Xmas Gifts

avoiding the scalpers

Posted on December 12, 2021

Nearly two years into the Covid pandemic, isolating rules are still limiting indoor group activities so we continue to divide our free time between the great outdoors and our family room. This Christmas, my younger son is really keen to play the recent Spiderman video games. While I know this is the result of concerted Sony marketing to children via Youtube, Fortnite, and the recent movie… kids just want to have fun over the holidays.

Game Consoles

In order to play recent Spiderman video games, you need a Playstation. Currently, this means a Playstation 4 or a Playstation 5. For nearly a year now, the Playstation 5 has been difficult to purchase, and the availabilty crunch before the holidays only made things worse.

As with any product with limited supply and high demand, scalpers are snapping them up using automated bot accounts to beat regular folks trying to buy a gift. Then the scalpers would immediately list the console on a secondary marketplace like Kiiji, Ebay, or Facebook for 50%-100% or more.

So while we could likely afford to pay such inflated scalper prices, I refuse to support them. That left me looking to either beat the scalpers to a purchase OR purchase an alternative with more supply. In particular, I am lucky that I work online all day, so I joined lbabinz - a stock-monitoring Discord and started trying to place orders at Best Buy, Walmart, Amazon and other online retailers. I very quickly discovered that a few seconds was not fast enough due to the automated bots used by scalpers.

However, our family has a Costco membership and I noticed that product drops there didn’t go out-of-stock quite so fast as everywhere else. Perhaps because a scalper running a hundred automated bots would require a hundred annual Costco memberships to purchase in bulk, like they do at other retailers. So I kept trying to get a Playstation 5 console into my Costco cart. One morning in early December, I was suprised to find one in my cart, a second after an alert. I quickly placed the order.

As well, a few days before Christmas, I found a XBox Series S on the shelf of my local Walmart. I’ll hook it up to the old TV in my office to let me play Game Pass titles. By going with the quite capable Series S, I avoided altogether the scalpers hoarding the more powerful Series X consoles.

Graphics Cards

Next gift item was a long overdue GPU upgrade for my boys gaming PCs. For about 3 years now, they’ve been running with a Sapphire Pulse RX 590 and the iGPU built into an AMD 2400g APU. While that has worked great, it was getting a bit limiting in newer game titles. So I was on the hunt for a new GPU…

Smack in the middle of the worst GPU supply-shortage & demand-peak possibly ever? Local PC stores in Calgary were only selling at marked-up prices (150%+ of MSRP) if building an entire PC. Online retailers were 200%+ and scalpers were offering at 300% markups. Pretty silly, so again I looked for ways to avoid paying inflated prices. This meant the AMD Queue, a weekly random lottery that has also fallen prey to bots, or the Best Buy overnight lineup. In my case, I found myself a local Best Buy at 5 am. Luckily, due to the frigid weather not too many people had shown up, so I was able to snag a Nvidia 3070ti at MSRP. Pretty lucky timing.

The new RTX 3070ti replaced the older RX 590, which moved to give a graphical boost to the PC with the 2400g APU. Both GPUs are still doing well, driving some mid-range 34” ultra-wide monitors. We should be good for a while now on computer upgrades. Perhaps supply issues will even be resolved by then…

More in this series…