Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Our Grading and Checking System

We get lots of questions regarding our grading and checking system for used equipment, and have recently noticed that some people have been searching for this information. This is going to be a pretty long post, but if you're interested in how it all works then read on.

First, here's an explanation of our grades:

NEW
As packaged by manufacturer complete with manufacturer's USA warranty. Not previously owned or used by a consumer. *You have probably seen the words "NEW" or "LOWER PRICE" listed online or in our catalog where prices usually appear. Due to certain manufacturer's minimum pricing requirements, we are not permitted to publish the price if we sell it less than the manufacturer's Minimum Advertised Price (MAP). While these listings may seem inconvenient, it is our way of letting you know that when you call or click-through on the website, you will be quoted the lowest pricing anywhere for comparable items.
DEMO
As packaged by manufacturer complete with manufacturer's USA warranty. Never owned by a consumer but used for demonstration.
LN
"Like New" Includes original box and instructions.
LN-
"Like New Minus" Extremely slight wear only seen upon very close inspection. Box and accessories usually not included. Glass perfect*.
EX+
"Excellent Plus" Exceptionally nice. May have slight wear on finish but visible only under close inspection. Glass very clean*.
EX
"Excellent" Shows moderate wear. May have small dents and/or dings and slight finish wear. Glass may have slight marks and/or blemishes that will not affect picture quality*.
BGN
"Bargain" Shows more than average wear. May have dents, dings and/or brassing and finish loss. Glass may have marks and/or blemishes that should not affect picture quality*.
UG
"Ugly" Very rough looking. Multiple impressions in metal, excessive finish loss and brassing. Glass will have marks, fungus and/or haze which will affect picture quality.
AI
"As-Is" Usually to be used for parts only. All equipment sold in As-Is category carries no warranty nor return privileges. The equipment most likely doesn't work and may have missing pieces. Defects will include, but are not limited to the problems listed on the description.


All grades are for cosmetic condition and are in full working order (except for AI). The same criteria is used when we purchase equipment. Also, a huge thing to understand is that this is a grading system we have created. It may not match another companies grading system, the same grading standards as Shutterbug, B&H, or others. Thus, it cannot be compared to with the standards of other places. For example, a camera in excellent condition with us may mean something completely different then another companies excellent. This is why it is important to fully read our descriptions when purchasing or selling.

We also post a Glass Disclaimer - Occasionally, lenses, even when brand new, will have a slight amount of dust visible within the lens elements. This is a result of the manufacturing process and will not affect image quality or resolution. As a result, some used lenses may exhibit the same consistencies.

Some people get confused when we say we sell used equipment. To clarify, the stuff is used, not refurbished unless it specifically says "refurbished".

Now, a few things that factor in that customers may not think about...

While we have set standards for each grade, it's not always cut and dry. Within each grade is a range. So some things may be on the high end of a particular grade, and some things may be on the low end. While marks that we know will affect picture quality automatically go UG, the amount of dust a lens may have, or the amount of wear is subjective. We currently have 13 techs writing up equipment. Each persons understanding and views on a piece is along the same lines, but may slightly differ, especially on items that are on the borderline of two grades.

Another factor is also the path of the equipment. We first receive equipment through our receiving department. Equipment then goes to tech support for testing and evaluation. Next, the equipment goes into the warehouse to be shelved. Once a customer purchases an item, it then goes to fulfillment to pack. Then it gets shipped out and goes through who knows how many hands before it arrives on your doorstep. This unfortunately leaves some room for a piece of equipment to get damaged once it leaves our building. We have no control over what happens with the shipping companies once it leaves here.

Even though all of the equipment is tested (unless specified in the description as "Untested") older mechanical equipment needs to be used on a regular basis to function correctly. If a particular item sits on a shelf for a long period of time before it gets sold, the possibility of a malfunction is greatly increased. Fortunately, most of our equipment sells quickly so that it does not sit on the shelf too long. Electronic equipment usually does not have mechanical issues, because of less moving parts, but they are susceptible to computer related issues (unusual error codes or having to reset the functions by removing and re-installing the battery). Those types of issues may test the patience of someone who is unfamiliar with the equipment.

You may wonder where "repair" comes into the picture. If a technician in the Tech Support Department determines an item is not functioning correctly, it is then sent to our Repair Department. If the item can be repaired to good working order, the repair is completed, then the item is put on the shelf. If the item needs parts that are no longer available or if the item is beyond economical repair, it is then put in the AS-IS section and sold for parts.

Unfortunately, because of the diversity of equipment we sell, a common issue we encounter is equipment that gets sent back to us for "not working properly". When the Returns Dept., re-checks it, many times it is working fine. This usually happens when someone buys equipment they are not completely familiar with and the customer has not purchased an instruction book to completely understand how to use it. Some cameras are very straight forward and easy to use, and some are quite tricky. There are many cameras that have specific "tricks" that may need to be performed. Some require you to attach accessories in a certain order. Some require that you hold down one button and then another in a certain way to get a function to work. The list goes on and on, but for a few dollars, the addition of an instruction book is well worth it.

As you can now see, there are many factors that may be a reason for a grade that looks different then the last time you purchased a piece in that same grade, or why a piece of equipment may arrive with a broken function. Buying used equipment means you are taking a chance. There are many positive reasons to buy used gear, but there is indeed a small risk factor. Because of this we do offer a 6 month, non-transferable warranty (except on AS-IS/AI equipment). Some equipment an additional extended warranty is also available for purchase, and all items have a 14 day return period (again with the exception of the AS-IS/AI equipment).