Opinion - Various responses to COVID inventory challenges: ranked


FPS Enthusiast
May 28, 2019
So now we are coming up on a year of inventory challenges -- it's been well over a year for COVID, but most of the highly desired electronics didn't release until around September and onward. Roughly ranked from worst to best in my opinion. After I typed this up I ended up doing a good bit of reshuffling, it forced me to think about a few of these things a bit differently. I think the only places that didn't move around at least once were first place and last place.

I'll define the term "drop" as it may not be familiar to all = when inventory comes in batches, it's available for order while it's in stock, it's not available to order ("Out of Stock") when it's not. A "Drop" indicates that a batch of inventory just came in stock and now available for order, at least while it lasts.


DIAF) Scalpers - reselling items on the gray market. I can't really blame John Doe from selling an item for 2-3x what he paid if he gets lucky enough to win one through a EVGA queue or Newegg shuffle, but the folks who go out and do this over and over... it's the free market economy at work, I don't wish any regulation upon them, but I do wish they would get nasty rashes. But if you really ~need~ that item, you can get it, for a price. The buyers are the enablers in this market, in my opinion.

11) AMD - traditional e-tail storefront with pre-announced drop dates. Highly prone to scripting bots and web outages with inventory disappearing extremely fast. The company response so far: learn to refresh better. That's before we figured out they are really facing stiff production challenges and they haven't really done themselves any favors, and in light of that, it just makes callous comments like that even worse.

10) Amazon - traditional e-tail storefront, drops are not usually pre-announced but can often be teased out. The reason I ranked this lower - Amazon also allows third party resellers in on the storefront, making it difficult to see exactly who you are ordering from and allowing them to re-list items at marked up prices.

9) nVidia - just got out of the retail business all together and handed it over to Best Buy. nVidia had an opportunity to do better, or at least chose a better partner, and they punted with the least possible amount of effort.

8) ANT Online - traditional e-tail storefront with pre-announced drop dates. Highly prone to scripting bots and web outages with inventory disappearing extremely fast. The only real difference between ANT and the others is that ANT almost only deals in high priced combo packages, which are often loaded with stuff you don't want or even need. Two wrongs don't make a right. I'd almost throw Game Stop in here, but they don't always use combo bundles - just often.

7) Best Buy, WalMart, Game Stop, various others - traditional e-tail storefront with pre-announced drop dates. Highly prone to scripting bots and web outages with inventory disappearing extremely fast. Not really any different than AMD, but at least most of these companies make general overtures about increasing their resistance to bots, eliminating bulk orders, and hardening their web servers against what amounts to a DOS-style flood of prospective buyers when the drops occur. I don't know that any of them are giving much more than lip service, but at least it's an effort at managing customer expectations. The good news here is that products go at MSRP and aren't steeply marked up, and mostly not in silly combo bundles. Some are also peppering in a small amount of in-store inventory, but with limited quantities and pre-announced dates it just leads to campers with inventory gone as fast as the cashiers can cash them out.

6) EVGA - Queue, first come first serve. They later added "priority access" to their members-only club. The queues move extremely slow, not all SKUs get served equally, there's no transparency into the queue. I'm all about the queue idea, but this one needs some work to be more consumer-friendly - a bit more transparency into the process (like what number you are, when it's expected to ship, etc) would have went a very long way. But it does not require a deposit and there is no penalty for backing out.

5) Newegg - Their Shuffle idea wasn't a bad one - it's still pre-announced drops but everyone just goes into a lottery-style arrangement and they sell at the end of the day. For extremely constrained inventory, this was probably about as good as it can get. The bad part, if you are after a very specific SKU you may never get it. If you shotgun you will probably win things you don't really want. Where Newegg is stumbling is by making crappy Combo deals and forcing off excess inventory with these items, and a lot of their items on the Shuffle are at near-scalper prices. You have a good shot of getting ~something~ here, but a really bad shot at getting exactly what you want.

4) Target - traditional e-tail storefront with pre-announced drop dates. The only way this differs from the others is that Target requires you to do an in-person pickup at a local store. This is double-edged, if they don't have inventory at your local store you are screwed, but at the same time, it keeps the bots who scrape up dozens of orders from being able to place the big bulk orders. The in-store thing also presents some worries around COVID, but the fact that you have to place the order online eliminates the camping aspect of it. Of all the companies sticking to the traditional e-tail model and drops, this is probably the best of the bunch.

3) B&H - traditional e-tail storefront like the rest, but they will at least be upfront and not even carry the really high demand items (just a "Notify when available") unless they can get enough inventory to not make it a madhouse.
-tied with-
3) Microcenter - in-store purchase only with purchase limits. Can still lead to campers and some professional "buy one at a time" scalpers, but it prohibits the worst of it. Microcenter doesn't have a wide national presence though, so if you don't have one nearby, your SOL. The in-store thing also presents some worries around COVID.

1) Valve - Queue system with small deposit. They are only doing this with the new Handheld unit, but it's far and away the best of the bunch, and I wish others would pick up on it. They have transparency at least to the point they will let you know when your order is expected to ship before you place a deposit. They do not cap the number of people entering the queue, if your willing to wait until the date they say then no problem. You can cancel with a refund at any time. I really can't think of anything better than this, and why Valve is the only one doing it I don't know.
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Nice write up I for one appreciate the work you've done here.
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