It may seem like a few years ago now, but there was a time that some US stores were offering toilet paper for $10 a pack. Back in the days when people thought that the pandemic would wipe out all toilet paper, panic buying restricted supply and some rather ‘entrepreneurial’ store managers saw this as an opportunity to hike prices and make some extra profit.
Believe it or not, but it is happening again, and this time it’s all about the PS5.
The latest iteration of the famous games console has been hit with supply issues due to manufacturing disruption and the shortage of vital semi-conductor pieces.
With the supply of new PS5 consoles faltering and demand for gaming equipment on the rise, the industry has been swarmed by controversial scalpers.
Essentially, a scalper is someone who buys large quantities of in-demand items, such as the new PS5, with the hope that the items sell out. The scalper then resells the items at a higher price.
This practice is highly controversial. Some argue that it is just good business, while others bemoan the scalper’s use of bots and the fact that ordinary people are now unable to buy a PS5 for a reasonable price.
The BBC managed to contact two scalpers and give us a rather intriguing look into their world.
Teenager ‘Jake’ told Radio 1 Newsbeat that he has made around £10,000 from scalping consoles since November. The prices for PS5s have been steadily rising since the release in November, even high street stores like CEX have been selling the consoles above their recommended retail price.
"At the start when stock was limited, you could easily sell a PS5 for £800," says Jake.
I don't sound like a very nice person but it's business, isn't it? Why should I be sitting in my bedroom playing video games like every other 18-year-old, not doing anything with their life? It's easy money, it's pocket money.
The other scalper, 17-year-old Sam, rejects that she is scamming people, instead arguing that she should be considered "an entrepreneur of sorts."
She goes on to argue that her business venture has kept her away from other less savoury activities. She is running a £2,000-a-month business while her friends are breaking COVID rules and spending too much time on social media.
“The reality is we buy stock, we own it, we can set the price. Some of the people in these groups do this to feed their families," Sam adds.
While controversial, this practice is actually legal in the UK. The government did crack down on ticket scalping in 2018, but no concrete action has been taken on other similar forms of scalping. There is some hope for annoyed gamers with SNP MP Douglas Chapman making this issue one of his new focuses.
Both scalpers the BBC spoke of reported threats of violence when doing business online. Sam has had rape threats and witnessed people saying she "should be stabbed and left to bleed in the street". Jake also received threats from "grown men in their 30s and 40s."News Now - Sport News