Spotting the Duds

Some items are just too good to be true.  Electronics in particular fall into this category far too often, and it's angering and saddening to get home and find out that you paid $5 for something that doesn't even turn on.  Before you go buy up all those old game systems in the hopes of making bank on craigslist, you should follow these tips and pointers to spot the duds lying around at that too good to be true yard sale you're visiting.

An old tractor which is not working.

An obvious warning sign is an item's inability to turn on.  You've made sure it's got fresh batteries, you've checked the outlet on other working appliances, you've jiggled the button around a few times and made sure of all the proper settings -- but the green light still won't blink to life.  At this point, you should probably evaluate your own abilities with electronics.  Do you think this is something you can fix?  Do you want to fix it?  Is it worth the time and effort, or should you save yourself the Washingtons and find a working one somewhere else?

It's a sure warning flag when the host won't let you test the item.  They may have a valid excuse, such as no outlet in easy reach or not wanting to get scammed on their electricity bill, but still -- if a host refuses to let you try out the merchandise before you put down money on it, you might just be cautious and walk away.  It's possible they know the item doesn't work, and just want to sucker someone into buying it.  Or it could be totally innocent.  But either way, a refusal to let you test should set off some warning bells in your head.

When you pick up the item, is there an unnatural rattling noise inside?  Depending on the object, that can mean something vital has snapped off inside and is rolling around freely.  You may never get it to work unless you take it completely apart.  This is especially true of delicate mechanisms such as handheld blenders that require special parts to fix.

Hopefully, whatever you're thinking of purchasing, you know well enough to tell if vital accessories are missing.  After all, what's a radio with a dial?  Or a phone without a working LCD screen?  Useable for scrap parts, certainly, so if the price is reasonable enough you may still get something out of it; but if you can tell that you're going to have to purchase some replacement pieces, make sure it won't be cheaper altogether just to buy a better used one or a new one.

When you poke around on the device, if any of the buttons are stuck, you might want to set it back down and move on.  It's tough to fix truly jammed buttons without resorting to force that might leave lasting damage, so if that's the case, the item isn't worth the price.  Again, if you can use it for parts and it's selling for a good price, great.

Maybe you find that the batteries are corroded in the device.  Even if you can still take the batteries out, the corrosion could very well damage the item in ways you don't want to discover by turning it on.  Battery acid is poisonous and can react adversely to a flow of electricity, so just let the host toss that corroded item in the garbage.

And come visit, where there are lots of great untainted resources for you to enjoy at no cost to you!

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