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?

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