Tales from the gray market: The highs and lows of flipping next-gen consoles

Beware the scammers

The seller I spoke to said he hadn’t encountered any buyers trying to scam him on eBay. He had, however, been approached by scammers via listings he ran in the local classifieds ads. “Usually, scammers say that they can have a ‘shipper’ pickup the item and use Western Union as a method of payment, even though I specifically say cash and local pickup only,” he told me.

“A scammer’s way of writing email also is a dead giveaway,” he added, “since the email is written as if the writer didn’t even read my previous email to him. This is probably because a bot or [automatic] script is writing the email, to a certain extent.”

One eBay buyer that did fall prey to a classic scam was 19-year-old Peter Clatworthy from Nottingham, U.K. He paid $730 for an eBay listing described as “Xbox One FIFA 14 Day One Edition, Photo Brand New UK 2013.”

He received just that in the mail: a badly printed photograph of an Xbox One console.

This photo of an Xbox One console cost $730 on eBay. Buyer beware.

Above: This photo of an Xbox One console cost $730 on eBay. Buyer beware.

Image Credit: Peter Clatworthy

“It said ‘photo,’ and I was in two minds,” Clatworthy told the Nottingham Post, “but I looked at the description and the fact it was in the right category made me think it was genuine. It’s obvious now I’ve been conned out of my money.”

EBay has promised to follow up the case, as misleading listings are not permitted, and Clatworthy has since been gifted a console by the CEX retail chain.

He noted, however, that he’s not alone in being scammed: “I’ve had other people contact me to say they have been stung, too, but have not reported it,” he told Yahoo News. “I don’t think I’ll be shopping online anymore.”

And from the far side of eBay …

Not everyone on eBay has sold consoles that actually work. And as strange as it seems, a resale market exists for next-gen consoles even after they’ve been destroyed.

Kenny Irwin, Jr., an artist based in Palm Springs, Calif., decided to cook both a launch Xbox One and PlayStation 4 as part of his microwave art series. Irwin used what he describes as “the most advanced microwaving robot the planet has ever seen” to fry the consoles while they were plugged in and running.

“There is no inspiration behind my microwave art, the same as much of my art,” Irwin told me. He’s been microwaving things that he probably shouldn’t have been since he was 6, and says he is the pioneer of the “‘smash, blend, and cook this’ trends that became big hits on the web.”

“My viewers not only get microwaving viewing pleasure from watching the microwaving process,” Irwin said. “They get to see what will result in the physical form of art.”

The process and result of this microwaving is certainly eye-catching, as you can see in the video below. But don’t try it at home, even if you do have a microwaving robot on hand.

Irwin’s microwaved PS4 console did actually sell for over $11,000, but unfortunately, it was to a “deadbeat bidder,” and the sale was never completed.

As for the roasted Xbox One, Irwin says: “Unlike the PS4, which fans are very loyal to, no one really cares about the Xbox One. I noticed their fans demonstrate [this] in terms of views and reactions in both videos.”

For any skeptics out there, Irwin says his microwave art does have a genuine market. He recently sold a signed and dated microwaved iPad for over $1,600. The buyers loved it.

Offering proof that people will buy anything on eBay comes YouTuber TechRax. His channel is about destroying high-end consumer electronics, and the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launches didn’t pass him by.

TechRax took a new PS4 console on launch day and destroyed it outside a GameStop store. The resulting video (below) has received over 700,000 views. What’s more, the console itself sold on eBay for $128.

He also took an Xbox One console, threw it into a spa, and then fried an egg on it. Again, the console, while essentially useless, sold for $175 on eBay.

I asked TechRax if the buyers were happy with their purchases. “Both customers were satisfied,” he told me.

In case you’re wondering, TechRax funds his destruction through YouTube advertising revenue, which also leaves him with a slight profit margin.

So when you find you can no longer shift that Xbox One on eBay, you now know what to do with it. …

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More information:

eBay Inc. connects millions of buyers and sellers globally on a daily basis through eBay, the world's largest online marketplace, and PayPal, which enables individuals and businesses to securely, easily and quickly send and receive onl... read more »

Instagram is a free photo sharing application designed for use on Apple iOS devices developed by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. The application, which is compatible with any iPhone or iPod Touch running iOS 3.1.2 or above, allows user... read more »

Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. is a major video game company specializing in a variety of areas in the video game industry, and is a wholly owned subsidiary and part of the Consumer Products & Services Group of Sony. The company was... read more »

Craigslist is a supremely popular listings site. Craigslist was founded by Craig Newmark in March, 1995, as an email list site for San Francisco and Bay Area events. In June 2000, it added its second city, Boston, and then expanded to ... read more »

Microsoft Studios is the video game production wing for Microsoft, responsible for the development and publishing of games for the Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Games for Windows and Windows Phone platforms. They were established in 2002 a... read more »

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