During the great toilet paper and Purell shortage of 2020, my savior was Nowinstock.net.
As coronavirus cases crippled the U.S. in the spring, cleaning wipes and soap were also hard to get online and in store. With store shelves left bare, Amazon prices surged. Then I was introduced to the stripped-down website that sends you alerts when a popular item is in stock.
Before the pandemic, Nowinstock.net’s alerts focused on tech, toys, and video games. But as cases climbed in early spring, it added trackers for coronavirus-related items, like masks and thermometers, to its homepage. By April, traffic to the site exploded, jumping 1,900 percent year over year, said founder Justin Vavrick. As coronavirus’ winter surge began, so did another rush on toilet paper, which has been in the site’s first homepage slot for months.
Although coronavirus-related products brought new users, Vavrick said its most popular trackers right now are for new video game consoles. The Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, and PlayStation 5 are the most sought after among them. Demand for the trackers is 200 percent higher than it was in 2013, when the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were announced.
“This year has been truly astonishing,” Vavrick said.
Here’s how it works: Nowinstock.net will send you an email, text, desktop alert, or Discord message when an item you want is in stock. It won’t actually buy anything for you, so you have to stay on top of the alerts. If you don’t see the message right away, you may miss your opportunity to snag that PS5 or those Clorox wipes.
There are other challenges, too. Bots that buy items as soon as they are in stock have become an online shopping menace. and Supreme obsessives popularized using bots to get their hands on the latest drops. But these bots, which can cost anywhere to or more, aren’t just used by salivating streetwear fans. Scalpers use the so-called to hoard everything from concert tickets (remember those?) to Nintendo Switches and then sell their troves at inflated prices. It’s gotten so bad that shoppers just can’t compete with the bots. Some e-commerce insiders have been , suggesting sellers use machine learning to differentiate between human shoppers and bots and block the latter. That solution takes a lot of effort. In the meantime, consumers are learning
While in-stock alerts aren’t the same as buying bots, there’s an argument to be made against them too in terms of overall customer experience. But if you’re an individual in need of some damn toilet paper, it’s hard to be steered away. Especially if the alerts, like those offered by Nowinstock.net, are free.
There are plenty of services that notify you when stuff is back in stock, including and . Online retailers like Walmart also have their own in-stock alerts, but Nowinstock.net has been good to me, so I never tested others.
How to set up in-stock alerts
If you want to use Nowinstock.net, here’s what you do:
Register for an account
Browse through its available trackers or use its search tool to find one for what you’re looking for
If you’re looking for toilet paper, for example, you’ll see a variety of trackers based on brand or store. Each item will either be out of stock, in stock, or available for pre-order.
Click the “Add/Manage” items link at the top right of the item page and you’ll see another list where you can “add item.”
When the item is in stock, you’ll get an email with a link to purchase.
You can also get the email pushed to you as a text alert by going into “My account” and activating text alerts, but be aware that wireless carriers have been blocking a lot of Nowinstock.net’s texts due to the barrage of PS5 alerts. It also uses email-to-text rather than regular text messaging due to costs so sometimes the messages may look wonky or don’t get through.
Other notification options include Discord and Telegram. Nowinstock.net notes that its Discord and Telegram notifications are more timely than its email alerts.
Once you’ve bought that toilet paper (yay!) you can unsubscribe from the alert on your account page. Just click the little trash can next to the product.
Some things to note:
Some trackers may get suspended. In October, Nowinstock.net had to stop offering an alert for the NVIDIA RTX 3000 Series, the tech company’s latest high-tech graphics card, after online retailer Newegg asked them to back off.
Nowinstock.net’s trackers have no clue how much of a certain item is available. The site will just alert you when its trackers see something is in stock, and that may be just one PS5 or a single soap bottle.
It doesn’t know when your local Target or Best Buy has something back in stock. It only works for online stock. Websites like Brickseek.com can search for stock at brick-and-mortar shops near you, but you need a product code, and who knows those off the top of their heads? While it will help you try to find the code, by the time you get to the store there’s no guarantee your product will still be there.
The Nowinstock.net curated trackers can be helpful, but they aren’t perfect. Don’t get frustrated if you keep on top of the alerts but still miss that coveted product. Nowinstock.net has tons of users, as do the various other stock tracking services out there. Plus, you’re competing with those bots that suck up inventory in milliseconds.
As Nowinstock.net says on its website, “Yes, you are not the only one looking. Combine this with the amount of stock and you can see where things start to go awry.”
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