Scraping roadkill off the Information Superhighway since 1995!

Public Service Announcement To Those Selling Computers On Craigslist

Date/Time Permalink: 07/05/09 04:28:56 am
Category: Reviews

Hello, I am a geek. I am your market.

Look around. See anybody else with me? It's just me. I can say this because business users buy their computers through other businesses. And the non-geek home users only feel secure buying their computer the same place you did.

It's just me. And I'm exploiting my position on purpose.

I am, in fact, the most arrogant, condescending, self-important, insufferable computer geek you have ever met. I will dispense with the list of my credentials - suffice it to say that as far as you're concerned or will ever be able to comprehend, I make lightning shoot out of my fingers, have scrolling program code in my eyeballs, and can tell you what Google dreams about in its sleep.

My sole interest in your machine is to wipe its hard drive, exorcise the Demons of Microsoft from it, install GNU/Linux or BSD on it (or something else you've never heard of) and add it to my growing hacker den of a home network.

Even without the building-up-my-power part, scraping consumer garbage off of every computer I can get my hands on and installing Linux on it is something I like to do anyway, even if I'm not going to use said computer. It's how I mark my territory.

Here's a few tips on getting me interested in your dusty old stuff:

(1) No used computer, unless it's only movable by forklift, is worth more than $200. I don't care if you bought it today. It's used now, and I could build one just like it from parts for $200. Therefore, to make your complete system as attractive to me as one I could build from brand-new parts, it has to be priced at $199 or less. The cash savings to me are a side-benefit of not having to order parts and wait for them to ship, plus labor.

(2) No used mobile device is worth more than $50. Laptops, phones, PDAs, media players, etc. That's because these devices are not (generally) designed to be disassembled and reused for interchangeable parts, so either it's useful as a whole to me or it's trash. Most mobiles lack the raw power that I need.

(3) Monitors, by themselves, are worth: Nothing! El zippo! Nada! Corporations give monitors away by the dumpster-full! Better monitors than what you have are what those tall office buildings downtown have to pay $20 each to dispose of, because of the environmental impact.

(4) Other parts, by themselves: Usually not worth much. Keyboard, mouse, speakers, external drives: $0. Other peripherals might be worth a $20.

(5) Any - ANY ANY ANY - computer or computer-related electronic equipment which is older than fifteen years is worth ZERO. The exception is the rare collector's item (NExT cubes, Amigas, BeBoxes, some PDP/Vaxen) which are far too rare for finding on Craigslist, anyway.

(6) I don't give a thin damn what software you have installed on it. That's all going to become blank disk sectors five seconds after I get my hands on it. I hope you made your final peace with your precious Bonzi Buddy, because it's going to the Great Bit Bucket in the Sky.

(7) Brands that are NOT hot items: eMachines. Compaqs. Gateways. When I see brand names like this, I think about welfare checks and trailer parks. It is not something to brag about to say that your computer is an eMachines. eMachines are the kind of thing they give away in a box of cereal.

I say all this because... Here's some quotes from a day last week:

* "Apple Macintosh Plus, External Drive, Keyboard, Mouse + - $90" - From what, 1987? Its only value is nostalgic entertainment, which is worth driving over to pick up for free if you live really close.
* "Laptop Battery - $10" - That's it, the battery? Did you find it on the ground?
* "Great Gift for Dad WD Elements External Hard Drive 750 GB NEW - $100" - If my kid blew a Franklin buying me a tiny piece of a computer, I'd be stricken with grief for having raised such a fool.
* "Apple Macbook- Barely Used! - $900" - I just checked Google and found one for $609 from GainSaver - BRAND NEW AND WITH BETTER SPECS THAN THE ONE IN THE AD! And speaking of specs, this ad had "McCafee Virus Scan [sic]"... I'm wondering if this person even knows for a fact what they have. Maybe it reboots when you turn it upside down and shake it.

What's gotten into everybody all of a sudden?

This never used to be a problem. I used to find second-hand machines on Craigslist, get them, rehabilitate them in the name of Truth, Justice, and the Linux Way, and sleep happy knowing I saved another space in our overcrowded landfills and helped reduce the collective carbon footprint.

Then the US economy crashed, and, apparently, the new fad is to dumpster-dive and pick through your neighbor's trash, saving every rotten banana peel and moldy cantaloupe rind you find to try to sell on Craigslist or eBay. Anything free, even dirt, gets snatched up and taken down, reappearing minutes later with a new ad: "Top Quality Fill Dirt - $50/pound!!!"

I'm picturing a late-night infomercial driving this. Somewhere, there's a pitch called something like "$ecret 2 Riche$", charging suckers forty beans a pop to find out how they can "turn trash into treasure" - make up to $500,000/week! Hoarding - it used to be a mental illness, but now it's an exciting new business plan! It's that buzzard who does those "Video Professor" computer-training DVDs, isn't it?

Anyway, sorry, no, you cannot get rich selling trash. Scavengers are a non-exploitable demographic. What they do is just give up on reading any ads for a while and go back to dumpster-diving themselves. For further enlightenment, consult the law of Supply and Demand.

high supply low demand

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