Online retailers worldwide have been dealing with an unwanted influx of automated purchasing bots since early this fall. These online bots, which originated in sneaker-collecting sites, allow unethical individuals to snap up more of a given product than they would otherwise be able to purchase. Online distributors such as Newegg have no interest in seeing their own products resold on eBay for more money, and so the company has made a change to its refund policy that was intended to hurt botting. Unfortunately, it’s also hit regular customers, too.
Up until now, if you bought a bundle deal on Newegg, you could return part of the bundle. This voided the discounted price you originally received, but it also allowed you to receive a refund for the value of the product minus the value of the applied discount. In other words, if Newegg originally gave you a $25 discount on a $75 power supply in a GPU + PSU bundle, you’d get $50 back if you returned the PSU. The only reason you had to return the entire bundle is if the value of the returned item was smaller than the value of the discount.
Hot Hardware first wrote about this difference, so hat-tip to them for the news. Under the new policy, all items in a bundle must be returned in order for you to receive a refund. Note that you do not need to return all items if you need a replacement for a defective piece of merchandise — this change applies specifically to those seeking refunds.
How Does This Fight Scammers?
Newegg has begun bundling its high-end GPUs as a way of ensuring that actual customers buy them instead of scammers. If you have to buy a PSU / motherboard / CPU alongside a graphics card, it means you have to move two products, not just one. There may not be any particular demand for the second product, it’s annoying to have to deal with the additional inventory, and you have to provide additional packing material and boxes, especially if your bundle came in a single package. None of these deterrents are going to automatically stop scammers, but they make the entire process more uncertain and annoying.
At least, that appears to have been the hope.
It’s not clear how much of Newegg’s stock is being preferentially diverted to RTX bundles instead of card sales, since there was no available inventory for either when I visited. There’s an obvious potential downside to this push, however — if you force people to buy bundles in order to get their hands on a brand-new GPU, and you refuse to allow partial returns, yes, this does constitute a barrier to bots — but it also harms gamers who never wanted a new PSU / motherboard / CPU in the first place, and only took the bundled deal to avoid having to buy a card from a scalping service.
This problem does not seem to have a simple solution without baking some kind of identification / address confirmation into the purchase process, with all of the concerns about personal privacy that it entails. Forcing gamers to buy components they don’t need and can’t return is a lousy way to address the problem. It just so happens to also guarantee Newegg a little extra profit, and while we’re not implying that’s why the company took these steps, we doubt they’re crying over the bonus revenue.
There’s an intrinsic conflict of interest any time a company says “You have to buy X in order to buy Y,” and while bundling is scarcely illegal, it doesn’t engender warm feelings in every case.
Bundles are better than scalping, in that they at least offer some protection against getting fleeced. If I had to pick between paying a random scalper on eBay or Newegg the same amount of money, I’d pick Newegg. The search for a solution to this problem that doesn’t require further invasions of privacy and/or agreeing to pay more money than the manufacturer says you should have to pay goes on.
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