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eBay sellers scalp Mac Pro cylinders for nearly double retail price

They price Apple's hard-to-get radical desktop as high as $5,800, a 93% markup

December 20, 2013 06:49 AM ET

Computerworld - A pair of eBay profiteers are trying to cash in on the shortages of Apple's new Vader-esque Mac Pro desktop computer by pricing their machines at nearly double the retail value.

Apple started taking pre-orders of the new Mac Pro -- a 10-in. tall black cylinder -- early Thursday on its online store. Within hours, ship dates for new orders stretched from an initial Dec. 30 to some time in February.

Mac Pro on eBay
One eBay seller guaranteed delivery by Dec. 25, but did not reply to questions on how the Mac Pro was obtained.

The lowest-priced stock configuration of the Mac Pro features a quad-core Intel Xeon E5 processor, 12GB of system memory, dual AMD FirePro D300 graphics processors (GPUs) and 256GB of PCIe-based flash storage.

Two eBay sellers have listed that entry-level Mac Pro at purchase prices of $5,500 and $5,800, or 83% and 93% above retail, respectively.

One of the two sellers acknowledged not having the Mac Pro in hand, but claimed to have scored one of the earliest available units, which was to arrive no later than Jan. 7.

"I will ship the computer to you brand new in box within 24 hours of me receiving it," the seller wrote on the item's page.

The other seller guaranteed delivery before Christmas. Computerworld asked the seller how the computer had been obtained when the earliest reported ship date had been Dec. 30, but did not receive an immediate reply.

It wasn't surprising to see sellers leverage the Mac Pro shortage for cash: When a new technology product is in tight supply, especially right after its launch, money mercenaries quickly materialize. Shortages of Apple's iPad 2 in 2011 and the first Retina-equipped iPad in early 2012 drove eBay prices sky-high as sellers listed the tablets for hundreds above retail.

In 2010, during the midst of what then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs later called "Antennagate," eBay sellers sold "bumpers" -- strips of rubber and plastic that fit around the edges of the iPhone 4 -- for as much as three times Apple's price as the Cupertino, Calif., company's own supplies evaporated.

More recently, in July 2013, sellers gouged customers who were desperate to get their hands on Google's then-new Chromecast stream-to-TV device, pricing the $35 dongle as high as $300, a whopping 757% markup.

The seller who listed the Mac Pro at $5,500 alluded to the extortionate pricing. "If I do not get [the auction] reserve [price] I am keeping it as I really want to keep the computer but will part with it for a price," the seller wrote.

Apple has not revealed why the Mac Pro, which was unveiled in June at the company's annual developer conference, is in such short supply. Speculation, however, has centered on the fact that the computer is being assembled at a new $100 million Austin, Texas, facility that Apple has touted as part of a made-in-the-USA campaign.

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