Caveat Emptor: Let the Buyer Beware

Caveat emptor.  Let the buyer beware.

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of buying things second hand.  Sometimes this works out really well…like the designer clothes I pick up at Goodwill and the barely used snow blower I picked up from a friend moving to California.  But sometimes things don’t work out as well as I’d like.  And with second hand purchases, there really isn’t a lot of recourse.  If you buy something new and it doesn’t work, it might have a warranty.  Or you may be able to return it to the place where you bought it.  But it doesn’t always work that way when you’re dealing with thrift stores, Craigslist and eBay.

I learned this the hard way a few weeks ago.  Just before Christmas I was in the market for a Fitbit Flex fitness tracker.  But I didn’t want to pay the $99 retail price.  So to eBay I went.  I got what I thought was a great deal.  For about $60 I got what was billed as a lightly used Fitbit Flex, complete with the computer dongle, a wristband, and a charger.  I got it and everything was great.  I used it without issue for a couple of weeks and left positive feedback for the seller.  And that’s when things started going badly.  One day I couldn’t get the Fitbit to sync with the Fitbit app.  I did a little research and learned that the answer was to reset the Fitbit using a special reset button on the charger.  And that’s when I learned that the charger that came with the Fitbit was not the original manufacturer’s model.  It was a cheap knockoff that didn’t have the reset button.  So I went to Amazon and ordered a replacement charger.  But before it was even delivered the Fitbit stopped working altogether.  My $60 was gone.  My Fitbit was dead.

Since the Fitbit was actually helping me with my New Year’s fitness and weight loss resolution, I bit the bullet and headed to my local big box electronics store and handed over $99 for a new replacement.  So the Fitbit I resisted paying $99 for ended up costing me $159.  And even the accessories that came with the second hand version aren’t particularly useful.  The charger is fine for charging, but not for a reset.  The dongle may or may not function…I’ve never used it since I prefer to sync with my smartphone.  And the wristband also turned out to be a cheap knockoff that I don’t like near as much as the manufacturer’s version.  All in all….I pretty much flushed that money down the toilet.  But I learned an important lesson about purchasing electronics second hand.  I likely won’t do that again without making sure I have an option to return.

Second hand purchases work out for me more often than not (along with the Fitbit only a Craigslist kegerator and an eBay smartphone stand out as “lessons learned”).  And I have no intention of giving up my second hand shopping habit.  But I’ll likely think twice before dealing in used electronics again.  Caveat emptor.

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