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Are 'refurbished' electrical items any good?

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They are at least 25 per cent cheaper than brand new ones and often come with a one-year guarantee. Big names like Dell, Lenovo, Philips, LG, Panasonic, among others, sell them. But, what are they? We are talking about refurbished goods.

Many of us would recoil at the thought of refurbished electronics, with many preferring to buy new items because we trust that nothing can go wrong with them, but refurbished does not always mean a resurrected defective product.

Sometimes customers return a product for a refund to retailers or companies without even opening the box or using the item at all. There's nothing wrong with it, but the item can't be sold as new and has to be offered as a refurbished product. Minor scratches or dents to the product during shipment also force a retailer to return it to the manufacturer and put them on the refurbish item list. Or, there may be minor defects in the device that manufacturers repair and send them to retailers as refurbished units.

Resellers like like or even online players like eBay offer several categories of refurbished electronic items. Devices are reconditioned to the manufacturer’s original quality standards by players like GreenDust and offered to customers, often at a deep discount (around 20 to 30 per cent).

So, are refurbished electronics a smart bargain or too good to be true?

Having shopped a few times on GreenDust.com — a reverse logistics company that offers factory seconds, surplus, overstock, and refurbished products at affordable prices — 34-year-old homemaker, Nitu Patra says, “For me, the concept of purchasing factory seconds is an old, tried and tested one.” Patra adds, “I have recommended the site to my sisters and in-laws. We have all bought toasters, juicers, dryers, watches, sewing machines and even my Blackberry from the site.”

Buying refurbished electronics is not only earth-friendly, but also a great way to cut the cost of your purchases reasons K Suresh, a Bangalore-based IT professional. “In the US, big brands like Apple sell refurbished items at deep discounts. I bought my iPad and the MacBook at discounted prices (20-27 per cent) from Apple’s refurbished item deals. They work just fine and have manufacturer warranty,” he says.

A manufacturer’s refurbished product is much less risky than a third-party that offers a refurbished device, but in India there’s hardly any manufacturer that wants to sell items under “factory seconds” tag. Hitendra Chaturvedi, founder and managing director, GreenDust.com, says, “We directly pick up electronics from customer points, retail stores or OEM warehouses, bring them to manufacturer standards in our own factory using genuine parts and then resell these on our website and to our 100 franchisees across the country.” The reseller then offers these items at nearly half the product MRP or 25-30 per cent lower than market operative price (MOP, which is offered at stores) of new products. Since it started operations in 2008, the reseller has shipped over 6 lakh electronic goods to customers across India.

While there are some risks when it comes to buying refurbished electronics, there’s no reason to be put off just by the label “refurbished”, claims Pankaj Sarda, a Pune-based software developer. Sarda, who has bought three refurbished mobile phones from eBay and gifted them to family members, says, “For starters, call the reseller and check the reason why the product is branded as refurbished. If satisfied with the answer and the price seems substantially lower than a new product then it is worth the risk.”

Most buyers say that when buying a slightly costlier refurbished item like refrigerator, larger LCD television, washing machine, air conditioner, etc, from either an online or offline retailer, it is important to make sure you can inspect the product yourself. Chaturvedi of GreenDust says, “That’s exactly why we encourage buyers to walk in to our warehouses or franchisee stores located across all metros and even smaller cities, have a look at the wares themselves and then make a decision on the purchase.”

Tips for buying refurbished electronics
Check carefully for warranty while buying third-party refurbished products. For peace of mind, it is best to look for the full (eg, one-year) warranty.

Do ask the retailer if you can get an extended warranty on the item—not that you should buy it, per se, but if the retailer does offer an extended warranty, it’s a good sign of faith in that product.

Make sure you are getting a model that is fits your requirements. There’s no reason to shy away from older models as long as they have the specifications you require.

Ensure all chargers, cables, cords, manuals, software etc are included in the package. Also check the complete description and specs list for the product and make sure it is the item you are ordered (e.g. slightest change in model numbers can mean that you have been shipped a different product).

Read the return policy. A liberal policy is an indication that in case the product turns out to be unsatisfactory or simply does not make you happy then it can be duly returned.

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