Even if you love a good deal, there are some situations when a price seems suspiciously low. That’s certainly been my experience with listings for refurbished or reconditioned kitchen appliances, like blenders or stand mixers, on Amazon. Because it’s such a bargain, it’s not exactly made clear what you’re getting. That’s also because “refurbished” means different things to different manufacturers, a point that Amazon even acknowledges. You could be getting factory seconds with cosmetic issues or returned machines that have been tidied up a bit before they get repackaged, or even packages that were accidentally opened before they were shipped out.
But in the case of Vitamix blenders, the process of reconditioning machines is a serious, formalized 17-step process, and these certified-reconditioned blenders are what Holly Hacker, director of direct sales and customer experience at Vitamix, calls “truly good as new.” These refurbished blenders aren’t new, though. They’re all technically used and have been returned to the manufacturer, mostly by Costco customers.
“Costco’s business model, and the reason everyone loves them, is that they bring value to their members, so any product that you purchase at Costco can be returned for any reason,” explains Hacker. So when Vitamix started selling more machines through the wholesale retailer, they also received more returned products than ever before. And more often than not, the returned machines were barely used, if used at all. Wanting a different color is still a primary reason for Costco returns of Vitamixes, not mechanical defect. “In some cases, they can have it for a year and then bring it back because they want a new color,” says Hacker. “Sometimes they’ll want a different container, so instead of purchasing an additional container, they may do an exchange.”
Rather than send these otherwise-functional machines to the landfill, Vitamix formalized their reconditioning process in 2012, and today, they recondition thousands of machines from their factory in Ohio each week and prepare them for resale. The returned blenders go through a 17-step process that includes testing all of the components to ensure that they work, fixing the ones that don’t, and replacing items like the container and tamper, before re-boxing and selling as reconditioned. Blenders that were returned for serious mechanical issues, however, are tossed.
What doesn’t get dealt with as rigorously on these machines are cosmetic flaws, like scratches on the base. But in terms of function, these reconditioned blenders should be in perfect working order when they arrive at your door, and they come with a five-year warranty to boot. (For context, brand-new machines have a seven-year warranty; otherwise, they’re the same terms and conditions.)
So if certified-reconditioned Vitamix blenders are basically as good as new, for hundreds of dollars less, then why would anyone spend more money to buy a new one? “We’ve asked that question ourselves,” laughs Hacker. “What we find is that there are certain consumers who really do not like having pre-owned items in their home. They very much want the top-of-the-line, latest technology.” That’s not possible when you’re buying a used blender that’s, in some cases, over a year old. And because their availability is based on returns, what’s online is what’s available, so instead of waiting for a brand-new Vitamix blender to go on sale, buy a certified-refurbished one instead, especially if you see one that you like.
When you order one of these standard blenders, you will get a C-series model like the 5200, which costs $450 when new. (This is a case where color choice matters, though. If you get the black or red standard model, it’s only $329.)
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