Inside the lucrative world of gaming hardware sellers

“Since I started a new family, I have been trying to find other ways to earn an income,” he says. “I felt like I understood the culture of sneakers and streetwear enough to be able to invest in items and resell them at a higher price compared to stocks, because I’m not very familiar with stocks. This is my version of stocks.”

Patel also got into the resale industry thanks to sneakers, around the end of 2016 when he was a junior in college. At the time, he was studying and making $10 an hour. He worked for three weeks to save money for a pair of shoes he could flip—some Adidas Ultraboost shoes he says he got for under $200 and a friend helped him resell for $275. “Maybe that’s why I got hooked so quickly,” says Patel. “Because it wasn’t fast money, but it was really cool to be able to make that much money with just one shoe.”

With the earnings of this pair of Ultraboosts, Patel kept flipping the boots one by one until he hit two at a time, and so on. Years later, it still resells the shoes along with other items like game consoles and graphics cards. The day before he first spoke, he had bought “300 pairs” of shoes on Yeezy Day, between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., down about $100,000. “I was very tired,” he says.

Perfect side hustle or moral dilemma?

While spending $100,000 on exclusive shoes with the intent of reselling them certainly makes it difficult for people to get a pair at a fair market price, there is an upside to the resale industry—one that is bound by the morals of individuals and an ethics the industry has set itself.

“If this is such a key element, I don’t think it is justified to make robots and resell it,” Patel says. “I know some people who text Walmart just to buy toilet paper early in the pandemic when it was so hard to get some. I personally have a problem with this kind of thing and wouldn’t be able to do something like that. I especially hated people who They resold things like this because these things are necessary to survive.

“Whereas, if you were to tell me you needed a PlayStation to be alive, I would be very skeptical. This is where I draw the line.”

Since he started reselling in 2016, Patel says he’s made over $750,000. His entry into the industry could not have come at a better time. After graduating from college in 2017, he was able to pay 95 percent of his living and study expenses for his master’s degree through resale. Then, in 2019, he had to go to the hospital for a second surgery on his kidney. While the total bill was in less than six figures, he estimates that insurance only covers about 70 percent of the cost and resale paid for the rest. “I don’t doubt my mom would have pushed it regardless,” he says. “But just having the ability to say ‘Don’t worry, I can cover it up’ brought a lot of tension out of her head as well… It was probably the best part. If it wasn’t for resale, there’s no way I could cover that.”

Looking to the future

The reality of the resale industry is that manufacturers and retailers still get paid, leaving consumers to decide whether or not to pay the higher prices. While much of the frustration with reselling has been directed at distributors and robots, some have also been directed at retailers, who often don’t advertise information about what they’re doing to counter filling or curbing sellers. For consumers, often all they see is reCAPTCHA, but there seems to be much more than that.

“Retailers, in general, try very hard to ensure that a legitimate buyer — their customer — can actually buy from them,” says Patrick Sullivan, chief technology officer of security strategy for Akamai, a global cybersecurity and cutting-edge services company. “It’s not that ruthless attitude of ‘we don’t care who gets this – if it’s the bot operator that sets the price we don’t care. “There is a very legitimate concern on the part of most retailers. People are working hard to try and prevent bots from consuming all the inventory.”

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