SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — It’s been nearly three weeks since the Nintendo Switch was released, and it has become very difficult to find in stores or online.
That scarcity has people paying up to $500 on eBay just to get their hands on Nintendo’s new system that’s a portable and console hybrid. That’s $200 more than the actual price, but there are a few ways to track one down.
Searching store websites directly won’t get you too far. Most have it listed as sold out, while some like Target simply aren’t bothering with online sales at all, instead directing customers to their stores.
I LIKE TEXT MESSAGE ALERTS
If you’re the kind of person with a free monitor, or who likes text message alerts, Zoolert is a good resource. It tracks the online stock of retailers such as GameStop, Best Buy and Amazon and alerts people the moment items come back in stock. I found the text alerts to be reliable, but the best way to keep track is to have the browser window open and have audio alerts enabled. It was faster to try and jump on and buy an item after hearing a rooster crow than it was to follow a text alert to the store.
I’ll pause a moment to say when the Switch comes back in stock online, it will disappear quickly. In most cases, the item is up for two minutes before it’s sold out, and that’s being generous. Some sites like Best Buy won’t hold it in your cart through the checkout process, so you have to act fast.
I’D RATHER TAP F5 FURIOUSLY
When it comes to in-store stock, I’ve found iStockNow to be the most reliable, though there’s a catch. First the good: The site features a live map that can be rounded down to just stores that have product in stock and new arrivals. It also features a listing of which stores have recently added more stock.
Now for the caveat—it has issues tracking Walmart’s stock. That’s not iStockNow’s problem, that’s just how Walmart handles its inventory system. You’ll notice plenty of Walmart locations with product listed in stock, but when you call there will be none. That’s because those inventory numbers also include pre-orders that customers have up to 30 days to pick up. Part of that comes from people being forgetful, but unfortunately, the Walmart system also enables scalpers with a risk-free way to move consoles. They can list a Nintendo Switch on eBay at a premium and if it doesn’t sell, they can just not pick up the Switch and get a refund when Walmart releases their preorder.
CHANGE IS IN THE AIR
The good news is after the past week of difficulty finding Switches, there is hope on the way. Gamestop has said it will be stocking its stores this week with console-only units (previously, the company tried to add $200 of accessories it otherwise might not sell to the purchase of a Switch), and Nintendo announced last week it will be doubling its production starting in April. Both of these factors bode well for people on the hunt for the portable home console.
The exact arrival date of those units is unclear. While Gamestop has announced they will be in stock on Wednesday, some stores reported getting theirs and selling out on Tuesday, while others in the Sacramento area have told me they aren’t expecting the shipment until Thursday.
SO HOW DID YOU GET ONE?
I’ll be honest, none of the above solutions were the only reason I ended up finding one. I had attempted to track down a couple that were listed on iStockNow at a couple of local Target locations, but those had sold by the time I arrived. In most cases, those will disappear sometime around when the store opens, and the stock listings may not update that quickly.
I followed a few text alerts and rooster crows from Zoolert, but the blinding speed of which some of these items disappeared proved too much for me. Sadly, I can’t keep up with bots like I used to, and the scripts people are using are just getting better and better.
Occasionally, there’s a listing on eBay that can drop below $400, or where someone will take a Best Offer at around that price, but I wasn’t in the mood to pay that much over the listing price. It was fun to poke and prod some of the scalpers a few times trying to convince them they were pricing their items too high.
In the end, I had to hustle to get one. No, I didn’t run some shady scheme or pay off an employee somewhere to hold one. I literally hustled. The Best Buy in Elk Grove has shown the Switch “on display” for a couple of days. It’s a vague stocking term that supposedly means there’s a demo unit there for people to try, but when I got there it was the same display I’d seen at other stores.
This is the part where I share my most helpful tip: Try talking to someone.
I know, it seems so crazy!
Odds are by now you will not be the first person who has asked, nor will you be the last. Being a jackass and demanding things won’t get you anywhere, but a smile and an understanding tone might be able to help grease things along.
In this case, I lucked out with someone who really wanted to help me find one and was able to search their system. While there wasn’t one in stock in their store, they found one nearby that they could reserve and set aside as long as I drove there to get it.
SOME HELPFUL HINTS
If you’re planning on finding one, first look at the date when this was posted—if it’s August, you really need to try something different. But if it’s within the next few days, try calling your local Gamestop’s to see if a shipment has come in, or when they might be expecting one. This may require you to wait outside for the store to open, which really doesn’t work for anyone working a 9 to 5. And make sure when you call that you’re not being a jackass. If you’re worried about how you’ll come across, try smiling as you talk on the phone.
If that doesn’t work, I’d recommend against the eBay route. With Switches going for roughly 25 percent above the asking price right now, it’s just not worth it, especially for a console without a pack-in game. That 25 percent could cover The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild instead.
Instead, keep an eye on Zoolert and iStockNow for possible new stock and be ready to act quickly. The prime time I’ve noticed Zoolert updates has been between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. PDT.
And remember, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t end up with one today or tomorrow or next week. The stock will improve in the next month, and the unclaimed Walmart preorders should be released around April 1.