Profiteers hoping to turn a quick buck on the shortage of Apple's new 5.5-in. iPhone 6 Plus have listed their pre-ordered phones on eBay for as much as $6,000.
While that was the highest asking price for a new iPhone 6 Plus as of Friday afternoon, there were almost 30 listed on the auction site with "Buy It Now" prices between $2,000 and $2,999; over 280 between $1,000 and $1,999; and even 5 under $1,000.
The $1,500 price seemed especially popular.
Buy It Now is eBay's non-auction price that sidesteps bidding. Not all eBay entries for the iPhone 6 Plus included a Buy It Now price.
An "unlocked" iPhone 6 Plus -- one not tied to a two-year contract with a carrier -- starts at $749 for the 16GB model and climbs to $949 for one with 128GB of storage.
That meant an unlocked 16GB iPhone 6 Plus sold for $1,500 was marked up by 100%; a 64GB model, the most common at the $1,500 price point, gave the seller a profit margin of 77%.
Sellers were motivated to push up prices because Apple quickly ran out of inventory Friday when it started taking pre-orders for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Within hours, the delay between a new order and a shipping date for the 6 Plus had stretched to three to four weeks, or well into October.
It wasn't surprising to see sellers leverage the shortage: When a new technology product is in tight supply, especially right after its launch, scalpers emerge. Shortages of Apple's iPad 2 in 2011 and the first Retina-equipped iPad in early 2012 drove eBay prices sky-high as sellers listed the tablets for hundreds above retail.
More recently, in July 2013, sellers gouged customers who were desperate to get their hands on Google's then-new Chromecast stream-to-TV device, pricing the $35 dongle as high as $300, a whopping seven-fold markup. And in December 2013, a few lucky buyers of Apple's just-released Mac Pro, the cylindrical, Vader-esque desktop computer, tried to sell their systems for almost double retail value.
Sellers of the iPhone 6 Plus acknowledged that they did not have the device, but promised buyers that they would re-ship the purchase as soon as they received it from Apple. Friday, Sept. 19, is the on-sale date for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in Apple's brick-and-mortar stores, and in the first-come-first-served scramble online early Friday, those who quickly made it through the ordering process were promised a Sept. 19 delivery.
Some of the sellers included images of their receipts to prove that they had successfully ordered an iPhone 6 Plus and were to get it next week.
"The iPhone will be shipped out as soon as I receive it," said seller "bnhkhoi12," who claimed to have pre-ordered a pair of iPhone 6 Plus phones, but did not include a snapshot of a receipt. "And after that I will unlock it for you also!"
Consumers who are eager to get their hands on a new iPhone 6 Plus on or shortly after next Friday have the option of heading to an Apple or carrier store on Sept. 19, braving the likely lines, and hoping for the best. Apple will open its stores at 8 a.m. local time, one or two hours earlier than normal.
The frenzy for the iPhone 6 Plus in the U.S. will be matched in China, where larger smartphone displays are extremely popular. Apple will not be selling the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus in the People's Republic of China (PRC) next week, however, because the company has not received approval from regulators there.
That will drive some Chinese customers to Hong Kong, the former British colony, where the new iPhones will go on sale Sept. 19, and where online pre-orders were taken yesterday. Apple's Hong Kong online store set a two-iPhone-per-customer limit on purchases in response to gray marketers.
China's state-run media, including the People's Daily, the Communist Party's official organ, have noted the probable profiteering. Earlier this week, the newspaper ran a story about travel plans and costs for those who wanted to get an iPhone 6 immediately, with destination choices ranging from Hong Kong -- "the most convenient iPhone 6 procurement site" -- and Singapore to Australia or Japan.
Another piece in the People's Daily speculated that the gray market price of a new iPhone 6 Plus could exceed 10,000 yuan, or at current exchange rates, $1,630, well within the range of the U.S. scalpers' prices on eBayz.