Mom & Pop plot to screw you out of a PS3... and put food on their table

We despise the bait-and-switch and illegal bundling tricks that some unscrupulous retailers played on gamers who were looking to purchase Xbox 360s last holiday season (Best Buy, we're thinking of you). But should we be even more alarmed by the way in which small games retailers take advantage of temporary shortages to make a killing selling scarce consoles on eBay?

Several weeks ago, I visited a tiny games retailer in my old 'hood of Astoria, NY, just outside of Manhattan. Once I got the clerk talking, he let slip that his boss had eBayed every Xbox 360 he'd received since the system's launch, most of them for 100% over retail price.

"Will you do the same with the PS3s you get?"

"Totally," the clerk responded.

In other words, if the PlayStation 3 is scarce this holiday season, don't expect your local games retailer to save one for you. He'll do the economically rational thing and divert his allotment of consoles to the global marketplace, where they'll fetch a higher price. After all, he's in the business of making money, not running a charity, right?

Rational merchants guided by the invisible hand? Or shady shysters? Is there any solution to this problem?

This article was originally published on Joystiq.