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'Secondary-market' sales pass savings to consumer

August 3, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Some say it's the best-kept discount shopping secret that can save you hundreds of dollars on almost everything you buy. Here's how to score bargains on items sold through the "secondary market."

Warehouses full of merchandise come in by the truckload: Flat-screen TVs, laptop computers, video games, telescopes, power tools -- even cement-mixers.

One giant GENCO Marketplace facility is "mission control" for stuff many big-name companies couldn't sell in their retail stores.

Hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of secondary stuff is finding its way to a growing number of new sites and stores where you can buy it without the big markup of a middleman. The savings range from 40 to 90 percent.

But before you buy, know the lingo so you're not surprised.

If something is "new" it really means new. Perhaps retailers just had too many.

If a product is "open box" or "damaged box," it means the device has been opened or the box is damaged, but it should still work just fine.

The riskiest stuff is "as is": what you see is what you get. The product could have missing remotes or no instruction manuals, for example. The payoff? It's the cheapest stuff.

"We have not tested the product. It's going to have the biggest discount associated with it. There is a little bit of 'buyer beware' on it," said Robert Auray, GENCO Marketplace president and chief executive officer.

"Refurbished" stuff is a very popular secondary-market sale. It was returned to a retail store with a problem, but it's been fixed up, re-tested and deemed good to go.

Consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky, who operates ConsumerWorld.org, furnished his house with secondary-market items.

"I honestly have had very good experience buying refurbished items. Some of the items appear to be absolutely brand new," said Dworsky.

Some stores will offer warranties and extended warranties on what you buy, so be sure to check that out.

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