This takes place a couple of Christmases ago, when I went back home. One of the boots I attend when I’m back at home is an indoor boot that only runs in the colder months of the year.
The boot itself is primarily traders, although there are a few stands run by your average Joe. Stalls are spread across two (sometimes, when it’s warmer and busier, three) floors of what I can only assume is a dilapidated warehouse of some form. It isn’t uncommon to dodge buckets in the middle of the aisle, strategically placed to catch drips from the leaky roof. It’s a strange atmosphere but there are some bargains to be had here, so when I can (and usually when my outdoor boots are called off due to weather) I take a trip down.
One such Sunday morning after Christmas, I braved the treacherous conditions and drove down to this boot. All you need to know about the journey there is that I’d never driven in snow and ice before, and thank god my car has ABS or I’d have probably been hit by a bus en route. I encountered a stand full of phones, games consoles and laptop bits, the usual hallmarks of a trader.
Piled on a table were two stacks of about 5 laptops each. Naturally I had a rummage through, and three machines caught my eye: An MSI netbook with a detached hinge and hideous stickers on the lid, a Sony Vaio which had one of the most destroyed keyboards I’ve seen and I later learned, a cracked LCD, and a smart little Lenovo ThinkPad X60. I have a soft spot for these little ThinkPads, I once acquired an X31 missing its top half, so I duly bought one, and my mother used it for about 2 years or so before I sold it on. With some bartering, I got the Vaio for £10 and the MSI for £5. I left the ThinkPad for that week, as it was priced at £25 and was untested. My intention was to fix up the Vaio and steal the hard drive and RAM from the MSI for another machine I had in stock.
Back in the safety of home and armed with screwdrivers and coffee, I set to work seeing what could be done. The Vaio, despite being marked as untested, appeared to work other than its original faults, and it eventually booted into its XP installation with an external monitor hooked up. Not the quickest machine in the world, but a 1.66GHz Pentium dual core with 1GB RAM and a 100GB hard drive would still have netted me a good £50-70. Bonus points for the DVD-rewriter, webcam and battery that held a charge would have ensured the higher end of that estimate.
However, eBay revealed that the cost of a keyboard would be about £30-40, and the screen a similar amount. The MSI was a similar crapshoot, due to soldered RAM, but this gave up its 160GB hard drive for the other machine (an Acer Aspire 5920, see next paragraph!) and was then given to one of my contacts in my uni town alongside another machine, funnily enough, the same Acer!
While I remember, I’ll write about the 5920. This was bought from a uni town car boot for £10 missing its RAM and hard drive. 2GB was put in, alongside the 160GB drive, and was sold for £50 to a contact of mine. It then died, but this wasn’t picked up on until a long while after. As I’m not a total bastard, I refunded him £40 and let him keep the rest for spares.
I went back the next week, after New Year’s, to see if I could get a machine with a donor screen for the Vaio, and to see what I could do about the price on the ThinkPad. Previously I had seen some 15.4″ HPs in the pile that could have donated screens, but before I could look for those I spotted a couple of new additions in the pile, so went straight for them. One was a Packard Bell, 15.4″, with a severely gouged lid and in need of a damn good clean, marked as untested. I took a punt on that, and negotiated down to £10 from £20 after giving the seller an endorsement while she was attempting to sell an Xbox to an unsure buyer. I then managed to get the ThinkPad down to £15.
Back home, and problem one: My universal charger doesn’t fit the ThinkPad, I can’t test it. Shit. This is the first laptop in the 4 years I’ve owned the charger that I couldn’t use it on. As a sidenote, that universal charger was the best £10 I ever spent. Yes, £10, bought it from Ebuyer, Xenta own brand one, never let me down until that moment! But wait, it fits the Packard Bell… for kicks, let’s turn it on shall we? Oh. It works perfectly and after a wipe down, aside from the lid is in pretty good condition. Sure, it’s a Vista laptop running 1GB of RAM, why manufacturers thought this would be acceptable I will never know, and it’s only an 80GB hard drive, but the condition and the hour-long battery life made it a good candidate to sell on.
Back at university, and oh look, in my spares box is a charger for the Packard Bell. Paid around £5 for the charger in a lot of them on a boot a few months prior. My usual contact, new custodian of the MSI and the previously mentioned Acer, agreed to swap the Vaio for a charger that would fit the ThinkPad, so this deal was done, and the ThinkPad turned out to be fully working as well! The slow 40GB drive with XP Pro was removed and replaced with a spare 60GB I had from a stripped machine, the RAM was upped from 1 to 2GB thanks to some cheap sticks of DDR2 at our local CEX store, and Windows was loaded on. The machine later sold for £60 to a grateful lady who collected.
The Packard Bell sold a few weeks later for £30 to a lowballing Gumtreer. I had it listed at £50, but given the condition of the lid and the low specs, £50 was a bit of a long shot anyway.
Total Profits made:
Vaio – £10 = Breakeven (swapped for charger worth roughly £10)
ThinkPad – £15 + £4 for the RAM, £10 item swapped for charger, sold for £60 = £29 spend, £31 profit
MSI – £5 = £5 loss, given away after HDD removed.
Packard Bell – £10 + £5 for the charger, sold for £30 = £15 spend, £15 profit
Total spend across all four machines was £59, total made was £90, so an overall profit of £31. Not too shabby for four laptops another trader had pretty much discarded!
And as for the Acer, £10 purchase price, £5 for the HDD (effectively the price of the MSI), £5 for a hard drive caddy, £10 for a charger, sold for £50 = £30 spend, £20 profit. Let’s ignore the fact that it died shortly after selling and I ended up refunding £40!