Depending on who you talk to, some days it seems like bargain hunting is a mainstream sport, bragging rights go to the shopper with the cheapest bounty. People are often on the prowl for rock-bottom prices, and rightly so. For specific products, like major appliances and electronics in particular, it’s common for consumers to time their purchases around seasonal discounts.
But what happens when you can’t wait for that Black Friday or Boxing Day deal? If you’re shopping on a budget and don’t want to compromise quality, one way to find excellent new merchandise at sale prices is by purchasing “open box” products.
You’ve likely already scrolled past open box ads while contemplating an online purchase or walked through the open box section at a major retailer. You may have even glanced at affordable smartphones and computers at an electronics store without knowing that they had been previously purchased, since these products typically look new and come in new packaging.
Shopping these open box discounts can score you significant savings on items that haven’t even been used—or used lightly, at the very least.
However, there are certain things to know before investing your hard-earned money. For this shopping strategy to pay off, you’ll have to be wise and ask the right questions. The tips below will ensure you’re well prepared to score your next deal.
What Does Open Box Mean?
Open box items are unused products that have been returned by customers, carefully inspected by the vendor, and then resold at a lower rate (rather than being sent back to the manufacturer).
Shopping for open box deals can be excellent for skilled shoppers, as you can grab a brand new product for a fraction of the original price. You can look to save 20% on average (sometimes more) off the overall purchase price.
Popular categories for open box buyers include premium electronics and high-end appliances. Even 20% off on high priced items like these results in worthwhile savings.
Refurbished vs Open Box
Most people think open box and refurbished products are the same, but that’s not always the case.
While open box items are returned goods that are deemed worthy of resale—albeit at a lower price with the “open box” label—"refurbished” means the item has been rigorously tested and/or repaired to the point that the manufacturer is standing behind the product as being “good as new.” After being refurbished, these items may come in generic packaging but are usually guaranteed to include all accessories required.
Both open box and refurbished products offer consumers a pretty good deal, but there are some critical things to keep in mind.
Things to Consider Before Buying Open Box Items
Some studies indicate that 5-10% of in-store purchases are returned, with online purchase return rates climbing as high as 40%. People make returns for a variety of reasons, so consider these factors before buying their rejected merchandise.
- Ensure the open box item has all parts included: Before visiting a store, research the open box product you want to buy. Prepare a list of all parts and accessories. Check for dents, cracks, nicks and other damage that could affect its functioning. If you spot anything missing, consider that a red flag and move on.
- Become familiar with the warranty policy: Check to see if there’s a remaining warranty on the item, and confirm the warranty policy with the store if you can. While many specific open box stores do not offer a warranty themselves, there are some instances where the manufacturer’s warranty is still valid on an individual product. Do your homework—the warranty policy varies for every manufacturer, and it’s not uncommon for a previously purchased product to lose its warranty upon resale.
- Avoid buying display models: Most consumers make a return when they don’t like an item’s colour or size, but there are always people out there who use something for an extended period of time before returning it. It’s common for stores to offer their display models for sale as open box products. If possible, try to avoid these well-used items. Get as much information as you can to understand why the product is for sale under the “open box” category—that will also give insight into the extent of its wear and tear.
- Carefully review security policies: Some stores may carelessly sell open box items without erasing the personal data of the original buyer, which means it could require a password to function. It’s essential to read the store’s policy regarding this or reach out before purchase to confirm the device has been restored to factory settings.
- Don’t assume you’re getting a good deal: Simply purchasing open box doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed a great discount. You still need to compare prices against the original retail prices to know for sure; look to save at least 20%.
Questions to Ask When Buying Open Box
- Are there return fees? If the store has a return policy, find out if you’ll have to pay a restocking fee or be required to cover return shipping costs.
- Where was the product sourced from? As per the National Retail Federation, U.S. customers returned $351 billion worth of products that they had bought from both brick-and-mortar retailers and online stores. Find out if the product you want to buy is a return, a display model or perhaps something else.
- Why was the item returned? Inaccurate product descriptions account for 22% of returns. Knowing that the retailer may be misrepresenting their product could influence your purchasing decision. Or, if the open box product was returned because of a factory defect, ensure the price you’re paying reflects that.
- How many times has the item been purchased and returned? An item that’s been bought and returned by multiple people should be a red flag. This could indicate a significant problem with its quality or functionality.
- Does the open box product show signs of prior use? If you’re buying in-store, always inspect the open box product yourself. When buying online, review the product description for declarations of prior use. Consider asking for images of the specific item (instead of generic product shots). This could protect you against unknowingly buying something with physical damage.
- Is the product fully functional? Sometimes it’s hard to assess if an item will work. Consider asking for an in-store demo or contacting the seller if you’re buying online to ensure that it’s functional.
- Is the product up-to-date? Sellers want to clear out open box models as quickly as possible and may sell items off at a discount when they reach the end of production. When agencies stop manufacturing products, they may add or eliminate features from one to two years of later models. So remember, if you purchase an outdated model, you may not receive what you expect.
- Is the warranty valid? If it is not displayed directly on the product page or package, confirm warranty coverage with your seller.
Places to Purchase Open Box Products
For Albertans looking to purchase open box products, there are several reputable options available both online and in physical stores. Open box items can offer significant savings on electronics, appliances, and more without sacrificing quality. Here's a guide to some of the best places to find open box deals in Alberta.
Urban Wholesale Liquidation
There are several reputable open box retailers, but while we’re on the subject, we invite you to check out the selection in our Calgary liquidation store! Many of our products are also brand new, so if you’ve already tried us out and haven’t found what you’re looking for, we recommend starting with one of the options listed below.
Best Buy Canada
Best Buy is a well-known retailer offering a wide range of open box electronics, from TVs and laptops to cell phones and headphones. These items have been fully tested and verified to be in perfect working condition. Best Buy provides a broad selection of open box items from top brands, including options from Marketplace sellers and Geek Squad certified items that have never been used and are in like-new condition. Some items may have minor cosmetic damage but are fully functional and come with a manufacturer's warranty or Best Buy's return and exchange policy.
Amazon.ca offers a selection of open box and refurbished products through its Amazon Warehouse Deals Store. These items include Amazon returns, computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, cameras, and audio devices. Products purchased from Amazon Warehouse can be returned within 30 days of receipt, and renewed products come with the Amazon Renewed Guarantee, offering a replacement or refund within 90 days if they don't meet your satisfaction.
Restock Canada is a leading liquidator of overstock, open box, and returned items in Canada. They offer up to 90% off on electronics, computers, appliances, and more. Restock Canada buys by the truckload from major retailers and sells to resellers and liquidation stores, providing a wide variety of products with deep discounts. They offer fixed price lots with detailed manifests, making it easier for customers to know exactly what they are getting.
OpenBox.ca specializes in discounted open box electronics across Canada, with four locations in Calgary. They promise the best prices around and offer price matching on all their products. Canada-wide shipping is available for a nominal fee, and customers can also opt for in-store pickup.Their inventory includes a variety of electronics, ensuring you can find what you're looking for at a significant discount.
Big Box Outlet Store
Big Box Outlet Store is a Canadian family-owned liquidation store that has been operating since 1985. With 16 locations across Western Canada, including 12 in British Columbia and 4 in Alberta, they offer up to 70% off on open box items such as furniture, appliances, clothing, and more. They inspect, test, and re-certify items before they hit the floor, ensuring quality for their customers. BBOS Rewards Members can also get an extended warranty on their purchases.
B-Stock Supply is a B2B marketplace that connects sellers and buyers of returned, excess, and other liquidation inventory. It offers a platform for small and large businesses to buy and sell liquidation inventory in online auctions. B-Stock Supply provides a wide range of product categories, including electronics, appliances, apparel, and more. The platform is designed to help businesses grow, offering detailed listings, itemized manifests, and a dedicated customer service team.
Tips for Buying Open Box Products
When you understand the open box concept, the risks involved and the questions to ask, you stand a good chance of getting great value for your money without being disappointed.
- Choose a reputable store: Buy open box products from a well-known store with a good return policy, written manufacturer’s warranty, and strong testing practices. Read the item description, ratings and reviews carefully. It’s best to choose a retailer that has listed the condition of the item.
- Review the available product images closely: Did you know 57% of customers returned products because of retailer errors? When shopping online, always check pictures of the open box item you are purchasing. If you aren’t able to find close-ups of defects that have been listed, avoid buying the product.
- Test it out: Hold the product in your hands. See if you like it or not. Compare it against a brand new item. When making your comparison, read up on other makes and models.
- Consider buying safety: Cross-check to see if you are protected with a money-back guarantee, warranty or decent return policy.
- Ask for a better deal: See if the retailer will offer you a deeper discount on the product—don’t assume that the display price is the lowest they’ll go. If it looks like the item is collecting dust on the shelf, you might save another 10–20%.
- Inspect well at home: Once you’ve bought your open box item, make sure you test it out to ensure that it works correctly and is 100% safe to use. If you find any flaws, ask for more discounts or returns if necessary and possible.
Pros and Cons of Buying Open Box Products
The benefit of buying an open box is obvious: the price. The product you’re receiving is basically brand new, and getting a great product for a good price is rewarding. But there’s always an element of risk involved, so be sure to do your research.
Even with the lower price tag, an open box discount may not be worth the risk for some shoppers since:
- You may not be able to determine if an item was repaired or how stringently it was tested.
- Your item may not have a manufacturer’s warranty, leaving you without options if it turns out to be defective.
- You might unknowingly end up with a well-used floor model or a worn-out and rejected customer return.
If you’re not careful, your efforts to score a good deal could end up being a waste of time and money. If you're interested in learning more about liquidation, we recommend checking out our article covering the advantages of shopping at liquidation stores online.
Should I Buy an Open Box Product?
For the right consumer who’s looking for a certain kind of product, shopping for open box deals makes a lot of sense. Understand what you’re looking for, what you stand to gain if the purchase is a good one, and what you stand to lose if it doesn’t work out. Can you tolerate that risk? Then go ahead, save your pennies, and enjoy your foray into the world of open box inventory.