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    Frontier Society - Sections - Gadgets / Video Games




Buying Refurbished Gadgets And Video Games

Words By Chris Passinault

The Gadget Geek
The author, Chris C. A. Passinault, interviewd by FOX 13 News for a story about buying refurbished electronics. As far back as I can remember, I always had this thing for cool gadgets, even if my imagination for what they did was far more ambitious than reality. I recall the day in Church when I was around the age of seven, where this boy came in with a Spiderman wrist-mounted web shooter. Although he didn't show what it did (I suppose that his parents insisted that it remain unloaded at Church), he was wearing it, and my imagination went wild. I could imagine shooting net-like webs like some super hero, and I really wanted one of my own. That didn't happen, because I was only a child and didn't have any money, but in retrospect it all worked out because I believe that the web shooter was no more than a piece of plastic which fired silly string. On second thought, I do not believe that they make that item anymore, and if I had obtained it back in the 70's and had kept it, it could actually be worth something today.
When video games were invented, I became interested in gadgets of the electronic kind. My parents used to take my brother and I to pizza restaurants which often had these video games, and as a child I played a lot of Pong and Tank. Video games really captured my imagination, as this was truly interactive entertainment, and I found them to be fun on many levels. In the early 80's, the Arcade revolution began, and I played all of the games. Pac Man, Galaxian, Galaga, Frogger, Donkey Kong, Phoenix, Gyruss, Space Invaders, Battlezone, Dig Dug, Rolling Thunder, Spy Hunter - I played every thing that I could get my hands on. One day, at a movie theater, I happened upon a arcade vendor working on a Pac Man machine, and he showed me the circuit boards inside the machines. He replaced one of the boards, and I was more interested than ever. Video Games would always be a part of my life.
In the early 1980's, home video game consoles began to spring up in my friends houses. The friends in my neighborhoods had their Atari 2600's, which I played every time that I visited. My friends in Tampa had Colecovisions, which had even better graphics AND gameplay than the Atari's, with awesome translations of games such as Burger Time and Donkey Kong. It would be some time before my parents would get me an Atari 2600, and I remember only wanting a handheld Galaxian game on Christmas and being disappointed when I received mainly clothes (although my Aunt Nita and Uncle Andrew did get me all three Insecticons, which were Transformers, one Christmas, which was awesome). I did get one of those Mattel handheld football games from this Church toy drive one Christmas, but since I really didn't like football, I pretended that my blip was a spaceship and I was avoiding other ships.
I spent a lot of time across the street, playing my friend's Atari, even after they had lost interest, and had left me there by myself. Pac Man, which was an awful translation of the arcade game, Defender, another terrible arcade translation where the ship disappeared every time that you fired and you had to go off the screen to use hyperspace, and ET were the most played. ET, which many consider to be the worst video game ever made and the game responsible for the video game crash of 83, became one of my favorites. My friends and I used to have fun beating the game as quickly as possible, and we would even come up with cool things such as making the game crash be calling Elliot and then timing his arrival to coincide with the arrival of ET's ship. The spaceship would land on Elliot and crash the game, and that, my friends, was fun.
I really dreamed of having an Atari 2600. As mentioned, most of my friends had them, and we played a lot. I dreamed of decking out my room with posters of Donkey Kong, Pac Man, and Galaga, and building a sizable collection so I could play games whenever I wanted. Well, around the time of the video game crash of 83, which I didn't know was a crash at the time, we finally got our 2600 and a ton of games, simply because the stores were liquidating their stock. Of course, I didn't understand why video games were so cheap at the time, because I was only a kid, but I didn't care. I had video games!
I played a lot of Imagic games for the 2600, and this girl who I went to school with had a relative who worked for Atari in California. She brought me several games back which were simply IC (computer) chips on printed circuit boards, and those were fun.... Carnival and Mouse Hunt were among them. There was a rumor that she was Atari founder Nolan Bushnell's sister, but in all of these years I've never been able to confirm it.
In 1982, my parents bought me a Timex Sinclair 1000. I imagined making a video game like the Tron Arcade game the night that we picked it up, but was later disappointed with the 2K of RAM which often ran out when I tried to program on it, a bad input jack which made loading software from audio tapes impossible, no sound, and black and white one-pixel graphics. The addition of a coveted 16 Bit RAM module did me no good, either, since I could not load my programs. In 1986, my parents bought me a Commodore 64 and a 1541 floppy disk drive, which actually did me a lot of good. I quickly taught myself to plot graphics, made a joystick interface utilizing an Atari 2600 joystick which enabled me to "poke" pixels directly into memory and draw with the stick, and I mastered the tracks and sectors of the floppy drive, which enabled me to save game stats, graphics, and variables. I made a lot of games on that thing, but was limited graphically because I could never sort out how to move the assigned memory around and free memory to store sprite frames.
Around this time, 16 Bit arcade games ruled the arcades. Sega had Outrun, a racing game, out in the arcades, which went on to become one of the greatest arcade games of all time. The Top Gun inspired Afterburner II, another Sega 16 Bit arcade game, hit in 1997, and along With Konami's Jackal and SNK's Ikari Warriors, I was still playing.
I had my Commodore 64 and cool games like Wizard (A Donkey Kong platformer with a player- controlled Wizard-character where you could make your own levels!) and Nukewar, and my trendy friends went crazy over Mario Bros on their brand new 8 Bit Nintendo Entertainment Systems, or NES's. I didn't need to get a NES, since everyone had them and we borrowed them from friends often. I never liked the first Mario Bros very much, but my best friend had everything, and I played many other NES games. My favorites? Mike Tyson's Punch Out, Castlevania, Castlevania II, and Zelda II. Much like Mario Bros, I didn't care much for the original Zelda, either. Why? Even though I love video games, I've always been more of an average player. There are very few games which I have mastered, and those two games are tough. I usually play because I enjoy playing, and not necessarily to win.
In late 1991, my best friend obtained a brand new 16 Bit Super NES video game console with Super Mario World. We moved into a series of apartments together with his girlfriend, who was also a manic gamer, and with little money to spare spent months playing that one game. They eventually moved away, taking the game with them, and in 1992 I bought my first video game console, which was a new Super NES with a copy of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the past. I started out my renting game cartridges for my console from video stores, and then started buying more games for it. I also began to read every video game publication which I could find, which hasn't stopped in the past 15 years (I read at least five video game publications a month now, which includes two expensive ones published in England, Edge and Games TM). When Nintendo announced that it was going to censor the Super NES version of Mortal Kombat in the summer of 1993, I went out and bought a 16 Bit Sega Genesis in protest, since I wanted the Genesis version of this violent fighting game when it came out in September of that year. My new Genesis came with Sonic The Hedgehog 2, which was an awesome game. This became the beginning of my hardcore hobby of video game collecting.
In the 14 years since, I haven't stopped buying video games and reading up on them. I've amassed a collection which could possibly be the largest in Florida, with over thirty video game systems and thousands of video games. My entire collection is in mint condition, too, and my original Super NES is still like it was when it came out of the box 15 years ago.
Video Games were only the beginning, too. I began to collect electronic gadgets. I had one of the first blue tooth headsets for my cell phone. I am the proud owner of a Palm TX PDA, an Internet- ready Wi Fi equipped Personal Digital Assistant which holds my pictures, music, contacts, literary projects, and photographs. Finding and collecting video games taught me to work retail to my advantage, and these skills have enabled me to get pretty much anything that I want, often at a substantial discount. New, used, or refurbished, I've bought them, and I have never been burned in obtaining what I wanted. In many of my dealing, I saved a lot of money, too.
For this article, I'll share some of my retail shopping tips when it comes to finding and buying both refurbished and used gadgets. Local television station FOX 13 found me (on Myspace, of all places) when they were looking for sources on this subject, and since they interviewed me for their story, I figured that this would make a good subject for an article on my newest web site, Frontier Society. Hopefully, the information in this article will prove to be a useful supplement for the story that they will air, regarding this exact subject, and the points that I brought up in our interview.

1. Know What You Are Buying
I cannot stress enough that you need to do your homework before you even think about heading out to a store or online to buy anything. Find out the best product brand for the gadget that you are looking for. Think about your needs, compare features, and look at the price. Check out relevant web sites to see what the majority of people think about certain brands. Complicated products, such as computer systems to laptops, will take a bit of research if you don't already know much about them.
If you know what you are getting into, you will be in a much better position to negotiate from a position of strength, and you will be less likely to become a victim of a bad deal. When it comes to video games, no one can get anything over on me. I know what everything costs and what it should cost. I know the features and what is supposed to come with it. I know a good deal when I see one because I am knowledgeable about the products.

2. Explaining What Refurbished Is
Refurbished is exactly that: refurbished. The majority of refurbished gadgets are products that were sold to customers and returned, usually because of a defect or some other issue with the product. These gadgets are sent back to the manufacturer, which refurbishes the item and then returns it to retail to be sold as a refurbished product. Such products often have a full manufacturer's warranty AND are available at a discount!

3. If It Sounds Too Good To Be True....
You know the rest. Be wary of any deal which doesn't add up, ESPECIALLY if you try to obtain it by shopping online. Are they offering a high-end computer on Ebay for way too little? It's probably a scam. As stressed above, you really need to learn about what you are buying. If you don't bother to do your research, then you are taking a risk. Asking the salesperson does not count, either. In my experiences, most salespeople don't know what they are talking about and could care less about giving a consumer a good deal. They either don't know much about what they are selling and give consumers bad information, or they know more than you do and will use that knowledge to their advantage. Most retailers like me and most salespeople respect me because they know that I know what I am looking for. Even if they have never met me before, they figure me out after a few minutes of conversation. I will say that I've been in more than one argument with a salesperson, and in just about every instance it was because they tried to give me information which was not correct. I recall one time, a few years back, when I went into Sears at Brandon Town Center looking for a Sony Playstation Portable (PSP) video game console. The PSP had just launched, and they were in short supply, so I found myself looking around a lot to see if anyone had them in stock. I walked into the Sears electronics area where there were two salespeople and their manager. I asked for a PSP. The lead salesperson told me that Sony had been banned from selling the PSP with a court order due to a lawsuit judgement against them regarding the rumble feature. I explained to the gentleman that he was referring to a lawsuit regarding the Dual Shock controllers (for the Playstation 2, a completely different system), that Sony had obtained temporary permission to continue selling their controllers, and that the "rumble" feature had nothing to do with the PSP, which did not have any rumble force-feedback feature. He told me that I was wrong and proceeded to argue with me. It ended with me telling his manager to make sure that her employees gave out correct information, I left the store, and minutes later I located a PSP system at a small store elsewhere in the mall. I've never bought anything from Sears since.
Consider the source when it comes to any information, and never accept an opinion as fact. Understand that most salespeople are minimum wage workers with minimal training, and any profession with high turnover usually has workers who don't have a clue what they are talking about or what they are trying to sell.

4. Check Out Retail Store Warranties
Check out the warranty packages that the stores try to sell you only if the gadget which you are buying is expensive and the manufacturer's warranty is weak for some reason. If you buy something that is used, you probably will have to have to purchase a warranty. I've even seen some refurbished gadgets offered at substantial discounts with voided manufacturer's warranties as the trade-off. In most cases, however, you will have a full warranty and won't have to deal with it. If you buy it new, the manufacturer's warranty will be more than enough in most cases, and buying the store warranty which is offered to you is overly-redundant and a waste of money. The only times that I bought a store warranty for a new product were for an expensive computer system and an air conditioner, and in both of those cases they came in handy. When the item is expensive and you have to rely on it every day, you should look into your options.
When salespeople pitch extended warranties for new gadgets which I am purchasing, I often ask them where their donation jar is. If you're giving more money away than you have to, you might as well give to a good cause rather than overpaying for something.

5. Popular Gadgets Can Be Found Used And Discounted
One good thing about any product which is popular is that the market becomes saturated with it. It begins to compete with itself once consumers have grown tired of it and used or refurbished products become plentiful. With a lot of products out there, the supply soon outstrips the demand, and it is possible to find popular gadgets at reduced prices.
I bought my first Gameboy Advance as a refurbished item when they were hard to find, and this was well before the clamshell Gameboy Advance SP came onto market. It was in perfect condition, and I bought it for a substantial savings and with a warranty.

6. Out Of Box And Store Display Items Often Have Original Warranty
It's true. Out of box and store display items are often awesome deals, and they often come with full warranties. You need to accept the dings and the missing parts, however. Once, around January of 2006, I went to Best Buy in Brandon to buy a new notebook / laptop computer. I was really close to buying a multimedia edition HP notebook which had the battery taken out because it was a store display item (those crafty Brandon teens will take any item, including laptop batteries, if they are present). The salesperson went looking for the battery and came back empty handed, and I told him that I would only buy the computer if it came with a battery. Well, his manager tried to sell me a battery at half-price and refused to mark down the computer, so I walked away. A few days later, I returned, and landed a really great deal on a Gateway notebook. It still works great, and I have never had an issue with it.

7. Buying Video Games
I have a saying which has been proven to be correct. The saying goes that video games depreciate faster than cars. They start out expensive, but become very cheap once they are replaced by something better.
Take the original Playstation. Available for $300.00 in 1995, you could find one for $20.00 ten years later. It is very cheap, but still the same great product that it always was. I am at the point now where I resist buying new video game consoles and video games. The new systems, such as the Nintendo Wii, have such weird features, and I really do love the old school games in my collection. Older games that used to be just as expensive are now very affordable, and I will be buying many more Super Nintendo, Playstation, and Nintendo 64 games in the near future. As far as new games go, I will mainly buy games for my portable consoles, which include the Nintendo DS, the Playstation Portable, and the Gameboy Advance.
Want to buy video games? Know what you are buying. I will have many features about video games on Frontier Society. For now, however, I recommend buying refurbished current consoles or older consoles and games.



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