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.


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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