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Ten Things We Should be Cautious About Buying Second-hand

by Colleen P Moyne (Colmo) (follow)
I'm a freelance writer living in the beautiful river town of Mannum in SA, dreaming of the day I can retire from the 9-5 to write full time.
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Let me begin by saying that I work at a community facility that incorporates an op-shop and am also an avid op-shopper myself. I would never try to deter anyone from supporting charities and saving money by buying second-hand goods.

But with certain second-hand items there is an element of risk involved. We don’t know the history of the product or how clean it is – even if it looks clean and well-cared for. In most cases, it’s a simple matter of taking the item home and giving it a good clean before using it. But there are a few things we still need to be cautious of:

1. Electrical Goods
Electrical goods should only be purchased if they have been tested and tagged. Some outlets will offer untested goods in exchange for a ‘donation.’ If you do take the chance, you also take the risk that the items are safe.

2. Baby Bottles and Dummies (Pacifiers)
If you are going to purchase these baby products, I would recommend thoroughly sanitising them. I would check the teats and dummies for any deterioration and replace them if you’re unsure.


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3. Makeup and Cosmetics
Check these products for a use-by date and be cautious of eye or lip products especially. Get a tissue and wipe away the outer layer to ensure it is clean and there is no contamination. If you purchase mascara, wash the brush thoroughly before use.

4. Hats, Wigs or Hair Ornaments
Once again, it is ok to purchase these as long as you check them thoroughly and wash them if you can before using.

5. Suitcases or travel bags
At the risk of sounding paranoid, I’ve seen television shows where airport staff detect traces of drugs by swabbing empty suitcases. I personally would not like to take the chance that the previous owner of the bag could have transported drugs in it.


Garage Sale
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6. Helmets
It’s actually illegal to sell second-hand helmets as there is no way of knowing whether they have been damaged in an accident. If the internal protective layer is compromised the helmet is not safe to use again. If you insist on purchasing a second-hand helmet you do so at your own risk.

7. Child’s Car Seats
According to the laws in Victoria, Australia, ‘Only child restraints complying with the 2004, 2010 or 2013 versions of the Australian standard (AS/NZ 1754) can be legally sold and used in Victoria. In addition, only restraints less than 10 years old are recommended for use and restraints that are damaged or have been in a crash should not be used.’

8. Board Games, Jigsaw Puzzles, Puzzle Books, Activity Books
Check board games and jigsaw puzzles to ensure all the pieces are there and that they are the correct pieces. It’s frustrating to get to the end of a puzzle and find a mis-matched piece or a piece missing. With puzzle books and activity books, check the pages to make sure they have not been solved or pre-written-in.

9. Questionable containers
Always check containers and be especially cautious if you are going to use them for storing food. Always take them home and sanitise them before using.

10. Medical Goods and Equipment
I’ve seen all sorts of interesting things for sale, from dentures and hearing aids to blood pressure monitors, stethoscopes and wheelchairs. It goes without saying that you must be extra careful purchasing anything like this, especially if you have a serious or chronic condition that relies on any of this equipment.

As long as you exercise common sense, check your items thoroughly and know your rights and responsibilities when it comes to purchasing second-hand goods, you can enjoy the experience and snag some fantastic and unique bargains.



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Very sound advice, Colmo. I had never thought about the points you raise regarding suitcases.
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