Back in February, I bought a pair of Blue Mo-Fi headphones at my local Fry’s Electronics.
The headband was broken, so I returned it, and picked up the Audio-Technica MSR7 instead, a favorite headphone of many audio reviewers I look up to and respect.
Upon opening the MSR7's box, I discovered that this “new” product had actually been opened already and then shoved awkwardly back into the package. The headphones were upside down in their tray. The cables were tangled. The ear cups were filled with white particles that looked sort of like dandruff.
Ew. Ew! No good!
Without even listening to them, I made a horrified sound and shoved them back in the box. I returned to the store, and explained the scenario.
“Hello yes, these not-cheap headphones were clearly opened and used. I think they were returned or something, but marked as new.”
“Oh. Really? They don’t look like they were”
I blink a few times.
“Yes, as you can see they are upside down in the package and filled with dandruff. I’d like to exchange them.”
“I think this is the way they are supposed to go in the box.”
I demonstrate how they are supposed to be sitting in the box.
“Oh! Okay. Well, let’s see if we have another one in stock.”
“I think it was the only one on the shelf.”
“I’m gonna make a guy check anyway.”
Fry’s employee calls a guy to send him on a wild goose chase for a second pair they don’t have, instead of just checking the computer. We start talking.
“You know, it’s actually not uncommon for our new headphones to be open. We let people open and test them if we don’t have a demo.”
My eyes widen. “W…what.”
“Oh yeah, if they don’t send us a demo unit, we let people open up the headphones and play around with them.”
“But, these are expensive. And they don’t have a reduced price/open box sticker on them.”
“Oh yeah, we only do that for items that have been returned.”
To a guy like me, who expects new products to actually be new, and who expects things I’m going to spend decent money on and then wear near my head holes to not be filled with someone else’s dandruff, this was a mind-blowing revelation. Suddenly, every headphone and product at Fry’s was suspect and horrifying.
A true shame, considering Fry’s carries more headphones than any other store near me. I hate paying for/waiting for shipping.
After being pestered a few times to keep the dandruff headphones, I eventually got my money back. I decided to go over and inspect the other models on the shelf…and sure enough, on close examination, I noticed that several “new” headphone boxes had clearly been opened.
I decided on the other Mo-Fi’s they had in stock, and those weren’t broken. I reviewed those..but here’s the short version: powerful clean audio, but so heavy they hurt my neck, and took tons of adjustment.
I get that this Fry’s business may not be a big deal to you. I get that you might even appreciate that Fry’s allows people to demo all headphones, even without a demo unit.
But guess what? Once you’ve allowed someone to demo a unit, that’s now a demo and should carry an open box discount. That’s just the way it works. It’s no longer new.
The whole thing soured me on Fry’s, and the MSR7 headphones. I could have just ordered some online, but I didn’t. Yesterday, after months of weird bitterness and regret, I finally took the plunge on the MSR7NC, and here’s the hilarious part: I bought them at Fry’s.
They now wrap many of their headphones with security straps, so it’s quite easy to tell which might have been opened or not. I got a good price on them, and I didn’t have to pay for shipping, but every time I go there now, my head is on a swivel, trying to decide if the new product I’m buying is actually new while I fend off annoying sales people.
I’m guessing they’re not long for this world as a company. But I’m still thankful they carry a bunch of headphones. I guess that makes me a hypocrite and the worst.
Mostly, I just wanted to pass along this info in case you find yourself buying a product at Fry’s. Make sure it’s actually new. And if something seems funny, ask for an open box discount! Unless it’s filled with weird white particles/dandruff.