Friday, December 28, 2007

The Truth Behind Costco Cash-For-Gadgets Program [Costco]

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I learned about Costco's money-for-gadgets recycling program
, I
got excited. I calculated estimates for some old gadgets lying
around my apartment, and I started looking forward to the $122
bonus that would surely come my way in time for the holidays.
Nearly two months later, the estimate has been revised to $50, and
I'm still waiting for the gift card. I can safely report that the
truth was not nearly as good as the promise. Here's what I've been
through so far:

• On October 29, I filled out forms to recycle a Treo 650,
an Xbox and a PSP. Costco promised free shipping, and said that
between the three gadgets I could expect $155 ($72, $33 and $50,

• Later that day I received my first bit of bad news: I
wouldn't be getting prepaid boxes like I assumed. Instead, I was
e-mailed shipping labels to print out and told that I would need to
box and package the gadgets myself.

• By November 6, I rounded up boxes for the Treo and PSP.
(I decided to skip out on sending the Xbox.) I had to drop off the
packages at the closest UPS store. This was also something I did
not expect to do, but when I called UPS for a pickup of the prepaid
packages, they told me it would cost an additional $10 for each
package, a cost I wasn't about to pay.

• I sat and waited. And sat. And waited. A full month
passed before I received any response.

• Finally, on December 5, I got an e-mail with the
inspection results for the Treo. To my surprise, Costco and I
didn't see eye to eye on its condition. Claiming display and case
defects, they gave me bitchslap of a revised quote: $0. I did a
little poking around and found that this wasn't just insulting, it
was wrong: using their online calculator with their condition
judgment, I still should've been handed $18.

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• Two days after that, my PSP quote came. Only it was for
an Xbox. And the value was reduced to $29. Apparently I used the
nearly identical but wrong shipping label. Is this my fault,
though? How can these inspectors know the value of products right
down to the penny if they can't even tell the difference between a
bulky console from Microsoft and a slim portable from Sony?

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• Naturally I called Costco to figure out these two
significant problems. After two days of phone tag, they confirmed
that I had in fact sent in a PSP, and it was worth the full value
of $50. However, the Treo really was more thrashed than the online
estimate tool could even calculate, and it was still worth nothing.
The representative gave me the option of returning it, but I would
have to pay them $10! The other choice was that they would recycle
it for "free". I decided to cut my losses and sent the old girl to
Treo heaven.

• When the final estimation was calculated, Costco said I
would receive a $50 gift card in the mail. After 2 ½ weeks, I'm
still waiting. Ho ho ho.

The moral of the story is simple: gadget recycling is a useful
and beneficial service at a time when most electronics end up in
landfills—EPA estimates put discarded cell phones at 130
million every year—but don't go into the Costco program
expecting a large cash reward or a painless experience. I will
allow that my Treo was in worse condition than I reported, and that
was a mistake. Try to be completely honest in the evaluation. I
can't fault Costco for wanting to knock off dinero from my original
trumped-up estimate.

If you are looking for riches in exchange for your gear, your
best bet is still probably eBay, and if you just want to keep your
stuff from the garbage, there are plenty of charities that will
gladly accept phones. If you want a bit of cash, you might try
Costco, but that's not the same as saying that I recommend it, cuz
I don't. ["">Costco,
Mobile Recycling


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