A Best Buy program to trade old electronic equipment in exchange for store gift cards may be giving brick-and-mortar consumers more headaches than rewards.
Each store appears to have its own rules about what it will take back, and the answer changes depending on who at the store is answering questions.
Best Buy advertises on its website that most stores will take back anything, from iPods, DVD players, computers, cellphones, game systems, cameras and other items, no matter where they were purchased.
Depending on the item and condition, that could translate to hundreds of dollars worth of gift cards for outdated equipment.
But the reality, at least in Arizona, is that most stores won't take back items without a receipt showing they were bought at Best Buy -- and even then there is no guarantee.
Best Buy officials, contacted through their public-relations staff, did not respond to multiple requests for comment this week.
The company also offers the trade-in program through its website, bestbuy.com, and there is no indication that consumers have had any difficulty using it.
But calls or visits to Best Buy stores last week in Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa and Casa Grande about the trade-in program resulted in a confusing host of answers. Managers and employees said the trade-in program works differently at each store.
Some employees say stores will take back everything from computer monitors to audio receivers to DVD players.
Other employees say they are restricted to what can be traded, demand original receipts, or insist that only merchandise purchased at Best Buy is eligible for the trade-in.
In addition, what customer-service representatives say on the phone might not be true inside the store.
Employees at three stores in Mesa said city ordinances prevent them from taking merchandise without receipts because of concerns that the items might be stolen. They directed customers to a Tempe store. But a manager there said she could not take back any item without a receipt.
Even with a receipt, the store manager said, the item must have been purchased from a Best Buy in order to be eligible for the trade-in program.
On its website, Best Buy says most electronics, no matter where they were purchased, can be traded at stores for a gift card on the spot.
"Most items can be taken to a Best Buy store for immediate evaluation and payment. If you have a Best Buy receipt, any store can help you," according to the site. "Most can also accept products not bought at Best Buy."
But store employees at a Best Buy in Phoenix said the store was authorized only to trade in laptops, cellphones and iPods.
A store employee in Casa Grande said her store could offer trade-ins only on video games.
Best Buy also offers its trade-in program online, where it provides estimates based on your description of the product.
For instance, a 64 gigabyte, fourth-generation iPod Touch might fetch up to $190 in gift cards. Best Buy supplies shipping labels.
Once shipped, a customer will have to wait up to 14 days for the gift card to arrive in the mail.
by Robert Anglen The Arizona Republic Nov. 24, 2011 06:42 PM
Best Buy trade-in program confusing
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