This is not the article I was expecting to write after the launch of the PlayStation 5. Much like everyone reading Push Square I've been looking forward to the launch for months, if not years. 4K gaming is coming of age with the latest generation of consoles with more games running at 60 frames-per-second and beyond.
For those unaware, here in the UK we had to wait an extra week for the launch as we watched our North American friends with envious eyes. What's another week, though? We can wait another week.
It was obvious from the outset that stock was going to be difficult to secure, launching a new console with unique technology in a pandemic meant that demand was going to vastly outweigh supply.
Like everyone else, I eagerly awaited the usual pre-order dance. This is one of those times where price technically doesn't matter — everyone is going to have the RRP — so you lean towards your most trusted retailer. Who can I rely on to actually fulfil my pre-order and not email days before saying they don't have enough stock?
For me that retailer is Amazon UK, I've been a customer of theirs since January 2001 and a member of Amazon Prime since its inception. I've always used them for console launches and have never been disappointed. I have huge respect for Amazon as a technology firm, too; sure they have a slightly dicey record in recent years with regards to certain sections of their workforce, but supporting them and giving feedback as a customer I hope these issues get addressed in the fulness of time.
Full disclosure for a moment, Push Square regulars will already be aware, but we are also part of Amazon's affiliate programme in various parts of the world and receive a small commission when you click on those links. We prefer to recommend retailers we can trust and Amazon has always been one of those. For the almost 20 years of orders I've rarely had issues, and if there has been an issue they've been resolved swiftly and fairly.
Back to the PS5. I got my pre-order secured in the initial batch in September and rested easy, nothing can go wrong now, right? During the pre-order I opted for delivery at our Push Square office address, as on a weekday that's most likely where I'll be.
However, at the start of November we, here in England, entered our second "Lockdown" and UK government advice was to work from home if possible, therefore I logged on to my Amazon account and updated the order to my home address — no problem. Initially this suggested delivery would now be on Friday, but fair enough, maybe the change of address caused a slight delay.
I get an email from Amazon UK saying my console is out for delivery — hype level intensifies — and there seems to be some added level of security, that seems like a good idea.
Your package with 1 item will be delivered today. To help ensure the safety of our customers and delivery partners, we will now leave packages at your doorstep where appropriate and move back before you collect your package. Your one-time password is ******. For security, you'll need to read this one-time password to the driver to receive this delivery.
This is new, I've never had to do this before. I wondered if this happened because I changed the delivery address and they want to verify I am actually who ordered it. I've heard before of people getting deliveries diverted somewhere else without the buyer knowing. Either way Amazon, this seemed like a good idea to me. No problem.
Checking the tracking information in the Amazon app every hour or so until the "window" appears. "Your delivery will arrive between 13:45 and 16:45." No problem.
It gets to around 15:30 and I mentioned to my partner, "I've got the PS5 coming from Amazon between 13:45 and 4:45" and she replied, "Oh, I've got something coming, too, seems to be the same van on the tracking." No problem.
White van pulls up outside our house shortly after, the typical sign of an Amazon driver here, and I wait awkwardly on the stairs as I don't want to be that guy peering through the door at him. There is quite a lot of fumbling around in the back of the van before he finally emerges and rings the bell. "Delivery from Amazon" he said as I take the parcel off him and he marches off to next door.
I close the door realising that he's only given me my partner's order. Hmm, I thought and quickly checked the app to check if it is the right van. The blue/green dot is right outside my house so I go back outside and ask him "Are you sure you don't have any other deliveries for us? I'm expecting one" as he walks back to his van "No, sorry, that's the only parcel for you." Confused, I said "The tracking says it's on your van" back. "I've got over 300 parcels today, it's really busy at the depot so it must be on another van," he explained.
He seemed genuine, so I took his word for it and waited the rest of the day as the delivery dot drove further and further away until the app updated with the "Your delivery has been delayed, don't worry it's still coming". No problem.
Woke up positive that today is the day, as after changing my address it did originally say Friday, I can wait another few hours. Shortly after 10AM I received another email stating that my parcel is out for delivery and has issued a new six-digit one time password. No problem.
I was due to pop out to the supermarket to get some supplies and therefore gave my partner the code in case it arrived before I got home. No problem.
Getting back from the supermarket around 11AM I pull into our street and I see a branded Amazon Prime van outside our house. As I pull into the drive I see my partner taking the delivery holding her phone so I assume the code was all fine. No problem.
After parking up I bring in the groceries via the back door into the kitchen, and I'm greeted by my partner saying "You've got the delivery, but you might want to check it." "Why?" I asked. "It's really light," she replied as I pick up the box thinking WTF is going on here.
After opening the box...
It dawned on me like a veil of darkness. Sh*t. I've been a victim of some kind of delivery crime here, haven't I? I've heard of this kind of thing, but it's never happened to me or anyone I actually know.
You can see the sticker on the box says 7.4kg — which is actually heavier than a console delivered to Damien that said 6.1kg but still much more than the NERF gun I actually received. Clear tape, too, is unusual; pretty much all Amazon parcels use their branded paper tape. My heart really sank at this point. I'm not going to get one at launch at all, am I?
Posting photos into our company Slack certainly got some attention as I'm met with "Are you serious?" replies. Little did I know the guys had already ran a story while I was at the supermarket detailing this exact issue; I'm now part of that story.
Next steps was obviously to post on social media and see how widespread the issue actually is, or whether it's an isolated thing. Looking at Twitter it was pretty clear to see that it wasn't some kind of "mistake" but something that was no doubt highly organised and planned.
Scalpers have been fetching in excess of £1,000+ for consoles, so it doesn't take a mathematician to realise the potential money to be made here.
Amusingly some of the replies on Twitter were along the lines of "why did you accept delivery?" and "why did you open it if it was so light?" neither of which would have changed the fact the console was long gone and without new stock wouldn't have made a difference. The best replies were those saying that I'm making it up and just trying to get money out of Amazon... rolls eyes.
While I've had a nothing but positive experience with Amazon UK up until this point, I was acutely aware that I've never spoken to a human being there, only ever using their automated support.
Naturally their automated support doesn't have an option of "I think someone stole my PS5 in the delivery chain", but maybe it should.
I headed over to the customer services area of the site and knowing I wanted to speak to a human the "Need help over phone? We can call you" option seemed like a good place to start; going there the system still tries to give you self-help but messing about with the options enough you'll get a "Or, talk to someone" message/option.
Proceeding to enter my phone number I only had to wait a short amount of time before Amazon UK, to their credit, called me back.
Now, there were two things going through my mind at this point: one, what can be done about my PS5 and two, Amazon UK's PR team need to be aware of this issue as it seems to be building on social media and as a reporter, I want to reach out for an official comment/statement on the matter.
The first guy I spoke to was very helpful, he explained that the only thing he could do was process a refund and that he doesn't have the ability to reserve a console as a replacement. He spoke to his manager regarding the PR team request who explained that they can't connect me to the PR team directly, but they can send a message on my behalf with my case and that I write for Push Square who are looking for a statement on the situation.
"The PR team will get back to you within two working days," he explained. "I'm not sure that is going to work, they will need to put out a statement today to at least acknowledge what is happening," I said. "That's all I can do." he replied.
Whilst I trusted what he had to say, I figured it wouldn't hurt to email the Amazon UK PR team myself to make sure they got everything. A few hours and a few thousand Twitter notifications later, we received the statement from Amazon UK:
We’re all about making our customers happy, and that hasn’t happened for a small proportion of these orders. We’re really sorry about that and are investigating exactly what’s happened. We’re reaching out to every customer who’s had a problem and made us aware so we can put it right. Anyone who has had an issue with any order can contact our customer services team for help.
Fairly boilerplate, but encouraging. The key phrase here for me is "so we can put it right". That shows a level of regret and desire to make their customers happy. Simply providing a refund isn't putting it right, it's the minimum of what they can do as a legal requirement.
Having now exchanged lots of messages with other twitter users the general consensus of "putting it right" would be to prioritise affected customers when the next stock shipment arrives as trying to secure another PS5 with another retailer is next to impossible at this stage.
At this point I hadn't formally asked for a refund, as I wanted to hold out for some kind of restock solution. However, I then received an email from Amazon's "Executive Customer Relations" stating:
I'm sorry to hear about this mix-up with your recent order for PS5 console. I've requested a refund in amount of £449.99. When the refund is completed in our system, we'll send you an e-mail letting you know the date, amount and payment details. Once your refund has been completed by us, please allow your bank between 5-7 business days to process it.
So, the refund was forced upon me, I replied saying that's great and all, but I haven't asked for a refund and would prefer to be prioritised for stock, which got another reply:
I understand that we've processed a refund as you received an incorrect item, but you'd prefer that we send a replacement instead. Unfortunately we do not know if or when the item will be available again therefore we are unable to provide any restock date or offer a replacement unit. We have tried to source the Xbox Series X [sic] elsewhere but unfortunately couldn’t as the item is currently out of stock from all trusted retailers. Very.co.uk and currys.co.uk have advised on their websites that they are expecting more stock to come in, you may want to check their website for any availability. As a gesture of a goodwill we have issued an additional refund in amount of £150.00. This refund will be credited to your bank account within 5 business days.
This was surprising, so after not asking for a refund, not asking for any kind of compensation they sent an additional £150. Which both the £449.99 and £150 have now reached my account. Naturally, I've replied saying the money is appreciated, but isn't actually what I was after. I'm yet to receive another reply.
I updated my Twitter feed with the developments as they happened to let others know about my experience; it seems as if different people have been offered different amounts such as £5, £10, £30 or even £50 and sometimes store credit, sometimes money.
People, Amazon UK representatives included, seemed to suggest that my refund was "fake" as others used it to fight for their own cause. I can't explain why it happened, however, I would speculate that my profile or the fact I've been a customer for 20 years could be a factor.
Could This Have Been Avoided?
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Maybe this could have been avoided, and maybe this happening will prevent it from happening again. I reached out to one of our contacts at PlayStation UK regarding this as I do believe Sony have an obligation to support their customers. I'm yet to receive a reply.
You could also argue that the platform holder could go a long way to minimise scalpers or crime by tracking console serial numbers. Imagine if I was able to tie my PSN account to the serial number on my PS5 before it even left the Amazon warehouse, and going online via a different PSN would remote brick it? Just a thought, and totally possible.
From Amazon UK's point of view it's a serious dent on their delivery security record. Other high ticket items such as expensive TVs are put on the NMPR Police System, which allows the police to track stolen goods in a similar way. Why wasn't this done for PS5?
Could they use a special in-house courier team dedicated to high-target items? Perhaps.
The majority of the finger pointing on Twitter is towards Amazon UK and its, perhaps, underpaid delivery/depot workers. I think these knee-jerk claims are dangerous and it's unfair to tarnish an entire workforce because of this incident. I hope that Amazon UK perform a thorough investigation as it appears to be far more organised than purely a few members of staff chancing things.
Incidentally, the NERF gun I received has remained untouched as I have offered to assist Amazon in any investigation... I don't know, maybe they can dust it for prints? So far this offer has been ignored.
Everyone at Amazon UK that I've spoken to has been polite and helpful within their remit, the issue here is really down to their internal policy — or whatever reason they can't prioritise upcoming stock to affected customers. As a programmer, I know for sure that it isn't a technical limitation for one of the worlds biggest tech superpowers. Promising stock on the next delivery would go a massive way to "putting it right" for all of use that have been affected.
Anthony wasn't alone in this incident, if you've got a story yourself please add it to the comments below as we try to build up a bigger picture of what has happened.