updated 05:13 am EDT, Mon April 1, 2013
Offered better deals than official refurb outlet
An eBay store that sold refurbished Apple products -- seemingly with Apple's blessing -- at prices equal to or below those of Apple's own refurbished store has been closed, at least temporarily. The store, which sold officially-refurbished Apple products under the seller name "refurbished_outlet" (a long-standing power seller on eBay) now has no products listed after zeroing out all inventory sometime Saturday. The store gained notoriety by selling some items below normal refurb prices, offering a PayPal option, and avoiding taxes in some states.
The store was said to be supplied by Apple through a licensed third party, and began offering Apple-certified refurbished Macs, iPads and iPod products back in November. The refurbs carried the same one-year warranty as those bought from Apple's online refurb store, and refurbished in the same manner (ie new batteries in iOS products, original OS reinstalled on Macs, "burn-in" testing and so on).
The wording on the original page suggested that actual refurbishment was being done by a contracted third party, but "final quality inspection" of refurbs was done by Apple. Earlier this month, the eBay store offered 13.3-inch MacBook Airs for $100 less than the same refurbished model from the official refurb store, along with better deals on 32 and 64GB iPod touch models, and Verizon iPad 2 models.
Apple may have been using the eBay seller as a clearinghouse for excessive inventory, or perhaps the vendor entered into an agreement with Apple to help move the products (Apple Canada once entered into an agreement with Costco to sell some MacBook Pros very briefly). It may simply have been experimenting with a program to allow third-parties to do licensed refurbishment and sales at their own costs and markup. The eBay store was an attractive options since, unlike used Macs and iOS products normally sold through the auction site, the refurbs came with a full warranty as well as the option to pay via PayPal rather than strictly credit-card or gift-card sales as the official refurb store does.