We are a small business, one location, and are a Microsoft Partner that sells new and used computers, parts, and accessories. We have, to the best of our knowledge, stayed compliant with Microsoft’s extensive set of guidelines and license agreements. Goodwill Industries moved into the front of our building a few years ago and recently moved their entire used computer sales operation into the front end of this facility, with an expensive storefront façade, animated marquee, and the best of everything tax-free dollars can buy. It was a bit unethical, to say the least, given our tenure of nearly 18 years at this location. They've really hurt our business by riding our coattails and distracting customers to their store that would otherwise be coming to our store in the rear of the building.
You might think, “What? Goodwill? The community good-doers?” -–but what really should matter is that Goodwill is selling refurbished computer systems that, in most cases, have a Microsoft Windows COA (Certificate of Authenticity) taped onto the case (or none at all); and they're pre-loading and advertising Windows operating system on them; but they ARE NOT providing the original CD or a qualified restore solution to their customers—the same customers I would be selling to--THIS IS ILLEGAL!. Goodwill is even offering the service of reloading the illicit windows for $74.95, should it need so at a later date. I have video evidence to back up these claims. I would provide pictures, but how would that prove that these computers are actually in their store? Just march on down to your nearest Goodwill Store--they're everywhere! You'll see! They’re selling their illegitimate, donated computers like hotcakes (to retail customers), yet, we have received a ‘Cease and Desist’ letter from Microsoft stating that we are not allowed to sell our used computers without providing both required license components to the buyer. We have complied with their policies and are only reselling non-refurbished, used systems with legitimate COA and original CD or restore partition, as their representative stated we are allowed to do. All other systems for sale have a legitimate copy of Linux installed on them, or nothing at all. We never installed Microsoft software on a system that did not have the original COA in place, but it seems to be okay for Goodwill (less than 100 yards away from us) to completely disregard the rules. At one point, I warned a Goodwill V.P. that it was not legal to sell the Dell OEM Windows packages that they were selling individually over the counter, because that software MUST be bundled with the computer with which it was originally sold. It didn’t seem to matter, because perhaps they feel that they are immune to the consequences of violating these policies. Maybe they are…? Nevertheless, I have reported their activities to Microsoft.
When I spoke with Microsoft's representative regarding our Cease and Desist Letter, I verbally reported Goodwill’s activity to her, but it seemed her only concern was that WE cease and desist. I understand that in the Public’s eye, Goodwill is an organization that gives back to the community. Little does the public know that a large part of Goodwill’s humongous profits are likely shuffled into excessive operating costs and extravagant executive salaries before any money makes it to benefit the community. They should be investigated well beyond the case at hand.
From our standpoint, if nothing is done about their illegal activities soon, then this will become a question of discrimination against all used computer dealers who ARE playing by Microsoft's rules. I expect Microsoft will do due diligence in their enforcement efforts, and go after the perpetrators who are really hurting them, despite the offender’s social stature. We play by the rules, and so should Goodwill.