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by Tim Jarvis
Unless you've been living in a media blackout for the last couple of years, you have probably noticed that major consumer electronics retailers are falling over themselves to help you recycle and trade in your aging gizmos.
"Our overarching sentiment is that we'll take back any electronic device a consumer has," says Best Buy marketing manager, Rich Yudhishthu. Up until recently, you probably just tossed your old cell phones or laptops into a drawer or closet and left them there until you had enough courage to actually throw them in the trash. But now you can effortlessly take Best Buy and other companies up on their offers and turn all your clutter into cash or credit toward the latest must-haves. Here's how.
"If you want to go to all the time and trouble of preparing your stuff for sale and vetting buyers on sites like eBay and Craigslist, you'll probably make more money," notes Yudhishthu. But what we're offering is a fast, hassle-free service that allows you to recycle or trade in your electronic devices via the Internet or instantly at any of our stores nationwide."
Yudhishthu says Best Buy offers three options for customers with used devices. Older products with no real value can be taken to any store to be responsibly recycled. Better yet, you can trade in your newer, gently used electronics at your local outlet or online and get some return on your original outlay. Or if you purchased the company's Buy Back Plan when the product was new, you'll receive a guaranteed percentage of the purchase price when you turn it in -- from a high of 50 percent if it's returned within six months down to 20 percent if you hand it back within 18 to 24 months.
Amazon Trade-In will not only take your MP3 players, GPS devices and other electronic equipment, but you can also milk some value out of your old textbooks, DVDs and video games as well. "Over a million products are trade-in eligible," says Robin Mendelson, director of Amazon Trade-In and Warehouse Deals. "We not only take items that are in like-new condition, we'll take items that are in good or just acceptable conditions too." And according to Mendelson, if an item is received by Amazon Trade-In and is graded by staff to be in a better condition than the customer selected, the trader will automatically be paid a higher amount.
However, Mendelson cautions that different products have different depreciation cycles. So if you're thinking of trading something in down the road, it's important to stay aware of how long you've had a device and how well it continues to meet your needs. A laptop may retain some value for up to two years, for example, whereas a television might still be worth something for up to four. "Amazon's trade-in value calculations take into account what other companies are offering," adds Mendelson. "And they are adjusted accordingly to ensure we're giving competitive value throughout the product lifecycle in each trade-in category.
Gazelle is the only one of the three companies that specializes exclusively in the trade-in and resale of used gadgets. "Maintaining and keeping your devices in good shape will help you get the maximum value out of them," advises Gazelle's chief gadget officer, Anthony Scarsella. If you want to get the most bang for your buck, he recommends staying on top of firmware and software updates, using protective cases and screen covers, and keeping things like chargers, batteries and other accessories with the device. Anything missing that is required for the equipment to operate effectively can have a big impact on the price.
"We have 22 different product categories and accept hundreds of thousands of items," continues Scarsella, "But overall we focus on creating an awesome consumer experience. Our customers can trust that their confidential data will be erased or destroyed from anything they send in that has a hard drive or a memory card, and that payments are made within five days via check, PayPal or an Amazon gift card."
In the End
One of the enduring problems with trade-in programs is that sellers and buyers often have vastly different opinions about the value and condition of products. So what happens if you rate your laptop as pristine, but the buyer thinks you're out of your mind? All three companies offer free shipping. So if you happen to disagree about how much your junk is worth, you can either take less money or have your stuff shipped back to you and returned to dust-collection duty. Bottom line: You've got nothing to lose. So gather up your old crap and start trading!
Tim Jarvis is a freelance health, technology and entertainment writer who contributes to O, The Oprah Magazine and the men's grooming and lifestyle site Men's Life Today. He is also currently working on a book about the mysteries of quantum mechanics.
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