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Buyer beware if it’s too good to be true

by Karen on February 4, 2011

So you know those Kindle gadgets? Tony’s been talking about getting one for a while. He’s an English professor, so he’s usually got a stack of about 10 books on his bedside table that he’s actively reading. Many of the books he reads are classics that have now entered public domain, which means they’re available for free as e-books. A Kindle makes them nice and portable. Plus, you know, fun toy!

We never updated our tax withholdings for the baby, so we received a sizable refund this year. Most of it is going right into the bank to replenish our emergency fund. But we decided to splurge on a little something, and $140 seemed like a reasonable splurge, especially since our income increased with Tony’s new job.

We put a lot of research into e-readers in general. We considered the Nook, the Kindle, and the Sony. Ultimately, we were pretty sold on the Kindle for a wide array of reasons that I’m not going to get into.

We’d made up our minds, but Tony was only slightly hesitant because he’s convinced that the Kindle will drop below $100 in the next year or so. He’s been saying all along that once the price is $99, he wants to buy one.

So imagine our excitement when we stopped to look at the Kindle display in Target last night and OMG! There was one marked down to $99! It was labeled as “repackaged.”

We were wary at first, so we asked the associate. Was it damaged? He said nope, it had just been opened and returned, and the only thing wrong with it was the torn packaging. Did the same return policy apply to repackaged items just in case there was something wrong? Yep, 90 days with a receipt.

Still a little wary, we headed to the customer service desk just to be sure. A second associate assured us that the only problem with “repackaged” items was that the packaging had been opened, and that we’d be able to return it no problem.

We were obviously pumped. It seemed like fate! Tony wanted to pay $99 for a Kindle, and we’d found a $99 Kindle! We were sold.

After we bought it, we rushed out to the car to open our new toy and take a look. It looked perfect! No scratches, no defects!

Then I realized there was something conspicuously missing … the power adapter and USB cord. I checked inside the box, under the packaging, everywhere. No power adapter or cord. Crap.

Thankfully, we’d covered our bases. Tony went right back into the store and returned it. The customer service rep’s weak sauce excuse? “We take our customers’ word for it when they return an item, and we assume all parts are included.”

Um, what? So someone returned the item opened, and nobody bothered to crack open the box to be sure that all the parts were there before slapping a discount sticker on it and sticking it back on the shelf? Granted, there was a deep discount, but still! If parts were missing, I think it should be clearly labeled on the box so customers know what they’re purchasing. Furthermore, if the store’s policy is not to check returned items, then customer service reps should warn wary customers that the item is “as is,” and it may be missing integral parts. They should not assure customers that the item is perfectly fine except for some torn packaging. What the heck?

If I had gone back to return it, I would have spoken to a manager to complain. Perhaps I could have gotten a gift card or something for our trouble. Unfortunately, I had to send Tony in because Judah had started to fuss in his car seat, and I didn’t want to leave Tony in the car while he screamed his head off. I can typically keep him calm, so I stayed behind. Tony settled for a full refund.

Eh well. The moral of the story is an old one that you’ve certainly heard before: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If we hadn’t been told the item was returnable, we most definitely would have asked to open it in the store before purchasing to make sure it was functional and all the parts were there. As it turned out, we didn’t get the deal we were hoping for, but no harm was done.

What a bummer, though, right?

This post is not sponsored by Kindle or Amazon. However, the link to the Kindle is an Amazon affiliate link.

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