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Cash-strapped consumers

NNBW Staff

Cash For Laptops wants you to clean out your closet for cash.

Since the recession sent people scrambling to replace lost income, the Sparks recycling company has seen a spike in business. January and February brought a 35 percent increase and March another 20 percent, says General Manager Becky Wright.

To handle the onslaught, it’s increased staff at the Sparks facility to a dozen, up from five last October. Wright says, “I’m interviewing constantly.”

The company pays around $175 for the average laptop, but up to $700 for some better models. Sellers type product specs into an online form and get back a price quote. If they choose to proceed, Cash For Laptops sends out a postage paid shipping box, to be sent back via UPS.

Sellers must access a separate site for various devices: Laptops at cashforlaptops.com, iPhones at cashforiphones.com, Blackberries at cashforberrys.com and Smartphones at cashforsmartphones.com.

The old electronics don’t even have to work. But sellers should acknowledge the fact.

When items are received, says Wright, “Thirty percent of the time there’s more wrong with it, so we offer a lesser quote. Usually, they say OK, because they’d forgotten that it was broken. But if not, we just send it

back to them.”

Conversely, she adds, if the item proves to be better than specified, perhaps with a larger display screen, a

larger check is sent.

“We’re honest with our customers,” says Wright.

However, the dishonest had better not lift laptops to sell for scrap.

“We keep records,” says Wright, “and if something sounds suspicious, we notify police in that area.”

The company is proud of its environmental stance. Up to 90 percent of the take is straight-cycled, she adds. For example, a keyboard is not melted down but is reused as a keyboard. Nationwide, only 11 percent of old electronics are recycled, while over 2 million tons of electronic waste is buried in landfills every year.

When the company receives the old electronic device, it first scours the hard drive of all data. The items are then refurbished for re-sale or sold to wholesale recyclers. Resale markets include low-income people and non-profit organizations.

Cash for Laptops, founded in 2001, calls itself the first company to offer cash for old computers. Among its 20,000 customers, says Wright, are Californians who face steep fines for failure to recycle.

But it advertises nationwide, where the tech-heads go: On radio and the Web, where it also maintains a presence on MySpace and Facebook.

But forget that big bulky box in the far back of the closet the old desktop computer. “There’s not much of a market to recycle desktops,” says Wright.