For most people in first world countries, products and necessities don’t become scarce very often. Americans were not accustomed to massive shortages before 2020. This year alone, there has been a shortage of toilet paper, certain foods, cleaning products, money, household essentials, and medical equipment. There are also fewer laptops, computers, and other electronic devices available. Coronavirus has shut down the world, temporarily and permanently closing businesses, and forcing people to learn and/or work from home. For those who don’t own a personal computer or lack efficient internet, these luxuries have become essentials. Hopefully, 2020 isn’t the year your laptop breaks.
When people first realized their careers are moving to Zoom, they had to rethink their schedules. How would staring at a laptop all day be different than their usual work? How would they keep their children, pets, and other family members from making background noise? Could they lose their job? What if they struggled in the new virtual world?
School-aged kids were forced to learn in their living rooms, without the fun of recess and socialization. They had to share a laptop with their parents or get their own. Not to mention, the lockdown halted production. And for those who didn’t have reliable internet access, they had an extra problem to resolve.
Some schools were able to reopen before the summer; others were not. Now it is November, and there are still districts closed—including New York City, where schools were ordered to shut down this week when the positive test rates went over 3%. For college students who don’t live at home, they need their own laptop—unless they partake in their remote classes on the computer in the campus library.
According to extremetech.com, there are numerous reasons for the inadequate supply. An article titled “A Massive Laptop Shortage Has Hit the United States” writes:
Slower port inspections mean longer stock cycles. The United States Postal Service has suffered unprecedented slowdowns. Chinese factory production is pushing back up to pre-pandemic levels, but there are supply chain weaknesses that haven’t been fully addressed. . . . Dell, HP, and Lenovo are claiming they have a collective shortage of 5 million laptops.
While finding retail products is harder, one can turn to online shopping. The experience is different and lacks one-on-one communication with a tech assistant (and using a laptop to buy another laptop is ironic). The diminishing reserve has also driven prices, which doesn’t help low-income families. E-waste programs recycle cell phones, computers, and tablets. Usually, these refurbished products are sold to people in African nations, but this is always an option for those who are in dire need.
Even with the electronic shortage, it is not impossible to get supplies. It is important to think outside the box and be patient. Consumer Reports, an independent and nonprofit member organization, explains that “With airlines cutting back on the number of flights, for example, manufacturers are sending their wares to America in ships, and that slows down restocking. Printers, routers, microphones, and webcams are in short supply, too.” The website provides four ways to buy a computer during the “Great Laptop Shortage of 2020”:
- Move quickly when you see a model that interests you. . . . consider signing up for in-stock alerts. When you do, retailers like Target and Walmart will notify you by email or push notification when an item you’ve been eyeballing is available for purchase.
- While you might have your heart set on a specific laptop, try thinking instead about the features you want and the price you’re willing to pay for one. . . . Better yet, have two or three laptop options on your list.
- If you can’t find what you need at Amazon, Best Buy, or Walmart, check out the websites of electronics retailers such as Fry’s, Micro Center, and Newegg. Adorama and B&H Photo, which specialize in digital cameras, have a wide selection of computers, too.
- If you can’t find a new laptop that suits your needs, you may have more luck looking for a used model. Apple, Dell, Lenovo, and Microsoft sell refurbished laptops. Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart have similar programs, too. For yet more options, check out eBay and Gazelle.
Despite the shortage, there is some hope. While this spring’s demand for computers and laptops was unpredictable, electronic manufacturers have since upgraded their supply. Ishan Dutt, an analyst from global technology market Canalys, states that “vendors have started to recover in the months since. ‘Vendors, the supply chain, and the channel have now had time to find their feet and allocate resources towards supplying notebooks, which continue to see massive demand from both businesses and consumers.'”