it’s being sold open box, and that label can indicate whether the item was a floor model or was simply returned, likely without flaws and with minimal use. If you’re shopping in store, it’s a good idea to inspect the product for condition or for missing parts or accessories.
3. You have to be careful about the products’ warranty
While Best Buy open box products are covered under the manufacturer’s warranty, the company’s buying guide explains that “exceptions may apply” with regards to that warranty. This isn’t necessarily a hard-and-fast deal breaker, but you need to know what you’re getting yourself into when you purchase a device. Though Best Buy says that its return and exchange “promise” applies to open box items, you’ll need to verify what warranty or guarantee you’re getting with the specific product you’re considering. Under no circumstances do you want to purchase an open box item that the retailer won’t stand behind in the event that something goes wrong.
Consumer Reports notes that sometimes, the original buyer of an item won’t have sent in the warranty card, which may still be in the box. In that case, you can send it in to initiate the warranty. Even without the card present, an open box item may be covered by the warranty. In either case, you should keep your receipt just in case something goes wrong within the warranty period.
4. Best Buy’s security policies aren’t always stringent enough
As Jon Brodkin reported for Ars Technica mid-2015, Best Buy has been known to sell open box devices without erasing the original buyer’s data. While you might argue that the original owner should be responsible for deleting such data before returning an item, the reality is that it doesn’t occur to most people to take that step. Stores like Best Buy should have the policies and training in place to account for that.
Despite Best Buy’s assurances to the press that the company has “detailed procedures in place to wipe client information from the devices that are returned to our stores,” at least a few devices have slipped through the cracks. Some Best Buy open box products have still been associated with the original owners’ accounts, while some have even required the original passwords to log in.
5. The savings on Best Buy open box items aren’t always worth it
You should only consider Best Buy open box items if the savings are really worth it. Consumer Reports researchers think that you should look to save at least 20% on the price of the item new, for instance. But many open box items are discounted very little from the full selling price, so you shouldn’t assume that every open box deal on Best Buy’s website is worth the risk. Best Buy open box items can get you some good savings on the products you want, but you should always weigh whether the savings offset the higher risk of going open box instead of new.
Open box items, whether from Best Buy or from another retailer, can be a great deal. Many people have had great experiences buying open-box items. The key is to know what you’re looking for, and to be aware of potential caveats. As with any tech purchase, doing your research is key.