eBay sellers pounce on Chromecast shortage, price dongle 8X over list

Out-of-stock device prompts online profiteering

With Google's Chromecast sold out and backordered for weeks, profiteers are offering the new stream-to-TV device for as much as $300 on eBay, a 757% markup.

As of late Thursday, more than 130 listings on eBay showed Chromecast as "Buy It Now," meaning that customers could circumvent an auction and purchase the device immediately.

The highest-priced of the eBay listings had the Chromecast for $300. The least expensive was $55, representing a 57% profit.

ebay ad for chromecast
eBay sellers taking advantage of Chromecast shortages are asking as much as $300 for the $35 dongle.

Google introduced Chromecast on Wednesday and began selling them for $35 through its Google Play store that same day. Amazon.com and Bestbuy.com, the online arm of the brick-and-mortar chain, also carried Chromecast.

The Chromecast dongle plugs into a TV's HDMI port. Users then pull content from the cloud via apps like Netflix and YouTube, or direct whatever is displayed on a Chrome browser's tab. A smartphone, tablet or personal computer acts as a remote control. While it's been compared to Apple's Apple TV, a $99 device that also connects to a television, Chromecast uses a different tactic to win living room hearts and minds.

All three e-marts exhausted their initial supplies within 24 hours. On Thursday, Google Play said that new orders would be shipped in three to four weeks.

The quick sell-out also forced Google to shut down a promotion that originally gave buyers three free months of Netflix service, valued at $24. Current Netflix subscribers received a credit to their account in that amount.

"Please note that the Netflix promotional offer (which was available in limited supply) has now ended," read a message on Amazon.com. "Customers who ordered their Chromecast prior to 5:31 PM PST on July 24, 2013, will receive a Netflix gift code via email within 5 days of their product's ship date."

Amazon affiliate sellers also joined the price gouging, selling Chromecast for between $72 and $157, or 106% and 349% above list price, respectively.

High prices for out-of-stock electronics, especially immediately after a product's launch, are not unusual. Shortages of Apple's iPad 2 in 2011 and the first Retina-equipped iPad in early 2012 drove prices sky-high as sellers listed the tablets for hundreds above retail.

In 2010, during the midst of what then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs later called "Antennagate," eBay sellers sold "bumpers" -- strips of rubber and plastic that fit around the edges of the iPhone 4 -- for as much as three times Apple's price as the Cupertino, Calif., company's own supplies evaporated.

There are alternatives to throwing money at eBay.

While Bestbuy.com has no Chromecast devices to ship, spot checks by Computerworld found the dongle available at numerous locations for in-store pickup in three to five days. Best Buy will start selling Chromecast in its retail stores on Sunday.

This article, eBay sellers pounce on Chromecast shortage, price dongle 8X over list, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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