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Best Buy to review third-party marketplace after CBC investigation finds damaged products

Posted in Canada, Featured

Published on October 08, 2021 with No Comments

CBC Marketplace bought 12 refurbished devices from Best Buy Marketplace — 5 had functional or cosmetic issues.

Despite Best Buy offering refurbished devices it claims can be “like new” on its third-party marketplace, a CBC Marketplace investigation found some products were anything but.  

Following repeated complaints of faulty devices from viewers, CBC’s Marketplace purchased 12 of what Best Buy calls “Grade A” refurbished devices from its third-party marketplace and had them independently reviewed by industry experts. Five of the devices were found to have cosmetic or functionality issues. 

In response to CBC’s findings, Best Buy said in an emailed statement: “Your investigation prompted another round of scrutiny and development on [Best Buy’s] Marketplace content.” Specifically, “enhancing product descriptions to ensure consistency so that customers are clear on what they are purchasing.”

Markus Giesler, an associate professor of marketing at York University in Toronto, said for consumers to comfortably purchase refurbished devices, companies like Best Buy need to take more responsibility for its third-party sellers.

“The number one rule is underpromise, overdeliver,” said Giesler, after CBC shared the results of its investigation. “Today’s case was about the exact opposite.” 

Best Buy’s Marketplace hosts a variety of third-party sellers offering new and refurbished devices. The company claims that all sellers featured on its site are thoroughly vetted and approved, offering only “Grade A” refurbished products that can be ” more reliable than a brand new version ” of a device. 

It’s a claim that Giesler finds problematic. 

Part of the issue, says Giesler, is that there is no standard definition for what a “Grade A” product, or even a “refurbished” product, is.

“Consumers should absolutely be critical,” said Giesler. “Refurbished products have a better price-value relation…. On the other hand, however, there are also a number of risks because these are devices that might have had previous issues that may or may not have been addressed.” 

4 tablets, 4 smartphones, 4 laptops tested

Marketplace heard stories from viewers about products they purchased from Best Buy’s third-party sellers, including smartphones having audio issues and faulty fingerprint scanners. In one case, a customer received an iPhone that developed a battery issue within a few months. When she took it in to be repaired, an Apple authorized service provider said the phone was actually supposed to have been destroyed because of a previous defect.

Marketplace purchased four tablets, four smartphones and four laptops from Best Buy’s third-party sellers. All listings stated the devices were refurbished. 

Alex Sebastian, co-founder of the Toronto-based refurbishing company Orchard, analyzed the tablets and smartphones. He said that two phones and two tablets did not meet his company’s standards for refurbished devices.

“Refurbished is language that’s thrown around a lot, and depending when you’re buying it’s going to mean something different,”  said Sebastian, whose company also sells on Best Buy’s Marketplace. “Refurbished would certainly mean that they’re fully functional and they’re in a very high cosmetic grading.” 

Two smartphones  an Apple iPhone XR and a Samsung Galaxy J3 Prime  both had notable cosmetic damage, said Sebastian. The J3 Prime had “deep scratches” on the backplate, while the iPhone XR had “significant scratches” on the front screen, according to Sebastian’s report. 

“I don’t think that they had a proper cosmetic grading done before they were put up for sale,” said Sebastian. 

Sebastian said all four smartphones worked. But Giesler says function isn’t enough. 

“[The J3 Prime is a] clear violation of promises that were made in the narrative that Best Buy claims to be a representation of the service that we’re dealing with,” he said. 

Without disclosing they were journalists, CBC producers reached out to both sellers about the issues Sebastian found in the phones. The seller of the Samsung Galaxy J3 Prime offered a phone case to hide the scratches on the backplate. The seller of the iPhone XR said a refurbished phone can have “cosmetic imperfections” that don’t affect the phone’s functionality. 

Sebastian had a different take: “What we’ve found, based on feedback from our customers, is that the screen is the most important.”


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