At Amazon, 'Heavily Scratched' Is Subjective

Instead of fussing with selling their old iPad on eBay or to a local stranger on Craigslist, Heather and her husband tried trading it in through Amazon. The company offered the best price, and Amazon’s a reputable company that would offer them a fair trade. The device had too many scratches to be considered “like new,” in Amazon’s opinion, so they had Amazon send it back. They packed it back up to trade it in “good” condition, and Amazon downgraded its condition again. Even though they hadn’t exactly wrapped it in steel wool in the interim.

Back in July my husband and I decided to upgrade from our older first gen iPad to the latest model. Instead of selling it on eBay or Craigslist, we decided to check the various trade-in sites like Gazelle and eBay Instant Sale to see what we could potentially get for the device. We wound up going with Amazon’s trade-in program because they seemed to offer the best price and we’d had a good experience trading in video games through them.

When we initiated the trade-in, we indicated the iPad was in “like new” condition. It was in very good condition considering it had been used regularly for nearly two years and we managed to send the iPad to Amazon with everything that was in the box when we got it, including the Apple stickers. It was not, however, in pristine condition and therefore didn’t qualify for the maximum trade-in amount when it reached Amazon’s warehouse. Amazon looked at it and judged the iPad to be in “good” condition, as you can see in the screen shot of my account page below.

When we initiated the trade, we opted to have the device returned to us in the event the condition was downgraded and did not automatically receive the $216 Amazon was willing to give for 1st gen iPad in good condition. The device was mailed back to us and arrived in what very well could have been the original box we used to mail the iPad in the first place. It was pretty beat up, but the iPad was unharmed. I opened up the iPad box, turned the device on to make sure it still worked, and placed the cover back on the box. That was the extent of my handling of the device and it was immediately mailed back to Amazon (in a new box) the next day after initiating another trade transaction for an iPad in good condition.

Imagine my surprise when I received an email about a week later that our trade-in had been received and that a $124.50 gift card had been deposited to our account for an iPad in “acceptable” condition. The item again had been downgraded because it was judged as “heavily scratched.”

I was dumbfounded. The device was in the exact same condition as when we had sent it to Amazon the first time. Only two weeks had passed between the first appraisal and the second. Since I checked the device for any damage when it was returned to us, I couldn’t see how it could have been downgraded to acceptable, especially since Amazon had already appraised it as in good condition. Had I thought I would only have gotten $124.50 for the device, I would have traded it in elsewhere or would have tried to sell it myself on Craigslist, which I mentioned to Amazon when I initiated a chat session with one of the customer service reps to ask how the same device could receive different appraisals when the condition hadn’t changed.

The chat session was ultimately unsuccessful. I was told my case was being forwarded to an account specialist and I would hear back within 24-48 hours. At that point I was still hoping I could void the transaction and get my iPad shipped back to me, so the 24-48 hour window wasn’t going to cut it. I called Amazon an hour or so later to speak with a customer service rep. He was very nice and understanding, but basically told me the transaction was final. He said they (which I took to mean their general cs staff) didn’t even know who the people were who appraised the trade-ins or where they worked or what their quality standards were. He did see I received two different appraisals for the iPad and offered to issue a refund on one of my recent Amazon transactions for the $91.50 price difference.

While I am very happy with the service I received from Amazon to resolve the problem, I do believe this story should serve as a word of warning to anyone wanting to trade-in their pricey electronics through Amazon, especially since the iPhone 5 release is just around the corner. It’s obvious Amazon’s quality standards are subjective. The individual who appraised my item the first time was apparently not the same person who appraised it the second time and whoever did appraise it didn’t bother checking my trade-in history, which nearly cost me $91.50. That was the first and only time I will use Amazon’s trade-in service for an electronic gadget.


Edit Your Comment

  1. carterpeartford says:

    sad story. I quit caring the second I see any Apple product mentioned.

  2. Bsamm09 says:

    Why did they put “Like New” in the first place when they said it wasn’t in pristine condition? “Like New” means I can set a new one and the used one side by side and you couldn’t tell them apart.

    • DuckNCover says:

      I was wondering the same thing. I’m thinking maybe they were hoping Amazon would agree (or would not inspect the item) and they would get the higher price.

    • portwineboy says:

      Yea, when I read this my immediate thought was OP fail. They knew it was obviously not “like new” but sent it in that way so they could get more money, hoping no one would notice and someone down the line would be stuck with their “not like new” iPad.

      As someone who buys from Amazon Warehouse, I’m glad they have strict standards and I’m not inclined to believe anything the OP says on the subject of their iPad’s condition.

    • hoi-polloi says:

      Exactly right. It makes even less sense when you consider that the difference in compensation between “Like New” and “Good” is only $24. Once you say something like, “considering it had been used regularly for nearly two years,” you might as well get honest with yourself and not set the bar so high.

    • Costner says:

      My thoughts exactly – and the same reason I never trust anyone who tells me something is “like new”. When I think of like new, I think it should be just that… like new. It should not be scratched or dented or missing a button or needing refurbishment.

    • Shadowman615 says:

      I’m guessing they decided to aim high and let amazon do the job of talking them down. Although that worked against them the second time they sent it.

  3. MaxH42 needs an edit button says:

    “When we initiated the trade, we opted to have the device returned to us in the event the condition was downgraded and did not automatically receive the $216 Amazon was willing to give for 1st gen iPad in good condition.”

    I don’t see where it says in the first transaction that it was classified as “Good”, just that it was rejected as “Like New”. More importantly, when the OP submitted it the second time as “Good”, they should have opted again to have it returned if the condition was downgraded. This is kind of like not reading what you sign; while it sounds like Amazon was inconsistent and unpredictable, it’s up to the consumer to try to work out how to get the best deal and be aware of the terms of the transaction.

    • dullard says:

      “I don’t see where it says in the first transaction that it was classified as “Good…”

      I agree.

      • Sneeje says:

        While you’re right that it doesn’t, I think that isn’t the core of the issue. It got sent in once and the justification for rejection was “lightly scratched” and when it got sent in again, the justification was “heavily scratched”.

        I think the caution is simply to be aware that the judgment of condition is subjective on both sides and may not result in uniform agreement between Amazon and those trading in their equipment. Furthermore, attempting the same transaction multiple times may result in different outcomes given the level of subjectivity.

      • STXJK says:

        Thirded. I think the consumer was seeing what she wanted to see here.

    • DuckNCover says:

      The difference I saw was “lightly scratched” versus “heavily scratched.” I am also curious where the customer got the idea that the first rejection meant the item was “good,” but there is certainly a difference between lightly and heavily scratched.

      • Anachronism says:

        I’m not sure the difference between lightly and heavily scratched is in any way meaningful if either would cause the unit to be appraised as “acceptable.”

        The person states that Amazon appraised it in “good” condition, but offers no actual evidence of this. If Amazon actually told them they would get the “good” condition price, I think they should get the “good” price.

        If they made assumptions that because Amazon rejected a scratched Ipad as being “Like New” that it must be “Good” condition, I don’t think they should get anything.

    • MaxH42 needs an edit button says:

      Sneeje & DuckNCover:

      I agree, the different descriptions of the condition are very troubling to me too, but that’s not what the OP focused on, they seemed more focused on the difference between “Good” and “Acceptable”. And now that I look again, the value for “Acceptable” changed between the two appraisals, and that makes me wonder if lightly scratched was considered Acceptable at $130, and heavily scratched is Acceptable at $124. And as you said Sneeje, it’s completely subjective.

      • STXJK says:

        I can see how the quanitity of the scratching on the iPad was the same in both instances, and the judgement of “heavily” vs “lightly” scratched is subjective, since the OP doesn’t know whether the iPod was judged as “good” or “acceptable” to begin with (the evidence doesn’t show that). It’s entirely possible the iPad would always have been considered in “acceptable” condition. However, the difference in the two appraisal values for Acceptable bothers me too. Bottom line, if you want the best price, sell it yourself.

    • greggem says:

      “Lightly scratched” is one of the terms used to describe the condition “good” in the Good Condition Eligibility Criteria on Amazon’s website when you add an item to your trade-in and hover over the condition to get the pop-up with the description.

      Interestingly, if you instead look up the full condition descriptions (rather than starting a trade) there is more detail available. Under tablets, it states that light scratches are permissible for the body of the device, but the screen must be “flawless” to qualify as “good.” I suspect this is the issue.

  4. fortymegafonzies says:

    “…we indicated the iPad was in ‘like new’ condition ….it was not, however, in pristine condition…”

    Sounds to me like the submitter is as guilty as Amazon of being inconsistent about the condition. “Like-new” does not mean “very good condition considering it had been used regularly for nearly two years.”

    • chefboyardee says:

      Yes, it does. Any device that is a couple of years old and has very, very minor wear would be considered “not pristine” and still “like new”. New is new, and like new is “90% close to new or better”, or something similar. A few light scratches on the back qualifies for exactly what the OP submitted.

      • Bsamm09 says:

        Not according to Amazon —

        Used – Like New: An apparently untouched item in perfect condition. Original protective wrapping may be missing, but the original packaging is intact and pristine. There are absolutely no signs of wear on the item or its packaging. Instructions are included. Item is suitable for presenting as a gift.

        • MMD says:

          Exactly. I just did my first trade in and got credited today. One of the items was a DVD that I’d played exactly once. The DVD and packaging were in perfect condition, but because I’d opened the cellophane, I could not claim it was new. I got what I claimed – “Like New”, because that was the appropriate claim based on the guidelines provided.

      • RedOryx says:

        No, it doesn’t. Like New is exactly what it means: Like New. As in, like brand new. A few scratches does not qualify as like brand new.

      • halfkorean says:

        I hope I never buy anything from you on Ebay. If I buy something that is marked “like new” it may not come in the original box or come with instructions but there better not be a scratch on it.

  5. Invader Zim says:

    I dont see how you can mail something to a business and allow them to decide the value of your item? Its seems that the business is always going to short change you, becuase they have a interest in selling the item for a profit. To me your lucky they sent it back. Be thankful and sell it yourself and cut out the middle man. I’m pretty sure that even a totally broken ipad is going for more than 124 dollars (unless its smashed). If yours works, at all, you should be able to get more than what they were offering.

    • jebarringer says:

      Of course you can probably get a better deal on the open market, but people utilize trade-ins because they need money now or don’t want to deal with trying to find a better offer (basically same concept as a pawn shop, or selling your vehicle to a car lot rather than an individual buyer).

    • Misha says:

      “To me your lucky they sent it back”

      That’s not luck, that’s specifying when you set up the trade that you want them to send back any items that don’t meet the condition you submitted them at.

  6. TSXPS says:

    When dealing with Amazon trade-ins I always check off “good” condition (even if its like new) and have them send it back if downgraded. Getting the “like new” amount is more miss than hit.

  7. HeadsOnPikes says:

    Not to blame the OP, but after getting the iPad back the first time, he could have sent it back to Amazon under the same condition – that it would be returned to him again if they didn’t agree with his assessment as to condition.

    Unlike his first transaction, this time, he specifically checked the box that effectively said “just give me the money if you decide it’s in a worse condition than he selected.” Well . . .

  8. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I sold our old iPhone 3Gs through Amazon and didn’t have any problems. Maybe the iPad gets more scrutiny. Amazon is very clear about the definitions of “like new” and at no point would I ever have chosen this for my phones. We used them for 2 years and while they had very minor scratches on them, they were definitely not “like new” at all.

  9. deathbecomesme says:

    From my experience selling amazon Text books they go to a 3rd party buyer. The buyer determines the condition and the amount.

    I had one buyer try to rip me off on one book when I sent 3 in the package. He claimed he only received two out of the three I sent. I told Amazon I had a receipt showing the package weight (bluff) and “miraculously” the buyer “found” the 3rd book the next day.

    • RandomLetters says:

      I know what you’re thinking. “Did he fire six shots or only five?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?

  10. ecuador says:

    They submitted a device they used regularly for two years as “Like New”. I consider that the end of story.

    • MMD says:

      Only if you ignore the real heart of the story, which is the subjective nature of quality assessment – both on the part of the OP and those who evaluate the goods.

      • who? says:

        Quality assessment on used goods *is* subjective. Unless an item truly is “like new”, which this iPad clearly wasn’t, the line between good, average, etc, is pretty fine. For some items it doesn’t matter so much. The purchaser isn’t going to spend all day looking at their new shiny thing, they’re just going to abuse it some more. As long as it functions correctly, all is well. When I was doing photography professionally, I bought and sold a lot of gear online, and it was always a crapshoot what something would look like when I got it, but in all but one case, it always worked perfectly well. For something like an iPad, however, most people are going to care about scratches, and Amazon is going to get returns if they aren’t conservative about grading it.

        The bottom line is that buying and selling used goods through the internet is always going to cause a few surprises.

    • HomerSimpson says:

      Don’t be so sure…I’d sent them a several years old camera awhile back and conservatively marked it as “good” and they bumped it up to “like new” (and almost tripled my money on it)

      • MMD says:

        Yes, I know…
        But does that excuse two drastically different reviews of the same and a nearly $100 difference in reimbursement? Evaluations are subjective, but should they be *that* subjective?

  11. wastedlife says:

    After dropping Sprint, I traded in our Evos to Amazon, marked them as “Good” (because one of them had light scratches on the kickstand and the original packaging was missing) and had no troubles. It sounds like they got a different individual for the second attempt that judged it more harshly. The best bet is to make sure you have several pictures before sending the devices in. That way you have documentation in case they try to claim it is worth less or send it back with damage that it did not have previously.

    • Geekybiker says:

      Nah, your best bet is to check the box saying to send it back if they think its worse. Best case with pictures is you end up in a fight. Be realistic in your own assessment and don’t settle for less.

      • wastedlife says:

        You are correct, I forgot to mention that part. I always select that option. If I think the lesser amount is fair I will just send it again. Amazon pays the shipping both ways.

  12. shepd says:

    This thread is worthless without a picture of the damaged item so we can come to our own conclusions.

  13. Shadowman615 says:

    OK, so are the only options:

    a. Send it back if we reject your condition
    b. Assign a new condition and pay you the lesser/greater amount for it and case closed.


    Why no option C where you can simply approve or reject the new offer first and then they either send it back or write a check? Wouldn’t this save everyone’s time and money?

    When I’m in charge there, heads are gonna roll, I’ll tell ya!

    • wastedlife says:

      Amazon does so much shipping that it is likely cheaper for them to eat the shipping cost than to keep the items in secure, organized storage while they wait for the customer to approve or reject the offer. They receive the product, appraise the condition, then pay out or ship it back based on the customer’s selected option.

  14. zombiesatemycereal says:

    Amazon trades have been sketchy for me, because they don’t go to amazon themselves, but a different third party company so they have no control over them. I had to send in a nintendo wii four different times, and it was finally accepted, even though it was in the same exact condition every time.

  15. NorthAlabama says:

    with both amazon and apple involved, what could possibly go wrong…

    • MMD says:

      Considering that both companies are near the top of most customer satisfaction surveys, I’m not sure what your point is.

  16. staciey says:

    I read the comments, but didn’t see this possibility raised.

    Maybe the iPad was heavily scratched in transit back to Amazon during the second trade-in attempt. The box got beaten up pretty badly on the original return journey from Amazon back to the OP, if the shipper was not exactly gentle during outbound trip two, all it would take is one really bad gouge/deep scratch to turn “lightly scratched” to “heavily scratched” even if you got the exact same appraiser and the appraisals were equally thorough.

    I could also see an appraiser just picking the lowest “disqualifying condition” when rejecting the “Like New” label the first time around, especially if they work their way down a checklist. As in “Let’s see… no, not Like New, I already see light scratches. No Like New for you. And that’s that, since the owner doesn’t want to trade at less than that condition. Reject and move on to the next item.”

    The second time, they may have inspected more closely and noticed what they would consider heavy scratches, whether they were new or old. And at that point, it wouldn’t disqualify the trade, it would just change the trade-in value.