Best Buy’s new $200/yr membership locks PS5, hot holiday items behind membership

Best Buy’s new $200/yr membership locks PS5, hot holiday items behind membership

by Tech News
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Unclear if it’s bundling strategy guides —

Annual subscription price might be worth it for certain buyers.

Steve Haske

Best Buy And Playstation Logos Combined With A Fiery Dollar Sign.

If you’re still searching for a PS5 and are a Best Buy customer, your ship may have just come in—that is, if you’re willing to spend an extra $200 a year for access.

That’s because the big-box electronics retailer is locking stock of in-demand holiday items like Sony’s console behind membership of its new Totaltech program. The expensive customer service package was recently rolled out nationwide.

The $200 annual service—which has benefits like round-the-clock tech support, up to two years of protection on Best Buy purchases (including AppleCare+ insurance, which can cost $200 on its own), and member discounted prices—is throwing in exclusive access to “the season’s hardest-to-find products” as a bonus perk for the holidays, the company said in a statement. The Best Buy retail site had the $500 disc drive model PS5s available for Totaltech members to buy Monday morning, with the consoles gated behind an “exclusive access event” paywall. Instead of selling out instantly, its stock lasted between 90 minutes and two hours—a relatively glacial sales pace compared to the insane demand for the hardware that consumers have faced since it hit stores last November.

VIP… scalping fees?

Although the PS5’s listing page pointed directly to Totaltech membership exclusivity while the hardware was still available, its seemingly unrelated VIP buying privileges aren’t listed anywhere on the program’s membership benefits and FAQ pages. We would not be shocked to see other highly desired products that have been affected by the chip shortage follow suit, particularly high-end PC GPUs and Xbox Series X/S consoles.

The service is replacing a “Best Buy Beta” program that was tested in select markets starting in April. Beta seemed to target a more generalized range of benefits over one focused on tech support and protection, and it notably did not offer special members-only events to buy limited-stock electronics. The company’s free My Best Buy membership, which sometimes includes exclusive discount sales, remains unaffected.

For some consumers, the Totaltech package could be a worthwhile investment. In addition to its 24/7 Geek Squad tech support and private concierge services, it has a number of other bonuses. These include free delivery and installation (useful perhaps if you’re in the market for several wall-filling high-def OLED TVs), an extended 60-day return and exchange window for purchases, and access to “Member Monday,” a weekly Amazon Prime Day-style discount event that starts October 18 and runs during “select weeks” through the holidays.

Given that the AppleCare+ extended warranty includes coverage for two accidental damage incidents every 12 months, discounts on repair services, and covers any Apple device bought through Best Buy, customer mileage may vary depending on their tech tastes. That said, if at the end of the standard two-year agreement you want to extend this insurance service, it won’t be covered under Totaltech’s membership. Buyers assume responsibility for its recurring payments from then on.

There’s not much precedent for flat-out barring average customers from buying hot-ticket consumer electronics. In 2017, Amazon offered an exclusive edition of Motorola’s Moto E4 Plus mobile phone only to Prime members. However, this was just a variant version that added ads to its lock screen in exchange for a discounted price. Customers could also still buy a standard unlocked, no-ads edition of the device from the retailer without a Prime subscription.

Similarly, GameStop offers early access to buy a PS5 or Xbox Series X with its $15-20 annual PowerUp Rewards Pro membership. But these packages—which typically cost around $700—are generally bundled with a selection of two games and an extra controller for the same price as the Totaltech membership plus a disc-model PS5.

But for anyone uninterested in support services who just wants to buy a PS5 or presumably any of the other hottest tech wares that are currently impossible to find, Best Buy’s new program arguably makes it look little better than a corporate scalper.

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