WalMart's trove of decade-old, massive, low-capacity hard-drives


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2013/08/15/walmarts-trove-of-decade-old.html


#2

That’s actually a trifle surprising. Wally-world’s reputation is on of ruthless, heavily computerized, supply chain management and cutthroat logistics-fu.

I wonder if that is, perhaps, less true when ‘the capital is very far away’ so to speak, or whether not bothering to ferret out every last bit of worthlessly obsolete inventory is considered to be an efficient use of human resources under circumstances where they’d probably just throw it away if they found it?


#3

After a decade on the shelf I doubt that anything with moving parts would still work. Sitting on a shelf is very bad for harddrives as the self-lubricating motors’ lubrication gets distributed only when you actually use the things


#4

Was my post deleted? It wasn’t terribly offensive? All I said was “If walmart ferreted out every last bit of worthless inventory their shelves would be empty”.


#5

A couple of years ago the Sunnyvale Fry’s had a palette of Windows 95 retail boxes, still in their original shrink wrap, on sale for something like $75 each (deep 25% discount!). The top boxes were all covered in dust, which you would expect for something that had been sitting in a back corner of a warehouse for 15 years. It was hilarious.


#6

I might be off base, here, but I wonder if this is even remotely ethical.

(Yeah, yeah, what do you expect from Wal*Mart, etc.)

Even a not-terribly tech-savvy consumer (like, say, myself) can easily tell that these are woefully out of date and overpriced. I can’t see how anyone capable of 15 seconds of online research could miss that, either. In my personal experience, “mere” poverty or lack of fancy schooling is not a barrier to knowing what’s currently available. This really only seems to leave the possibility that these items are being maliciously sold to people who are unable to “defend” themselves: the very elderly, developmentally disabled, geographically isolated, and so on.

I don’t for a second believe – as suggested in the linked article – that this is an innocent management error. Inventory is the store killer. Cash flow trapped in stagnant inventory will drag a business down, and any manager or accountant with a pulse will see this problem within a window of about a month, let alone a freakin’ decade. Wal*Mart has a grip of accountants, and if virtually everything ever written about the company is to be believed, they are brutally efficient. Any product that didn’t move at 1/2 off within x time would be sold at or below cost, just to get it out the door and off the books. The only logical reason that these ancient pieces of gear are still for sale is that they are selling.

Given all the above, and @Nadreck’s assertion that this junk might not even work, I can’t see how those sales are anything but baldly predatory.


#7

No such post was ever posted that I can see. Did you pick the wrong week to quit sniffing glue?

The whole category of retail archaeology is way more interesting than it has any right to be:


#8

That’s clever. They’ll be able to sell these to people who aren’t reading packaging closely and think they’re getting a deal on a 2.5TB drive.


#9

Yeah, my first reaction was to wonder if people were buying things like this. I know my grandmother would be a potential customer, being both a tech un-savy computer user and a Walmart shopper (lacking any other alternatives in her small town). I shudder to think people might actually be purchasing these sorts of things.


#10

I used to think Target was bad for having last year’s prices on their thumb drives.


#11

Discount department retailers selling obsolete hardware at ridiculous prices is nothing new. I recall visiting a Zellers outlet in the late 1990s, where the computer hardware section had Commodore 1541 floppy disk drives on display with their original $349 price tags. For all I know they’re still there—if the store couldn’t sell them in the first 15 years after their release, they probably didn’t move them in the next 15 years either.


#12

Probably not since most Zellers stores were bought by Target and almost all of the rest were shut down.


#13

Well, perhaps Target has some Zellers stores in the inventory and forgot about them.


#14

According to Wikipedia, HBC (Hudson’s Bay Company, the parent company of Zellers) kept 3 Zellers stores to use as outlet stores for their other upscale stores. Target didn’t buy all the Zellers stores, just the profitable ones (unless they were unionized of course).


#15

If Walmart were smart, they’d sell these in the artisanal retro ironically obsolescent hipster chic aisle. Or glue an oversized gear on them and call them steampunk.


#16

A good way to promote a partner link. No, really.


#17

Not just last year’s. I guess it was a couple of year ago I spotted some 32M thumb drives on peghooks at my local Target checkout. IIRC they were marked at $5 each. They should have written them down to $0 and given them away just to get them out of inventory. Target’s big on donating to schools; surely they could have found some needy kids who could use some small thumb drives for class.


#18

It isn’t necessarily the case that these have been sitting in a WalMart warehouse for a decade. It’s also possible that some clueless purchasing agent for WalMart bought these from some wholeseller. “Hey look at the deal I scored…They’re a little old but we bought them for 10% of retail…sell them at 20% off and look at our margins…” “You just moved over from buying clothes, didn’t you?”


#19

Dennis sells pager to Frank


#20

Having worked for Walmart, I can totally believe it’s a management error. Walmart may have accountants, but that’s at the corporate level. A lot of things happen at the individual store level that are in complete opposition to official Walmart corporate policy, including having old inventory sitting in the back room for years, and then getting thrown out on the shelves to try to sell it. Usually they put it in a clearance aisle, but not always. They’re not supposed to do this, but they do, because assistant managers and co-managers and even store managers haven’t had nearly all the training in inventory management that you would think they’d have.