MIAMI (CBS4) -- Some say it's the best-kept discount shopping secret that can save you hundreds of dollars on almost everything you buy. Here's how to score bargains on items sold through the "secondary market."
Warehouses full of merchandise come in by the truckload: Flat-screen TVs, laptop computers, video games, telescopes, power tools -- even cement-mixers.
A giant GENCO Marketplace facility is "mission control" for stuff many big-name companies couldn't sell in their retail stores.
GENCO is just one U.S. wholesaler that now sells straight to consumers for bargain prices on what's called the secondary market.
Hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of secondary stuff is finding its way to a growing number of new sites and stores where you can buy it without the big markup of a middleman. The savings range from 40 to 90-percent.
But before you buy, know the lingo so you're not surprised.
If something is "new" it really means new. Perhaps retailers just had too many.
If a product is "open box" or "damaged box," it means the device has been opened or the box is damaged, but it should still work just fine.
The riskiest stuff is "as is": what you see is what you get. The product could have missing remotes or no instruction manuals, for example. The payoff? It's the cheapest stuff.
"We have not tested the product. It's going to have the biggest discount associated with it. There is a little bit of 'buyer beware' on it," said Robert Auray, GENCO Marketplace president and chief executive officer.
"Refurbished" stuff is a very popular secondary-market sale. It was returned to a retail store with a problem, but it's been fixed up, re-tested and deemed good to go. In fact, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission reports in the past two years, it's gotten only three safety complaints about refurbished items, compared to thousands of complaints about new products.
Consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky, who operates ConsumerWorld.org, furnished his house with secondary-market items.
"I honestly have had very good experience buying refurbished items. Some of the items appear to be absolutely brand new," said Dworsky.
The secondary market isn't just for electronics.
Bargain hunter Jaime Palmucci has a closet full of secondary market finds. She paid $62 for a $620 jacket. She also got a $360 dress for one dollar and also paid amazingly low prices on Marc Jacob sunglasses and Ernest Sewn jeans. Her secret to great secondary market deals is using social media like Facebook, Twitter and blogs to find out the very latest deals. She also uses comparison shopping search engines like priceblink.com.
While Palmucci saves on money, she admitted she pays in another way.
"I've probably spent a little bit more time finding the deals," said Palmucci.
Insiders agree that using social media is the way to shop because inventory is always changing and you can check out the reputation of sites by reading comments people leave.
The most important shopping tip -- know the merchant's return policy and what your options are if something is defective.
"It's absolutely critical to know what the return policy is, particularly on refurbished items you don't want to get stuck with it," said Dworsky.
Some stores will offer warranties and extended warranties on what you buy, so be sure to check that out. Also, make sure you understand what the shipping charges are as well, especially with big box items like flat screen TVs and computers so you don't get stuck paying a fortune.
Check out the following 'secondary market' websites for deals:
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