Things can change quickly in the tech business. One minute, you’ve got a perfectly state-of-the-art tablet in the form of Apple’s iPad. The next, Apple comes out with a lighter, thinner model and suddenly that original iPad doesn’t look so state-of-the-art anymore.
That was the boat I found myself in after Apple unveiled the iPad 2. I was looking for a way to replace my original iPad with its successor, when Gazelle contacted me with an offer to try its electronic resale service. Like NextWorth and YouRenew, Gazelle is among a handful of new online electronics resellers—or “recommerce” companies, as some call themselves. In Gazelle’s case, the company employs a business model similar to the used CD shops of yore, except Gazelle deals in the 21st century’s hot resale commodity: gadgets. The idea is that, instead of taking your chances on potentially fraudulent eBay buyers or Craigslist’s fierce and occasionally insulting bargain hunters, you can hand your gadgets off to Gazelle, get a guaranteed price quote up front, and ultimately trade some of your resale value in exchange for convenience and a good night’s sleep.
But how convenient is the service? I decided to give it a shot and share my experience with Macworld readers who might be looking to unload their own aging electronics. Fortunately, gambling with my fairly expensive gadget in the name of Macworld went pretty well.
At Gazelle’s Website, you can list your devices for resale, answer a few plain English questions about the condition of goods, and get a price quote that’s guaranteed for 30 days. I listed that my 64GB iPad 3G + Wi-Fi (original retail price: $830) had “normal wear and tear”—just short of “no noticeable flaws” but above “functional or physical problems”—because it slipped out of a bag once and right onto concrete. This at-the-time-not-so-minor incident earned the aluminum side a few battle scuffs, but fortunately no cracked glass.
Three sub-categories appeared under the “normal wear and tear” heading: “Serious wear like cracks, numerous heavy scratches, or dents,” “Moderate wear and tear, such as deep scratches or nicks,” and “Slight wear such as faint scratches or scuffs.” I chose the middle option. I also specified that I had the original box and all cables, which helped improve the quote I got from Gazelle.
I placed my listing on the same day Apple announced the iPad 2—a good move as it turns out. Katie Cowie, a marketing associate with Gazelle, tells me that placing a listing early is a prime time for getting a good price on a hot item like the iPad. Gazelle gave me a $510 quote for my original iPad—not bad considering the ding for the physical damage.
Of course, before getting my hands on that $510, Gazelle would need to get its hands on my iPad. Gazelle gave me the option of printing out a prepaid shipping label that I would attach to a box of my own or waiting for a prepaid shipping box that the company would send to me. Upon receiving my iPad, Gazelle would check the tablet against my claim of “good” condition; if the tablet passed muster, the company would then send along the agreed amount through a PayPal transaction.
Since I wanted the full experience for this article (and because I didn’t have a good box handy), I selected the prepaid shipping box option. Then I waited—for quite a while, as it turns out. Right before the iPad 2’s March 11 launch, I began worrying that I had missed some fine print or gotten lost in Gazelle’s shipping queue. Either way, I almost surely had to go to Plan B: persuade my wife to let me put some of the purchase price for an iPad 2 on a credit card until I could sort this all out. After all, Gazelle guaranteed my quoted price for 30 days, so I had some room for error… right, honey?
To check on the delay, I contacted Gazelle’s Twitter account, which the company (like many others these days) uses for customer interaction, support, and, of course, self-promotion. I quickly received a reply from Katie that my box had inexplicably gotten stuck in an Illinois post office en route to my Chicago apartment, but the U.S. Postal Service couldn’t tell us anything more. After a couple more days of waiting, I decided I couldn’t wait anymore, so I fell back on the box-it-yourself option. I printed the prepaid label, emptied a box from our basement storage, and set off for my local post office. The no-show of Gazelle’s prepaid box was irksome and delayed things a bit, but it seems like that snag was out of the company’s hands.
Four business days after I shipped off my tablet, Gazelle e-mailed to say it had received the package and would inspect it soon. The next day, I had Gazelle’s final answer: my iPad did indeed meet my “normal wear and tear” rating and, despite the delay and the post-iPad-2 time frame, I would receive the original price I was quoted. Two days later, a PayPal notice confirmed that Gazelle had held up its end of the bargain; my full payment had arrived.
All in all, my Gazelle experience took 21 days, from the day I signed up to the day the money arrived in my PayPal account. My transaction with the company came to a satisfying end, and my iPad was on its way to a new home. Of course, there was a significant postal delay in there, so if we start the clock from the day I manually shipped my iPad myself, the turnaround was only seven days.
But what does Gazelle do with all the ousted electronics it collects? Kristina Kennedy, communications representative for Gazelle, explained that 90 percent of the items sold to Gazelle are in working, re-sellable condition, and the company’s two primary resale points are its eBay store and Amazon.com. She also said Gazelle sells to a variety of third-parties including business partners, international wholesalers, and education equipment providers, though she declined to share any actual organization names. About 5 percent of the items Gazelle receives are only good for parts, while the final 5 percent are “truly end of life products” that Gazelle sends to Cloud Blue, an E-Stewards-certified recycling company in Indianapolis.
If you’d rather donate your cash from used gadgets to a good cause, Gazelle offers a “send my money to a charity” option. As an individual, you can donate your bounty to nearly 40 organizations that Gazelle partners with, including the Boy Scouts of America, the Environmental Defense Fund, Fund for Teachers, and the American Red Cross. If you’re trying to raise money for an organization, though, you can set up a Gazelle for Good drive to which people can donate their old gadgets and raise money for your cause. Any person or organization can sign up for Gazelle for Good with any purpose in mind, but to deter shady behavior, Gazelle publicizes the payee name or receiving organization—a requirement for registration.
Watch your back
However you decide to get rid of your old iPad, you will most likely want to erase it to make sure any private data stored on the tablet stays private—advice that goes for any device on which you store sensitive data, including your smartphone and notebook. In the case of iOS devices, you can easily wipe any data off them by going to Settings -> General -> Reset. There you will see an “Erase All Content and Settings” option. After you’ve backed up all your essentials, tap this button to reset your iPad to its factory settings, removing all your data, apps, and media.
If you decide to use Gazelle or a similar service, you should take steps to make sure you’re doing business with a legitimate outfit. A simple trip to the Better Business Bureau’s Website can help you verify that the business actually exists. (For example, check out Gazelle’s page). Looking for reviews and customer experiences at other reputable Websites can also ease any concerns.
The happy customer
Overall, my Gazelle experience was surprisingly smooth. The Website was extremely simple to work with, and the shipping options removed the logistical complications of sending my my iPad to Gazelle. I should point out that, if you give the company a shot now, you probably won’t get the same quote I did, since a good portion of the demand for a tablet has shifted to the hard-to-find iPad 2.
But a quick perusal of eBay shows that the original iPad is still selling well, and at notably higher prices than what I am currently seeing from Gazelle. If you want top dollar and are willing to sell your iPad yourself, an outlet like eBay or Craigslist might be a good option. No matter where you offload an in-demand gadget like the iPad, though, a few good habits will always help bolster your resale value, such as taking care of your electronics (my aforementioned bag slip notwithstanding) and hanging on to all of your original equipment, including the box. When sending my first-generation iPad in to Gazelle, I actually included the brand new, still-wrapped power adapter and headphones from my iPad 2’s box.
Gazelle’s strength lies in its polished convenience, including the plain-English product listing process, the flexible pre-paid shipping options, and fast processing. The plethora of organizations that you can optionally donate to are also welcome. If you don’t feel like bothering with the likes of eBay, Gazelle is certainly a worthwhile alternative.
[David Chartier is an associate editor at Macworld.]