Is it possible to buy a perfectly working, unblemished, and practically unused Xbox Series S at half price? Not without a good dollop of luck and plenty of time to scour the dregs of the internet. If you want to find a good deal you’re going to have to get a little dirty, and one of the muckiest places online is that gloriously messy procession of rejected secondhand goodies known as Facebook Marketplace.
If you’re like me, you don’t like spending money. In true British style, my resignation to unremarkable material adequacy is overwhelming, and the idea of improving that unexceptional standard of normality by spending my hard-earned cash is as bewilderingly foreign as it is obvious. I can’t remember the last time I bought a triple-A video game for full retail price, and the last console I purchased firsthand was a PS3 – even then, I split it three ways with my brother and parents.
Some might call me cheap. I prefer to think of myself as a true ascetic; someone who approaches shiny new hardware with utmost restraint, and only gives in when faced with a bona fide bargain. So when I spotted an Xbox Series S going for £125 (that’s around $148 and exactly half its RRP) on Facebook, the discount detection center of my brain was sent into overdrive. How could I say no?
Actually, there were a lot of reasons to be skeptical. While eBay and the more regulated secondhand marketplaces of the internet have largely routed scammers from their platforms, the same isn’t true for all of them. Facebook Marketplace, like Gumtree and others of its ilk, are wilder by comparison. Unscrupulous sellers lurk behind unbelievably attractive prices, waiting to sell you faux products or run more elaborate cons.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve asked if an item was still available, only to be told the seller would happily post it to my address upon receipt of payment. They couldn’t meet in person, of course, because their mother was sick, or they had briefly moved out of the country, or their ravenous dog would tear any approaching strangers to shreds.
And the reverse is true, too. When trying to sell a guitar on Gumtree, I was spun a genuinely impressive multi-threaded saga involving oil rigs, Scottish nationalism and high import duties, all in an effort to dupe me into wiring money directly into their bank account.
I fully expected to face the same brick wall this time around, but a quick back-and-forth with the seller showed they were serious. No nefarious swindling with this Xbox – only a tantalizing discount. Despite the overly protective warning from a friend that “they still might stab you” when I arrived to pick up the console – a risk that, really, applies to anyone, in any circumstance, at any time – I was set.
But buying second-hand hardware isn’t as simple as it once was. Gone are the days when you could plug in a console and throw in a clean disc to check it was all working. Now, there’s a host of problems to detect.
Chief among them is the possibility that the console’s been hit with a hidden ban. While Sony and Microsoft have been suspending the online accounts of unsavory players for years, both the Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One can now be banned on a device level. Commit a particularly atrocious sin, and a black mark will be put against your console’s hardware, permanently blocking it from connecting to the Xbox network.
Similarly, you can’t be certain it’s in the pristine condition you had expected. While it may glisten on the outside, the gubbins within could have been tampered with. Its accompanying controller may sport a faulty analog stick, or a wonky charging port. That’s not to mention the slew of other, less discernible problems that might arise. When I scored a cheap PS4 a year ago – again, from the depths of Facebook Marketplace – it was only when I booted up God of War in my living room that I realized its internal cooling fan ran at a volume to rival a jet engine.
All of which points to the importance of hands-on testing. You can check the console hasn’t been banned at a hardware level by trying to log into the Xbox network. Give the controller the thrill of its life by pressing all the buttons. Make sure the disc drive works, and the cooling fans don’t threaten to deafen your neighbors, by booting up a game. There’s no greater consumerist thrill than bagging a bargain, and no larger disappointment than finding it’s not what you expected. Put the console through its paces before handing over any money.
Does all this excitement around cheap second-hand hardware make me sound miserly? Perhaps. Judicious, too? I’d like to think so. After bagging the Xbox and waltzing home to set it up, I can safely say the most demanding part of the whole experience was the small talk. What do you say to someone whose house you’ve entered only for a transaction? I opted for the weather. That, and how much goddamn use I was going to get out of this Xbox Series S I was buying for pennies.