Last updated on October 15th, 2023
So you’re looking to buy a used appliance? In this guide we’ll cover off the main appliance scams that I know – so you can spot them before you fall for them. It’s also worth reading our article about how to avoid being scammed and how to spot the scammers when buying a used appliance. Some of these scams are universal and can be applied to all products, others are specific. Who am I to tell you? Before coming on board at Whybuy, I sold hundreds of used appliances. I met all the players, learnt all the dirty tricks, heard many customers’ stories, and fell prey to some of these scams myself.
If you don’t want the hassle of buying, don’t want to deal with scams, dishonesty, breakdowns, delivery, and don’t feel the compulsion to own things – consider Whybuy. You’ll get better value the more appliances you have, and delivery is free to the inner suburbs of Melbourne. We don’t have lock in contracts – you can return the appliances whenever you want without cost. We’re very cost competitive against buying new, and depending on how you value your time (cleaning, delivery, inspecting), and how you assess the risks (property damage moving in, risk of being scammed etc) – we are very competitive against buying used as well. A washer dryer and fridge starts at less than $15 a week for all three!
There’s two categories of scam. The outright scam, and the dishonest behaviour that might not be bad enough to be a scam, but would be considered immoral by most.
The outright scams
The piece of crap
I don’t even know if you’d call this a scam, but it is the number 1 most common way you’ll lose your money. Essentially you’re sold a poorly repaired or unrepaired machine, that is dangerous, doesn’t work, or both. Check the power cord has no duct tape or electrical tape hiding an unsafe repair. This is very common. It’s very hard to tell, especially with fridges and dryers – if you’re being sold rubbish. Fridges are so hard because the most common failures of a fridge take 2-4 weeks to show up after you’ve turned it on in your home, sometimes even longer!
If you bought the appliance online, an after the fact marker that you may have been sold a dud appliance is if the seller doesn’t mark the ad as sold, rather they delete the ad entirely from Facebook marketplace. Some people delete their ads just ‘cause. But scammers almost always delete their ads instead of marking them sold. Usually you’ll be blocked as well. You can take some screenshots of the profile and listing before you pay for it. Often though this won’t help you much, as the whole profile is just fake as well. Make your peace with it, you’ve been scammed.
My friends machine
This is a the number one favourite of the dodgy retailer. You buy an appliance, and you find out it doesn’t work. You get in touch with the person who sold it to claim your warranty or refund. They tell you that it is their friend’s machine, they were merely acting as a salesman. You will need to contact their friend by phone, which they will never ever answer. An easy way to avoid this is when you are buying the appliance, ask them specifically about the machine you are about to buy, that it is the sellers machine and they are not selling it on behalf of someone else. Even so, they will likely make up some excuse – they’re a scammer after all, and you’ve been scammed. Probably the most common retailer scam.
You broke it
Number 2 favourite scam of the dodgy retailer. The seller will claim that the appliance was working fine when sold, and that you have done something to break it. Usually it will be blamed on your poor transportation of the appliance. Which is why you should always let the seller deliver where practical. With fridges and TVs, often times you will actually have done something to break it, and this won’t be a scam. That’s why its such a good one. You can’t know for sure whether you broke it or you were sold something broken. For most other appliances though, moving them is unlikely to cause any issue, even without the right know how. Other times the seller will say you have overloaded the machine or some other nonsense. For the record – when you overload a washer or dryer it’s not good for it, but very unlikely to break it. Usually it just does a bad job. Let the seller deliver and install the machine where you can, to shut down many of the problems you could have here. Again though, scammers gonna scam.
The “factory second”
This one is pretty simple. You go to a warehouse or shop advertising factory seconds for sale. Either all or some of the stock isn’t a factory second – its second hand used. A factory second is typically an appliance that has been sold new and then returned by the customer within the first 6 months with a fault. The manufacturer or their authorised agent repairs it, then resells it as a factory second. That – or the appliance is scratch and dent, and otherwise new. Everything else is second hand or used.
Usually these sellers do have some factory second stock – but most of their stock will be second hand. Often the seller will take the second hand appliance and wrap it in a bit of pallet wrap, then tear the pallet wrap at the front, as though they have had to open it to check the product on receipt from the “factory”. I’ve seen these sellers sell 5 year old appliances as seconds. They may also confusing langauge like factory refurbished which means nothing and makes you think its a factory second. Very common.
Lets meet at McDonalds
This badboy is a private seller bogan classic. The seller will not want to meet at their home, rather a third location. They’ll find a reason, often asking what suburb you’re in and saying they’re going to be nearby tomorrow and can drop the machine off or meet you at a nearby McDonalds. Its usually a very nice machine for a very good price. The thing is most of the time, this person has just picked this machine up off the side of the road from someone’s hard rubbish. They haven’t tested it, and its very likely broken. Someone threw it away. If you go to McDonalds and meet them, pay them by bank transfer or cash, they will block you, and you now own a broken appliance that you paid too much for. If you use Paypal, you may get some protection, but you can bet they won’t have a Paypal account you can transfer to.
Potentially dishonest behaviour
The bait and switch
The seller lists an appliance that looks fantastic – and cheap. When you go to inspect though, it doesn’t look anywhere near as good as the photos, or there is some minor fault that wasn’t specified in the sales listing. You’ve come all this way, you might as well buy a different appliance for a higher price.
This one isn’t a scam against the customer but against other sellers – but gives a pretty good idea about how the seller feels about playing dirty. Here a dishonest seller will report all of their competitors Facebook and Gumtree ads on a Friday afternoon. The competitors ads are all removed for the duration of the busiest time of the week for enquiries – Friday – Saturday afternoon. By the time Facebook gets around to reviewing them, and putting them back up – its Sunday, and the affected seller has missed out on all of the weekend business. The dirty dealer has taken all of their business for themselves and its not usually very difficult to figure out who the likely culprit is – but it’s very hard to prove it. The same guys who were selling dodgy appliances were the same guys using this dodgy trick. If you’re looking to find a retail seller, you’re better off looking early in the week, Monday – Wednesday. As a seller – you need to boost one ad – just a little bit – Facebook is much faster at reviewing ads when it costs then money to pull them down. Shocking revelation, I’m sure. This is how we used to manage it back when we sold appliances.
The keep close
Again not really a scam, maybe a little dishonest. Sometimes you have an appliance come in without any history and you can’t for the life of you figure out if there’s anything wrong with it. There’s a rule – the more an appliance is worth, the less likely someone has thrown it out in working condition. So sometimes you get a sweet brand name stainless steel French door come in with no problem – worth $2000 new. You test it up hill and down dale. Nothing wrong. But surely there’s something wrong? But also… rich people don’t know or care much of the time as well, and just throw things away. So with lingering suspicion it’s cleaned and marked for sale.
But its also marked as an appliance that is not to be sold far away. You want to keep it close. So if a buyer comes in from the other side of town, you do everything to avoid selling that fridge. If they see it, they’re told its not ready. If they’ve seen it is for sale, there will be no discount. Contrast against the buyer from around the corner, for them, the seller can do deep discounts, free delivery. Then if there’s any issue its nice and close and easy to service under warranty.
The seal flip
This one isn’t really a scam, it’s closer to dishonesty, and only when abused. It only applies to fridges and freezers. If you have a fridge seal in bad condition, often you can take it off and flip it so all of the damage is hidden underneath the fridge door. The legitimate reason for doing this, is if the seal is in serviceable condition but it has been repaired, and the repair is usually ugly, so you want to hide it. Make sure you run your hand along the bottom of a fridge door seal before you buy it, you’ll feel any tears. Also be prepared for it to be gross, often sellers don’t clean it because they don’t think to, or don’t think you’ll think to check it. I always cleaned it, a good retailer will, a private seller never will, but also you get what you pay for. If it’s cheap, clean it yourself.
Been in storage
Annnd finishing off with another that’s not a scam but it will certainly feel like one. You have a seller whose had a fridge in storage. During it’s time in storage a tiny bit of moisture in the fridge can lead to the defrost heater corroding. Once this has happened you’ll have a fridge that trips the power a few hours to three days after you plug it in. Sometimes you’ll be able to turn the fridge back on pretty much straight away, other times you’ll need to wait until the freezer section has warmed back to room temperature. Either way, every few hours to few days it trips your power. You can also get this when you buy a fridge from a seller who lives in an older house without earth leakage protection. To mitigate your risks avoid buying a fridge thats been in storage longer than a few months, otherwise its just a risk that comes with buying a used appliance.