The Etiquette Of Hand-Me-Down Electronics

If you read Lifehacker, you're probably interested in tech, which means that you likely upgrade your electronics more often than most people. You probably also have people in your life that are the exact opposite, who are still holding on to the Motorola RAZR (not the Android one) and the original Amazon "snowspeeder" Kindle. Seems like your old, leftover tech might be a good match for one of these people, right? Maybe!

Photo by Julien Tromeur/Shutterstock.

If you're the giver

On the surface, it's a straightforward proposition. Rather than selling my unwanted gear, I'm giving it to you, because what you're currently using is worse, and I want you to enjoy using your phone/computer/camera more. Everything makes sense logically until you account for the fact that we're humans, and we don't always think logically. Let's get in the mind of the other person for a second.

For example, I recently gave my wife my old iPhone 4 after I upgraded to the iPhone 4S, bringing her from an iPhone 3GS, which was also a hand-me-down a year ago. She liked it, because the phone was faster and better than her old one, but she's long said she doesn't want to get all my old stuff, even if it does save us money.

Emotions are important. If we did everything strictly by facts and data, we wouldn't have art and we wouldn't have entertainment. If someone feels like they always get hand-me-downs, they'll eventually get tired and frustrated and want something new, even if it costs them extra money. The youngest children in large families know a lot about how much always getting old stuff sucks. Sometimes it's not about always saving money by grinding your gadgets into the ground, and that's something to keep in mind.

So what should I or another giver do? Be honest. Ask the receiver if he or she actually does want the device, giving them the option of politely declining if they would rather have something new. Maybe they had their eye set on the new tablet or computer that you just got and would have picked it up eventually. Most of the time they will probably take your gift graciously, but even then, it's nice that you took their feelings into consideration.

If you're the receiver

Since I'm often the guy with the new gadgets, I'm not in this position often, but I would probably feel the same way as much wife about receiving used gadgets, as in I'd prefer something new. You might be in the same mindset, but let's once again get inside the other person's head.

Think about what it means for the other person to be giving you their used tech. Do you need it? Is it actually better than what you're currently using, even if it's slightly worn? If so, you should accept it and use it, at least temporarily.

If you do accept and eventually outgrow the gift, what do you do? Do you give the gift back to the original owner, saying that you appreciated the gift and now you've got something else? Or do you just sell the thing yourself? Or maybe you find someone who's even worse off electronically than you and give it to them?


    Every time I upgraded my phone I had several people holding their hands out for a 'free phone' and would get upset when I said I was keeping it as a back up. Same with my Ipods/Pc's So I have had no experience with family/friends refusing 2nd hand, but somewhat current tech that is in good condition.

    Not wanting something because it's not "brand new" from the packaging...sounds like a 1st world problem doesn't it?

    Personally if it works, and I want one, I have no issue with a second hand device. On the flip side I've never had an issue giving away my hand me downs, everyone that has received one as always been 100% satisfied. I only specify that it can't be on-sold, and must be given away for free when they are done with it, which has never been an issue.

    My parents love me upgrading computers and gadgets. Keeps them almost up to date, and doesn't cost them much at all (usually they end up feeling guilty and give me a bit of cash, even when I tell them not to).

    I feel bad not giving away my old tech. Although I do love it when it boomerangs when they are done with it. Now I have 3 spare phones in my quiver, along with the brand spanking one, and three on "permanent loan" to good friends.

    I should probably stop buying phones hey?

    What really annoys me is when you gift something (obviously for free) and they complain that it runs really slow.

    It runs faster than what you had before, because you wouldn't have accepted it otherwise.

    I gifted my old 3G back when I got my got my iPhone 4. Seeing it thrown onto the couch in disgust when it, "runs like crap" feels like a pretty big slap in the face!

    I give nearly all my old stuff away... the stuff that makes me the most 'guilty' gifting it is old hard drives. As my media collection expands I find myself replacing 1TB drives with 2TB etc. With the fact that I keep two copies of all my data that means I then have 2 x 1TB drives to give away (as I had 2 x 500GB before that and 2 x 250GB before that...). They're worth next to bugger all so I give them away. Of course these are a couple of years old so will be big 3.5" ones needing mains supplied when someone could just go out and buy a nice 2.5 portable version themselves...

    I got my watch phone in my drawer, so long as a whole bunch of other stuff such as a Nokia N97, a Dual sim chinese phone and bluetooth stereo set.

    after years of training now wife is on the front edge of Android now. those things I can't even give away. those loving memories...

    my suggestion is change your partner, my girlfriend insisted we sell the new phone she got with her contract and take my old phone because she will scratch it anyway ...

    Wow. I'd love a second-hand gadget if I can't afford it. Sounds like some people are pretty ungrateful. Like Ky said... "a first world problem".

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