Why buybacks? 7 tips for schools seeking Second Life with Apple devices

Smart investments, returns can help districts get new tech.

School districts that have gotten Apple technology into the hands of students likely paid a price to get it. Over the past year, many others have opted for less expensive alternatives, namely Chromebooks.

Though any 1:1 initiative is positive for students, how much consideration should schools be giving to cost of ownership when purchasing new educational technology? Apple products, like Jeeps or a good piece of art, often retain their value. Districts willing to sell back their older models could see significant returns from companies such as Second Life Mac, which offers buybacks on most Apple devices.

In decent condition, those returns could be used as a down payment on new technology every few years. Schools could make a solid investment, for example, in products such as iPads for students and not pay more in the long run. So, giving away those old Apple devices may not be prudent.

To learn more about buyback programs and their benefits, District Administration talked with Paula Currie, Vice President of Procurement at Second Life Mac, who also spent a decade at Apple consulting on digital learning and 1:1 technology.

Before initiating a buyback, should schools have any concerns?

The buyback industry is very young. There’s a lot of bait-and-switch that goes on. School district leaders are not in the technology business. They may not know the difference between a good buyback company and a bad one. You’ve had people that work out of their garage placing bids. Leaders have said they’ve gone with the highest bidder and those bidders didn’t show up, didn’t pay or said they would pay this but then paid that. So we tell them, we’re going to come get it. We’re doing a lot of education of district leaders now: This is what buyback means. This is what you have. They have lots of questions.

What is the best time frame to initiate buybacks, and can Second Life Mac help both small and large school districts?

We say three years for iPads and four years for Macs. That’s really the tipping point of when your stuff is worth the most money, before it really starts to fall off a cliff and is not worth anything. We will buy back three devices or 30,000 devices. [And yes, they’ll accept older-generation devices].

What sorts of questions are districts asking when considering buybacks?

They want to know, when is the best time to trade in? How long do I keep these devices? What is going to give me the best return? Does it matter if I lease or buy? When can I pick them up? All the timing-type things because they don’t want to give up their iPads until we can come get them and new ones come in. That was a very dicey game last year because of product constraint. [What was normally 7 to 10 days from signature to shipping took much longer. And it is still about 6 to 8 weeks, Currie says]. We can be flexible with our customers because we understand the problems they’re facing.

Tell us about the buyback guarantee you have.

We put [your tech] through a process of grading, on a scale from A to F. And then we say, you had so many A’s, so many B’s. Here’s your check [for example, 1,000 units may bring $70,000, or more … or less. It all depends on condition and age]. We will do a minimum guarantee. We promise to pay X for that equipment in three years.

Beyond buybacks, how can Second Life Mac help school leaders?

We are basically all ex-Apple people and work hand-in-hand with Apple reps. We can talk to you about how you purchase Apple products to buybacks. It’s full service. If you want to lease or pay cash, we can walk you through that. We consult with schools when they’re buying new iPads: ‘This is the best case you should buy. Do not get them engraved from Apple. That will decrease your value.’ We consult with them on how to take care of them. Do you need Apple care? We’re a trusted advisor because we don’t have skin in the game.

What are some of the ways Second Life Mac offers safety and security to schools?

We wipe all the data off of devices and make sure they go back to factory settings. We do a touchless pickup, where we map out parking lots, do traffic patterns and contact local police to keep parents and kids safe and get devices picked up in a timely manner.

Can schools really get Apple products in students’ hands and level the cost with Chromebooks?

The best product, in my opinion, is Apple, because it is what the kids want to learn on. Little kids to 80-year-olds, there’s not another product on the planet that can make an impact on people the way the iPad has. It is a magical device. You have the money to do it now. We’re not going to get CARES Act money for the rest of our lives. A Chromebook is the primary device in education because it’s cheap, it’s easy. So how do you make up the difference in price? You factor in a buyback. An iPad, once you get everything in there, is about $384. A Chromebook is $330. But then you put the buyback in there, and in two years, you’re going to get $100 back for the iPad, but only $25 for the Chromebook. Apple is actually cheaper to own.

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