I'm in the same boat as I can't decide which to get for my daughter. The deal at Microcenter is for a NEW iPad 2 and not refurbished. Either way it's a pretty good deal so you just gotta ask yourself if it's worth $40 to get new over refurbished.
That's why I don't buy from Ebayer's who list as "New-See Other Details". It's a shame that retailers do this as well. It's like Gamestop selling opened games and sold as New that employees have taken it home to play.Save the money go refurb and use the extra case for a case of some other accessory.
I'd rather buy a refurb from Apple than used or refurbed from someone else.
FWIW, the ones from Microcenter are brand new units. They're just $40 off the $399 list price. $360 new vs $319 refurb, I'd likely go with the refurb and save $43 (6% sales tax), but it'd depend on whether $43 was worth picking it up on the way home vs. ordering and waiting for it to be delivered.
I'd be surprised if a national retailer consistently did as you claim; since this practice is illegal, I'd expect they'd get slapped by the FTC pretty quickly. Have you filed any complaints?
I've bought stuff from them for fifteen years (I'm a couple miles from a store) and have never encountered anything sold as new that wasn't. Refurbs and open-box items have always been clearly marked as such. The openbox MBP I bought a couple years ago had even been wiped/restaged by the tech dept before being made available.
Like I said retailers such as Gamestop are notorious for passing used items as new. Newegg.com has now begun doing this as well, check resellerratings.com.
I prefer not to trust retailers as I would with buying a refurb from Apple where they specifically state in writing what they do to their refurbed iPad's.
In any event, it's trivially easy for someone buying an ipad to confirm for sure what they got from Microcenter is new: Just plug in the serial # on Apple.com and see when the warranty started.