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Apple Teams with Amazon to Strangle Repair/Resale Market

I just learned from NPR that, starting January 4, Amazon will block most small businesses from selling used Apple products on their platform. In November, Apple signed a deal with Amazon to sell more of its products on the world’s biggest e-tailer. To land those big-ticket products, Amazon had to give Apple the authority to o.k. all third-party vendors offering Apple merchandise:

The change will allow Apple and Amazon to have more control over inventory and pricing of Apple products. But, smaller sellers and folks who flip iPhones right after they go on sale are likely to be hurt by the deal. Also, customers shopping for used (but not refurbished) Apple products may find a much more limited selection on Amazon. In both cases, those sellers and customers will be more likely to go to rival online sites like eBay instead.

Amazon has already been adding more restrictions to its marketplace over the years, making it harder for small sellers to put up products on Amazon if they aren’t working directly with the brands they list. Amazon inked a similar partnership with Nike last year that allowed both companies to reduce counterfeits on Amazon and gain stronger control over unauthorized third-party sales of Nike products [Ben Fox Rubin, “Apple Pumps Up Its Amazon Listings with iPhones, iPads, and More,” CNet, 2018.11.11].

Motherboard reports that gaining “authorized reseller” status from Apple will likely be a challenge. Independent repair shops can pay Apple a fee to gain “authorized” status to do a limited set of repairs on some Apple devices. Resellers can still sell used Apple products through Amazon’s Renewed certification program, but that certification is only available to vendors with sales in the seven-figure range.

Ridley Scott Apple Mac launch 1d 1984a
Don’t forget: 1984 had no sledgehammer and no happy ending.

One could argue that Apple has every right to protect its brand and control third-party resellers’ exploitation of its brand for profit. One would lose that argument in court:

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that people who legally own a product may legally resell it, and federal law protects that right under something known as the “first sale doctrine,” which says that copyright holders give up their copyright to individual copies of a work once it is sold: “the first sale doctrine, codified at 17 U.S.C. § 109, provides that an individual who knowingly purchases a copy of a copyrighted work from the copyright holder receives the right to sell, display, or otherwise dispose of that particular copy, notwithstanding the interests of the copyright owner,” the US Department of Justice explains.

“The first sale doctrine has never required an owner to get permission to sell their property,” Perzanowski added. “But Amazon is leveraging its power over its marketplace to give Apple power that the courts and Congress never have and never would” [Jason Koebler, “Amazon Is Kicking All Unauthorized Apple Refurbishers off Amazon Marketplace,” Motherboard, 2018.11.09].

In another effort to stifle the resale of Apple products, Apple requires its recyclers to shred Apple devices:

Apple rejects current industry best practices by forcing the recyclers it works with to shred iPhones and MacBooks so they cannot be repaired or reused—instead, they are turned into tiny shards of metal and glass.

“Materials are manually and mechanically disassembled and shredded into commodity-sized fractions of metals, plastics, and glass,” John Yeider, Apple’s recycling program manager, wrote under a heading called “Takeback Program Report” in a 2013 report to Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. “All hard drives are shredded in confetti-sized pieces. The pieces are then sorted into commodities grade materials. After sorting, the materials are sold and used for production stock in new products. No reuse. No parts harvesting. No resale” [Jason Koebler, “Apple Forces Recyclers to Shred All iPhones and Macbooks,” Motherboard, 2017.04.20].

Repairing and reusing electronics has far less environmental impact than shredding and reprocessing their component materials. But Apple is fighting state-level legislation that would protect consumer access to spare parts and independent repair services. Apple is more interested in cornering its market than protecting our rights and our planet:

Gay Gordon-Brown, who heads the Repair Association, says plainly: “If you can’t repair stuff, you’re forced to participate in the throwaway market.” Besides the personal affront over what many consider the inalienable right to do what we want with our own stuff, not allowing freedom of choice in the repair of our electronics is just bad for the planet. With the e-waste problem continuing to grow, everyone has a lot to lose – sellers and buyers alike [Vianney Vaute, “Why Buyers Should Beware the New Apple-Amazon Deal,” Forbes, 2018.11.30].

I produce this blog daily on a Macbook Air, purchased four and a half years ago. It is my seventh laptop in 24 years. This laptop is light and durable. It performs as reliably as the NEC Ready 120LT that I purchased for $800 in 1998 after a disastrous experience with a $3,000 Gateway laptop that I purchased in 1997 and had to send back to the factory for repairs three times that year. The NEC Ready still boots up, but it has no wireless. The Macbook Air is somewhat more functional.

My Macbook Air is the only Apple device I use. Apple’s control-freakism (a clear outgrowth, I am learning from Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, of its founder’s obsessions) inclines me to get all the use I can out of this computer and avoid buying my eighth laptop for as long as possible… but I wonder: will I find any other computer vendor less inclined to control and accelerate my consumption?


  1. Richard Schriever 2018-12-23 09:47

    I am still using the Lenovo W700 Laptop purchased in 2007. I have had only one minor issue with it since then – and it has traveled with me to 3 continents. That one issue was a software problem that was corrected remotely by a technician while on the phone (still using that purchased in 2010 as well) who remarked what an amazingly fast computer it was. My daily driver BMW is 30+ years old, and gets 30 mpg. When I was an IT director (15-30 years ago) I never could understand the Apple fanatics’ cult-like obsession with their products. I’ve always found quality (not the lowest bidder) NON-Apple products performed as well or better (on a direcly = pricing basis).

  2. Kal Lis 2018-12-23 10:54

    The NEC will be the one that saves you from Cylon apocalypse. (A Battlestar Galactica reference for the non-nerdish readers.)

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-12-23 11:39

    Kal Lis! Yes! My Mac is certainly more Tricia Helfer, while the NEC is clearly more Bill Adama. My 2009 netbook was Starbuck; my burly 2012 Toshiba was Chief Galen Tyrol.

    My Gateway was Gaius Baltar. Traitor!

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-12-23 11:42

    Richard, I love my 2002 VW, but I find it’s struggling to keep up with its original 30mpg performance. Any tips?

    And why doesn’t Germany make computers?

  5. Porter Lansing 2018-12-23 12:14

    Germany (and Japan and China) don’t make computers because they (as a culture) lack innovation. While Germans can build machines and parts with world class precisions and tolerances they lack what makes America great. Innovation. (e.g. Bosch electrical systems which lost WWII for Hitler. My BMW (1979 528i) had three places to store fuses. Under the hood, in the glove box and in the trunk. All three were used often … especially the fuse for the wipers which only blew during a rain storm. It also had the most overengineered exhaust system I’ve ever seen. Dual exhaust with a muffler and two resonators on each tail pipe.) When cultures without a brainchild mentality attempt to invent they find themselves continually behind in the marketplace to cultures who innovate new tech continually, like USA.

  6. Wade Brandis 2018-12-23 13:29

    I tend to avoid Apple products myself. I have used Windows-based PCs for most of my life. I currently have a custom built desktop PC from 2016, and a 2012 Gateway laptop that still works for my occasional trips away from home. Once I upgrade the laptop to a solid state disk drive, performance should improve greatly.

    With most desktop PCs, you, or a PC repair shop, have the ability to replace parts when they fail as opening PC cases are very simple. This also allows people to upgrade various parts of their machines as time goes on. With Macs, repairs are difficult or almost impossible since Apple locks down their hardware so much.

  7. Richard Schriever 2018-12-23 14:44

    Cory, I have a mechanic friend (since HS) who is a retired BMW dealership mechanic (30 years). I take my car to him every Spring before my road trip’n season begins and tell him “fix whatever you think I need to make sure I get through the Summer. Same every Fall – get me through the Winter. I typically put $1,000 a year or so into it. Other to that – just pay attention to and address any “little” issue daily – and use premium gas.

  8. Richard Schriever 2018-12-23 14:54

    98% of all computers are designed in Taiwan and built in mainland China. The Brand is just that – and has almost nothing to do with who actually makes any of them. US-based international marketing consulting firm I worked for, for 10 years, had 3 different “brands” of computer as clients. They were ALL built in the SAME factory in China. There is some difference in design – circuitry and so on, and quality of components that impacts pricing – as well as performance, longevity and so on.

  9. Porter Lansing 2018-12-23 16:16

    Mr. Schriever spends a thousand bucks a year on maintenance not including tires? That just sounds like a whole lot of money, to me. It makes me think of all the money I’ve not spent by quitting driving 17 years ago. WOW!

  10. Richard Schriever 2018-12-23 17:55

    Mr. Lansing – it almost exclusively work-related. 3 more years and I too shall abandon ownership of an automobile. No need for such things in Ecuador. Superb public transportation.

  11. grudznick 2018-12-23 18:20

    I quit driving, or rather they made me stop driving years ago. But I still spend many more thousands on transportation to get to the places I want to go in the style I choose. Even a ride to breakfast once a week for a year can add up to a grand or so.

  12. Porter Lansing 2018-12-23 18:20

    BMW’s are fun to drive. German precision is exquisite. I took my hands off the wheel at 160 mph with no anxiety. It’s all just memories, now. And shoe leather. 😊 My driver just bought a new Honda Accord. Outstanding car. It’s like an Apple iphone with wheels. Completely connected to the internet, the Honda factory and the operator. His previous Accord went just under 300,000 miles before he sold it with nothing needed to repair. Love Honda cars.

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-12-23 19:22

    Solid state drive—that’s been a definite step up in this computer from laptop #6. You will like that, Wade.

    I’d be tempted to go for a desktop for upgradability, but, harkening to our discussion about housing earlier this week, mobility is just too important to me, whether we’re talking about moving the whole homestead, being able to blog on the road (Blog Tour 2014, produced entirely on this Mac from all over this great state), or just hunker down in different parts of my own house.

  14. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-12-23 19:24

    Someone buy Grudz a bike… and a couple strings of twinkling garland lights from Target so he can pedal around with top visibility and spread affordable Christmas cheer.

  15. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-12-23 19:25

    Ecuador and public transportation! Now do those Ecuadoran buses offer free Wi-Fi? ;-)

  16. Debbo 2018-12-23 23:21

    I have a Samsung tablet and a Chromebook. I rarely use the Chromebook. Its It’s pretty much all tablet all the time because it’s so easily portable.

    Some John Deere owning farmers have a movement called “Right to Repair.” From an article in Wired:
    “Farmers can’t change engine settings, can’t retrofit old equipment with new features, and can’t modify their tractors to meet new environmental standards on their own.”

    In September R2R suffered a setback:
    “But a big California farmers’ lobbying group just blithely signed away farmers’ right to access or modify the source code of any farm equipment software. As an organization representing 2.5 million California agriculture jobs, the California Farm Bureau gave up the right to purchase repair parts without going through a dealer.”

    IMO, Farm Bureau IS NOT a lobbying group for farmers. It’s a lobbying group for big ag industries. I’m not surprised they did this.

    The entire nasty story is right here:

  17. Debbo 2018-12-23 23:23

    I’ve never owned an Apple and don’t plan to. I think they’re over priced and over hyped. I’ve been satisfied with a variety of Windows OS computers from the late 80s on. I really like tablets.

  18. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-12-24 08:08

    Debbo, how do you like typing on the tablet? How does that compare with your standard keyboard efficiency?

  19. Porter Lansing 2018-12-24 09:02

    The iPhone X has a tremendous camera. It should for a thousand bucks. (The daughter has all the family members on an AT&T plan (good group rate) where we periodically get any new phone we choose and only have to pay the sales tax. It’s 7.1% here so a thousand dollar phone cost me $71) Also have two Apple tablets and a desktop with a 32″ monitor which is great for watching internet movies. Couldn’t function without both a PC and Apple products. Each has their benefits over the other.

  20. Porter Lansing 2018-12-24 09:39

    Excuse me. I got so enthralled talking about gear I forgot to address the issue. When I get a new phone (for sales tax only) I have to send AT&T my old phone. It must be working and not have a cracked screen. What they do with the old phones I don’t know.

  21. Richard Schriever 2018-12-24 12:39

    Public WiFi is all over the place in Ecuador – but alas – not on the buses. I have found both Cell service and Internet service there to be generally superior to the US. Pretty much everyone has smart phones as well. Quechua vegetable selling on the sidewalk woman will use to translate and to accept debit payments.

    As to laptops vs desktops – my current laptop was promoted back in ’07 as a “desktop replacement” mobile workstation. Quad processor, plenty of memory, 17″ screen, full-sized keyboard, tons of slots for various memory cards, 6 USB ports, biometric security……. My theory on technology is buy the absolute top of the line available. Then sit back and use it for a long time, while everyone else trades up and trades up and trades up – eventually sending twice as much for “cheaper” stuff that never does work as well. The top of the line IBM mutli-processor desktop workstation I previously owned was purchased in 1995 and worked fine right up to ’07 with a couple minor modifications (needed extra storage). I just wanted more mobility without having to switch to a separate laptop.

    The fact the Apple is a “trade-up” focused marketing plan tells you that they are NOT focused on producing truly high-end product (despite the pricing). IMO

  22. Debbo 2018-12-24 14:40

    Cory, at first it was much slower, but as I got used to it, I got much faster. I don’t have to lift up my finger except between words and with the tablet’s intuition finishing words for me or suggesting them, it’s actually faster than a laptop or desktop keyboard for me now.

  23. Porter Lansing 2018-12-24 14:49

    @Debbo – I just tried typing without lifting my finger. It doesn’t work but holding my finger down on vowels displayed symbols of that vowel in other languages with appropriate punctuation such as umlauts and that squiggly thing above letters in Spanish. Pretty cool. 😊 I live for new things.

  24. Debbo 2018-12-24 14:53

    Yeah, I’ve got the vowel thing too. You have to go into settings for your keyboard to set it for the swiping thing. It’s pretty slick. No need for the space bar any more either.

  25. mike from iowa 2018-12-24 15:01

    Here’s a new thing, Porter. I have a MacIntosh and a Connel Red in my garden. They are different types of apples and one for each Grandgirlie.

  26. Porter Lansing 2018-12-24 15:08

    Minneapolis 1960 – new apple varieties – Honeycrisp … my choice above all 👈🏻

  27. Debbo 2018-12-24 15:12

    Granny Smith is still #1 for baking. I will be turning some into scones soon. 😋

    (See what you did Mike, with your talk of apples. You led us astray. tsk, tsk)

  28. Porter Lansing 2018-12-24 15:16

    “Keep those dishes washed.” From The Handwashers Tale. 😳

  29. Porter Lansing 2018-12-24 15:20

    I bake with Macintosh. And, I have a dishwasher machine. Modern, huh?

  30. mike from iowa 2018-12-24 15:31

    You saying I got the wrong apples, Debbo? My humblest apologies to all offended parties.

    As long as I have sinned, I might as well sin some more. Does the dishwasher machine wash apples?

  31. Porter Lansing 2018-12-24 15:35

    Yes. Apples, baseball caps and it steams fish.

  32. Debbo 2018-12-24 16:09

    Your apples are definitely Lefties Mike.
    Porter, you’re not all that modern. You didn’t know about sweeping to type and how to get umlauts and stuff. 😜 😜😜

  33. mike from iowa 2018-12-24 18:10

    Happy Holidays to all and to most of you a good night. I am out of here.

  34. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-12-26 17:53

    I’m hard-pressed to think of a better Christmas gift than learning something new… especially when it involves umlauts! :-)

  35. bearcreekbat 2018-12-26 18:35

    And our friend the tilda. Compare the Spanish words año vs. ano!

  36. Debbo 2018-12-26 20:45

    “Swiping,” not “sweeping.”

    Damn you autocorrect! 👊👊👊

  37. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-12-27 11:41

    “Swiping” vs “sweeping”—should it make a difference? :-)

  38. Debbo 2018-12-27 14:25


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