Friday, August 19, 2011

Protect Yourself - Refunds or Exchanges of Used Products

When buying used products, it is extremely important that you understand what refund and/or exchange options are available to you.  Most used products don’t allow for refunds or exchanges for issues such as buyers remorse, but several online sites do offer protection options to ensure that you are paying for what has been advertised.  eBay and Amazon have programs in place, but sites like Oodle and Craigslist put the onus directly on the buyer.

No matter the marketplace, one of the most important aspects of ensuring that you are satisfied with your purchase is asking a lot of questions.  Whether it be a luxury watch or a smartphone, there are simple questions you can ask before purchasing.  Are there any scratches?  Has the item suffered any water damage?  If it is an electronic device, how long does the battery hold a charge?  The list is endless!  Of course, you need to pair down the questions to the ones that are most relevant/important to you and the item you are purchasing.  You also don’t want to annoy the seller.  Be sure to keep records of all correspondence in case you need it in a dispute.

The eBay Buyer Protection program provides strong safeguards in the case of misadvertised items or items not received, but any return due to a change of heart would have to be arranged with the seller at his/her discretion.  To take advantage of the program, you must pay via an eligible payment method (PayPal, credit card, ProPay, and a few others) and have first tried to settle the complaint with the seller.  If you and the seller are unable to resolve the issue, you must file a case within 45 days of the date of payment.  Also an important caveat of this program is that any purchase over $250 requires a signature for delivery if the dispute in question regards never receiving the item.  This program is available only to purchases on the US site and does not apply to Motors, Real Estate or eBay Classifieds.

Amazon has a long history of great customer service and they are extending that philosophy to their used marketplace.  Their A-to-Z Guarantee is very similar to eBay’s program except that they will only reimburse up to $2500.  Buyers have 14 days to contact a seller about a defect or problem with an order and if you cannot resolve it with the seller, you have 60 days from the date of sale to contact Amazon.  Again, there are restrictions on the payment method in order to qualify—you must pay through Amazon.com or through Amazon Payments.

For both eBay and Amazon, what you may also find is that if you do want a refund or a replacement then you may be responsible for the shipping fees. Make sure you take this into consideration, as if it is a heavy item, the shipping costs can be quite high.

As we mentioned at the start, both Oodle and Craigslist are complete “buyer beware” marketplaces.  The difference here, however, is that the transactions generally take place in person so that you’ll have a chance to test drive the product before handing over your money.  You’ll be able to see if there is damage, test if the product works, and if it will meet your needs.  Of course, you’ll still want to have that set of questions about things like water damage, battery life, etc.

Always take the time to find out what the policies are for any website when it comes to refunds or exchanges. Just as retailers are tightening their return policies, so are individual sellers.  Most won’t offer any type of refund unless there is an issue with the item sold.  With some detective work and scrutiny you should be able to avoid issues buying used.

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