Since buying and acquiring old computers isn’t generally something you can do at your local store, shipping is frequently a part of the process. For small items sent domestically, via ground services, this isn’t usually a big expense. But for international addresses or heavy items, shipping costs can quickly add up to a large fraction of the purchase or sale price – a key factor for items which may not be worth much in the first place.
I recently sold a couple spare Apple Lisa systems on eBay (I now have just one left in the collection). The first, sold last fall, included an internal hard drive and weighed in at a chunky 48 pounds. I had included $75 for shipping fees on eBay, and that was about right. My local UPS store was able to pack and ship the item from Boston to New York City for about $80.
This week I sold another non-working system as a parts machine. This one was missing both the hard drive and floppy drive, so it tipped the scales at a svelte 40 pounds. It was going further this time to Tenessee but weighed less, so I expected roughly the same costs. Much to my surprise I was quoted between $125 and $140 for packing and shipping; just the shipping alone, I was told, would be $80. This from the same UPS store I went to before! I was stunned at the cost increase.
Unwilling to lose money on the sale, I huffed out of the store (literally – those Lisas are heavy) to find a cheaper alternative. It wasn’t hard: a suitably sized box and roll of bubble wrap set me back $25 at OfficeMax, and I was able to use up all the packing peanuts I’ve acquired at home. The next day I shipped it via FedEx Ground for only $46. Much more reasonable.
Lessons learned from the experience:
– seriously factor shipping costs into your sales or purchase calculations
– always pack items yourself for the lowest cost (pretty obvious)
– do not take as final the prices quoted by shipping counter employees
The UPS website later showed the shipping cost for my item to be under $50. Caveat Emptor, indeed.