Most laptops come with a built-in webcam, but if you’re working at home from a desktop or maybe just looking to touch up the mediocre quality of whatever camera you’re stuck with, external webcams are still a crucial accessory. But with so many people now firmly settled into work-from-home life, they’ve become nearly impossible to find. NPD Group reported a 179 percent jump in sales for webcams over the first three weeks of March as consumers settled into quarantine.
As a result, popular webcams from Logitech and other companies are completely sold out at retailers including Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Dell, and others, and restocks are rare to come by. “With a dramatic shift in remote work, distance learning and telemedicine over the past few weeks, many Logitech products are in high demand across the globe,” A Logitech spokesperson told The Verge by email. “We are working to meet this need as quickly as possible with increased production and distribution of our products such as webcams and other productivity products that help establish needed remote community connections.”
Third-party resellers have seized upon the scarcity by marking up webcams at ludicrous prices. This basic HD webcam, the Logitech C270, ordinarily costs a reasonable $24.99. If you try to find one on Amazon right now, sellers are asking for $130 and up. You can fare a bit better on eBay, but there’s still a substantial markup.
A higher-end option like the C930E, usually $129.99, is similarly listed for $100 over its standard price. Sellers want over $200 for the years-old C920 — or $329 if you prefer (delayed) Prime shipping.
A search of Best Buy reveals that Logitech isn’t the only webcam maker under this crunch. Razer’s Kiyo, a popular choice for gamers who stream on Twitch, is unavailable for delivery or curbside pickup.
In Best Buy’s case, part of the problem is that the retailer does seem to have some webcam stock, but many units are sitting in stores that are now fully closed due to the pandemic. (Only select Best Buy locations remain open for contactless pickup.)
Even on Craigslist, which can sometimes be the best avenue for finding a good price on something, local sellers are stockpiling and asking for a $60 or $70 bonus on top of a webcam’s going rate.
Logitech says that, where possible, it’s reporting gray market resellers that are trying to score huge profits on its webcams. With tens of millions of people on video calls daily, demand shows no signs of slowing while stay-at-home orders remain in place throughout the US and in other countries.
“While Logitech sets an MSRP, we do not set or control retail pricing,” a company spokesperson told The Verge. “Unfortunately, we have seen the occasional price gouging by bad actors on some online marketplaces. Where possible, we report them as soon as we become aware of it. We maintain our commitment to bringing great product experiences at great value to consumers, especially in these exceptional times.”
Other items like external monitors have also faced shortages, but supply has leveled out somewhat to the point where it’s at least possible to buy one. Right now, you really can’t say the same for webcams. Your laptop’s built-in camera or your phone will have to suffice if coworkers insist on seeing your face during video conferences.