IPhone scalpers will be looking to make a fast $1,000 in the next couple of weeks with minimal risk.
Apple’s AAPL, -0.25% new iPhones, unveiled Wednesday, will go up for sale on the Apple website at 3 a.m. Friday morning Eastern Time. If history is any guide, they’ll sell out almost immediately.
And as soon as the phones actually land, a week from now, some of them will go up on eBay EBAY, +0.15% or elsewhere at markups of 50% or more.
Easy money for the scalpers? Looks like it.
“It’s very prevalent,” says Leander Kahney, publisher of Apple fan blog CultofMac.com. “It seems to get more prevalent every year as demand rises. Last year there was tons of scalping going on.”
Meanwhile, legitimate customers who missed the initial rush will be left waiting weeks more for the next batch from Apple.
Last year, the iPhone X sold out within 15 minutes of orders opening, according to industry reports at the time. Apple sold the phone for $999 and upwards. The same models then appeared for resale for $1,500 or more. In some markets, such as in Hong Kong, professional scalpers were so brazen they were selling new iPhones on the street outside the Apple store.
Apple could not immediately be reached for comment.
The company has taken various steps to try to stop professional scalpers from profiting at customers’ expense. Apple is limiting preorders of the new phones to two per customer.
Yet that will still offer a chance of a swift, if modest, profit to those who are willing to sit up till 3 a.m., constantly clicking “refresh” on their browsers.
It’s a gamble with minimal risk. Apple offers a no-quibble two-weeks returns policy for items purchased directly from its website or stores. So if the aftermarket profits don’t materialize, would-be scalpers can simply take the phones back to Apple for a full refund.
While there are many people who have no interest in paying $1,000 or more for a new smartphone, others will pay much more in order to be the first to have “the latest and the best.”
The highest end of the new phones, the XS Max with 512 gigabytes of data, will sell for $1,449, plus tax.
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Scalpers won’t simply be profiting from U.S. fashionistas. They’ll also be profiting from shoppers outside the U.S., notes CultOfMac.com’s Kahney. For many, an online purchase via eBay may be the cheapest or even the only feasible way of getting a new phone. IPhones are good business for eBay. A spokesman said that U.S. customers alone search its site for iPhones or iPhone products 175,000 times a day.
Apple typically charges much more for its products overseas. The $1,099 iPhone XS Max retails for the equivalent of $1,400 or more in the U.K., Germany, Mexico, China and Russia. And Apple does not sell directly inside many smaller emerging markets. Kahney says scalpers typically get plenty of demand from Saudi Arabia, China and Latin America.
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