Thursday, 22 January 2015

ITAD and the 10cc Back Catalogue

The things we do for 10cc once memorably sang...but clearly I mean the things that we do to make a buck, as it were. Because despite all our focus on sexy IT equipment and all the dangers of data breaches, at the end of the day we are removing ‘waste’, something that is no long needed by the current owner, for whatever reason.

The dictionary definition of waste = (of a material, substance, or by-product) eliminated or discarded as no longer useful or required after the completion of a process. So there you have it, we deal in waste, and we try to get it back out there doing something useful.

But the thing most people forget is that for every shiny Apple Mac discarded which a recycling business can most certainly sell on for a tidy sum, there are van loads of old tat, bits of packaging, wood and metal, seriously old PC’s, broken monitors etc.

Whenever I see a special offer I look for the weasel words. You know what I mean...that lovely new mobile comes with unlimited data but only between the hours of 1am and 5am. The rest of the time you pay. So yes, I am a jaundiced old cynic, but usually I am proved right. There are hidden nasty surprises and you have to consider them before signing on the dotted line.

Most of the special offers in the IT recycling sector revolve around ‘free’ collections. Normally to get one you have to have (a) a lot of stuff, and (b) old tat does not count. So what these loveable souls are really saying is we want anything with a resale value but no old tat. They will take the old tat if there is enough good stuff, but reluctantly, and when the van comes it is not unusual for the drivers to refuse stuff.

Two things come to my mind. Firstly, are they offering any cash back? And secondly, how much is it costing the clients to get rid of the stuff they don’t take? Because the old tat still has to go.

A reputable ITAD service provider charges because we have costs. In the real world, well away from Arthur Daley’s lock up, you have to pay drivers, road tax, diesel, etc. You have to have a secure warehouse facility, and the processes needed to be followed to comply with various ISO’s and ADISA requirements are arduous and costly. You have to have considerable insurance to protect clients against disaster. And cleaning, testing and selling kit on costs money too.

For many reasons, pricing is an art not a science. Whenever I talk to a customer, I try to impart a bit of realism into conversations. In many cases, that old PC you remember paying an arm and a leg for is now the modern equivalent of a Betamax video recorder, or indeed a video recorder. It is too slow and out of date to be of much value. So you might have 300 of them but they are not worth a light so yes, you are going to have to pay to get rid of them.

But there are gems hidden away there. The trick is identifying them, valuing them and then working out how best to deal with the customer. Because a lot of the costs here are indefinable. How much work will we have to do to get those printers operational again? How many of those monitors will pass a PAT test? How long is a piece of string?

The best of our customers appreciate all this and are probably also more concerned about being totally data safe. Most know that over the course of a year or two they will give us some good kit but they also get us to take their tat too. We never cherry pick. We never leave anything behind. And our guys have been known to dismantle desks, take down shelves and clean up after themselves.

The reality of life is that recycling is going to cost 99% of businesses money. 

Some wash their faces with remarketing revenue, but they are the ones who are refreshing regularly because their activities demand it. The vast majority of people pay a little and do some good. Many are not concerned about getting a few quid back as long as they are data safe and they get good service.

So what will we do for love? Just about anything. We certainly walk in the rain and the snow to pick up that last piece of racking and even if we do think a part of us is dying we will still take that rain soaked pile of old terminals from your outdoor cage. When the next person offers to collect your stuff for free, ask yourself whether they will go that extra mile to watch your back?

Art for art’s sake, money for God’s sake. And remember, the ICO is NOT firing Rubber Bullets!