If the thought of tapping away on someone else’s previously used keyboard makes you feel queasy, take heart. There are good economic reasons to buy and use a fully refurbished electronic product such as a computer keyboard – if you can embrace the “rebuilt” concept.
It’s a big “if” for many people, however. While buying refurbished products can save a ton of money – as well as help protect the environment through a form of recycling – many consumers remain tremendously wary of purchasing rebuilt or remanufactured goods. Why? The “ick” factor.
There’s the perception these products are “dirty” or “disgusting” for many people, according to a new study from the Penn State Smeal College of Business. The bias exists despite complete sterilization as part of the remanufacturing process.
People particularly object to buying remanufactured household products such as food processors, or personal items such as electric toothbrushes.
“Consumers are willing to adopt certain classes of refurbished goods if they’re priced properly, especially tech products,” Daniel Guide, an author of the study and a chair professor of supply chain management at Smeal, told The Fiscal Times.
“The bad news is when we get to personal care products,” he said. “People want nothing to do with them because they see them as being contaminated.”
Refurbished products are typically those that consumers have returned and that manufacturers have disassembled, cleaned, fixed if necessary, reassembled and returned to market. Often they’re practically brand new and they function absolutely perfectly. They can be customer returns, products damaged during shipping or simply overstocks – in which case they’ve never even made it out of the box. Refurbished products currently account for only 5 to 10 percent of the consumer market, according to Guide.
Because they’re rebuilt and not made from scratch, the environmental impact of production is generally lower than for brand new products.
Consumer discounts on refurbished products can be steep compared with hot-off-the-line new products, especially for home appliances. Some examples:
- A refurbished 13.3-inch MacBook Pro costs $929 on the Apple website; that’s 18 percent cheaper than a new one.
- A refurbished Kindle 6” ink display with Wi-Fi costs $59 on Amazon.com; 40 percent off a new one.
- A refurbished KitchenAid 1- inch convection bake countertop oven costs $99.99, which is 60 percent less than a new one.
Daniel Guide of Smear noted that even with large discounts and efforts to educate consumers about how products have been thoroughly cleaned, certain refurbished products just don’t sell.
“It’s hard to say whether this is justified,” said Guide. “We all have different levels of comfort.”
Though most refurbished products have nothing at all wrong with them, consumers should still be just as demanding of them as when buying a brand new product, starting with the warranty.
“The warranty is important and a bare minimum,” said Guide, adding that it’s fairly easy to find the same warranty for a refurbished product as with a new product.
Buying from a reputable website can also help guarantee that your product will be just as good as new.
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