Question from Melina: I have a question that I’ve been wondering about for a while now.
I know that computer repair shops must end up with a lot of older computers that the customers don’t want returned to them.
What do the shops do with those old computers?
Rick’s answer: That’s a great question, Melina. And the answer is “pretty much anything and everything”!
If an abandoned computer is in working condition they’ll evaluate it to determine if it has any significant value as a working computer.
If it does they have several options available to them (based upon what I’ve witnessed over the years):
1 – They can clean it up (both physically and digitally) and put it up for sale.
Believe it or not, there is still a thriving market for used computer gear.
They can either sell the machine locally right out of the shop or list it for sale on Ebay or Craigslist.
2 – They can donate it to a charitable organization or perhaps to a needy family.
3 – If they have a use for it they can keep it and put it to use themselves, either in the shop or at home.
If a computer isn’t in working condition they’ll evaluate it in order to determine if the cost of a repair would still leave room for some kind of decent profit on its sale.
If so, they’ll make the repair and list it for sale. If not, they’ll either sell the entire machine for scrap or cull the working parts from it.
If they end up stripping the machine for parts they can either keep those parts for a rainy day (they can often be used to repair other non-working computers) or put them up for sale.
If the machine is destined for the scrap yard a reputable shop will either wipe the hard drive or remove it from the computer and destroy it to ensure the security of the previous owner’s data.
By the way, you’re right about shops ending up with lots of abandoned computer gear. It doesn’t happen every day, but over time they can really pile up.
Some customers simply don’t want the equipment back if they learn that the repair will cost more than they’re willing to pay or if the repair cost would exceed the value of the computer.
Other folks simply never return to pick up their computers for whatever reason.
On some occasions the “abandoners” will call and tell the shop to just keep the machine, but many folks that decide to abandon their computers simply never show up or call at all.
Regardless of how a shop ends up in possession of a piece of abandoned gear there are laws and regulations they must follow before assuming ownership of the machines.
State laws regarding the handling and retention of abandoned property vary quite a bit as do the policies the various shops have printed on their service orders.
All repair shops must follow the laws of their state in regards to making one or more attempts to contact the customer and holding the item for a set period of time, but after they have met their legal and contractual obligations any abandoned computer gear becomes theirs to do with as they wish.
There you have it, Melina. Thanks again for a great question!