This Is Why We Can’t Have Good Things

A few hours after Saturday’s post, I decided: “Yep, that PS3 bundle is the way to go.” Part of the ordering process is choosing the bonus game, which I did. “Part of this bundle is out of stock.” Alright, maybe everyone is picking LittleBigPlanet 2? I tried another game, and got the same error. Finally, I refreshed the page and saw this:

God… dammit.

Given the fact that I would have been getting five games, all of which I had a passing interest in, along with the 250gb console itself for $219, I started kicking myself for not jumping all over this thing. Why didn’t I order as soon as I saw it on Friday?

Bah. Let me check some other places to see if they offer similar price ranges…

raaaaaaaagggggggeeeee

You goddamn sons of bitches.

In the heat of my rage, I did end up laughing a bit over the fact that I was partly mad that I hadn’t thought to do this exact thing myself. These assholes aren’t even including the bonus game, which means they basically got paid $65 to take a free videogame.

But, seriously, this sort of shit is why we cannot have good things. Capitalism and free markets working as intended, sure, whatever. But can you sit there and tell me that this sort of arbitrage is anything more than nihilistic? There is zero difference in “markets” between Walmart.com and eBay, especially when the latter is being sold by a small-time retailer. I am fine with arbitrage conceptually because while the profit is essentially risk-free, it can be argued that value is actually being generated by the arbitrageurs by virtue of them moving product between markets. For example, I am fine with some local store basically buying shit online and selling it in their store at a markup, because hey, maybe I don’t want to wait for it to get mailed. Or maybe I’m not internet savvy. And so on¹.

These guys though? Fuck those guys. Stores are posting deals to encourage more shoppers to show up, and what they get instead are opportunistic leeches extracting other peoples’ consumer surplus while adding nothing. These are concert ticket scalpers buying thousands of tickets, artificially creating the scarcity they prey upon to the detriment of all parties.

And what really sucks for me personally? I am not going to be able to look at any sort of lesser PS3 deal without a jaundiced eye. Future deals will be contrasted with a $219 possibility and likely be found wanting. Just like with the Steam Autumn Sale going on right now, if I somehow miss a 75% deal during its window, I am not ever buying that game until it is back on a similar discount. It may not be entirely logical, but it is the way things work for me.

Moral of the story: Jump on these sort of deals immediately. Worst case scenario: eBay.

[Fake Edit] As I pulled into the Best Buy parking lot on Sunday to pick up my $180 32″ TV and $20 MoP expansion (uh oh), I noticed there was a Walmart right next door. Went in to get some groceries, walked out with the $199 (!) aforementioned Infamous/Uncharted PS3 bundle (cheaper because no bonus game). My “normal” Walmart didn’t have any, but this one had at least four. I was sorely tempted to go “I’ll take all of them,” but internet bravado rarely transfers into real life. Plus, I was already feeling worried I was going to get ‘jacked on my way to the car by carrying around a 32″ TV and PS3, let alone several.

¹ It did occur to me that I did a lot of this sort of thing in MMO AHs, i.e. “flipping.” However, I would argue that I was still providing a service insofar that the original seller was desiring a quick liquidation and nothing else. Or maybe it is the same thing in the abstract. Then again, the person who ends up buying my flipped good never knows how much I bought it for, which is the source of a lot of my ire right now.

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Posted on November 26, 2012, in Commentary and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Err, yeah, flipping on MMO auctions is exactly the same thing as what those people are doing in real life. :P

  2. I bought my PS3 from Best Buy for $270, and it only came with Uncharted 3. As I’ve yet to play even that game, I don’t feel too ripped off on not getting more of them.

    • Incidentally, this seems like a large amount of work just to make about 500 dollars. One reason I was never any good at making money in WoW is because I can’t stand micromanaging auctions.

      • The username of the seller makes it seem like a store account, so it is likely that they are set up to do this sort of thing on a consistent basis. Hell, some store employee might be getting paid to micromanage those auctions.

  3. Good ol’ scammers on eBay. Some things never change. I learned about this in detail when I got into action figure collecting. The amount of figures being scooped up at stores and being resold for double price or more is absurd. Unfortunately people with more money than sense keep them in business. I feel your pain trust me.

    I have been tempted to start my own eBay store to just sell anything overpriced on but my morals keep getting in the way. Some of these stores aren’t even holding inventory, so you are essentially just paying to have them go to the site they get it from and put your address on the order.

  4. It’s funny you mention this since I just had a similar experience. I tried to buy a Nexus 4 from the Google Play store less than an hour after orders went live. After about a thousand refreshes of the page, I did manage to make a successful purchase but was shortly after put on 3 week backorder (this was on the 13th, still have no word when my phone is coming). Anyway, within the week there were dozens of eBay auctions up with people selling 3+ Nexus 4s in-hand, most of them asking hundreds of dollars above what Google was charging for them. For example, the 16 GB N4 retails for $350 from Google, this guy has sold 8 so far at $640: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Brand-New-Google-Nexus-4-16GB-Black-Unlocked-Smartphone-/330832648321?pt=Cell_Phones&hash=item4d07299881.

    Seeing that guy reselling 10 phones for nearly double their original price when I just wanted ONE for my own use is obviously very frustrating for me, but I also don’t think there’s anything objectively WRONG with it. You can’t “blame” a market for existing as long as people are willing to pay money for its products–and obviously, people are. A lot of those auctions are selling and in fact many of those “scalped” N4s served a purpose–they allowed people in non-Google-favored countries to get their hands on N4s at the same or similar prices as they would have been able to get them either retail (in a few months when Google gets around to selling them to retailers) or from Google directly (Google isn’t selling them at all outside of the US, Europe/UK, Canada and Australia AFAIK).

    Not only that, but the existence of the scalper reseller market allows the primary supplier the chance to indirectly gauge demand and set appropriate prices.

    At any rate, I don’t blame them for wanting to make money. The onus is on Google to keep this from happening. All they had to do is restrict order quantities per shipping address/card number. They didn’t, and here we are.

    • Yeah, I understand that technically all of this is the market Working as Intended, e.g. the phones are being distributed to those who objectively value it the most (those willing to pay a higher premium). At the same time, I cannot help but feel this is more a sign of market inefficiency than anything. It’d be one thing if the eBay scalper actually was offering to ship the phones outside the market Google was shipping to, but the eBay listing specifically mentions that he/she only ships to the 48 States.

      Since I have been buying digital goods for last 5-6 years, I suppose this is simply me re-entering the normal marketplace. Kinda makes me pessimistic for the value of limited-time sales when they apparently serve more as a vehicle of risk-free profiteering than actually generating consumer surplus. Bah.

  5. “which means they basically got paid $65 to take a free videogame.”

    They got paid $65 to:

    1) Look out for deals
    2) Pay upfront for stock (taking on risk – what if the prices crash further or demand dries up?)
    3) Store the goods until they are wanted
    4) List them and pay an ebay fee/paypal %
    5) Go to the local post-office and ship them
    6) Accept some liabilities if the product is lost in the post or similar

    There’s a reason why we aren’t all doing this :)