Ex-Twitter employees puzzle over Elon Musk’s abandoned laptops

from Elon Musk Twitter needs every penny. With millions of dollars in supposedly unpaid amounts rent and billsplus $13 billion owed to lenders which financed its takeover, there is “much work to be done” if the company is to avoid bankruptcy, Musk said last month.

Twitter recently launched a estimated $1.5 million from furniture and equipment from the San Francisco headquarters, to trifles such as keyboards and USB dongles. But the company has left tens or possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars in glittering assets to collect dust in the homes of former employees.

Some people fired or laid off by Musk wonder why Twitter hasn’t bothered to pick up their company laptops, the latest head-scratcher in a takeover marked by botched product launches, abrupt policy changes and delayed paychecks.

Eric Frohnhoefer, a California software engineer, was fired the following November confront Musk via tweet, says he hasn’t heard back yet about returning his company-released 2021 Apple MacBook Pro M1 Pro laptop (8/10 WIRED recommends). “It’s still in a closet,” he says. Like the laptops of thousands of remote Twitter employees whom Musk has either terminated or resigned since early November, his was digitally locked, rendering it unusable.

Refurbished versions of his model can still fetch about $1,000, and new ones are twice as expensive. Frohnhoefer feels no obligation to Musk and is in no hurry to return the machine. “I’m happy to let it sit there and be a brick,” he says.

Two other ex-Tweeps say they are less relaxed about their custody of Musk’s expensive paperweights as they are among the employees still owed severance pay, and they fear this could lead to further delays in their compensation , or even legal problems over time. In ex-employee chat groups, braver souls have talked about trying to crack their laptop’s lock code or wipe and reset the device, one such source says.

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

Companies usually want their devices back from departing staff quickly to protect proprietary data and save money, by lowering equipment leases or through reuse and resale. But there are exceptions. Snap and Airbnb have confirmed that employees laid off during the pandemic will be allowed to keep their work laptops.

Some former Twitter employees have told colleagues they were returning items after contacting the company for prepaid shipping boxes. Others have received generic emails in recent days asking them to complete a “Twitter Device Collection Survey,” several people say. But four of the five who spoke to WIRED hadn’t received the email itself and are still passing on Musk’s property.

“I think at this point Twitter thought it would cost too much to try and take all these laptops back without saving them — they haven’t paid rent in a while, you know,” said Frank Meng, a machine- learning engineer in Canada fired by Twitter in November. He only found out last week through one of the private group chats that a return could finally happen.

The survey viewed by WIRED describes badges, authentication tokens, business credit cards, company-issued cell phones, and laptop chargers as returnable items. However, monitors, keyboards, mice, display cables and stands do not need to be picked up, the form says. It is not made clear what former employees should do with laptops.

The survey asks for an address to send a shipping box for returnable items to, but also offers options to drop off equipment at some Twitter offices.

When WIRED wrote to a Twitter email address for returning equipment shared by an ex-employee, an unsigned response came back after about three hours of linking to the form, saying further instructions and a box will arrive in 30 minutes. days after submission. A laid off employee says they are in no rush to fill it out. “Elon can wait.”

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