Skip to main content

Supply chain issues broke online shopping, and companies don't care

Retailers jerry-rigged "fair" systems for buying PS5s, but other tech is still plagued by bots and shortages.

Supply chain issues and chip shortages aren't going away anytime soon. Popular devices like the PS5 or Switch OLED will continue to sell out in mere moments, with availability tracking becoming its own cottage industry. Everything from smartphones to new cars are rare commodities these days.

Google limited the Pixel 5a to just two countries and is already running low on Pixel 6 Pro stock. Likewise, Samsung all but ran out of its superb Galaxy S21, while chip shortages reportedly made it delay and consider canceling the S21 FE, then abandon its plans for using the Exynos 2200 in the S22 worldwide.

And, of course, Sony will fail to meet demand for its console through 2022 (if not longer).

Shortages are the new normal, but stores are pretending nothing has changed.

Blaming companies for component shortages is unfair and counterproductive. But what's surprising, even dismaying, is how companies and retailers haven't adapted their retail systems in acknowledgment of this new normal. Buying anything in high demand is a true crapshoot. Work-at-home people who have time to track release schedules can brute force their way to victory, but everyone else is totally out of luck.

Companies haven't just stood pat over the last year. But their solutions, by and large, are either inadequate or unfair to consumers. And I don't see much light on the horizon to suggest anything will change.

PS5 hunting is pay-to-play now

I managed to buy a PS5 in late 2020 using the "traditional" method: I saw a restock tweet about an upcoming Walmart drop, set up shop with my partner on two separate browsers, and refreshed like crazy for a half-hour until she lucked into getting one in her cart. Other friends hunted for PS5 stock just as diligently but weren't blessed by the random algorithm gods, taking nearly a year longer to secure one.

"Retailers haven't fortified their websites to prevent bots from taking all of the controls."

With demand obscenely high and bots hoarding consoles for resellers, you require more than luck to secure a PS5. You need forewarning from insiders on where to look and when. Some retailers started to implement lotteries to make things fairer, but that didn't truly solve anything.

"Lotteries are a better way to control the free-for-all add-to-cart scramble, but bots have found a way around those pretty easily," says Matt Swider, editor-in-chief of the new tech site The Shortcut, a popular PS5 restock watcher, and my former supervisor at Techradar.

He believes that "retailers haven't fortified their websites to prevent bots from taking all of the controls."

With the PS5 now one year old as of November 12, commercial sites have had plenty of time to adapt their systems to confront this issue. But Swider says that these sites haven't invested in website infrastructure enough to make a lasting difference for the most part.

"I've seen bot-using resellers adapt to new lottery systems at Best Buy and Walmart within one restock. They're experts at figuring out ways around these security measures," Swider explained.

Most PS5 bots aren't as cute and friendly as the ones in Astro's Playroom.

So what have these sites done to solve the problem? Mostly create financial barriers to make resellers less likely to intrude. Barriers that pass the buck (literally) onto the consumer.

Most anti-bot tools pass the cost of repelling resellers onto the consumer.

CNET noted in a recent editorial that many retailers now require an annual subscription like Walmart+ or Gamestop PowerUp Rewards Pro to become eligible to buy new consoles. These artificially drive down demand with a paywall that limits the profitability for bot-runners.

Or, as Swider noted, stores are bundling consoles with games or gift cards as a disincentive to resellers since a bundle is harder to profit off of. They're "the only thing that's worked" to drive bots away, so retailers sell them no matter how much "consumers dislike them."

Retailers know that successful bot operations make them look bad and leave customers frustrated. But in the end, a sale is a sale, whether it's a hundred people or a hundred bots who clear out the stock. And it's easier to profit off the situation by selling memberships or bundles to "solve" the problem than it is to make fundamental, costly changes to a storefront during a pandemic.

Adjusting to the new normal

Picture a Black Friday doorbuster where a mob literally smashes the door down and charges the electronics section. People run to the front of the line, but while the cashiers are trying to register who's in front, people "refresh" and shove them out of the way. Eventually, the cashiers arbitrarily decide that people with green shirts or red hair get to be in front while other people who arrived at the same time are told to go to the back of the line.

That is online shopping in a nutshell. It stems from a time when physical and online shopping ran in lockstep with one another, with one backing the other up in case supplies ran low in the physical or digital world. Aside from sites like Amazon that have Lightning deals, very few stores can handle heavy traffic to the same digital product all at once.

Google marketed its phones better than its manufacturing and storefront could handle.

Look at the Pixel 6 launch. Google hyped up the phone with Android superfans — though it later backfired when the Pixel 6 turned out buggy — and tons of people flocked to the site. But the Google Store could barely handle the traffic, so while some people were buying the phone, others kept seeing cached error messages. Eventually, those people got through, only to see "Sold Out" instead of "Buy" just minutes after launch.

As of publication, the Pixel 6 Pro is sold out on most storefronts...unless you count the resellers pricing it for nearly $1,500 on Amazon and eBay. You can't help but wonder how many Pixels were claimed by bots instead of loyal customers.

We can't hold global silicon shortages and manufacturing limitations entirely against Google. But companies have a better idea than we do of how much success and traffic their devices are likely to inspire. Google probably knew its storefront wouldn't handle the demand, but why should it care? It sold its stock in a snap.

Right now, the only way people can prepare for an online product launch is to read tech blogs to find out the exact start time or click the "Notify Me" button most sites have. Except that button is all but worthless because by the time you receive the email, all the in-the-know techies have already jumped on whatever stock is available.

We deserve better systems for buying all of our devices, not just the Playstation 5.

Whether we're talking about phones, consoles, or any other popular tech, companies know months in advance when a product is going to launch and how many they plan to sell. So they could easily prepare a virtual line like the one used by Playstation Direct, where buyers are slowly brought onto the purchase page. Or they could use a digital ticket dispenser system where people sign up for a product and find out if their number has come up or not without a stressful rush, similar to Newegg Shuffle.

These companies have the know-how and resources to implement these systems or hire a third party to implement them. But they'll continue to stick to the status quo because people have accepted it as the norm. However, the more products besides the PS5 slip through our fingers and the more fuss unsuccessful shoppers make, the more pressure retailers should feel to thwart resellers and make online shopping more equitable. At least, that's what I hope.



Source: androidcentral

Popular posts from this blog

How to get the Microsoft experience on a Chromebook

Microsoft's dedication to Android translates to a great Chrome OS experience, too. Once upon a time, to get the best experience for Microsoft services, you needed to buy a Windows laptop . If you were on a budget laptop with lower specs, though, performance was slow, all tasks were tedious, and your productivity suffered. These days, though, the best Chromebooks offer excellent performance and less maintenance at lower price points. Thanks to the way Microsoft has worked to improve Microsoft apps and services across all platforms — from Macs to Android tablets to phones — you can still get most of the Microsoft goodies on a Chromebook. In fact, if you're on a tight computer budget, a Chromebook could be the best machine for Microsoft users — something even Microsoft acknowledges as it preps Windows 10X to better compete with Chrome OS. From productivity to playing games, here's how to get the best Microsoft experience on a Chromebook. Best of Microsoft on Chromeb

FCC approves broadband 'nutrition labels' to help you shop for internet

The FCC is pushing nutrition labels for internet providers. What you need to know The FCC has voted to move forward with new rules for ISPs to display nutrition labels. The proposed rulemaking would mandate ISPs to display relevant speed and pricing information to consumers. This should make it easier for consumers to make an informed decision on their broadband. The FCC voted unanimously on a plan that would allow consumers to make better decisions about their broadband internet. The proposal will require internet service providers (ISPs) - including many of the best wireless carriers in the U.S. — to display "nutrition labels" that display relevant service information for consumers at point-of-sale. This includes internet speeds, allowances, and clear information on rates. "If you walk into any grocery store and pull boxes of cereal from the shelves, you can easily compare calories and carbohydrates," FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statemen

Follow these steps to connect a Pro Controller to your Android phone

Playing games on your smartphone is one of the best ways to entertain yourself. However, it can be tough to play with some games when you're just tapping on a screen. Fortunately, it's possible to sync up a traditional controller. That's where it's nice to connect your Nintendo Switch Pro Controller and get playing on the best gaming phones . By the way, the Playstation 4 controller as well as the Xbox One controller are also compatible with Android devices, if you'd prefer to use one of those. Note: You will only be able to use a Pro Controller if your phone is running Android 10 and if the game you're playing supports controllers. Additionally, the process for syncing the controller with your phone will be different from one phone to the next. How to use Switch controller on Android: Sync Pro Controller to your phone via Bluetooth Do keep in mind that some Android games — including some of the most popular titles like Genshin Impact — don't act

Duke Nukem is getting a movie from some guys who could actually pull it off

The one true Duke. I wouldn’t be surprised if you have no idea who Duke Nukem even is — that’s how hard the classic video game franchise cratered a decade ago. Today, the character is mostly known as a punchline for video game vaporware jokes, about how Duke Nukem Forever spent 14 years in development hell only to become a huge flop. And yet for years now, Duke’s corporate owners have been whispering that a movie is coming, culminating in The Hollywood Reporter ’s story today : Legendary Entertainment has tapped Cobra Kai creators Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg to actually produce a feature film. I don’t quite know how to react! As a gamer who actually quite liked Duke Nukem , Duke Nukem II and Duke Nukem 3D, I absolutely agree that this movie should never be made because Duke Nukem has no depth and no story and was always designed to be a caricature . (Side note: the famous quote about coming to kick ass and chew bubblegum and being all out of gum? Like most