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By Brad Tuttle
April 30, 2020
Courtesy of Amazon

It’s not just toilet paper and hand sanitizer that are sold out or incredibly hard to find in stores nowadays.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. seven weeks ago, opportunistic hoarders and everyday shoppers alike focused first on household essentials. In addition to toilet paper and hand sanitizer, sales skyrocketed for things like online grocery delivery, paper towels, antibacterial wipes, and other cleaning supplies, resulting in widespread shortages.

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But as consumers came to terms with working from home and the housebound life in quarantine, their purchasing decisions quickly led to further shortages and sellouts — for items that most people don’t consider all that essential.

One of the first major nonessential products to be sold out pretty much everywhere was the Nintendo Switch. People snatched up every Switch they could find, as the popular video game console promised an escape from boredom while sheltering in place. Nearly two months after the initial surge in Nintendo Switch sales, it’s still impossible find them in stock.

Several other curious nonessentials are also basically sold out after suddenly finding themselves in extraordinarily high demand, as an aftereffect of the COVID-19 pandemic. In some cases, items simply cannot be purchased at the moment. Other times, you can still buy highly-sought-after products, but you may have to pay a premium for the privilege. Or you must settle for your third or fourth choice of brand. Or you’ll have to wait weeks or even months for the backordered item you want to be delivered.

Here are 10 nonessentials that were readily available for easy one-click purchase in the pre-coronavirus world, but now are extremely hard to buy — or totally sold out.

Trampolines

Courtesy of Acon

Good luck buying a backyard trampoline for the kids anytime soon. Apparently, parents who have been looking for ways to keep their children active and occupied while schools are closed have been scooping up trampolines like crazy.

The websites of major trampoline brands like Vuly, JumpSport, Acon, and Skywalker say that multiple products are either out of stock, or available for shipment at the end of May at the earliest — and sometimes not until July or August.

Hair Clippers

Courtesy of Amazon

You’re not the only one sorely in need of a haircut, and some people are taking matters into their own hands. Weeks after barbershops and hair salons closed, online sales of hair clippers and hair-cutting kits have been strong as more and more people consider DIY grooming. That’s led to many of the highest-rated clippers — from brands like Wahl, Remington and Andis — to be sold out.

Granted, you can probably still find a set of hair clippers for sale online if you need a trim, but you may have to wait a long time to get your hands on the models that always rank among the best for value and quality. Speaking of grooming, many popular hair-dying brands, such as Clairol, are facing shortages as well, as people can’t keep appointments to get their hair colored.

Kettlebells

Courtesy of Amazon

In the same way that people are cutting their own hair because salons and barbershops are closed, there’s been a huge growth in DIY fitness because gyms are shut down. Subscriptions for popular workout apps and sales of home exercise equipment have skyrocketed — and, yes, some workout gear is sold out.

For example, when we last looked, 8 out of the top 10 bestselling yoga mats at Amazon were either listed as out of stock or available for shipping in mid-June at the earliest. Nearly every variety of the Gaiam brand of yoga mats appears to be sold out at Amazon. Then there’s the “Great Kettlebell Shortage of 2020,” as GQ put it. Indeed, kettlebells are mostly sold out pretty much everywhere — though you can sometimes find them available with extraordinarily high markups through third-party sellers at sites like Walmart and Amazon.

Nintendo Switch

Courtesy of Amazon

Sorry, you can’t buy a Nintendo Switch now, at least not at the regular list price. Sales of the immensely popular video game system took off in the early days of America’s coronavirus pandemic, and Nintendo Switch consoles have been sold out for weeks.

If you’re desperate, you can buy a Nintendo Switch from a third-party seller at Amazon and other sites, but be prepared to pay $200 or so over the normal retail price of $300. You may have better luck finding a Nintendo Switch Lite, PS4, or Xbox in stock, but they’re all pretty hard to come by as well.

Freezers

Courtesy of The Home Depot

The hoarders freaked out by the coronavirus need a spot to stash all of the meat, bread, and other foods they scooped up at Costco and supermarkets. So, naturally, there’s been a run on freezers. All of the freezers we saw online at the Home Depot and Lowe’s websites were listed as out of stock, backordered for months, or available only for sale in the store — and only if it happens to be in stock at your local store. (Spoiler: It’s probably not in stock.)

Sabrina Ionescu and Tom Brady Jerseys

Courtesy of NFL Shop

No major sports are being played, and in addition to arenas and ball fields being empty, sales of sports merchandise have tanked. Some sports franchises are postponing their planned debut of new logos, and sports retailers have been forced to put massive amounts of merchandise into storage because sales are so slow, the National Retail Federation reported.

There are exceptions, however, for a couple of superstar athletes who are joining new teams this year. One is Sabrina Ionescu, the University of Oregon guard who is now a member of the New York Liberty after being picked #1 in the WNBA draft. New Sabrina Ionescu jerseys sold out almost immediately on draft night, and the likely shipping date if you place an order online now for an Ionescu New York Liberty jersey is June 1.

Meanwhile, sales of Tom Brady Tampa Buccaneers jerseys have been off-the-charts high since the all-time-great NFL quarterback announced he was leaving the New England Patriots for the Bucs. Depending on where you order and which Tom Brady jersey you want, delivery might take three to five weeks or upwards of several months. The NFL Shop currently says that some new Tom Brady jerseys “will be shipped no later than Thursday, October 15th 2020.”

Of course, these jerseys aren’t in super-high demand because of the coronavirus. But it sure looks like the virus, and its widespread impact on global manufacturing and worker availability, has made it more difficult for sellers to rapidly get these jerseys available for purchase by fans.

Cheap Chromebooks

Courtesy of Amazon

Before the coronavirus pandemic, retailers like Best Buy and Walmart routinely promoted cheap Chromebook sales. It was easy to find a Chromebook — a laptop that runs Google’s Chrome operating system, with minimal or no storage — for around $200, and sometimes prices dropped below $100.

When the coronavirus hit, demand for cheap Chromebooks spiked, as millions of people to began working from home and schools to embraced remote learning. Dozens of low-price Chromebook models are now sold out, and it’s rare to find a Chromebook for under $350 in stock online.

Puzzles

Courtesy of Amazon

You can still find puzzles to buy online. They just might not be the puzzles you really want. Puzzles are well known for relieving stress and tackling boredom, so it should come as no surprise that sales of jigsaw puzzles have soared in recent weeks. Certain popular brands of puzzles — namely, Ravensburger — are extremely hard to find in stock nowadays. The vast majority of Ravensburger puzzles we saw listed at Amazon were either sold out or available only through third-party sellers at extraordinarily inflated prices — think $75 and up for 1,000-piece puzzles that normally go for $13.

Pancake and Waffle Mix

Courtesy of Amazon

Waffle House restaurants are famous for staying open during hurricanes. So you knew things were serious when hundreds of Waffle Houses closed due to the coronavirus, leaving the masses to figure out breakfast for themselves. To help loyal fans still get a taste of its famous signature meal, the restaurant chain began selling Waffle House waffle mix online and sold out in four hours.

It took days for the chain to get more Waffle House waffle mix ready for sale, and at last check it was in stock, at a price of $15 for a 3-lb. bag. Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, we’ve also noticed that Aunt Jemima pancake mix and syrup have been periodically sold out online. Most pancake and waffle mixes at target.com are accompanied by the warning: “due to high demand, item may be unavailable or delayed.” At Amazon, many pancake mixes and syrups are sold out or available only for prices that are much higher than what you’d pay in the store.

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Webcams

Courtesy of Logitech

By now, you can probably guess why webcams are mostly sold out. Webcams remain in extraordinarily high demand as legions of students and workers try to upgrade their home electronics systems so it’s easier to do video conferences.

Yes, you should be able to find a webcam to buy online. But odds are it won’t be the brand or specific model you want, or it won’t be new, or the price won’t be fair. Every webcam we saw at the website for electronics manufacturer Logitech was “out of stock due to high demand.” Nearly every one of the top 20 bestselling webcams at Amazon was a previously owned model — that is, they’re used — or was simply listed as “currently unavailable.”

How much will you have to pay for a decent webcam nowadays? For example, one Logitech model we spotted available in new condition this week was listed at $208 at Amazon. Before the coronavirus, however, this same webcam was routinely selling for around $100 — and was sometimes on sale for less than $60.

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Advertiser Disclosure

The purpose of this disclosure is to explain how we make money without charging you for our content.

Our mission is to help people at any stage of life make smart financial decisions through research, reporting, reviews, recommendations, and tools.

Earning your trust is essential to our success, and we believe transparency is critical to creating that trust. To that end, you should know that many or all of the companies featured here are partners who advertise with us.

Our content is free because our partners pay us a referral fee if you click on links or call any of the phone numbers on our site. If you choose to interact with the content on our site, we will likely receive compensation. If you don't, we will not be compensated. Ultimately the choice is yours.

Opinions are our own and our editors and staff writers are instructed to maintain editorial integrity, but compensation along with in-depth research will determine where, how, and in what order they appear on the page.

To find out more about our editorial process and how we make money, click here.

EDIT POST