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Fast Cash for an Old Gadget Backfires

By Lisa Parker
|  Saturday, Jun 25, 2011  |  Updated 5:27 PM CDT
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Consumers claim trade-in program offered by big box retailer isn't painless.

Consumers claim trade-in program offered by big box retailer isn't painless.

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When it comes to electronic gadgets, "outdated" can come quickly.

So when Janae Rusin of Chicago noticed an advertisement for Best Buy's trade-in program, her attention was piqued.

The series of commercials features consumers holding "new" gadgets they just purchased, only to learn a "newer" version came out the very next day. One of the catch lines is "We feel your pain."

"I thought that's a great idea because it's so fast moving," said Rusin. "I was ready to jump on board."

She had an old iPhone gathering dust and wanted to know how much it might be worth. A quick online search led her to what she thought might be her answer.

"It had Best Buy written all over it. It had a logo, it had a link to the different stores, so it looked like it was coming directly from Best Buy," she explained.

After submitting information about her device, the company sent her an email back with a quote: $58.

"Great, this is easy," she remembered thinking, and sent her iPhone to Best Buy.

At least, that's where she thought she was sending it.

The check that came back was from a company called DealTree, which she says she remembered vaguely from the Best Buy website. She didn't think much of the discrepancy until she went to the bank.

"I tried to cash the check and it bounced. And I had a fee charged as well, so it wasn't just the $58 that I didn't receive. I had a $12 fee from my bank," Rusin said.

Online, there are scores of other angry customers complaining about their run-ins with DealTree. Some complain the company quoted them a good estimate for a used product, but later refused to pay anything, claiming the merchandise was broken, defective or of "no value."

Others said the merchandise they sent in was never paid for or returned, while some wrote about "poor customer service."

So what is the deal with DealTree?

The company's website boasts huge savings on used electronics, and says the company manages "the high cost of end-of-life, returned and discontinued merchandise."

The company is owned by Best Buy, but isn't part of the humorous ad campaign that promotes the company's "Buy Back" program.

Rusin says she felt misled by the Best Buy website, and called both DealTree and Best Buy to get her money back. Neither company returned her calls, she said.

"I keep joking to all my friends that I am probably the only person that paid to get their iPhone stolen. Which is kind of ridiculous, but there it is," she said.

Asked about the case by NBC Chicago, a Best Buy spokeswoman said a reimbursement check for Rusin's phone and the check fees was on its way to her.  The spokeswoman blamed a minor computer glitch for causing the bounced check.

She did not offer any comment on the body of complaints about DealTree,which has maintained a good rating at the Better Business Bureau, despite 151 complaints filed against it in the last three years.

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