The newest systems from Microsoft and Sony, the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, respectively, launched last month. At least, on paper, they launched: many customers who wanted one of the new systems were unable to pre-order them or find them on launch day, and now they’re sold out everywhere.
One of the biggest bottlenecks for the systems seems to be scalpers, people who buy consumer goods in order to flip them on secondhand selling sites for a tidy profit.
This console launch saw numerous scalpers using advanced computer scripts to scour the internet for restocks of the systems and then use automated measures to buy all of them that they could.
Then, those scalpers have turned around and put dozens of the systems on secondhand sites like eBay. While this practice isn’t illegal, it’s frustrating, and, in many cases, has incited home invasions and burglaries.
It seems many frustrated would-be buyers of the systems have decided to take matters into their own hands with scalpers. Many console resellers have reported being robbed by criminals posing as buyers who then use weapons, deceit, or outright force to steal one or more of the consoles. Some sellers are having their homes targeted by opportunistic burglars who break in and make off with all of their stock.
Toronto police in mid-November issued a warning to would-be console resellers that they needed to be careful meeting strangers to sell systems. Police have warned that, if you intend to sell a consumer product, especially an expensive one, that you should arrange the meeting in daylight, in a crowded area, and bring only the item you’re selling, no other products or cash.
Responses to news of the scalpers being targeted by thieves online has shown that many people are unsympathetic to the resellers’ plight. On Twitter, many noted that they felt it was karma that people abusing a low stock situation to enrich themselves found themselves at the mercy of thieves.
Others stated that they were finding it hard to feel sympathy for people who would artificially reduce stock of a sought-after item ahead of Christmas in order to gouge desperate parents.
However, buying high-end items and reselling them isn’t illegal, and, no matter your feelings about scalpers, stealing from anyone is wrong. Moreover, stealing is against the law, and people who steal (even when they think they’re in the right) will have to face the consequences of their actions when police track them down.