Frequently you can find “open box” products for sale online. But what does open box mean? And more importantly, is it safe to buy open box?
Open box defined
When you see a product labeled as "open box," it typically means that it has been previously purchased and returned within the allowable return window. The customer may have returned the product for various reasons.
An open-box product could be something a shopper changed their mind about. The buyer may have returned it because they decided they didn't like the color, it turned out to be the wrong size or wrong type, the received an identical product as a gift, or for an equally trivial reason. So you could be picking up a completely new, unused item for a nice discount.
Does Open Box Mean Used?
Open box does not mean used. A product labeled “open box” means that the item’s packaging has been opened. The product may have been handled initially but has not been used in the traditional sense. So open box products are like new products. Products that are sold as “used” have been owned and used previously by another party.
In some cases, open box may also include products that have been used in trade shows or as floor models. Open box might describe a product whose packaging was damaged in transit or while stored in a warehouse.
Open box products are often essentially new
These products are often in like-new condition, but they cannot be sold as new because the packaging has been opened. As a result, retailers may sell them at a discount compared to brand-new, factory sealed products.
Because in most cases an item was sold and then returned, the condition of open-box items can vary.
Examples of products that get labeled open box
- Customer A purchases a red guitar but quickly decides they really want green and returns the guitar with all the original packaging. This is essentially a new product but factory seals may have been broken.
- Customer B purchases toys for their grandchild and after opening them realizes that they are not age appropriate. The items are returned but some of the original packaging was damaged when they opened it.
- Customer C purchases a new toy. They open the package and give the toy to their three year old who completely ignores it for days. The customer decides to return the product within the allowable return window.
- A crate of boxed toys is damaged in transit from its original manufacturing location. The toys themselves are fine, but packaging is a bit crushed, torn or otherwise damaged. These products were never purchased and so are essentially new, but their original packaging is damaged.
- Several products are used during a trade show as floor samples for attendees. They are subsequently offered for sale in their original packaging, but may or may not include original paperwork such as owner’s manuals or assembly instructions.
Because open box can mean different things, it's a good idea to check with the retailer about the specific condition of the product and whether it comes with all the original accessories and packaging.
Buying open-box items can be a way to get a discount on a product that is essentially new, but it's a good idea to be aware of the return policy and any potential differences in warranty coverage compared to buying a brand-new item.
5 reasons to buy open box products
- Cost Savings: Open-box items are often sold at a discounted price compared to their brand-new counterparts. If you're looking to save money, purchasing open-box can be an attractive option.
- Like-New Condition: In many cases, open-box items are essentially new. They may have been returned for reasons unrelated to the product's performance, such as buyer's remorse or a change of mind. As a result, you can get a product in like-new condition at a lower cost.
- Fully Functional: Open-box items are generally tested to ensure they are in working order. Retailers often inspect and certify these products before reselling them, providing some assurance of their functionality.
- Inspection and Certification: Many retailers inspect and certify open-box items to ensure they meet specific quality standards. This can give you confidence that the product has been thoroughly examined and is in good condition.
- Availability of Discontinued Models: If a product has been discontinued, open-box sales might be one of the few ways to still acquire that particular model. This can be beneficial if you prefer a specific version of a product that is no longer being produced.
Drawbacks when buying open box products
Despite these advantages, it's essential to be aware of potential drawbacks. The condition of open-box items can vary, and the warranty coverage might be different from that of a new product.
Additionally, it's crucial to understand the return policy in case the product doesn't meet your expectations or if issues arise after purchase. So while buying open-box items can offer cost savings and other advantages, there are also potential disadvantages to be aware of:
- Limited Warranty: Open-box items may come with a limited or no warranty. This is because the original warranty might be non-transferable, or the product may have been returned after the warranty period expired. This may be more important if you are purchasing an electronic device vs a simple wooden blocks set.
- Missing Accessories or Documentation: Open-box items may not include all the original accessories, manuals, or packaging that come with a new product. This can be inconvenient, especially if you rely on specific accessories or need the original documentation. Check with the retailer if you have any questions about this.
- Uncertain Product History: The reason for the return of an open-box item may not always be clear. While some returns are due to minor issues or buyer's remorse, others may be because of defects or performance problems. It's essential to understand the reason for the return and the condition of the item. Purchasing open box products from a reputable retailer who offers a product guarantee is a good idea.
- Potential Wear and Tear: Even if a product is labeled as open-box, it might have been handled or used briefly. This could result in minor wear and tear, reducing the item's aesthetic appeal.
- No Manufacturer Packaging: Open-box items may not be in their original packaging. If you value having a pristine, factory-sealed product, open-box purchases may not be suitable for you.
- Limited Return Policies: Some retailers have more restrictive return policies for open-box items. Make sure you understand the return policy before making a purchase, as you may have limited options if you encounter problems with the product.
- Availability and Selection: The availability of open-box items can be limited, especially for popular or newer products. If you have a specific item in mind, it may not always be available in an open-box condition.
Is buying open box more sustainable
Yes, buying refurbished products means that you are actively helping protect the environment. It is a common practice in the retail trade to trash or destroy returned products. So there is a good chance that brand new items are ending up in landfills, contributing to the detrimental environmental impact of consumer waste.
But when these products are resold as open box or refurbished, they can stay in circulation and out of the waste stream.
Refurbished vs. open box, and b-stock
These labels are often used interchangeably. It can depend on how a particular retailer or marketplace names products that are not new. On the Reverb marketplace for example, open-box products are labeled B-Stock. Google lists open box products in its product listings as Refurbished.
Is it okay to buy open box products as gifts?
Ninety three percent of shoppers in the U.S. have or are open to buying secondhand products for themselves, according to a report from resale platform ThredUP. So why would they find receiving something that is not brand new a problem? When it comes to toys, most parents know how it goes. Their kids’ toys will often be ripped out of their boxes within minutes, so what would be the problem with giving them something that’s already been opened once?
While the choice to gift something that is not brand new may still be a slightly controversial one, it’s becoming more and more acceptable. Especially since the environmental impact of purchasing new products can be high. If it makes you more comfortable, share your sustainability message with the recipient of your open box gift.
Before deciding to buy an open-box item, it's essential to carefully weigh these disadvantages against the advantages and potential cost savings. Additionally, be sure you understand the specific policies of the retailer from which you plan to make the purchase.