Walmart Sells Refurb TVs As New?

Walmart takes TVs people return and sells them as new, according to this unverified report we received.

Planning on buying a brand new TV from Wal-Mart? Don’t count on it. The TV in that probably slightly shipping-distressed box might be having it’s second time around the block already. But don’t expect to get any breaks – you still get to pay full price for the privilege of buying the TV somebody else returned as defective.

I’m one of the hapless minions of Wal-Mart, a position I like to think of as “Floor Monkey”. In this capacity, being that I’m more-or-less physically fit and capable of performing heavy labors, I’m often called upon to carry out things like treadmills, swingsets, and TVs. That last part is the one to pay attention to.

As I prepared to assist in the “disassembly” and sale of a floor model TV set, it came up in conversation with one of our longtime Electronics associates that when someone returns a TV as defective, it does not just go back to the manufacturer. Indeed, it goes back, gets whatever is wrong with it fixed, and then the same store gets it back to sell again….

Everyday low prices, indeed…


In effect, Wal-Mart is selling refurbished products with neither acknowledgment nor reduction in price to reflect the true status of the product.

My informant has been at this for a pretty long time, and has learned over the years some of the darker secret practices of everybody’s favorite retail giant. At least as far as what they do with electronic merchandise.

This practice isn’t just limited to TVs, either. I know first hand that when a bike is returned (which mind you they’re kind of not supposed to be to start with) they get taken to the back, where an associate will inspect and usually repair the bike, adding a new barcode label to it if necessary, and sending it back out to the rack for sale again. Also without any price reduction or indication that this is in reality a used item, unless it happens to have gotten visible signs of this from the previous owner’s use. Examples can be as simple as dirty tires (Quick tip, if the tires on that bike aren’t more or less evenly black, odds are someone’s taken it for a spin already), or less overt like scuffed chrome parts. This is actually much worse than the TVs, since those are sent to a factory where someone more likely to be trained in the service of the appliance will attend to it. There is no guarantee of any kind that the associate who takes charge of the bikes has any qualifications to repair a potentially defective bicycle. The bikes may be distinguishable visibly, but there’s no way at all to know with the TVs, since they’ll be factory sealed all over again like they rolled fresh off the line.

Wal-Mart is truly its own special little world. Where else could the word “new” actually mean “previously owned”?

Maybe that kid who had to return three different Xboxes to Walmart was actually a victim of this “rejuvenation” policy. — BEN POPKEN

(Photo: Clean Wal-Mart)

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  1. Buran says:

    I’m starting to think that items sold as refurbished should be clearly marked as such, by law. While refurb isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it should be disclosed to buyers. Also, in-store refurb vs. factory refurb should also be disclosed.

    I have bought refurbs before (most recently an 8GB iPod Nano that was bought for permanent in-car use for a car I pick up in a month) and they’re like-new, but I knew what I was getting. That’s fair. I know there is a risk of trouble, but with a factory refurb (fully disclosed, along with price break that should be encouraged, but not necessarily legally required) I think I got a fair deal.

  2. ptkdude says:

    OK. After reading this story I promise I’ve bought my last toothbrush at Wal-Mart!

  3. ganzhimself says:

    I’d rather buy a factory refurb instead of new, as a refurb generally has the same warranty as new(shitty to begin with 99% of the time), they were inspected and actually tested, and they had whatever was wrong with it fixed. Better than buying a new TV and having it break in a year. I’d generally expect to spend less on a factory refurb than a new item though.

  4. SOhp101 says:

    @ganzhimself: In my experience, refurbished items have a shorter warranty than the original item.

  5. superlayne says:

    GameStop does this aaaaalllll the time…


    I bought a game with a save file already on it.

  6. Buran says:

    @SOhp101: And that’s one of the tradeoffs you get for buying a refurb at lower price.

    I think it’s deceptive to not mark refurbs, though, because one reason people buy things new is to get them before anyone else has a chance to beat them up.

  7. AdmiralNelson says:

    Many times refurb is just a lie. I know that many LCD monitors/tvs refurbs are in no way refurbished. Someone returns a monitor that has a dead pixel, or minor “screen retention” issues, and the unit is put on the block as refurb with no work done to it. Reason being is that many of the “nitpick” issues that Consumer A sees won’t be seen by ‘general’ consumer B-Z. Or they will see them and just won’t care.

    I personally don’t trust anything marked refurb’d.

  8. Mike_ says:

    We bought a crock pot from Kohl’s awhile back. When we got it home, it was clear that it had been opened, unpacked, re-packed and re-sealed. All of the inside packaging was balled up and stuffed in the pot. We took it back and exchanged it for the same model, but this time checked to be sure the box hadn’t been opened before we left the store. I’m sure the one I returned went back on the shelf as “new”. I haven’t been back to Kohl’s since then.

    If I think I’m getting something “new”, my expectation is that no one has touched it since the manufacturer originally packaged it. If it’s been out of the box, I want a discount. I’m not exactly thrilled if it’s even been out of the store, and returned unopened. Who knows where it’s been or how it’s been handled when it was in some other customer’s hands?

    For some time now, I’ve been in the habit of picking up an item, grabbing the one behind it, and returning the first one to the shelf. Chances are, the second one has been handled less than the one in front. A little crazy? Probably.

  9. bedofnails says:

    Everytime I have been to a Walmart, Circuit City, etc, they always refer to these as open box, and have specific tags referencing such.

  10. DreamWalker81 says:

    @superlayne:

    actually gamestop employee’s are allowed to take out the games to play them and then they r sold as new.

  11. bedofnails says:

    @Mike_:

    Or, someone opened it in the store for examination – there are a lot of possibilities here – one of which includes the item having been returned.

    @ the author –

    He mentions dirty bike tires; Walmart and many big box stores serve as babysitters while parents shop – with many products showing visible wear.

    In addition, take a moment to notice the “go-back” piles in every department – piles of new, un purchased items that maybe made it as far as the cash register, but more likely just the floor.

  12. swalve says:

    I always thought refurbs had to be marked by law too. Maybe it’s a state-by-state thing?

    I once bought a cordless phone from Menards. It was the last one on the shelf, and I didn’t really notice that the box was a little beat up. When I got it home, I found that it was all scraped up and was FULL of somebody else’s caller ID history. The return person was skeptical until I told her about the somebody else’s caller ID info, and she accepted the return gracefully.

    I bought a Dell Laptop from their in-house refurb store. List was $1400, got it for $1100 with a three year warranty. It seems that (at least at that time), the items come with whatever they were originally ordered with, but at a significantly reduced price. The computer was in perfect shape, and remains that way.

  13. bluegus32 says:

    I once bought a humidifier from Wal-Mart. When I got it home, I found out it had been used. In fact, the damn thing was still wet, only now it was mildewy.

    That’s just gross. Who returns a used humidifier?

  14. swalve says:

    bed of nails- I noticed that about my local wal-mart, which is unusually clean, stocked and orderly. But the customers are largely the worst. From that strata of society that isn’t particularly poor, but certainly isn’t rich- the types that drive used conversion vans. And who are COMPLETELY self-centered, destructive and ignorant. I hesitate to call them white trash, but that is the phrase…

  15. tracilyns says:

    i’d believe that bike one. a few years back, i bought a bike from walmart ’cause i was a cheap college student. 48 hour later, i had it registered with my school, stuck the sticker on it, and then the chain fell off while i was riding it. so i took it back, and the “bike guy” flipped out and refused to take the bike back. he wanted to repair it instead, and stated that he couldn’t resell it since the sticker was on it. 45 minutes and one store manager later, i was able to get my money back. needless to say, i won’t be buying a bike from walmart again.

  16. Hawk07 says:

    Yesterday morning I nearly had a heart attack. I bought a digital camera on sale on Office Depot this weekend for my mom who has been wanting one for a while. Since my fridge coincidentally broke Sunday morning as well, my day was occupied by moving groceries around and figuring out what replacement parts I needed. With the spurs game on that night, I didn’t even think about or touch my $300 purchase.

    So… yesterday morning, I go to open the digital camera box and wham, the camera is MISSING. So I’m thinking, “oh crap somebody stole the camera and OD is going to think I’m trying to scam them.”

    Luckily OD was open yesterday, I called and talked to the manager. She was friendly and said just bring it in for a replacement. Went in, exchanged and we compared the serial numbers and found out they had given me the box for the floor model.

    So beware all. My local store was really friendly about replacement, but nevertheless you can see how this could have very easily been a bad situation.

  17. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    If it isn’t illegal to sell refurbished merchandise as new, it should be. Consumers need to be smarter and look at the packaging as they open it.
    I know of an electronics retailer back in the day in Ohio that lost their ‘authorized dealer’ status for several manufacturers by selling B stock (refurbished) as new and pesky customers (such as myself) called them out on it (and let the manufacturers know).
    The Sony stores (and others) at the ‘outlet’ malls are big on this, but they don’t try to hide that it’s B stock.
    …as opposed to the Le Crueset outlet trying to tell me that the clearly marked factory B-stock label on the box didn’t mean it was factory B-stock.

  18. DrTweeker says:

    @ Walmart it’s also dependant on the reason you give when you bring it back. According to a friend that previously worked there if you bring back an item, and give them a bullshit excuse and they don’t put a ‘defective tag’ on the item – then it gets put right back on the floor. If you do give a proper reason, the defective product code goes in the computer to determine if it’s something that will be repaired, or returned to the manufacturer for credit.

    So if you seal up something to where it’s not apparent it was opened, and tell them you just didn’t want it.. guess what- that gets plopped right back on the shelf for the next consumer to buy.

  19. suburbancowboy says:

    Serves them right for shopping at Wal-Mart.

    I own a high-end Audio-video store, and from my experience with returning items, things that are refurbished tend to have problems after they are refurbed. Many times the initial problem is not properly diagnosed, and there is a much larger problem. And the warranty is generally shorter.

    The only refurbed item I didn’t have problems with was my wacom tablet. My refurbed HP printer broke just after the warranty expired, and the few times we actually got customers refurbed products, because they were looking to save money, they broke again. So we now stay away from refurbs at my store.

  20. SecUnder says:

    Reminds me of when I bought a vacuum at wal-mart. Unpacking it at home, I find that its missing two of its attachments, and had been well used. The filter was wet and mildewed by the time I recieved it, when the vacuum itself wasn’t even constructed for wet vacuuming.

  21. Scazza says:

    “Planning on buying a brand new TV from Wal-Mart?” LOL, I think we found the problem right there.

  22. lilmiscantberong says:

    I think this happened to me as well, I bought a new tv from them, and when we got it home it has a three digit code that won’t allow any dvd’s to be played that do not have a “g” rating.

    Does anyone know if this is factory standard? Is there a factory code I can try to unlock it?

  23. hurmpees says:

    We bought a slip and slide from Wal-Mart, one of those that 3 kids can go down at once. It was obvious the box had been opened and was re-sealed with packing tape.Since it was the only one there we went and bought it anyway. We got it home and it was still wet and had dirt and grass on it.It was also missing a patch for the patch kit. Took it back (without the receipt) and they exchanged it for us with no fuss.

  24. HavocHQ says:

    I’m one of the computer sales floor supervisors at a university coop. What we usually do when someone wants to return something is examine the product and refund the discounted price we’ll sell the item for. For unserialized electronics and accessories that were just opened, tried out and then returned, we’ll usually refund about 90% of the price, make sure everything’s in working order, and then sell it at 90% and say why.

    We don’t refund or exchange big items like computers, and this is made very clear to the customer right from the start. We are however a certified repair center for every computer we sell, so if there’s any problem with a model we promptly take care of it in-house.

    People don’t always realize that when they return something to a store, that business is stuck with an open product they can’t sell as new. Big chains can and will just absorb the loss, but given our razor-thin margins and the fact that we’re a single store, we can’t do that. We instead go the route of reliable tech support and we return/exchange/repair the products quickly for the customer. So far nearly every customer has been fine with this policy, so I’m convinced of its success. It also encourages us to make sure the customer’s leaving with something he’ll be happy with.

  25. mantari says:

    Target, I returned some defective electronics. I told them quite clearly that I was returning it because it was defective. I went back a few days later to see if they got any in stock. They sure did. My defective unit was back on the shelf!

  26. mac-phisto says:

    Wal-Mart is truly its own special little world. Where else could the word “new” actually mean “previously owned”?


    i am by no means dismissing their behavior, but they are not alone. best buy (as seen by the infamous “new xbox out of warranty” seen here not too long ago), radioshack (first-hand knowledge of that), sears (i experienced it this very weekend).

    i’m not entirely sure, but i believe a few pro-consumer states have laws on the books with stiff penalties for stores that violate laws that require marking something as refurbished. even so, it becomes an enforcement issue. once you open a box, how can you prove that it was previously opened?

    i had my suspicions of wal-mart when an acquaintance purchased a tv there that had no remote & no instruction booklet. what’s funny is that she thought nothing of the fact that she was not receiving everything she paid for, yet she seemed fine with that. i believe “i got a good deal.” was her exact response.

    yeah, until you try to find a remote that works with a quasonicobitsuhama….

  27. legerdemain says:

    I’ve never worked for Wal-Mart, and I don’t like Wal-Mart, but I have to think this is an isolated situation. I’d believe the store just put items back out for sale, maybe putting a little tape on the box, but the idea of them selling a factory refurb doesn’t sit right in my mind. Just thinking about the logistics involved in sending the same store the same television after refurbishment makes my head spin. Beyond that, the idea that manufacturers would be complicit in this makes it even less likely to me. If you were Panasonic, would you want your good name on a refurbished product that consumers would think of and judge as new?

    I’ll tell you this: Circuit City and Sears don’t do this. When I worked there, we occasionally opened the wrong item accidentally when bringing out display models. We might not have even removed the item from the box. We might have merely popped the staples out and opened the flap of the box.

    It didn’t matter. That became an open box product. Now, don’t get me wrong; we didn’t take 60% off the regular price, but we certainly gave people some nice deals.

  28. dbeahn says:

    *cough*

    http://bbcamerican.blogspot.com/

    BBCAmerican. Live it, learn it, love it. Poor guy.

  29. LAGirl says:

    a recent gem from http://bbcamerican.blogspot.com/
    ‘behind the counter':

    “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. NO MATTER WHAT YOU BUY AT WAL-MART, LOOK AT IT BEFORE YOU PUT IT IN YOUR CART. THEN LOOK AT IT AGAIN. IF IT LOOKS LIKE SOMEONE USED IT BEFORE YOU, PUT IT BACK AND GET ANOTHER ONE.

    For things in clear plastic containers, you might think this would be an easy one. For a freaking CHICKEN, you might think this would be even easier. Apparently not.

    I still don’t know what to make of this one, except to shake my head and try my hardest not to believe that this guy was not just going through a lot of effort to get a free leg and a thigh and an upgrade on a roasted chicken.

    Around 8 p.m. on Saturday is when the crazy people come out. I don’t know what it is – except to think maybe that’s when the sun goes down and the nightcrawlers emerge. I looked up at one point and there must have been 11 people in line – all shifting from side to side and all giving me nasty looks.

    So when this man with enough nose hair to keep the Fuller Brush company in business through 2050 slams a greasy package of chicken on the counter and goes “Can you tell me what this is?” I very nearly lost my cool.

    I know you’re pissed off. I know you’re waiting in line. I know you hate Wal-Mart. You know what? YOU’RE STILL SPENDING MONEY HERE. THEY’RE NOT GOING TO CHANGE UNTIL YOU DO!

    I didn’t lose it. I wanted to, but I didn’t. I looked at him. I looked at the chicken. And I looked back at him. “Can I help you sir?”

    “This was eaten.”

    “Yes sir.” I don’t read minds. This is not a Kreskin act. This is the Wal-Mart.

    “When I picked it up, it was gnawed on. And I paid for it.” Well what does that make you then? You just DON’T NOTICE that you pick up a chicken MISSING a leg and a thigh?

    “And you didn’t notice it?”

    “No. And they don’t have any more. And that’s the only kind of chicken I like. I’m going to have to get something else.”

    “OK. Give me your receipt.”

    I’m not going to argue with the man. He’s got a receipt and he wants another chicken. He’s even got the other chicken with him.

    I only get that “something shady” feeling when scan the other chicken. The one he claims was “gnawed on” was $4.48. The one he wants now is $5.98. So he is getting a $1.50 upgrade. And I know that if mention that if he has to pay he’s going to go ballistic. So I just price the new chicken at $4.48.

    I hit some buttons and paper spits out of the printer. I get him to sign the refund slip and he goes “Where’s my money?”

    “No sir. You returned one chicken and got another chicken for the same price. Let me get you a bag.”

    I really think he expected a refund AND a free chicken. No. no, no, no, no, no. With apologies to Herbert Hoover, there will not be “a chicken in every buggy” any time in the near future.”

  30. LAGirl says:

    @dbeahn: damn IT! you beat me to it.

  31. shades_of_blue says:

    well that explains all the busted xbox360s Walmart sells. like the poor bastard who got three DOA systems from his local Walmart, captured the whole thing of video camera and blasted it on YouTube.

  32. Major-General says:

    When I worked for Wal-Mart in electronics, here’s what what we did with returns. You bring it back and say you don’t want it, generally it gets reboxed and put on the shelf. This was abused by people returning old products as new ones, say by opening through the bottom and very good tape jobs.

    If you say it didn’t work, we asked what was wrong, and we label it defective, and send it back to claims to be sent to the manufacturer. This is not true for lawnmowers, some game systems, computers, etc where the manufacturer gives specific instructions on warranty repair.

    Most of the time we tried to weed out bad products, but you can’t get them all. Also, at the one I worked at, the regulars in electronics would tell you what they new about the quality of the product, like that generally Bellsouth phones are crap, or that the Sanyo’s were the closest thing to an American Made tv.

  33. mopar_man says:

    “Planning on buying a brand new TV from Wal-Mart?” LOL, I think we found the problem right there.

    “Planning on buying anything at Wal-Mart?”

    THAT’S the problem.

  34. EtherealStrife says:

    When I worked for office depot we had to do stuff like this. If the customer said it was defective, we tagged it and tossed it in a bin to ship back to central (end up being sold on ebay, iirc). Otherwise it went in The Cart(s). After we closed (or right before) we’d start going around, restocking everything that was returned as functional, even if it had clearly been opened. . . .

  35. Toast442 says:

    This same thing almost happened to me and my wife at CompUSA. We had a camera stolen, and we found the local store still had the same model in stock (it was ~8 months old, my wife really liked it.) The GBTC brought the box to the checkout and started ringing it up – until I noticed the factory seal was torn off. Further inspection revealed the data cable was missing and there was some sort of return/rma type sticker on the box.

    He tried to convince me it had been “certified” for resale and that the missing cable was probably “in the back.”

    We passed.

  36. spinachdip says:

    I once bought a hand-held vacuum cleaner at Wal-Mart. After a couple of cleaning sessions, I decided I preferred a wet-dry vac, so I put it back in the box, with the bag filled with dust. They took it back with no questions asked.

    Yeah, I was an asshole for doing that, but at least I recharged the battery before returning it.

  37. bitplayer says:

    I had a stint in retail. Customers are NOTORIOUS for ripping open boxes and palming various items. You wouldn’t believe how many people wanted to open things like pens and other stuff just to “touch” them. Bottom line you return something and you say it’s not broken it goes back on the shelf like new. Stores pretty much take back anything if you bitch about it so it’s really no big deal.

  38. FLConsumer says:

    Dumb question, but isn’t there some sort of law prohibiting this? I know some stores are notoriously bad about this (Fry’s), but I’d expect others store to have higher standards than that.

  39. Okay I am going to press the BS button on this one. Walmart not only does not sell refurbed TVs they would destroy a returned TV before sending it back to the manufacturer. Knowing what I know about Walmart’s back end many of returned items have found their way into the crusher as opposed to being returned to the manufacturer. Also the likelyhood that Walmart would send out a TV for repair and manage to get the SAME tv back is even more unlikely. Walmart’s margins are so slim that Joe mover’s labor costs to move the TV from the dock two times would eliminate all profit. Not to mention the person who facilitates that tv’s move back and forth.

    Want more proof? I have seen personally TVs being destroyed here in Lapeer when the local Walmart was demolished in favor of the new one built behind it. It cost less to destroy them then to move them 200 ft.

    http://www.noheat.com

  40. OnceWasCool says:

    Walmart has been doing this for years. I remember 10 years ago that a buddy of mine bought a scanner. After looking in the battery compartment, he discovered the sticker that said “refurbished”.

  41. imaheadcase says:

    I work at walmart, I pretty much have done everything in a store you can do. Whoever wrote this is full of it because the system is set up that returns are flagged so you can’t even print a label on returned items (electronic items only). It will give a code back saying “not in system” yet or something like that ( If you can put a label it will be a clearance label, which in that case customer should know it is discounted for a reason).

    Why? Because if they returned it to service desk like normal people the associate at the DESK puts the same tag on it before its taken in the back room to Claims, then they send it back to manufacture.

    The logic behind the OP is flawed simply because unless someone screwed up in there job, it would not even go back to sales floor.

    If anyone is at fault here, its the manufacture that sent the item back to walmart and passed it off as new.

    Walmart does some pretty odd stuff, but they don’t do that. lol

  42. revmatty says:

    CompUSA was horrible about this. More than half the things I’ve bought there had clearly been opened and returned. Though in those cases they weren’t even rtm’d to be fixed. They were just re-shrink wrapped and put back on the shelf. Both Lowe’s and Home Depot are really bad about this as well.

  43. bluemeep says:

    @legerdemain: Actually, Circuit City does do this.

    I spent a good two years of my post-college career shoving TVs around their warehouses and have seen more than a few new boxes accidentally torn open. The managerial response was in 99.5% of the time “Did anything fall out? No? So, tape it shut.” If we ever got a new box in whose packaging was torn to the point of complete obliteration, then we’d bite the bullet and put it out as Open Box. The 32-36″ TVs were always the worst about this…huge, heavy, packed with lousy cardboard and generally only held together with those enormous copper staples that happily shred your weak human flesh.

    Returns were generally a toss-up. If a product was returned unopened, it would always just be put back on the shelves. If it was opened, was a product we could test in-store to see if it worked (say, a TV) and had enough of the accessories (at least the remote and manual) we would put it out as Open Box. If it was busted, we’d slap the DEF sticker on it and put it on a pallet for the next shipment of returns. Usually. Every now and then one would accidentally slip out onto the floor because some dink didn’t notice the giant defective sticker on it and put it out for sale. We tried to corral those as fast as possible before a manager saw.

    Here’s the fun parts. A recent sale that worked but was returned opened with the box? That usually just got taped up and put back as new. We’d do our best to make sure it came with all the necessary bits if any were missing (cannibalizing them from the Open Box models if need be; usually returns weren’t accepted without everything included), but every now and again we’d miss a remote or something. Naturally if a customer asked about a slab of tape across a box that was otherwise closed with staples we’d tell them the truth, but if not… Sold as new.

    Sometimes, people would send their broken TVs or DVD players or such through us to be repaired and never come pick them up. After it sat in the warehouse for a year or so without us being able to contact the original owner, we’d sell it. Occasionally it’d wind up in the break room if it was still a little fritz-y, but the managers usually just saw them as free money…

    As an aside, I once had a manager that applauded a salesman who sold a high end stereo but gave the customer the mid-range model. The boxes were exactly alike except for the model number. That particular instance was the straw for me and I quit soon after. One store isn’t always like another, naturally, but it’s important to keep your eyes open.

  44. John Stracke says:

    @mantari:

    My defective unit was back on the shelf!

    I had the same thing happen at Best Buy. I bought a DVD+VCR, brought it home, it didn’t work. Brought it back; it was the only one of that model they had, so I got a refund instead of an exchange. Later that day I had to go back (yeah, it was a long day), and spotted it back on the shelf. It was marked as “As Is”, meaning that they were going to sell it to somebody (for something like 10% off, I think), with no returns permitted, when they knew it was broken.

  45. I bought a Harmon/Kardon receiver from their refurb website about five years ago. It was the best damned receiver I’ve ever bought, and it was about 70% off. I couldn’t have been happier with the product.

    Sometimes, refurb works. Other times — such as with my TEAC iPod Dock that doesn’t recharge my iPod — it doesn’t. Buyer beware!

  46. legerdemain says:

    @bluemeep: Wow. Your store was quite a bit different than mine.

  47. Ben Popken says:

    Shawn writes:

    “I worked there for four and a half years until I recentl graduated from college, and am now at much greener pastures. But, unlike the original poster, I actually worked at the service desk, so I can clarify a few things (at least based on my experience).
    Most items, if opened and not ‘defective’, were returned to the shelf. Occasionally, due to missing packaging/instructions/etc., they may take 10% off, but this is rare. Actually, that’s just a plain Wal-mart rule.

    Rule #1) Don’t expect them to knock more than 10% off a defective, open-box, or clearance item. As more than one manager put it, “We get more back in credit if we return it to the manufacturer.”

    Certain things can’t go back, period. Food was disallowed about 8 months ago, while baby formula generally can not be returned and doesn’t go on the shelf if it is. Open containers and worn/washed clothing are defected.
    Electronics, for the most part, will be returned to the shelf if in near-mint (ie, no visible damage or defect). Instructions, remotes, etc. are required for the return – without it, we don’t get credit. Unlike stereos and TVs, computers cannot be reshelved in most circumstances, since EULAs may no longer appear on screen. In rare cases, a one of the rare Electronics associates with technical experience may do a reload if it cannot be returned to the manufacturer, and it will be specially marked/discounted. Open media (CDs, DVDs, Video Games, Software) cannot be repackaged and must be defected. Video game systems, however, can be reshelved.

    Rule #2) Electronics are not treated with care on the trucks and the floor at Wal-mart. I’ve seen PCs fall off a pallet, then shoved back on. While they are encased in three-inch foam, that’s not good for the hard drive or other components. If at all possible, and especially with price fixed goods (video game systems, all but the cheapest PCs), try to buy from an electronics retailer.

    Exercise equipment, power tools, etc. all follow the same general principals as Electronics. Lawn mowers, tractors, and weed eaters can generally be reshelved if they weren’t used.

    Rule #3) Empty the oil and gas from mowers, tractors, weed eaters, chainsaws, compressors, etc. We can’t take it back with it in there – period – but if you’re angry enough, you be told to go to the side of the building and dump it out.

    Bikes are a unique case. Generally, they are to be repaired, not exchanged. However, when a return or exchange does occur, the bike is cleaned off, 10% is taken off the price, and it is set aside to be sold as clearance. This is fine, except that it may be left outside.

    Rule #4) If an item appears to have been left outside, it probably was. While tractors are little surprise, clearance bikes (which are already scratched and therefore more susceptible to rust) are left outside, even in the rain.

    Rule #5) One more note on bikes. You know how you decided to get you child (or yourself) that nice Schwinn or Mongoose bike? It’s not the real deal in 99% of cases. If you look closely, you find a company name that is shared with the cheaper bikes (even the ‘Next/Roadmaster’ bargain-basement brand.) PacificCycle (at http://www.pacificcycle.com) is the manufacturer of most if not all bikes at Wal-Mart. They are rubbish. Toys”r”us and Target have the same bikes. Compare model names from Schwinn’s site and Wal-Mart’s site if you want proof.

    These are, generally, the rules that are to be followed. They are seldom followed perfectly, so caveat emptor.

    Rule #6) If an item rings up wrong, it is generally not the cashier’s fault but rather the department associate performing the markdown. Unless the price is manually entered, the register pulls it from a database. There are often problems with this database – central office may accidentally override changes, certain items may not be changed per law, and it’s easy to miss a few items in a five-hundred item batch. Be patient but firm, and in the wide majority of cases you will get your way. Wal-mart has no interest in having a bait-and-switch investigation, and is not trying to cheat you.”

  48. CaptainRoin says:

    Do NOT buy a bike from Walmart. Or any other big box store for that matter. They are assembled by monkeys with air tools. Thank you.

  49. 2Legit2Quit says:

    I bought a DVD home theater system for my sister for her apartment at Best Buy, and when she opened it there was a Gladiator disk in the DVD tray. Luckily, it all worked… so I wasn’t complaining about a free DVD.

  50. 2Legit2Quit says:

    Actually, in some fairness, I bought my futon at WalMart, and I’ve used it as my bed for the past 5 years. I think its one of the most comfortable things and hasn’t failed me yet!

  51. Infe says:

    No one here seems to share the same opinion as me. As long as Wal-Mart, or whatever retailer you want to mention, takes back items reasonably, where the heck is the problem? Sure, we can all be quite silly and want everything we buy to be 100% perfectly new, taped up and sealed, but what’s the point? So that means anything that’s ever been opened just to look at it, or I bought a DVD player and hook it up just to realize it doesn’t have a certain feature, or whatever, no harm done, but everything still needs to be sent across the country, back to the manufacturer, wasting Wal-Mart’s time, using more trucking fuel, costing money to be refurbed and inspected….why?

    I can attest to Wal-Mart having such a great return policy, that I almost always buy electronics and household gadgets there. Just the other day, we bought a ceiling fan, and upon getting all the parts out, realized it used candelabra light bulbs instead of normal ones for some weird reason. Packed it back up, swapped for another one, no big deal. This is a heck of a lot of fuss over nothing, in my opinion. Of course, I like Wal-Mart, and I won’t lie about that, but this could be talking about any retailer that reshelves products where there is no harm done, saving everyone money. Because if they had to make sure all the product had never been touched in the package, you can be sure prices would go up. For no good reason.

  52. jchennav says:

    @FLConsumer: Fry’s labels any open-box items on their shelves. They started discounting open-box items several years ago after a class-action lawsuit was filed for selling open-box items as new.

  53. crazy123 says:

    On our anniversary my husband and I bought a 3 dome tent from Wal-mart for $79. We were planning to camp, and like always before we go I wanted to set it up. So we did, what a surprise we got while we setting it up we realized that the tent pieces did not match. The piece that holds stuff in the ceiling of the tent was different colors. The poles were streched out, and there was ALOT of dirt inside. So I called Wal-mart and explained to the sales associate. And she told me to bring it back and they would exchange it. I told my husband that before I took it back to get the other one that I wanted to see the other two smaller tents. You wouldn’t believe what we found, there was someonelse’s swim trunks inside! I took the trunks with me when I took it back, the sales associate said you found these inside the tent? I said yes!

  54. Anonymous says:

    I recently went to the local walmart to buy a small TV to use for a pc monitor/tv. My friends dad (head of electronics) was there and he told me the mdoel I wanted was out of stock. He offered a more expensive model at the same price but it lacked HDMI, finally he asked if I’d be interested in a model that had been returned. The model had been returned same-day because the buyer wanted something bigger, it had been opened and turned on, but there wasn’t a mark on it. The 32″ Hi-def LCD had been marked at $650, but since this was a return he sold it to me for $300 with the same warranty as a new one. I’m very impressed with it, and I plan to start checking in with my friend’s dad regularly for deals like this.

  55. writeofnow says:

    I found out first hand that they do (sell referbs at ‘new’/full price with out marking them as being so..
    I bought a VISIO plasma ’32 t.v., I noticed some minor dings in it- never thought much of it.. Until I went to have my HD cable service connected and realized the picture quality was still horrible in HD (after the tech checked his lines to make sure it wasn’t the signal feed from the wires).

    I called Walmart and explained to them what was going on, Of course they tell me to call VISIO. while speaking with VISIO (they needed the serial #) and upon inspection of the box I noticed a shipping label TO that particular Walmart store that I had purchased it from , from a repair center..

    Visio advised me that they DO NOT repair TV’s. they recycle the old ones and send out ‘new’ ones for 2 reasons #1- it’s cheaper than repairing them, #2- because a repaired TV will never have the same quality and with them being a fairly new company in the market they don’t wanna give out junk and give themselves a bad name. So, the referb was a walmart decision NOT VISIO. (not to mention I got a 1 year warranty also.. that was expired 4 months ago on the TV so that means I had it under warranty for 3 months.) needles to say I went to walmart with it… I was told VISIO must store their TVs for transit from where they had it shipped from (WRONG! according to VISIO)
    anyways short(ened)story I missed some details in there I’m sure but #1 ALWAYS make sure the serial number is on the sales respite and that it matches the box. (it comes from good authority that the electronics associates are told NOT to put the serial# of old TVs on the receipt (mine wasn’t on there) #2 look at the white shipping labels on the box if it says “repair/repair center” anywhere or if it seems as though they’ve been tampered with torn/overlapping I would question making the transaction.

    It was anyones fault but walmart’s, not to mention they denied it being a referb!! ((which I know for fact that it was) yet still returned my money??..

    I’m sure I’ll see it back on the sales floor in no time!
    (walmart can’t get credited for referbs so they HAVE to sell them or loss the money on them.

  56. writeofnow says:

    seems like quite a few of you are missing the point (and I work for Wal-mart myself.. Don’t get me wrong now there is nothing WRONG with selling refurbs. What is wrong is putting defective/open box and/or repaired merchandise back on the shelf at full price and still marked as ‘NEW’ it being put back up as ‘NEW’ is the problem and that creates a whole bunch of anti-trust issues.. perhaps you like getting ripped off, then who cares but I for one know that it makes my a little tick