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Amazon’s Electronics Trade-In Program: Goodbye, iPad 2!

To stay current on Apple hardware, I usually sell mine as soon as new models come out, while my just-obsoleted devices still have good resale value. When the iPad 2 came out, it cost me only $75 because my first-generation 32 GB Wi-Fi model commanded top dollar in the local university community, where Wi-Fi is all they need (and can afford!).

I had planned on the same upgrade path for the third-generation iPad, figuring I could get about $400 for my absolutely perfect, gently used, pre-owned iPad 2. What I hadn’t planned on was Apple’s keeping the Wi-Fi iPad 2 model in the lineup; even with twice the capacity, my 32 GB model is a hard sell when there’s only a $100 difference between a brand-new, AppleCare-covered model and a used one, no matter how pristine.

Then I saw a tweet go by about an Amazon trade-in program for used electronics. (I’m sorry to say I can’t remember who among the people I follow, or whom they retweet, originated it.) The program started less than a year ago, in May 2011, so perhaps that’s why so few people have heard of it. I figured that Amazon would be offering bottom-dollar prices, as they do on the selling end of things, and that it would be a hassle (even though it’s not on the selling end of things).

I couldn’t have been more wrong: it was top dollar and absolutely no hassle.

Amazon buys only specific electronics items — you must match yours with one in their reasonably extensive list of recent products, but iPad 2s are hot right now. Start on the main Trade-In page and do a search in the Electronics category for iPad 2 (or whatever). Find your model, click the Trade In button and rate your item’s condition as Acceptable, Good, or Like New.

Definitions, in case you’re in doubt, are available. The Like New category includes not only no visible wear, not engraved, and perfect working condition, but also all the original packaging. On the bottom end, Acceptable allows for scratches, personalization, “good” instead of “perfect” working condition — although the difference isn’t defined and I have no idea what that might mean for an iPad — and even a missing charger or USB cable. Presto! You get a price, take it or leave it.

Can you lie about the condition of your item? Sure, but you won’t get away with it. Amazon inspects the received device to see if it meets the criteria for the rating you gave it. If you underestimate its condition, Amazon says it will bump you up to the next price category; I have no reason to believe otherwise, since the rest of the process is so on the up-and-up. If you overestimate, they’ll notch you down a grade, or send it back — it’s your choice, and you make it before you even send the item in. Either way, they pay the return shipping (that could be the part that impressed me the most).

If you decide to accept Amazon’s offer, the site generates a pre-paid USPS or UPS shipping label for you to slap on your own box. If you want or need to ship it by another carrier, it’s on your dime. Either way, you have 7 days to send it before the offer expires.

So, I packed up my lovely iPad 2 in all its original packaging — even down to the plastic sleeve I had removed oh-so-carefully last year. And I took a bunch of pictures of the iPad, its accessories, and its packaging as I went along. Sentimentality? No. I didn’t want to be unfairly downgraded by some misguided claim of absent packaging, or scratches, or some other nonsense. I had no reason to think that would happen; but I had no reason to suspend skepticism, either.

My concern was unwarranted. Within days I had a $375 gift card credited to my Amazon account. Some people think that’s the catch: it’s a good deal for Amazon, because now I must spend my money there, it ups their income, and their traffic, and blah, blah, blah. So what? It’s where I shop already, and I’d be spending money there soon anyway.

Was $375 a good price? Absolutely. (Only slightly less so this week, since the price went up to $380!) Gazelle is offering only $290 for the same iPad in perfect condition; and, while they offer a PayPal deposit, you’d be sacrificing $90. NextWorth offers even less — $273. A quick check on eBay shows current bidding in the $325–$350 range.

This all makes me want to look around the house for other gadgets I can sell to Amazon. Even if they’re my husband’s.

[Sharon Zardetto wrote several dozen Mac books when they were still produced only on paper. She has since moved to ebooks, with her most recent titles being “Take Control of Safari 5” and “Take Control of Spotlight for Finding Anything on Your Mac.” Follow her on Twitter at @SharonZardetto.

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