Many of us have taken advantage of Amazon Prime’s liberal return policy – in a good way, of course. We buy something online from Amazon, decide it isn’t what we were expecting, then start the easy online process of returning the item. Your refund is usually applied to your payment method as soon as it’s checked in to the shipper, say a UPS store.
Have you ever wondered what happens to many of those returned, open-box items? Enter Amazon Warehouse (opens in new tab), home of those returns and a lesser-known perk for everyone else to score a bargain – if you don’t mind slightly used items (perhaps that indoor flying home surveillance camera wasn’t someone’s cup of tea).
Unlike Amazon Outlet with its plethora of overstock new items, Amazon Warehouse items have likely been in someone else’s mitts, grubby or not. Here’s how it works:
When you land on the Amazon Warehouse page, you’re taken to a category landing page. And the Warehouse categories cut a swath: computers and tablets, kitchen and housewares, unlocked cell phones, digital cameras, Amazon-brand devices (Echo, Ring, Roomba, etc.), televisions, furniture, baby needs, outdoor recreation and more.
Amazon tells us the items are used, open-box products or simply “pre-owned.” All of the usual perks of buying on Amazon apply. You get the same delivery promises (typically two days) allotted to Prime members, the same customer service and ability to return,which would make your return the return of the return.
There’s a fair amount of transparency. On the product detail page, Amazon categorizes the condition of the warehouse item as such:
- Used – Like New: The product fully functions, all of the accessories are there. Packaging may be damaged.
- Used – Very Good: The item is in very good shape and likely has been used to a limited degree. It may arrive in damaged packaging and may have slight cosmetic imperfections. Missing non-essential accessories are noted.
- Used – Good: The item is considered in good condition and it may show some wear from use. It fully functions. There may also be some cosmetic imperfections and accessories may be missing (they will be noted).
- Used – Acceptable: It likely works, but you’ll likely see indications of use. There also could be significant dents, scratches and other signs of wear. Valuable accessories may be missing and you may have to purchase spare parts to get this used item in full working order.
As you can guess, the further down the condition list you go, the bigger the bargains because, well, missing pieces, scratches, dents.
We did a little digging and found a Panasonic LUMIX FZ80 4K Digital Camera (opens in new tab) selling for $263.57. Next to the “Used – Acceptable” notation on the product page, we hovered over the details box. It told us the camera had cosmetic imperfections bigger than one inch on the front of the camera and small cosmetic imperfections on other parts of the camera. The same model new on Amazon was selling for $347.99 (list price $399).
You catch a break when an item is listed as “Used – Very Good,” but again, it’s not as heavily discounted as “Used – Acceptable.” For example, under Kitchen, we found a Crock-Pot 7-Quart Oval Manual Slow Cooker (SCV700-S-BR) selling for $35.99 (opens in new tab) in Amazon Warehouse (its one listed imperfection was damaged packaging). A new one was selling for $39.99 on Amazon.
Under “Computers and Tablets” in the Warehouse, we found a slew of Apple products. A 2021 Apple 11-inch iPad Pro (opens in new tab) (Wi-Fi, 256GB) was selling for $729.60 and listed as “Used – Good.” The details drop-down noted it had small cosmetic imperfections,was missing bonus material and its packaging was damaged. The same model iPad sells for $829 (list price $899) on Amazon.
You won’t find consistency in products because once they’re gone, they’re gone.
For even bigger bargains – many that won’t be around for long – visit Amazon Warehouse Limited (opens in new tab), which offers blowout discounts. Over there we saw an Amazon Dot 2nd Generation smart speaker (opens in new tab) for $17.04 (current 4th generation Echo Dots sell for $49.99). Want to get fit? Here’s the Island Girl Hula Workout for Beginners (opens in new tab). It’s less than $5, with your choice of DVD or old-school VHS
Bob is a Senior Online Editor at Kiplinger.com. He has more than 40 years of experience in online, print and visual journalism. Bob has worked as an award-winning writer and editor in the Washington, D.C., market as well as at news organizations in New York, Michigan and California. Bob joined Kiplinger in 2016, bringing a wealth of expertise covering retail, entertainment, and money-saving trends and topics. He was one of the first journalists at a daily news organization to aggressively cover retail as a specialty, and has been lauded in the retail industry for his expertise. Bob has also been an adjunct and associate professor of print, online and visual journalism at Syracuse University and Ithaca College. He has a master’s degree from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and a bachelor’s degree in communications and theater from Hope College.
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