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Amazon And The Destruction Of Nearly New Goods



I would not claim that I’ve uncovered and absolute truth here. Rather, just a pondering upon whether there might be an interesting factor here:

Amazon is destroying thousands of unsold laptops, televisions and other electrical items every week, a new investigation has revealed.

Seems a bit odd, to be fair. What might is be causing this oddity?

The items had either been returned by customers or were never sold, but were sent to be destroyed even though the majority could have been repurposed and distributed to charities, schools or elsewhere, ITV said.

Well, OK, the scrag ends of production runs always will end up being tipped somewhere. And yes, it is possibly true that we’d like that to be to homeless folks so they can huddle in a doorway but still watch EastEnders. It’s even likely that flogging the stuff off at £50 a time would be profitable. Or £25 or summat. At one point I made good money – almost a living in fact – in flogging really dead end stuff (180kb floppy drives just as the UK was advancing up to 3.5 inch ones) off to folks in Siberian cities at the far end of the distribution chain. Even the dead stock selling folks in the UK were amazed at what I’d be willing to actually ship.

In a free market world I’d happily take this Amazon stuff by the container load. Know a bloke in Iran who would love it. Mixed lots. In return he’d send me the odd carpet, maybe some pistachios, possibly even frozen tiger shrimp from the farms along the Gulf.

We are not, obviously, in a free market world. Yes, there are restrictions out there. Obvious ones concerning that country. But more than that. You can’t just send electronics off to where they might be used. For some of them won;t be used and will still end up being scrapped. And it’s naughty to send electronics scrap to where it might be scrapped. EU and OECD rules and all that is. Further, you can’t just hand out semi-used electronics equipment within the EU either. Because you’ve got to check that it’s OK. EU rules that is – this is why second hand furniture shops tend not to sell lampstands any more. Because EU rules to ensure that used electronics are thoroughly checked over before being resold.

The law, that is, makes it expensive to give stuff away for free.

Now, maybe all those rules about what can be done with electronics are good things to have. Maybe they’re not. But intervening in the used bits business is going to change the way the used bits business works. And fixed costs – a bloke to check the switch, say – is going to mean that the potential value of some of the bits doesn’t rise above the fixed costs. Thus it will be scrapped even when usable.

At which point we’ve got people complaining about the outcomes of their own interventions. To which the correct response is you’ve folded those sheets Matey, that’s where you lie.



  1. Reminds me a bit of something John Tierney wrote about the (sometimes at least) silliness of recycling. A woman sitting in a luxury SUV with the AC running for 10 minutes to dump a few plastic bottles in a bin.

    The inability to see even a teeny bit down the road still amazes me.

  2. Always amused when we receive packages from Sam’s Club, etc. where a fairly small item is in a much larger box than seems necessary. Someone always seems to opine that this is wasteful – a business that buys, sells & ships millions of items daily on thin profit margins hasn’t figured out how to do this efficiently? If you showed up with a smaller box they’d be all “what, we could use that?”.

  3. The vast majority of postal services charge by weight not by volume. I pondered this about electronic components I ordered, they always seemed to arrive in the same oversized box regardless of need. But then, on those razer-thin margins, if it’s cheaper to package everything in an identical run of boxes it would be madness to increase your costs by having loads of different boxes.


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in British English
expunct (ɪkˈspʌŋkt)
VERB (transitive)
1. to delete or erase; blot out; obliterate
2. to wipe out or destroy

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