Monday, 26 January 2015

Cry Freedom!

Perception is everything of course.

In IT recycling terms, once you perceive that what you are getting shot of is just waste, the problem tends to be simplified. Jane Taylor, eReco’s MD, and I discussed this at some length the other day. It would have been a coffee machine debate, but we don’t have one. Anyway, Jane said she had spent years trying to convince people it was not waste.

And from her perspective, she is right of course. We are in the business of extending life, of using the bits again, of remarketing and recycling. It is our green side, and it is important. Sustainability is important and we should never undermine that simple fact.

But that does not mean that we are dealing with incredibly valuable assets. We are not. We are dealing with the stuff a particular business does not want anymore, and in most cases that means quite old, well used or even broken kit.

I priced a job this morning. 300 kilograms of broken kit. Our customer knew it was rubbish. She knew there were some data bearing items, and she knew it was worth very little. And it was a real junk mountain. When we collect it tomorrow I am sure she will be glad to see the back of it. It was all done and dusted in a flurry of emails.

Another prospect had some PC’s. One 8 years old and one 4 years old, plus a few other bits and pieces. He was hoping he could get some money back. Really. Humming and hahing doesn’t do the process justice.

Do I blame someone for looking for the cheaper option? Not really. Well, obviously there is the sales part of me that hates losing any job, ever, but sometimes you have to be realistic. We operate nationally but small jobs in an area we do not go to regularly for anything else do sometimes get a bit wince-worthy. 

But it is the perception of value that annoys me.

My first ever work desk top was a 264k Dell. The iPhone 4 in my pocket is 8gb and that is now too small to take the latest Apple operating system without removing all my songs and apps. Time moves on, things become obsolete, and therefore this is waste.

We are disposing of ‘stuff’. In my not so humble opinion we have 3 things to think about: data security, sustainability and cost. People are blasé about the first one because they never think they will get caught out, a portion of society will always ignore sustainability and so we are just left with the third one.

Any person’s reaction to one of our quotes is directly related to their perceived value of the stuff they are disposing of. They do not think of what we have to do to their waste. They think any old supplier will deal with their data. All they think about is getting ripped off.

Or someone has offered to collect it for free. The assumption is that the value of the waste will pay for the collection and disposal.

So let’s think about free. Let’s think about what we have to do for free. Collection means a van, with diesel, a driver, a second driver, road tax, insurance. We send two guys for security purposes and to help load. I have done some back of an envelope calculations and I cannot see that costing less than £250 a day.

Then you have to have a warehouse and it has to be secure. In order to keep your data safe, security and process are important. We track every device from the moment we get it home. We give waste transfer notices when we collect, asset lists when we track it in and certificates of destruction for your data, as the law says we must. Yes, a lot of this is mostly automated but it still costs money to do.

Then we have to actually wipe the data. Man, time, paperwork. And only at this point do we really know if the kit is worth anything.

If it is not, the only way to make any money is not to do much of the above. You collect it and you sell it on to one of the many people who export used IT kit to other markets. £200 a pallet and sod the environment. But is the data safe? Do you get your paperwork? Is it going to come back and bite you on the proverbial?

So if someone offers you a free collection, ask yourself what costs he is going to cover with your old kit? It does not take a genius to work out the potential value. You know if it is a beaten up old Ford or a pristine, one driver BMW polished to a permanent shine.

Usually the only way to make ‘free’ pay is to cut corners on the service. And it’s the service you need in the end.