Commanding Chaos for Coworking, Open Source and Creative Communities

LA Computer Company, FTW! Gazelle, just fine.

Fri, 12/17/2010 - 08:43 -- rprice

The saga of Ryan's G5 Mac:

Back in 2006 I was getting hard-core about making videos and podcasts. There have been times when I was more active in this arena than others, but I have decided that I truly miss getting to share these stories with others, so I am going through some superficial updating of my hardware.

The fine folks at Apple have decided that anyone who bought a Mac before 2006 and has not upgraded yet is "below them" and deserves no fresh pellets in their hamster bowl, so I needed to get at least a 2007 Mac Pro in order to keep running the latest and greatest Mac OS, Final Cut Pro, iMovie, etc and to use any of the commercially available add-on cards, like the Blackmagic Intensity capture card.

Now I had two goals: unload my G5 PowerMac, and gain a Mac Pro, hopefully for less than $1000 out of my bank account.

I had heard about Gazelle, where you can sell your old stuff for cash. If you opt for an Amazon gift card, you get a bonus, but that doesn't buy me beers at Redlight Redlight. Gazelle has been an advertiser on the TWiT podcasts for a while, so they had a bonus code which was almost as good as getting an Amazon card. Off to the FedEx store to box up the monstrous computer.

I figured this was all way easier than eBay, which I'm not a fan of anyway. I also sent an old cell phone, which could have gotten me $80. I was told the cell phone "does not consistently power on, which affects the offer we are able to make." Affects in that it makes the offer $0. At least "we will gladly recycle this item responsibly free of charge." Like I said, I'm too lazy to try and hock this phone off on Craigslist, so I let that one go. Maybe good Karma will still find me.

Sadly no.

Apparently the inspectors "found some conditions that affected the value of the Desktop." Namely, "Condition was determined based on: Slightly bent out base on back right." If there were a court of appeals here (which there is not), I would have asked to see photos. I could literally find no way to contest my offer, simply accept or deny. I understand this could get seriously tedious for the Gazelle folks, as I'm sure there are lots of legitimate claims.

Original offer + bonus: $732.35
New offer + TWiT bonus: $547

Ouch. I wonder what they would have said had I not asked for the bonus. (It's just the skeptic in me talking, I know it's mean)

I received the check in a timely manner, no feelings hurt beyond repair.

Now it's time to find a Mac Pro, 2007 or later. Magically, I am on a mailing list I can't remember signing up for called the LA Computer Company. Later, I found out I bought a product from a sister site which must use their back-end. Once you reach the end of the story, you'll realize that I'm glad I was on the list.

$1399 MacPro.
Email us today

(at the time I thought I was getting $700+ from Gazelle) I was excited.

I checked out the specs. The machine I laid my eyes on was:
MP/3.0GHz/8Core/500GB/4GB/SD/AP/BT/256VRAM $1599

In English, that means 2 quad-core processors, a 500GB HD, 4GB of memory, SuperDrive, AirPort and Bluetoth, with an ATI 7300 something-or-other video card with 256MB of ram. The weakest part of this deal was the video card. Other deals had better cards, but were only "4Core". It was a trade-off.

I did some research: could I get a used system with similar specs elsewhere? After much deliberation, I decided this was the best deal I could find (at the end of November).

Shipping would have cost almost $50, but I was told if I mailed them a cashier's check or money order, shipping would be free. I guess processing credit cards has gotten to be an expensive and fraud-prone business, and we're talking about almost $1600, so I understand their concern. Free shipping sounded like a good deal, but I was cautious about sending a cashier's check...

At this point I went and did some low-level web snooping: Better Business Bureau, Google the name of the company with "sucks" or "do not buy" after the name, stuff like that. They seemed legit, and had a very good track record, nearly spotless. I think this is the kind of place that only sells to professionals, so they don't get too many people with unrealistic expectations, and as long as they deliver on their promises and fix any mistakes, I think a customer would have no reason to complain.

Once the check arrived, it was almost no time before I was given a tracking number. When the FedEx guy came, I still wasn't wearing pants. I don't mind encountering the religious solicitors in my sleepwear, but this was different. I was surprised to see an original Apple box inside my front door just seconds later. Turns out the box is from a G5, but I pray that the product I ordered is inside.

Success! A Mac Pro with a 3rd party keyboard, mouse and power cord was now mine. No software disc, but it was only loaded with Leopard, so I have to upgrade anyway.

Turn it on: no internet connection. Not even an option to set up an AirPort connection during the "first time" set up. There were lots of other choices on the networking screen, but not Wi-Fi.

Huh? I click through that screen on setup and finish with an Ethernet cable. I open the System Profiler app, click AirPort: "No information found." How about Bluetooth? "No information found."

I shoot an email to Melissa from LA Computer Company, with whom I had discussed shipping and paying by check. She forwarded it along to Nate, who directs me to send him a screen shot of System Profiler. I decided to open the case and send an additional picture of my computer's innards, proving that the "BT" and "AP" on the original product description were indeed missing. Nate promises to speak to his manager.

Within an hour of sending my pictures, I get this email:


I want to say I'm sorry for the typo and all this confusion. I talked with my manager about the situation, and he said that we could send you a USB bluetooth adapter as well as a USB wireless adapter, standard overnight, so it would get to you on Monday.




Thank you Nate, Melissa and the LA Computer Company. That's great customer service.

Now, a USB Bluetooth and Wi-Fi adapter are not the same as internal Apple parts, but there is functionally no difference. I consider this a fair deal.

At the end of this whole business, I am at:
$1599 - $547 - $17 (to box up the old G5) = $1035

Not... Bad.

Before I knew the resolution of the AirPort and Bluetooth incident, I already told a friend of mine about my purchase from this company, with the caveat that I would let him know how this all turned out. I guess I'll find out for sure on Monday.


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