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.