How to Get High-End Electronics with One Simple Question
My friend Mandy became the proud owner of a Mac PowerBook G4 in perfect condition, without spending a single cent. She's also come into a Canon digital camera, a Dali lithograph, a house full of antique furniture, and plenty more, all completely free. And the only thing she had to do was ask for them.
She explained the concept to me: "Anything that gets updated regularly (a computer, a digital camera, a phone, an iPod) you can get for free easily because a new and cooler version comes out and your friends replace their version -- even though it works fine." For example, she estimates that most people get a new computer about every 3 years. "If you have 36 friends, about one of them replaced a perfectly good computer this month. All you have to do is find that one." Just mention to a handful of people that you're in the market for a new computer, but you're short on funds. Even if they don't have one to offer, the next time one of their friends tells them they just got a new computer, they might just do the footwork for you.
It works even better with cell phones. People are constantly replacing them, but there's not much profit in selling the old ones. So they end up lying around, gathering dust. People are happy to unload them onto you.
I know firsthand that this works. A recent mugging left me with neither a cell phone nor a digital camera. My cell is my primary number, and I depend heavily on my digital camera for my food blog, so this was a fairly devastating loss. I sent an email to 65 of my closest friends (yep, it pays to be connected), asking if anyone had one lying around, either unlocked or locked to my provider. Along with an abundance of good wishes, I got 6 offers for a loaner phone, and by that night, I had not one but two free cell phones in my hands!
But it doesn't even take hordes of contacts -- sometimes one person is all you need. A couple weeks back, a friend asked about my blog, and I told him that, sadly it was losing its mojo due to lack of camera. I wasn't even soliciting, but to my amazement and deep gratitude, he offered to loan me a camera for a year. Not a crappy one either: a 7.2 megapixel Cybershot, along with a 2-gig memory stick, and he even bought a charger to replace the one an old roommate had taken. That one kind act saved me hundreds of dollars. See that? Unbridled generosity, all for just telling a friend what you'd like to have.
And that's the other thing about it. People want to give you their stuff. Even though they've got the newer, fancier version, there's nothing wrong with last year's model. So your friends feel good that their castoffs are actually getting some use -- it alleviates a certain guilt, making them feel less wasteful and more generous. Top it off with a sweet thank-you card, and you'll make your friends feel truly magnanimous.
The list of items Mandy has acquired in this way is quite impressive: in addition to the PowerBook, the camera, the Dali litho, and the furniture, she's also nabbed clothes (fancy threads from cutting-edge-fashionista friends), a bed (from a friend who couldn't take it along when he moved cross-country), a high-end duvet -- unused, antique glassware, art, vases, books, and more. She told me "I think i just listed everything I own. No, seriously."
Seriously, this tactic is a win-win. As Mandy tells us, there's no need to go to sources where you have to pay for electronics, like eBay or CraigsList. "Your lazy, well-meaning friends are a much better source for the goods you crave." All you have to do is ask.