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Finding high-demand laptops takes shopping strategy amid pandemic

Services that track inventory can help

SAN ANTONIO – Laptops are leaving shelves faster than toilet paper as consumers cope with the latest pandemic-related shortage.

Families working and schooling from home are getting a frustrating lesson in supply and demand as they log on to buy a new laptop only to see the one they want is out of stock.

Affordable Chromebooks and laptops priced less than $500 have seen the most significant demand and sold-out status.

So, what can you do?

Consumer Reports tech editor Nicholas De Leon says it pays to be flexible.

“See if you can find an equivalent model for the one you’re shopping for,” De Leon said.

Focusing on features, rather than brand, can open up more possibilities, De Leon says. Even going up in price can help because there is more availability in higher price points.

Consumers can sign up for in-stock alerts. Some big retailers, such as Walmart and Target, will send a push alert or email to notify you when an item is available again.

There are services like NowInStock.net and Zoolert.com that check inventory across several retailers and alert you when an item you’re eyeing is in stock.

De Leon says consumers should be prepared to pounce when items become available in store. Sign up for accounts on retailers websites so you don’t have to waste time later filling out addresses.

According to De Leon, it can also help to broaden shopping horizons beyond the big names. Retailers like B&H Photo, Newegg and Micro Center may have items in stock. Another route is to try buying directly from the laptop manufacturer.

“You may also want to consider buying used or refurbished laptops,” De Leon said. “And, depending on where you buy it from, it may come with its own warranty.”

When buying used, Consumer Reports says to look for certified pre-owned and be sure to check the return policy.

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