Best Buy “Buy Back” Program – Deal or No Deal? HD GURU Investigates

February 6th, 2011 · 12 Comments · 3D HDTV, Connected TVs, LCD Flat Panel, LED LCD Flat Panels, News

Last month Best Buy (BB) launched its new “Buy Back” program (BBP) for HDTVs, allowing customers to trade-in televisions bought at BB for a Best Buy gift card worth up to 50% of the TV purchase price (after 6 months or less of ownership). The residual value scale slides down with the passage of time to 5% or less of the TV’s cost, depending on the condition and age. Beginning today (Sunday Feb. 6) and continuing until Feb. 12, you can opt into the program for free. As we like to say, nothing beats free.

When the free offer expires next week, the “Buy Back” program becomes another add-on to a list of expensive items BB attempts to sell you immediately after you choose your new HDTV. The current list includes overpriced HDMI cables (link), power conditioners (link), extended warranties (link), TV mounts and installation services.

The “Buy Back” program starts at $59.99 (for TVs costing under $500) and maxes out at $349.99. Here is the rest of the BBP TV price schedule as supplied by Best Buy’s customer service department. The price schedule is currently not listed on the Best Buy website:

$99.99 – TVs selling for $500 to $1199.99

$179.99 -TVs selling for $1200 to $2499.99

$349.99-TVs selling for $2500 to $5000.00

Sounds simple?  It’s not. The terms and conditions to qualify for a trade-in require a whooping 3,665 words within the contract (link). Best Buy uses the discomforting, vague term “up to” when presenting how much you will get back in trade and goes into great detail for the program disqualifications that will lower the value of your used TV, or cause it to be declared “substantially impaired” (not meaning intoxicated) indicating it has zero trade-in value. If that’s the case, no gift card for you, along with no refund of the price paid to join the “Buy Back” program.

At trade-in time you are responsible to get the TV back to the store, regardless if you had it  delivered by BB. You also must include all the accessories that came with the TV, or take a hit on the trade-in value. Does the person checking out the set know which accessories were included with the TV other than a remote control, manual and batteries? We doubt it, as the list varies by TV make and model.

Below is a contract excerpt (verbatim) regarding trade-in values.

  • (a) GOOD or FAIR. The Device is fully functional with no technical problems, with only a few scratches due to normal use. If CWG grades, in its sole discretion, the condition of the Device as Good or Fair, no adjustment will be made to the Buy Back Amount.
  • (b) POOR. The Device has one or more of the following issues: 1. The Device has sustained minor functional damage or product failure that can be easily repaired; 2. The Device has more than normal visible wear and tear, including, but not limited to, cracks, dents, scratches, dirt and user-added stickers. If CWG grades, in its sole discretion, the condition of the Device as Poor, the Buy Back Amount will be adjusted down by 50%.
  • (c) SUBSTANTIALLY IMPAIRED. The Device has one or more of the following issues: 1. The Device has functional damage or product failure that affects its ability to perform its function or impairs its use and cannot be easily repaired; 2. The Device has been recalled by its manufacturer and has not been repaired or replaced prior to sending it to CWG; 3. The Device has water damage or damage from bodily fluids; 4. The Device shows indications of a serial number modification; 5. The Device has insect/rodent infestation, damage. All damage described above must be repaired either under manufacturer warranty or service plan, or at your own cost, before providing the Device to CWG. The Device will not be accepted in Substantially Impaired condition and CWG will retain the Plan Fee you paid. If the Device is considered to be Substantially Impaired, the Device will be considered a Rejected Device as provided in Paragraph 11.

SCHEDULE OF BUY BACK AMOUNT AS ADJUSTED TO ACCOUNT FOR ACCEPTANCE TESTING*

TVs, Laptops, Tablets & Mobile Phones TVs Only
Acceptance Testing Condition Grade 6 Months from Effective Date After 6 Months to 12 Months from Effective Date After 12 Months to 18 Months from Effective Date After 18 Months to 24 Months from Effective Date After 24 Months to 48 Months from Effective Date
Good or Fair Up to 50% Up to 40% Up to 30% Up to 20% Up to 10%
Poor Up to 25% Up to 20% Up to 15% Up to 10% Up to 5%
Substantially Impaired 0 0 0 0 0


Bottom line, without studying the program details, potential buyers may not realize the value of the TV can become less than they paid for the contract, making it a real lousy deal.

Worst case (other than you set being declared worthless): after just 24 months you max out at $250 trade-in on a $2500 HDTV, making a net loss of $99.99 when you count in the cost of the contract and exclude the cost of the TV entirely. If BB determines your TV is in “poor” condition, due to the sticker your kid put on the back of the set (as per the contract excerpt above), you may only get back 5% of the cost ($125) bringing the loss to $224.99. You could end up with less, as the terms are all “up to” x percent.  Why buy a trade-in plan to lose money, when you would be better off keeping the set or simply giving it away?

Some alternatives to trade-in: sell the TV to a friend, relative, Craig’s list or EBay.

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12 Comments so far ↓

  • my 2 cents

    take it to the pawn shop… then take that money and go buy something else you probably don’t need.

  • AC

    MyCustomerWins said “Best Buy continues to treat the general public as morons.” –

    Unfortunately that is just what capitalism is. It requires saps, this is really no different than the Mortgage Backed Securities and Credit Default Swaps. I argue that people who need to buy new electronics yearly even without the overpriced cables, warranties etc are “saps” in that they are buying something they don’t really need,those 3D TVs are ridicules and yearly iphone is even worse.

  • MyCustomerWins

    Best Buy continues to treat the general public as morons. With all the posts on various websites, why anyone shops there is a mystery; why anyone would buy into any of their extra programs is a sad commentary on the sophisticati0n of a large number of people.

  • Andrew

    This is a ripoff. You can surely get back at least the amount that Best Buy is offering you (probably more) by selling your old electronics on Craigslist, without paying Best Buy a cent up front.

  • RH

    This is offered on laptops and tablets too… how many people do you know that get a new laptop every year or two?… every college student or business professional that needs to stay up on current tech. Plus iPads, how often does Apple come out with a new product? … Trade it in and get the latest and greatest man!

  • MC

    Nope, for cellphones it is based on the full retail price of the phone, not the subsidized price. Here is the text concerning the program for mobile phones, straight from BestBuy.com:

    “How does the Buy Back Program work for mobile phones?
    For mobile phones, the Buy Back provides exceptional value when you want to get the latest and greatest. The Buy Back Program for post paid mobile phones is based on the full retail price of the phone, not the discounted price of the phone. Your phone is typically discounted in price when you renew or sign up for a new contract. If the retail (non-contract) price is $600, your buy back value would be based on that amount, even if you purchased the phone for a lower price if the phone price was subsidized by the carrier.”

    That makes this an amazing deal for phones, for TVs not so much if you’re like 99% of people who will keep their TV for more than a year. For smaller TVs, customers seem to see more value in them. I.E., someone who needs a TV now, only has space for a 32″, but is planning to move into another room/space soon that accommodate a larger set. I work for BB and I can tell you that selling these things on a TV is like pulling teeth…they’re definitely a hard sell.

  • Katie

    It is confusing, and the easier option is gazelle.com They offer to buy back your gadgets for more than 20 product categories, anytime, from anywhere, and always free! Best Buy is just trying to trick more people into giving them money. Why not provide real value people want to pay for?!

  • SellYourCell Guy

    This is an unbelievably bad deal for cell phones even without paying for the buyback privilege. If you get a high end phone on contract for $199 you can probably sell it to someone like us, SellYourCell.com, for close to or over $200 within 6 months of buying it versus $100 at Best Buy. In many cases, we offer a higher price than you can buy your price for under contract. I assume Best Buy won’t give you anything for a phone that you get free on contract but we, and others like us, will. This is not a good service.

  • will

    Zach that is not the case. In the FAQ on the site they mention phones and the amount of the phone after the discount is what will be covered.

    So your $150 phone would be $210 to purchase then exchanging after 1 year would give you a gift card of $84 and any phone contract you still had.
    So your $150 phone after 1 year just sold for $24 minus the time value of that $60.

  • Zach

    Its actually an amazing deal for customers on mobile phones. Doing some math with each carrier, one can basically get free phones for life with buyback. You get 40% back if within 12 months, and that’s off of the 600+ price, not the 150 you paid when signing up. Sprint premier customers can upgrade once a year. I’m not going to break down the math, but you jumped to a bad conclusion about it being such a bad deal.

  • John

    Funny Trade In Value.. Might as well flush your money down the toilet….

  • JC

    Worstbuy Inc. — eroding consumers trusts in retail stores little buy little…

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