Is Best Buy’s ‘Buy Back’ Program a Good Buy?

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“This plan seems more like a way for a retailer to add a higher-profit item to a low-margin sale than a great way for consumers to get a break on new gear. And it will make even less sense after Saturday when the program is no longer free.”

That’s the verdict from Consumer Reports regarding Best Buy’s new “Buy Back” program, which was announced last Sunday in a Super Bowl ad featuring Ozzy Osbourne and Justin Bieber.

Here’s how the program works: When you buy a new piece of electronica—TV, phone, tablet, whatever—at Best Buy, you have the option of paying a fee ($60 to $350 depending on the item and price) that will guarantee the store will buy back the item at a later date, if you’re so inclined to upgrade or simply get rid of it. In the agreement, Best Buy pays “up to 50%” of the original price if the customer brings the item back in perfectly good shape within six months, up to 40% if it’s brought back between six months and a year, and so on. For a limited time only—through Saturday, February 12—the upfront fee for this program is being waived.

So, is the program a good deal for consumers? Nope, not really, according to more than a few observers—like these folks cited by SmartMoney:

For consumers, these big-name forays into the buy-back business may not, in fact, be the best buy, for several reasons. The guarantees typically lock in a resale price that’s way too low, says Manish Rathi, a co-founder of, a consumer electronics shopping site. The upfront fees further eat into the money you’d otherwise recoup. And the buy-back usually comes in the form of a store gift card, not actual cash – all of which makes these new buyback programs a better deal for stores than for shoppers, says Stephen Baker, the vice president of industry analysis for NPD Group.

CR answers that same question with a big flat, straightforward NO:

For one, you’re prepaying for a service you might never use. For another, unless you plan to buy a new TV every six months, the amount you’ll receive isn’t likely to be meaningful.

Opting in and regularly utilizing the buy-back program is almost tantamount to paying for the privilege of renting gadgets and appliances. If you’re looking for the best value, you’re far better off carefully considering purchases and buying items that’ll last for the long haul—which in today’s world probably means any period longer than, oh, two or so years.

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