How I finally beat the scalpers and landed a PS5 (Update)

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 2,974   +791
Staff member
Editor's take: When it comes to gaming consoles, I do not consider myself an early adopter. I would prefer to save my money and wait for the first price drop because I'm cheap that way. That said, I have bought every generation of PlayStation (including the mid-generation PS4 Pro) either at launch or right after. It happens that I am blessed with a generous wife and a birthday that falls in January.

Update (April 23): Walmart delivered my PlayStation 5 without complications. In fact, it came earlier than expected. It was scheduled to arrive a few days ago, but I actually received it on March 11. I would have posted this update then, but I got sidetracked in my excitement at the lack of actual good PS5 games there are to play.

It's not all bad, though. Playing my PS4 library on the PS5 is a joy. Load times are incredible. Imagine playing Skyrim and only having to wait a few seconds between transitions. Very nice. No Man's Sky (PS5 version) looks spectacular, and the game starts almost as soon as the title screen fades out instead of flying you through space for over a minute while the assets load. Fallout 4 is—well—Fallout 4.

In the past, getting a console for Christmas or my birthday was rarely a problem. Stores usually had plenty of stock on launch day, and if not, there was always Black Friday. Getting one on my birthday, January 20, was even easier. By that time, the mad holiday rush was over, and stores had plenty of units to sell both online and at brick-and-mortar establishments.

The launch of the PlayStation 5 has been a whole different affair though. For the better part of the last year, electronics manufacturers have been struggling to get parts due to the pandemic. As you're all likely familiar, next-generation consoles have been in short supply and as if that were not enough, retailers have also been reserving their allotments for online sales. This situation created an environment rife with scalpers using software to cheat online purchasing systems to sell next-gen consoles and GPUs for twice their retail prices on sites like eBay or StockX.

When my wife told me she would buy me a PS5 for my birthday back in January, I was game, but I certainly was not going to let her pay anything over retail. So began my quest to beat the scalpers and their armies of bots, and I was ultimately triumphant.

The first thing I did was download a mobile app that sends out alerts when stores receive new shipments. There are a ton of them out there, but the one I used was HotStock. The only drawback to these apps is that paid users get notifications first. So by the time I got notified, the stock was usually gone. However, that did not render the app altogether useless. Occasionally, it would push notifications well in advance, and that's what you need—to be prepared.

Over the course of about six weeks, I acted on several of these advance notifications. I tried purchasing from Newegg, but no dice. PlayStation 5 stock was gone literally seconds after the purchasing page went live. I tried Best Buy, Target, Amazon, and GameStop with similar results. It was not all that surprising. Why should retailers do anything to curb scalpers when they are virtually guaranteed to sell out in seconds? They don't care to whom the units are going—that is, except for Walmart.

Early on, Walmart was trying to weed out the scalpers to give regular customers a chance. In December, the retailer revealed that it had blocked more than 20 million illegitimate PS5 purchases in 30 minutes on launch day through a system of software filters and purchase audits. When I initially heard this claim, I was a bit skeptical, so when HotStock said PS5s would be in-stock at Walmart at 2:00 pm on March 4, I was intrigued to see if its bot mitigations worked.

The first thing I did was create a Walmart account. I made sure that I went into my profile and filled out my shipping address and my credit card information so that if I did get one in my cart, I could check out immediately. I had learned from a previous experience that just because you get one in your cart does not guarantee you will get it through checkout.

The next thing I did was add an extra controller to my cart. I always like to have a spare controller on hand, so I got it ready since it was in stock. I also believe it might have helped me later, but more on that in a minute.

Once I had everything set up, I navigated to the PlayStation 5 product listing. There was no "Buy" or "Add to Cart" button yet. It was unclear whether the page would refresh automatically or not, so I trigger tested the Command + R shortcut on my MacBook Pro to be sure it was functioning and to limber up my fingers a little.

As the clock hit 1:59 pm, I started spamming refresh. I noted that the page took a few seconds to load each time, so I adjusted my timing so the reload would occur precisely at 2:00. Somewhat to my surprise, it worked. Right on schedule, an "Add to Cart" button appeared. Somewhat unsurprisingly, I was greeted with the all-to-familiar: "Sorry. This item could not be added to your cart because we recently ran out of stock."

How disappointing. I had at least thought I might get one into my cart. I mean, I was totally ready.

Just as I shut down the browser, HotStock's alarm went off again. I looked at my phone. The notice read, "Walmart will have PS5's in-stock at 2:10 pm." I reopened my browser and got ready again.

As I waited for the appointed time, I read through some comments on Walmart's PS5 page. A couple of people mentioned that they had better luck snagging a PS5 using the Walmart mobile app instead of the desktop. So I downloaded it, signed into my account, and got it to the PS5 purchase page. I noticed that the app still showed an item in my cart (the controller), so I knew I was good to go.

Unsure of whether the app would automatically refresh, I tried swiping down. It was awkward and clunky, and I could not seem to get a consistent enough rhythm to get it to load precisely when I wanted. So instead of spamming the refresh on my phone, I just waited until seconds before 2:10. It took me two tries to get the buy button to load and again—out of stock.

A few minutes later, HotStock chimed again—It was happening again at 2:20 pm. At that point, I began to understand what Walmart was doing. It was essentially putting up its entire stock of PS5s, going through the orders, canceling those going to the same address or other suspicious bot-like activity, and then putting those back into inventory for another round of sales.

This stock refresh went on every 10 minutes for two hours. Fortunately, I landed my PS5 after only an hour and a half (only—HA), but it still was not so easy. Even though I was getting multiple chances, I could not get the item into my cart. I kept trying with both the desktop and the Walmart app, and after one failed attempt, I noticed that the purchase button was still displayed on the app screen even though the browser page said it was out of stock.

I thought maybe if I waited until the next round went live and then hit that purchase button on the app, I could shave a few milliseconds off my time. Sure enough, as soon as the clock hit the sale time, I tapped the Add button and got it into my cart. I frantically rushed to complete the purchase but was told it could not complete my order—out-of-stock—of course!

Now, this is where having the extra controller in my basket may have worked to my benefit. While the desktop showed my cart having only the controller in it, the app still showed two items. I tapped the button to check, and there were the PS5 and the spare controller (above), but the PS5 entry said, "Out of stock." Ah-ha! So maybe I was on to a multistep process.

I left the app on my cart page while I spammed refresh on my Mac. I planned to hit checkout as soon as I saw the buy button on the browser appear. It totally worked! I got to and through the purchase processing screens and received a confirmation email that my order had been placed and was scheduled for delivery... albeit not until mid-April, but I wasn't about to complain.

In a nutshell, if you are patient and persistent enough, wait until Walmart has stock. Use a combination of your desktop browser and the Walmart app on your phone to get the PlayStation 5 (or Xbox Series X, for that matter), into your cart and through checkout. I'm going to stop short of saying that if you follow the same process, you're guaranteed to snag one, but I am willing to say that it can definitely improve your chances. Hopefully, having the foreknowledge of what I went through will make it go a bit smoother for you.

Masthead credit: Girts Ragelis

Permalink to story.

 

SRB

Posts: 21   +34
I don't think is was fair to lump Best Buy into that category. They have an extensive system to try to prevent scalpers as well, and because of it, I was able to land an RX 6900 xt at list price after wasting several trips to the local Micro Center. With theirs, the first Add to cart results in a delay being set up so you can try again after a minute or so, Then, you have to have and account and their is a limit of one per customer. They also release them in a staggered fashion over time. None of them are perfect, but I give them credit for trying.
 

SirDigby

Posts: 797   +594
Congratulations buddy! I was lucky enough to pre-order one using StockInformer to get notified of pre-order drops. I was then even luckier about a month later to get 2 codes via e-mail from registering my interest on the BT Shop as I signed up with 2 e-mails. They were guarantees, it was a really good system, just low number that's all. I bought both with my work discount £15 off, and resold them to friends at discounted price.
One friend was so happy she donated the £15 difference to my chosen charity <3 Talk about wholesome!
#f*ckthescalpers
 

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 2,974   +791
Staff member
I hope you actually GET your PS5.... What would suck is to receive an email next week saying "We had to cancel your purchase as we ran our of stock"...
I know, right? That is exactly what I was telling Shawn Knight. After I got the confirmation (but before I got the email), I kept refreshing the orders page half expecting to see its status change from "Preparing order" to "Cancelled. Out of stock."
I don't think is was fair to lump Best Buy into that category. They have an extensive system to try to prevent scalpers as well, and because of it, I was able to land an RX 6900 xt at list price after wasting several trips to the local Micro Center. With theirs, the first Add to cart results in a delay being set up so you can try again after a minute or so, Then, you have to have and account and their is a limit of one per customer. They also release them in a staggered fashion over time. None of them are perfect, but I give them credit for trying.
Yeah I wasn't necessarily bagging on BB, It's just that it only had stock once while I was looking and the instant I got the green light I hit the button. The item appeared in my cart but then when I tried to check out it said that the item was no longer available, which was actually what prompted me to write, "I had learned from a previous experience that just because you get one in your cart does not guarantee you will get it through checkout." But maybe I just didn't understand how their system worked and I did it wrong. IDK.

PlayStation Direct's system was kinda dumb.I went through their process twice, which consisted of waiting until the sale started and quickly clicking the button, which puts you in a queue. Then waiting an hour as you watch the slowest "load screen" in the world (it was actually the queue I guess). And just when it gets to be your turn, "We're out." Total waste of two hours.
Congratulations buddy! I was lucky enough to pre-order one using StockInformer to get notified of pre-order drops. I was then even luckier about a month later to get 2 codes via e-mail from registering my interest on the BT Shop as I signed up with 2 e-mails. They were guarantees, it was a really good system, just low number that's all. I bought both with my work discount £15 off, and resold them to friends at discounted price.
One friend was so happy she donated the £15 difference to my chosen charity <3 Talk about wholesome!
#f*ckthescalpers
NICE! And also very cool you didn't eBay them. I would have been tempted to eBay at least one just to make the one I kept free. Now I feel like an ***. LOL
 

Kosmoz

Posts: 201   +315
I have a far better strategy of course... I'm going to wait a couple of years....
This! I would totally do this if it weren't for the GPU market being even more **** up that the console one.

In a "normal" world I would wait 1, 2 or 3 years even until the PS5 Pro arrives and only then jump on the PS wagon. By that time it will be numerous revisions (at least if not a new model) and lots of games too.

But because of the horrible state of GPU market, I'm actually considering trying to get a PS5 soon.

@Cal Jeffrey: In EU it's worse than this, so the strategy does not apply, unfortunately. A lot of shops have scalper prices even for PS5 (even double the price)... very few have it still at MSRP.
 

Thretosix

Posts: 87   +99
I did something similar with the Mandalorian Xbox One controller. In my situation I refreshed the page until I was able to get one in my cart. The cart said out of stock. I never deleted the item then got an email stating that I had an item in my cart still. I then went back to the cart and was able to check out. In my case I believe it was another wave that filled my cart and you could easily add one to the cart before the pre-sale date. Just figured I'd share because it was similar and may help someone else in some way.
 

hahahanoobs

Posts: 3,352   +1,511
Congratulations man!
Persistence is key, and hard work pays off.
I gave up trying to get a 5600X long ago cause I'm lazy. I'll wait for a sale now.
 

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 2,974   +791
Staff member
Its crazy man. I rather wait some more months to make a comfortable onclick payment :D
In a "normal" world I would wait 1, 2 or 3 years even until the PS5 Pro arrives and only then jump on the PS wagon. By that time it will be numerous revisions (at least if not a new model) and lots of games too.
Yeah as I mentioned in my opening. I never WANT to get one right away, but my wife makes me. :joy::joy::joy:
 

QuantumPhysics

Posts: 4,899   +5,447
I was able to get 3 PS5 in total for each of my cousins.

I personally prefer PC gaming and was able to get to Microcenter for the 3090FTW3 and beat the scalpers and the lines.

We New Yorkers have some pretty good inventory.
 

Mighty Duck

Posts: 186   +122
I feel at that point this was more of a "you wanted to beat the damn scalpers", than a "you really wanted a PS5 and couldn't wait anymore" LOL. In my case I wanted to upgrade my old i7 4790k a while back and was looking like crazy for a R5 5600x at MSRP. When I couldn find it anywhere, I started toying with alternatives like a i7 10700F or a i7 10600K. When I finally found my desired AMD CPU early this week at MSRP on Amazon, my first thought was "what now? I need to upgrade my GPU too and by the time I'm finally able to get one at MSRP, this CPU will probably cost less".
 

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 2,974   +791
Staff member
I feel at that point this was more of a "you wanted to beat the damn scalpers", than a "you really wanted a PS5 and couldn't wait anymore" LOL.
IT TOTALLY WAS. My wife even said she was willing to pay more, but I said no. During the whole process I was chatting with fellow TS writer Shawn Knight in between sales. At one point he said something like, "I'm surprised you're still trying."

I had already been very close to closing a deal a couple times at that point and I told him that I was having that feeling you get when you are playing a really hard level of a video game. You know where you keep saying, "Okay. Just one more time and then I'll quit." But then one more time turns into, "Okay. Okay. That time I screwed up. That was my fault. Just one more shot." And one more shot turns into, "OH MAN! I ALMOST HAD IT! One more time. One more time."

That's totally what it was like. It took 18 lives to beat the bots. LOL
 

Agnomen

Posts: 21   +17
I got my order in the same day! I was able to utilize the lists feature and add it to a list I aptly titled "ONE PS5 PLEASE". It was faster to spam adding it to the cart from the list I made than the product page. Once it was in my cart it took two more rounds of attempts and multiple captchas but I was able to get the order to go through. I'm almost more excited about beating scalpers than I am of getting the console (though that will shift once I start playing on it no doubt).
 

theSon

Posts: 13   +19
LOL
PS5
Geforce 3000 RTX
AMD Ryzen 5000 series

Nobody will be able to buy regular retail until COVID ends and in store purchases are allowed once again.
That's how you beat the bots. That and also making scalping illegal period
 

captaincranky

Posts: 16,776   +5,523
Congratulations Cal..! Now your Techspot articles will become less frequent and of lower quality. Not to mention the negative impact it will have on your grades at school.

When you finally become incompatible with all adults, including parents, relatives, and loved ones, you'll realize just how decisive and fatal a blow you've dealt to those god damned carpetbagging scalpers. :laughing: (y) (Y)

Or, as William Shakespeare might have said, "if gaming be the food of bellicose aggression, play on". :rolleyes:

Just keep "the dogs of war", off my lawn...🤣
 
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Myflag

Posts: 10   +14
I have to give WalMart credit for their filtering and online ordering system. That is where I managed to get my Xbox Series X ordered from on launch day.
 

amghwk

Posts: 1,042   +959
This "achievement" is nothing to be proud of.

For one, current games are lackluster. Nothing proud to buy one.

Two, unless you claim to eradicate the bots themselves and destroy all scalpers with your own hands, there's nothing to be proud of.

Three, come-on... is there any need to fight and get the PS5?

There are other important things to do in in life.

Claiming to have scored a PS5 (or any other "endangered" hardware in today's world) is childish, to say the least.


Sheesh......
 

NoLifeDGenerate

Posts: 22   +8
What I want to know is why every store has completely forgotten how to simply do backorders in the 21st century. Take the orders and fill them as you get more. What's so goddamn hard about that? I've had orders on Amazon that asked me to verify I still wanted an item after it was delayed multiple times. It's a simple thing to implement. Fill the orders as more consoles come in. It's beyond ridiculous that people are just expected to hammer these sites every time they get a few consoles in.
 

ZackL04

Posts: 732   +561
I don't think is was fair to lump Best Buy into that category. They have an extensive system to try to prevent scalpers as well, and because of it, I was able to land an RX 6900 xt at list price after wasting several trips to the local Micro Center. With theirs, the first Add to cart results in a delay being set up so you can try again after a minute or so, Then, you have to have and account and their is a limit of one per customer. They also release them in a staggered fashion over time. None of them are perfect, but I give them credit for trying.

Yep Best Buy is where I got my series X