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Have you ever walked into an outlet store and found a deal you couldn't refuse? Perhaps it was deeply discounted cookware with an imperceptible scratch or a laptop bag that simply lacked the original packaging. Have you ever shopped at a secondhand bookstore or noticed a grocery store display of dented cans and bent boxes? The contents are still fine, but the prices are much lower.

The e-commerce equivalent can be found on Amazon Warehouse Deals, a subsidiary that sells items that can't be sold as new on the pages of the primary site. Proffered wares include goods that have been returned or bought by Amazon from third-party sellers. Before posting, Amazon assesses the items and rates them from "acceptable" to "new." In some cases, returned products were never opened and a dented box is the only defect.

We checked out Amazon Warehouse Deals and found some sweet discounts. A Ghirardelli New Favorites Gift Box was going for $6.78, with free shipping for Amazon Prime members or anyone whose order totals at least $25. Just how much of a deal is this Ghirardelli chocolate treat? The box comes with more than 10 small squares and three large bars of chocolate, and the price history shows it selling for as much as $33.99. The catch: The packaging is unlikely to be gift-worthy. Also, these warehouse deals sell out quickly, sometimes in a matter of minutes, so you need to act fast and check in often.

Aside from food items, this Amazon site stocks all kinds of bargains. A discussion thread at FatWallet indicates that shoppers buy a range of things this way -- cookware, electronics, musical instruments -- and most are "like new." We found that consumers posting on this and other discussion boards have been quite satisfied with purchases made through Amazon Warehouse Deals. At DealsWoot, several consumers say they go to Amazon Warehouse Deals first when searching for a product, and others report substantial savings on good quality merchandise, including used video games, discontinued TVs, an open box of power tools. But both discussions include cautionary tales as well: software that had already been installed and activated, computer parts that didn't work, and one item that was completely broken.

Bad experiences aside, products sold through Amazon Warehouse Deals are backed by the vendor's satisfaction guarantee and return policies. Buyers of the unusable items mentioned above report that customer service offered appropriate remedies: a replacement, paid-for return shipping, an extra $20 gift card for the inconvenience, and the like. With open box electronics shoppers can buy a SquareTrade warranty for problems that arise after the 30-day return period (most manufacturer warranties are void for all but the original purchaser).

We searched for similar deals and came across a promotional items page from Logitech, which offers high quality speakers and home electronics accessories. Customers can save as much as half the retail price on new items in dented boxes or refurbished products, all backed by full warranties. We also noted that Best Buy hosts a deals page for clearance and open-box items available at local stores. The return window on these deals from Best Buy is 14 days, however, compared with the 30-day policies at Amazon Warehouse Deals and Logitech.

Shoppers who favor secondhand or outlet stores and the savings that come with them can apparently score big online, as well. Logitech's products are either refurbished or new but packed in dented boxes, and Best Buy's open-box and clearance items are money savers even if the return policy is limiting. With its wide inventory of merchandise, from consumer electronics and books to toys, kitchenware, and groceries, Amazon Warehouse Deals offers even more opportunities to save.

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