Best Buy Launches 'Future-Proof' Buy Back Program

Imagine buying an iPhone 4 today, only to suffer a serious bout of buyer's remorse when the iPhone 5 debuts in a few months. Such regret is not uncommon among tech enthusiasts, whose shiny new tablets, phones, or laptops are often yesterday's news before they're unboxed.

Best Buy has a clever (and potentially profitable) solution designed to protect its customers from gear obsolescence. It new Buy Back Program allows participants to trade in their old gear purchased at Best Buy, and apply the store credit toward new electronics.

The program applies to five product categories: laptops, netbooks, tablets, post-paid mobile phones and TVs. Say, for instance, you buy a new tablet from Best Buy, and decide to pay an extra $70 to join the Buy Back Program. The retailer will purchase your tablet anytime within two years, provided the device is in good working condition and has all its original parts. (For TVs, the buyback period is four years.)

How much will you get? Below is Best Buy's redemption timetable (from its news release):

·         Redeem your Buy Back within 6 months from purchase effective date, and get up to 50 percent of your purchase price

·         Redeem your Buy Back after 6 months to 12 months from purchase effective date, and get up to 40 percent

·         Redeem your Buy Back after 12 months to 18 months from purchase effective date and get up to 30 percent

·         Redeem your Buy Back after 18 months to 24 from purchase effective date and get up to 20 percent

·         For TVs only, redeem your Buy Back within 48 months from purchase effective date and get up to 10 percent

Best Buy will buy this.
"We recognize that technology is changing faster than ever, and our customers tell us they want to enjoy these devices without worrying about when the next or newest version will launch," said Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn in a statement. "We call this 'future-proofing' because our customers can now have more confidence that they're protecting the value of the products they're purchasing today."

But is the Buy Back Program really a good deal? It costs $70 to join, and the "up to" wording of the redemption clause is suspect. What if you think your gear is worth more than Best Buy is offering? And since the store credit is redeemable only at Best Buy, you can't apply it toward new hardware at a competing retailer with lower prices. The program does succeed, however, in preventing customers from shopping elsewhere.

But not this.
Option B: Save the $70 and sell your used gear on Craigslist. Then when you're shopping for a new tablet, TV, laptop, or phone, compare prices at various retailers and choose the, ahem, best buy.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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