After Consumerist played a large role in getting the Fitbit Force recalled, I set up a Google alert to let me know when news about the product hits the Interweb. Since the official recall almost six weeks ago, I sort of expected to see a decrease in mentions of the product. I didn’t expect to see sales listings from a small, disingenuous Fitbit Force black market.
In the United States, it’s illegal to sell or resell an item that has been recalled. That isn’t stopping vendors all over the country. Not all of them are profiteering or ignoring the law on purpose.
We had thought that this recall was widely publicized, but apparently not widely publicized enough. I was disturbed (but not surprised) to see listings well above the product’s original $130 list price, just like there was during Fitbit’s voluntary recall period before the CPSC was involved.
Some of the listings did mention that the product was no longer available in stores, but didn’t mention why. I was horrified at the idea that an unknowing customer might drop $200 on something that has at least a 2% chance of giving them a nasty rash. It was time to take consumer protection to the streets. Well, Craigslist.
One sale listing that crossed my inbox from somewhere in the southern United States was a person who said that he no longer wanted the device, and was selling it for $100. He asked potential buyers to text him, so I did. Here’s a lightly edited transcript of our conversation (thanks, Google Voice!)
Consumerist: Are you aware that it’s illegal to sell items that were recalled for safety reasons, like the Fitbit Force?
Seller: I didn’t know there was a recall
Seller: Can I get my money back?
Seller: What was the recall?
Consumerist: They were recalled because they caused really bad contact dermatitis in some users. You can return it to the company for a full refund.
Seller: I haven’t received any notice from fitbit and it is registered with them.
Seller: Wow, thanks
Seller: I’ll get right on it
Consumerist: They sent out an e-mail that a lot of people may have overlooked and mistook as spam.
Seller: Must [have gone] to spam
Seller: It hasn’t bothered me any
I passed along the phone number to call Fitbit, and ten minutes later received a text back. The seller (who later mentioned being an occasional Consumerist reader) would be getting a $140 refund. He had already taken down the Craigslist post.
Seller: Well, thanks. I’ll get more than I was asking for it.
One person in the Northeast listed theirs for $170, and also seemed surprised to hear about the recall. He explained that he had noticed others for sale on Craigslist above the original retail price, but didn’t question why: he just thought he would sell his, too. This person thanked me for the note, and took their listing down.
Another seller in the Northeast also claimed not to know about the recall either, and had the device listed for $200. (Remember, the original price was $130 plus tax.) The person claimed to have bought it around the time that the product was recalled, and it had been used for only a few weeks. The seller thanked me for letting them know, then didn’t take the post down.
There are Fitbit flippers out there as well, who offer to ship them anywhere and boast that they have more in stock. These people surely must know why the wristband is off the market. Does the now-recalled product have some cachet or badass cred now? Is that it?