Some say it is the best kept discount shopping secret that could save you hundreds of dollars on almost everything you buy, and with social media, it's easier than ever.
There are warehouses full of merchandise coming in by the truckload, including flat screen TV's, laptops, video games, telescopes, power tools, even cement mixers. It's stuff many big name companies couldn't sell in their retail stores.
Genco is just one US wholesaler that now sells straight to consumers for bargain prices on what's called the secondary market.
"The secondary market is big and it's definitely growing, particularly in an economy like ours where people are value strapped," said Robert Auray with Genco and the website nobetterdeal.com.
Hundreds of billions of dollars worth of secondary stuff is finding its way to a growing number of new sites and stores where you can buy it without the big markup of a middle man. The savings range from 40 to 90 percent.
But before you buy, know the lingo so you're not surprise.
- If something is "new" it really means "new". Perhaps retailers just had too many.
- If a product is "open box" or "damaged box," it means the device has been opened or the box is damaged, but it should still work just fine.
- The riskiest stuff is "as is" - what you see is what you get. The product could have missing remotes, or no instruction manuals. The pay off? it's the cheapest stuff. .
- "Refurbished" stuff is a very popular secondary market sale. It was returned to a retail store with a problem, but it's been fixed up, re-tested and deemed good to go. In fact, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports in the past two years it's gotten only three safety complaints about refurbished items, compared to thousands of complaints about new stuff.
Consumer advocate Edgar Dworfsky furnished his house with secondary market items.
"I honestly have had very good experience buying refurbished items. Some of the items appear to be brand new," he said.
And the secondary market isn't just for electronics.
"I paid 62 for this jacket and it's a 620 dollar jacket," said bargain hunter Jaime Palmucci.
Jaime also got a $360 dress for one dollar and amazing deals on pair of Marc Jacob sunglasses and Earnest Sewn jeans. Her secret? She follows secondary market sites using social media--on Facebook, Twitter and on blogs to find out the very latest deals. She also uses comparison shopping search engines like priceblink.com
She saves on money, but admits she may pay in another way.
"I've probably spent a little bit more time finding the deals," she said.
Insiders agree-using social media is the way to shop because inventory is always changing and you can check out the reputation of sites by reading comments people leave. The most important shopping tip is knowing the merchant's return policy and what your options are if something is defective.
Some stores will offer warranties and extended warranties on what you buy, so be sure to check that out. Make sure you understand what the shipping charges are as well, especially with big box items like flat screen TV's and computers, so you don't get stuck paying fortune.