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

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.

The Mac Pro shortage risks repeating the iMac fiasco of late 2012, when Apple announced refreshed models in October but did not begin selling them for weeks. Even then, supplies were tight.

CEO Tim Cook said the iMac introduction had been a mistake, an obvious statement when the sales delay was the biggest contributor to a 22% decline in Mac revenue for the year's fourth quarter. "If we could run it over, frankly I would have announced the iMac after the turn of the year, because we felt our customers had to wait too long for that specific product," Cook told Wall Street analysts during a January 2013 conference call.

Like last year, when Apple pulled the previous-generation iMacs from the sales channel as it announced the newest models, the company has pulled the older, box-ugly Mac Pros from its e-store. Only refurbished systems are available.

But, then, there's always eBay sellers biggy118 and laru1, and their huge margins.

This article, eBay sellers scalp Mac Pro cylinders for nearly double retail price, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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