Every time we clean up our house, which is quite frequent I must say, there is a bunch of stuff that we want to throw or give away. Being rational beings, each time we look to maximize the returns we get out of whatever we don’t need, and hence go around looking for people who will buy them. The problem here, though, is that the second hand market doesn’t really exist, and even if it does it’s so illiquid that it’s not worth the effort to locate them and sell our goods there.
For example, for a long time we’ve been wanting to get rid of our dining table. The question is how do we dispose of it in order to maximize returns. I don’t know of any shops that buy used furniture, and there are search costs involved there. And then there is the cost of actually transporting the dining table (you realize it can’t be done by my car, right?) to the location of sale. And then haggling over the price. Given that it’s not made of particularly good wood (we know where to sell stuff made out of “good wood”) I don’t even know if what get by selling even covers the cost of selling it!
Worse, we got a bunch of new electric appliances (microwave, mixie, gas stove) as wedding gifts. The “normal” way of getting rid of old mixies or gas stoves is to give it “in exchange” so that we get a small discount for the new appliance we’re buying. When we get appliances as a gift, though, this avenue is lost. The old mixie and stove (and a couple of ancient table fans) decorated our attics and bred rats until we sold all of them for a grand total of five hundred rupees while buying a new saucepan! (I’d located that store and carried the stuff there with such great difficulty that I was willing to sell at any price).
Now there’s this ancient vacuum cleaner and old RO water filter out for disposal (the latter was disposed due to exorbitant maintenance costs). There’s a good chance that we’ll dispose of them by just dumping them on the road somewhere. Seriously. The selling costs are way too high. I know that in New York there’s this whole “industry”, where people leave old furniture and appliances on the roads in the middle of the night, and some other people take them away and salvage whatever profit they can get.
I thought of a business plan that gets unnecessary appliances and furniture from people (for a nominal fee; and by paying transport costs) and then sells it on to people who are actually willing to buy these things. The problem is that a lot of people actually dispose stuff as part of “exchange offers” so I don’t know how much volume this new business can get. But if someone manages to pull it off, I promise to donate all my useless stuff to them. Else, you’ll soon start finding unnecessary furniture and appliances scattered along KR Road in Bangalore.