BBB Tip: What to do When an Item is “Out of Stock”

Whether you are trying to purchase a gift or simply stock up on essentials, you may find yourself faced with these disappointing words: “Sorry, this item is currently out of stock.” That’s especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic when challenges with supply chains have resulted in shortages.

But does that mean the words “out of stock” is the end of the line? Not at all. With a little determination and some creative thinking, you just might be able to find and purchase all coveted “out of stock” items. Here are BBB’s tip for finding items that are sold out in stores.

How to Buy Out of Stock Items

  • Try a different store. Don’t limit your search to the most popular brick-and-mortar stores around. Do some research by visiting multiple vendors’ websites to see who is carrying stock. If the large chain stores are out of what you need, try a reputable independent shop or a different type of store entirely. For example, when toilet paper was in short supply at grocery stores, some consumers found stock in unlikely places, such as hardware stores or office supply stores. Be sure to check the store’s ratings and BBB Accreditation status on
  • Check websites frequently. If you find an item is out of stock when shopping online, don’t give up hope right away. Bookmark the product page and check back daily. Many vendors restock high-demand products on a regular basis.
  • Sign up for restock alerts. Many companies offer restock alerts, which are usually sent by email. For example, on Amazon, look for an availability alert on a product’s information page. If you sign up, Amazon will send an e-mail when the item becomes available. Keep in mind, you still have to go to the website or store to make the purchase once you receive the alert.
  • Go straight to the product’s source. If a brand name item isn’t available from your favorite retailer, check the brand’s official website to see if it’s in stock there. If you still can’t find what you are looking for, Who What Wear recommends getting in touch by emailing customer service or reaching out through social media.
  • Take advantage of return policies. If you suspect that an item will sell out quickly but you aren’t sure if you really need or want it, review the store’s return policy. If a store gives you the option to return an item and offer refunds, you may want to purchase the item as soon as it’s available. You can always send it back if it doesn’t fit your needs, but you may regret not purchasing if the stock runs out for good.
  • Search for products on resale sites. If a product appears to be gone for good, don’t lose hope just yet. Some resale sites may offer the hard-to-find products. That said, watch out for scammers when looking for this year’s hottest toy or a product that is very popular. Con artists prey on desperate shoppers by pretending to have an item that is impossible to find, accepting payments, and then never delivering the product. 
  • Consider a personal shopping service. Personal shoppers can do the heavy lifting for you if there is a very specific product you are hunting for. Be sure to read reviews and ask for recommendations from friends and family members before you decide who to hire.
  • Try out a subscription service. Subscription services offer regular deliveries of cleaning products, clothing and more. If your local stores are running out of fresh produce, for example, why not try out a meal delivery service instead?
  • Be patient. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you may not be able to find the product you are looking for. This was the case for many consumers hoping to purchase new PS5 and Xbox Series X+S gaming systems. Restocks have sold out almost immediately every time thanks to limited supplies and bot resellers. If this happens to you, be patient. You may have to wait a few months until suppliers can meet consumers’ demands.

For More Information

For more shopping tips, read the articles, BBB Tip: Smart Online Shopping and BBB Tip: Shop Safe, Shop Smart this Holiday Season.

Only make purchases from businesses who adhere to the BBB Standards for Trust. Read more about BBB’s Accreditation Standards.


Information courtesy of the Better Business Bureau

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