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Donated a falsely dead laptop--who gets it now?
October 15, 2006 9:22 PM   Subscribe

Donated a laptop I thought was dead for parts, but found out it works fine. Who should get it?

I signed up for a local Freecycle-type website and noticed a gentleman looking for laptop and desktop parts and cases. I had what I thought was a dead laptop and decided to give it, along with a long-time dead desktop, to the guy, figuring if he could get any use out of it, everyone would be happier. Neither of the computers had hard drives.

Best Buy and a local computer place both told me the motherboard was dead in the laptop and wanted around $500 for parts and labor to fix it. I'm not a techie by any means. I ended up buying a new computer and the old laptop has been in its case, untouched, for a few months.

The guy e-mailed me back the night after he picked up the computers to tell me thanks--he had the both the desktop and the laptop working just fine after swapping out some bad RAM in the latter. I have had lots of extra sticks of RAM floating around here for months so obviously, if I would have known that bad RAM was the laptop's issue, I would have never given it up for free.

I want it back. Desperately. It was a gift that cost lots of money and obviously works just fine.

A little Googling later, I have the guy's full name, home and cellphone numbers, his home address, his age, and his wife's name--none of which (aside from the cellphone number) he provided to me.

I already e-mailed him and politely asked to have just the laptop back (he can keep the desktop). What can I do next? Take my big, bouncer brother to his front door and ask in person? Send him a barrage of e-mails and phone calls? Should I be polite, firm, or an asshole? Call him out on Freecycle?

More importantly, in the end, does it belong to him now?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (33 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
it is his. you gave it to him.
posted by sindas at 9:30 PM on October 15, 2006


I already e-mailed him and politely asked to have just the laptop back (he can keep the desktop).

You really have no right to do anything beyond this.
posted by knave at 9:32 PM on October 15, 2006


dude, you gave it away. It's done. The guy was trying to improve his karma by thanking you, your karma was great by donating it, and now you're trying to shoot your karma to hell.

If he was polite enough to email you, I'm sure he'll give it back to you, but you will look like the biggest douchebag on the face of the earth.

Instead, just enjoy the karma. It didn't cost you anything- it was a gift...and you didn't value you it highly enough to pay the $500, seek a second opinion, or just go experimenting on your own.
posted by unexpected at 9:33 PM on October 15, 2006


What could you possibly "call him out" for? You legitimately gave the laptop to this guy. The fact that he figured out how to make it work doesn't give you back your claim to it. Caveat vendor, my anonymous friend.
posted by CrayDrygu at 9:33 PM on October 15, 2006


Yes, it belongs to him now. Call him out on freecycle? For what? Taking something someone else was offering? Isn't that how the site is supposed to work?

You never would've fixed it on your own. You did a good thing by giving it to someone else who put in the time and effort to learn what was wrong and to get it running. Don't do a bad thing by harrassing him about it now. If this email you already sent convinces him to give it back to you, great. But seriously, no more. It's not yours anymore.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 9:35 PM on October 15, 2006


It's his, but you can ask nicely and offer to pay him for diagnosing the RAM problem to make it easier for him to give it back.
posted by peeedro at 9:36 PM on October 15, 2006


Act like you never got the email from him saying it was bad RAM and leave this one alone. In the end, it belongs to him now by pretty much any definition I can imagine. If you take it back, that's not at all cool.
posted by jessamyn at 9:38 PM on October 15, 2006


Um, what? There's a name for what you want to do but I shan't repeat it here, since it's in poor taste.

And, for real -- in the future, don't get technical advice about computers from the dude at Best Buy.
posted by brain cloud at 9:47 PM on October 15, 2006 [1 favorite]


If I were him, I would be very tempted to give it back, then send you a formal bill for $500 (since two independent experts have established this value for the service), then take you to small claims when you wouldn't pay, then turn you over to a collection agency if you refused to pay that, and then laugh about the damage to your credit rating and go on with my life.

But he is probably a lot nicer than I am, or than your question has made me think you are.
posted by jamjam at 9:58 PM on October 15, 2006


You posted this anonymously, so you already know the answer. But since you mention physical intimidation, you might consider balancing the value of an inanimate object against the odds of your big, bouncer brother getting a pistol discharged in his face because he agreed to do a favor for you. There's a world of difference between tossing around drunken frat boys versus knocking on a stranger's front door — and if you don't have an appreciation for how quickly those situations can escalate beyond the participants' expectations, then you haven't read a newspaper in the past couple of years.
posted by cribcage at 10:01 PM on October 15, 2006


When you asked for it back, you should have offered to pay for the repair. You can still offer to pay. Even if he's nice and gives it back, you should still pay him something. I sympathize totally with your position, but that's simply the breaks.
posted by Goofyy at 10:04 PM on October 15, 2006


You gave it away willingly. You left it sitting for months. You didn't even bother to test the RAM you had sitting about the place. Don't put emotional or financial value on it after the fact.

It may have cost LOTS of money but since it was a gift - it wasn't your money. You got your use out of it. Now let it help someone else.

Take care of your new computer.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 10:06 PM on October 15, 2006


You gave it to him, that makes it his.
posted by delmoi at 10:07 PM on October 15, 2006


I already e-mailed him and politely asked to have just the laptop back (he can keep the desktop). What can I do next? Take my big, bouncer brother to his front door and ask in person? Send him a barrage of e-mails and phone calls? Should I be polite, firm, or an asshole? Call him out on Freecycle?

Big bouncer brother? I didn't even read this far. Yea, go ahead and call him out on freecycle, since it would be more of an autocallout, letting everyone know you're a gigantic douche. Srysly. Do you think the term "Indian Giver" is supposed to be a superlative?

Gawd.
posted by delmoi at 10:13 PM on October 15, 2006


I already e-mailed him and politely asked to have just the laptop back (he can keep the desktop). What can I do next? Take my big, bouncer brother to his front door and ask in person? Send him a barrage of e-mails and phone calls? Should I be polite, firm, or an asshole? Call him out on Freecycle?

Think about the situation around the other way. What if someone gave you a broken computer for free saying 'If you can find a use for this, great!' .. ? You then found the problem, fixed it, and had a working computer. Would you then, in a fit of compassion, decide to give back the computer that the giver seemed not to want anyway?

Given that you're considering physical intimidation and have done frankly creepy research into his personal information, I'm guessing you wouldn't.
posted by wackybrit at 10:15 PM on October 15, 2006


Y'know.. could this be a fake question designed to test the morality of those answering it? It seems so outlandish and unlikely to me that anyone would think the way that the question asker supposes to here?
posted by wackybrit at 10:18 PM on October 15, 2006


Whoa ... I guess if you are willing to pay him $500 for the repair, you could negotiate for its return.

But you gave it to him, and it's his now. I'm not sure why you even sent the email.

Your research seems a little creepy.
posted by Ostara at 10:21 PM on October 15, 2006


Man, it is like George Costanza himself found MeFi and posted a question.

And for the record, since you gave the laptop to him, and it is therefore now his, "showing up with your big bouncer brother" and asking for the laptop back could quickly and quite possibly escalate into something the police would call "attempted robbery."

It's not worth it. Chalk it up to a lesson learned, and move on.
posted by 4ster at 10:24 PM on October 15, 2006 [1 favorite]


Take my big, bouncer brother to his front door and ask in person?

i hope your big bouncer brother laughs cruelly in your face when you ask him ... i would ... you gave away the computer to someone and its his

you have a nice new computer, so be happy with that
posted by pyramid termite at 10:35 PM on October 15, 2006


What everybody else said.
posted by flabdablet at 10:47 PM on October 15, 2006


You could consider negotiating to pay for the repairs to your laptop. However, consider that he may have spent a few hours working on the laptop. He probably did some formatting, installation of software and other tweaking, in addition to swapping out memory. He also invested time in coming to your place and taking the laptop away. Let's say he invested $75 in hardware and five hours in time and effort. If he charges out at $75 an hour, you're really no better off than if you'd gone with Best Buy. If he did it faster than that, maybe his time is worth more (due to expertise).

I know it probably feels like he walked off with your laptop and that he was able to quickly get it working. But, if you consider his expertise and opportunity costs, as well as the cost of his labour, he really did provide $500 in service.

I'm not a techie, but I am a consultant. And people often ask me to answer questions -- "it's just a minute or two of your time". However, my time is very valuable and my expertise is hard-won. So something that takes me just a few minutes to do actually represents $100k in tuition and living expenses, $150k in foregone earnings, thousands of hours of passed up freetime, and so on.

So, even if this guy was able to get the laptop running in a few minutes, he still put up a big investment to do so.

And, what if he had cannibalized the laptop and sold the parts on eBay? If he had sold 50 parts for $5 plus $5 for handling, he would have made $500.

If he does respond, ask him what he'd charge. Anything below $500 is a deal for you, if you really want the laptop back.

I'm sure this has been a painful experience for you. You may feel like you've lost the laptop twice. I sympathize with you and I hope you're able to let go and perhaps even find an opportunity to see how your own expertise is valuable in other areas.
posted by acoutu at 11:34 PM on October 15, 2006 [1 favorite]


It wasn't falsely dead. It really was dead - it didn't work!

The guy had no way of knowing what it would take to get it going, but he did manage to resuscitate the thing. You could have done exactly what he did, but you didn't.

It's a working laptop now BECAUSE HE FIXED IT.

I'd be annoyed with myself if I was in the same position you find yourself in, and I understand your remorse. But this thing you're doing? It's not reasonable. You're being a jerk.

(Also, about the RAM you have lying around - there are lots of different kinds, most of it incompatible in any situation other than precisely that for which it was designed. And certainly if the stuff you have lying around is for desktop computers, it wouldn't have fit in the laptop.)
posted by The Monkey at 12:03 AM on October 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


What can I do next?

Enroll in a class in ethics. Read Emily Post. Meditate upon the old but not outdated saying,

Finders, keepers
Losers, weepers.
posted by jamaro at 12:18 AM on October 16, 2006 [4 favorites]


Wow, let me just reiterate:

YOU GAVE IT TO HIM.

You think Santa can go around taking back kids pressies cause he thought they were shit at first but then realised they're pretty cool?

if I would have known that bad RAM was the laptop's issue, I would have never given it up for free.
That's a lesson learned.


You really want it back? Then buy it off him, because he is the new owner.

I have the guy's full name, home and cellphone numbers, his home address, his age, and his wife's name--none of which (aside from the cellphone number) he provided to me.
Why in Gods name would he have given you those details? Are you going to start threatening hime now or something? You are a freak. Calm down and remember.

GIVE NOTHING AWAY YOU MAY WANT.

People like you shouldn't use freecycle. Seems you only want to use it to shift crap.
posted by twistedonion at 3:31 AM on October 16, 2006


He should pay for your new computer because if he had of returned your old one, you could have taken the new one back for a full refund.

He may not have even fixed it. People often resent people who give them stuff, and make up stories to make the other person feel bad. They say things like I sold it to a collector on E-bay for $1, 000! Or I plugged your computer in and it set my house on fire, and now my whole life is toast.
This should be a lession to you, never give an sucker an even break. I believe Jesus or Jefferson said.
posted by zackdog at 3:52 AM on October 16, 2006


If you go to his house with your bro, make sure to take some baseball bats or big sticks. That way, if he doesn't cough it up, you can beat that much value out of his car to make things even.

Maybe further Googling can reveal his work info. Harassing him at work, or going through his boss, might get the pressure up to a level that will make him see the light.

Are you insane?

Let it go, let it go, it is just a thing.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:55 AM on October 16, 2006


What is wrong with you? Face it - you were too stupid, too lazy, or both, to fix the laptop yourself. You gave it away. This means you don't own it any more, and someone else does.

Read that again: You don't own it. Someone else does.
posted by odinsdream at 6:46 AM on October 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


Face up to it. It's not yours, you gave it away. You can't just have it back because you feel entitled to it. If it really meant anything to you, you would have taken all steps to fix it before, which you didn't. In fact, you did WORSE by relying on Best Buy's dumb analysis. You know there are lots of mom-n-pop computer stores (at least there are a few in my area) which can diagnose problems like this for cheap.
Take it as a life lesson, cause you sure as hell ain't getting anything else from this.
posted by Meagan at 7:18 AM on October 16, 2006


What can I do next? Take my big, bouncer brother to his front door and ask in person?
If someone gave me a computer then tried to intimidate me into giving it back after I fixed it, I would break it into very small pieces and return it. It's only fair since they gave me something worthless, I want to return it in original condition.
Should I be polite, firm, or an asshole?
Well, you're firmly in the asshole category. The only one left to try is being polite, swallowing your "loss" and getting on with your life.

On the plus side, you can now claim a much larger charitable deduction.
posted by Ookseer at 7:45 AM on October 16, 2006


There's no doubt you cannot demand it back.

But asking him nicely, and offering to pay for his diagnostic services is something you should do and try, knowing that the guy is under no mandate to give it back.

If he's a good guy, he'll do the right thing.
posted by duncantuna at 8:38 AM on October 16, 2006


I gave away a space heater on freecycle, with a severed cord. Sure, I could have fixed the cord and had a working heater, but I didn't need it or even want to be bothered with it.

people get valuable stuff on freecycle all the time. working condition or not. I've given away couches and even a refrigerator.
posted by indigo4963 at 8:53 AM on October 16, 2006


What did you think he was going to do with your non-working laptop: make an end table out of it? Nobody wants a dead laptop; the only reason to accept a gift like this is because you think you can get it working.

You've already behaved like a complete tool about this (and the fact that you posted this anonymously indicates that you realize this). Please don't descend any further.
posted by timeistight at 10:47 AM on October 16, 2006 [3 favorites]


If he's a good guy, he'll do the right thing.

Which would be - to keep the laptop he was given, which he fixed.
posted by odinsdream at 9:01 AM on October 19, 2006 [2 favorites]


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