Students, residents turn trash into treasure with university surplus sale

Sarah White/Staff Photographer Mount Pleasant resident Richard Wood sorts through boxes of cords at the surplus auction on Friday.

For students like William Trotter, a senior from South Rockwood, the somewhat obscure Central Michigan University surplus sales present an opportunity to make quick cash out of university trash.

Providing opportunities for personal and professional gain for students and residents throughout the year, Central Michigan University surplus sales transform CMU trash into treasures.

Held the last Friday of every month in a large garage at 275 W. Bellows St. on campus, the surplus sale allows the university to rid itself of old or damaged items, while providing customers with steals that can be fixed for use or sale.

Manager of CMU Surplus Sales Mike Viers said they first determine if an item can be used on another part of campus before it is donated to the sale. Something might be qualified for sale if it no longer works or is simply scratched up.

“It’s assessed by condition and by need,” Viers said. “If I won’t use it in my office, I won’t keep it.”

February's sale consisted of large numbers of desks, computer monitors, file cabinets and exercise and audio video equipment. Other items included articles of clothing, refrigerators, tables and printers.

Patrons were lined up outside the building at least 30 minutes prior to the start of the sale. When the doors opened, they filed in with sold stickers in hand, ready to claim their items.

Nothing at the sale is tested for functionality, so each purchase is a risk at final sale with no warranty.

First-time visitor Kevin Chamberlain of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe did not let the lack of a warranty dissuade him from making a beeline to the personal exercise equipment.

A member of the independent contracting company Sweet Grass Productions, Chamberlain was also in pursuit of AV equipment for his work.

“It’s a good resource,” Chamberlain said. “There’s a lot of AV stuff that needs to get turned around. If they don’t need much work, I can use them.”

Chamberlain was not the only Mount Pleasant resident in search of larger items. One patron brought her children and family along for the experience.

“I think we have a really broad range of customers,” Viers said. “Lots of students come to purchase, people from the community (and) people from as far a distance as Lansing, Midland and Saginaw.”

Trotter is a long-time frequenter of the surplus sale, with last week being his sixth or seventh visit. He first heard of the sales from a friend in his marketing class, and has since made money off of the sale finds.

As he does not have a car, Trotter strategizes going after items he can turn around for sale, which usually include electronics and items of clothing.

“It sounded interesting,” Trotter said. “I just look for small things that I can make a dollar on. I kind of go for the small things that are overlooked by everyone else.”

Trotter said items at the sale for an extended amount of time can be negotiated down even further.

Items that do not pose much interest to the local community, such as lab microscopes, or those that could benefit from a larger market, such as cars and vans, tend to do better in the online auction.

Viers said larger, more obscure items go onto the online auction to both expand the buying market and keep such things out of landfills.

The next CMU surplus sale will take place on March 28.


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