Saturday, December 22, 2012

Still Life With Robin: Save the Box!

by Peggy Robin

Here's a little holiday-themed tip that can save you money and prevent aggravation later on: Save the box!

Let me be clear: I not talking about your basic Amazon book delivery box. Recycle that sucker as quick as you can. I am talking about the box for your new iPad or iPhone, or any other electronic gadget that you know one day you are going to replace with a newer, shinier model.

Why think of this now? Just check the listings on eBay and you'll see. Any piece of technology for sale will bring in a much higher price if you can offer it up neatly stored in its original box. The more it looks the way it did when you first took it out of its brand-name packaging, with all its accessories snugly housed in their original compartments, the sooner you will find someone who wants to take it off your hands, when you are preparing your move up to the next new thing.

Not only will you get a higher price, but you will have an easier time repacking and shipping off the prize to the next person who will love it.

This advice applies equally to certain other high-end toys -- most notably, American Girl dolls and their possessions: the furnishings, the clothes, the pets, and their toys, too. Addy's doll (yes, you read that right -- there's a doll for the doll), sells for $18, like new in the box. Josefina's goat will get you $20. Not only does the Native American doll Kaya own a horse (Steps High, selling new in the box for $75) but the horse also has a foal, Flying Sparks, which is fetching $48 used, in mint condition. In the box!

I know it sounds crass to think ahead to the resale value of a present before you've even unwrapped it. And it may go against your notion of the spontaneity and joy in the act of receiving a carefully chosen gift from a loved one to respond by methodically preserving all the packaging needed to resell it. All the same, if you can restrain yourself from tearing the paper off and ripping the cardboard open, you'll be glad you did -- maybe a few years from now.

If you can think that far ahead, then here's how you proceed on your gift-opening occasion: First, slide off or snip any decorative wrapping paper and/or ribbons, being careful not to dent or dig into the box. An added benefit is that you may be able to reuse the pristine wrapping and the ribbons. In the process, watch out for adhesive tape that could have been used to secure the end of the wrapping paper to the box and could disfigure the cardboard if pulled off in haste. Make an extra efforts to preserve any cellophane windows. Take note of how any small accessories were fitted into the nooks or crannies in the package. Save foam or plastic sleeves that will protect against scratches during re-shipping. Save twist-ties for cords, too. If there's a manual or printed information that comes with the item, keep it with the packaging and rely on the online version for your own instruction.

Once you have removed everything you need to make the device operational, repack the empty box and find a secure storage space for it, leaving yourself a note in a receipts file, both in your computer and in a paper file, reminding yourself where you've stowed the box, what it was for, and when you purchased it.

Very important: If there's someone in your family who likes to go through closets periodically and get rid of clutter, make sure the box is marked and labeled, so it won't be mistaken for a worthless piece of cardboard that is doing nothing but taking up space and collecting dust. And on that dust-collecting point, here's another practical tip: Seal the box inside a zip-top baggie, the type with a white space on the front to allow easy labeling of the contents.

A final word of wisdom: Shut out the voices --whether in your own head or from those you love best-- who insist that the now-cherished item will never, ever be sold for money. Even though that may ultimately prove to be the case, it's still no reason to destroy the box. A hand-me-down gift in its original box always beats one loose in a bag.  So always save the box!


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listerv,, and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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