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Refurbished Products

When shopping for liquidation merchandise, you are sometimes going to come across products categorized as "refurbished". These are another great find, along the lines of customer-returned merchandise, but of higher quality and therefore usually more expensive. Refurbished merchandise is exactly as the word implies - it's been made "new" again.

The origins of refurbished products are primarily from three sources: returns under warranty, store returned (customer returned) merchandise, and product upgrades. Most often refurbished products are the type that would fall under the category of "electronics".

WARRANTY RETURNS: I can attest to this type personally. A few years ago I bought a new digital camera. It worked fine for a few months, and then the little lens cover that automatically opens up when you turn the camera on started occasionally refusing to open (a real pain when you want to get a quick picture). So I packed it up and took it to the big camera store I purchased it from, and showed the clerk my problem.  She told me that they had been seeing quite a bit of this problem with this particular camera, and offered to exchange it for a newer, more reliable model (which also offered a few newer features as well). I thought that was a square deal, so went home with the new camera, and was happy with it.

A few months later I noticed my camera store offering a sale on my "old" model camera, at a substantial discount from what I paid originally for it. The caveat in the advertising was that this was a "refurbished model, but it came with the full normal one-year warranty. Out of curiosity, I went to the store to inquire about these, and the salesman told me that the camera in question had a design problem that affected the lens cover operation. So all the warranty-returned and un-sold cameras of this model around the country were shipped to a service center, which replaced the lens cover with a newer and more reliable version. They get tested, re-packaged, and sold to stores at a steep price reduction to be sold again as "refurbished".

By doing this the manufacturer maintains their reputation for quality (or at least for standing behind their warranty); the stores receive better value for their customer-returned merchandise than they would had they simply sold these cameras to a liquidator; and customers like me end up satisfied with a newer camera (and other customers can buy the "old" (but refurbished) at a substantial discount).

CUSTOMER RETURNS: If a big chain store notices a lot of a particular electronic (or sometimes even mechanical) product being returned to their stores for some similar reason ("it makes an annoying noise" or "it jams when it is supposed to do this", for example), the store may contact the manufacturer and make their case that this is a poorly-designed, poorly-manufactured, or otherwise inferior product. The store does not need the reputation of selling faulty merchandise, and the manufacturer doesn't either.

Further, the manufacturer is going to do whatever it can to keep the huge chain store buying and selling their products. So store-returned products (and still-on-the-shelves merchandise, or "shelf-pulls") are packed up, sent back to the manufacturer (or more likely, their service center). There they figure out the problem, design a new part or whatever, and refurbish the merchandise. It probably qill not go back to the same stores it came from, but might be re-labeled and re-packaged (perhaps even given a new name or model number), and sold to other stores. And some of that merchandise might simply be re-sold through merchandise liquidators.

PRODUCT UPGRADES: Advancements in electronics merchandise happen at a rapid pace. A manufacturer of televisions, for example, has to move fast to release new and desirable products to the marketplace before their competition does. And sometimes the only difference between and old television and the next new model is not in the screen or the plastic case or anything else visible to the naked eye - it is the software programming inside that makes the difference.  So when a manufacturer finds that sales of their televisions are slowing down dramatically because a competitor has come out with something better, they may be able to simply up-date the software on their older tvs and sell them cheaper than the competition as "refurbished". In the long run, it is less expensive than simply selling them as-is to a liquidator.

Individuals can often by small quantities of these types of products (less than a pallet load) from a liquidator. It might be as few as 2 big-screen televisions to as many as a dozen smaller items like cameras or dvd players. Many small-quantity lots of refurbished merchandise are actually floor model (display) products, which may have minor cosmetic blemishes and/or be missing some packaging. If this is the case, make sure you verify that the merchandise has actually been refurbished by a service center.

While these products are a good value, they are not as great a value as store return merchandise. On the other hand, they generally are all guaranteed to be in "like new" condition, and usually come with the manufacturer's normal warranty.