There’s nothing more exciting than opening a brand new console on launch day.
For me, it was an air fryer that sat in my Amazon package, in place of the PS5 I’d ordered from Amazon months previously.
On launch day, excited my PS5 package had finally arrived after an unexpected delay, I hit record on my phone to capture its unboxing. But, after giving the driver the special password from Amazon to ensure a secure delivery, I discovered I had been sent a kitchen appliance instead. The anticlimax was captured on film.
I called Amazon immediately to tell customer service about my mysteriously replaced PS5. They said they would investigate, and that I would hear back in 24-48 hours. Baffled, I tweeted the recording I’d made – and it turned out I was very much not alone.
Happy #PS5 day everyone. Tried to document our one’s unveiling, but Amazon have tricked us with an unsolicited air fryer instead (after giving delivery password). Anyone else had this problem today? pic.twitter.com/99IUSzSJUU
— Bex April May (@bexlectric) November 19, 2020
“Woke up excited for my #ps5 getting delivered……going to be going to bed having had to create a crime report to the police due to the delivery driver ‘misplacing’ it,” said one reply. “Went past my address but did not deliver it, then Amazon claimed it was lost,” said another. “This happened to me too. Marked as delivered with no sign of an attempted delivery. Truly ridiculous,” someone else tweeted.
A pattern quickly emerged. Across the UK, the same thing was happening: the originally scheduled PS5 delivery was being ‘missed’, marked as delivered when it hadn’t been, or delayed until much later. When it arrived, the package would contain something – but it wouldn’t be a next-gen console.
There were too many stories of similar occurrences for this to be a coincidence. What was really happening here?
What follows is an investigation which took me from confusing Amazon customer service, all the way to the potential for nationwide organised crime. And I’ll warn you in advance, like a DualSense plugged into a non-brand kitchen appliance, it still doesn’t make any sense.
Of more than 500 customers who replied to a poll I posted on Twitter, 52% of people missing their PS5 from Amazon never received anything, and 47% had received a random item in its place like I had.
This kind of thing might be occurring more often than we realise. Other Amazon customers contacted me to say the same thing had happened to them with other high value items, such as iPhones and hard drives. Usually, if an item goes missing, you’d expect the company to simply issue a replacement. But with PS5 launch day, and no more stock, the problem – and perhaps scam – has apparently happened en masse, and far more noticeably.
I mentioned earlier that my delivery had been unexpectedly delayed before the package arrived. For seven hours, my PS5 had been unaccounted for. So, what had happened to my console during that time, and where could it be now? Shortly after I shared the video of my package being opened, someone tweeted me something I hadn’t considered.
“Amazon don’t use clear plastic tape, so I suspect that [it] has been opened, swapped and resealed in transit.”
“@AmazonUK don’t use clear plastic tape, so I suspect that [it] has been opened, swapped and resealed in transit,” replied Twitter user Alex Haines. Rushing to other Amazon packages I had, the difference was glaring. The familiar black ‘Prime’-branded reinforced tape was on all of them. But it wasn’t on what was supposed to be my PS5 delivery.
Other people noticed the same thing. Sam Felts told me, “I noticed the tape was just clear, not normal Amazon tape, and there was also a layer of tape underneath the one I opened that was already cut.”
Twitter users began speculating that this was evidence the boxes had been tampered with. They theorised our PS5s were being taken out of the package by someone in the supply chain, stolen, and replaced with random items.
With an RRP of £449 in the UK, the PS5 is clearly a high-value item. But given the demand and lack of stock anywhere, the consoles are being sold for more than double that on eBay right now. Could my PS5 have been stolen by someone in Amazon’s logistics chain only to be sold at an outrageous markup on the grey market? I browsed eBay listings, wondering if I was scrolling past my own console. Despite the fact that those who had preordered months ago couldn’t even get hold of their PS5, some sellers had procured plenty. It seems entirely possible that, if our Amazon-ordered consoles have been stolen, they could quite easily be being sold on.
The Method for Madness
The motivation seems clear enough, but how the swaps were taking place is less obvious. The general assumption from the many victims online was that this was an inside job. But where along the Amazon supply chain could that realistically be taking place?
Some speculated Amazon warehouse employees could be taking the consoles, and switching the contents before delivery (or never delivering them at all). However, one former Amazon employee, who had worked as security in an Amazon Fulfilment Centre, anonymously told me the security measures in the warehouse were so tight it simply isn’t possible for an employee to sneak an item the size of a PS5 out for themselves.
“The packing in the warehouse is entirely covered by line managers and CCTV,” the source told me. “All warehouse staff go through manned security checkpoints to exit the warehouse, and everyone, including management, is required to go through a turnstile with a Random Number Generator search function. One in 10 people are selected, and if they are, they have to submit to a metal detector and turn out their pockets.
“I once caught a guy trying to leave with a Micro SD card,” says the Amazon warehouse source, “No way could someone get a PS5 out that way.”
Hi @amazon @AmazonHelp can you explain why your courier has stolen my ps5? Parked outside my house for ten minutes going through his van before marking my order as delivered. Refused to check his van when confronted? #ps5 #stolenps5 #ps5preorderuk pic.twitter.com/HKmPIVjgeY
— George (@georgeh3nry) November 20, 2020
My source, who also worked at Amazon for the launch of Grand Theft Auto 5, told me the company even brought in extra security for the hugely anticipated game’s launch: “The HGV bringing the games to the warehouse had an escort, and there were extra cameras covering the pallets of games Although it’s more difficult for staff to walk out with a console than a game, I’d assume they’d also take extra precautions with such a high-profile item.”
If the warehouse is ironclad, what about the Amazon delivery drivers? Many Amazon customers who hadn’t received their PS5 had reported delivery drivers parking outside their home but never delivering the item. I asked an Amazon driver contact – who also asked to remain anonymous – about what this could mean. Does a driver need to arrive at an address to mark a package as delivered, even if it isn’t?
“Yes, the driver needs to be in proximity of the address to mark them arriving and then delivering the item,” they tell me. “Amazon sends notifications automatically to the recipient. For example, ‘Parcel is 6 stops away’ or ‘Parcel has been delivered’. My assumption is the app is pinging the Amazon server the information to send on to the customer,” the source adds.
It was a nationwide network of criminals, working several delivery companies, and for a while they seemed to be quite successful.
Almost everyone’s stories of missing PS5s from Amazon feature this detail – a driver being spotted in the vicinity of the address, at the marked delivery time, but the package not being delivered. Some have even recorded video of confrontations during this event. And some drivers have reportedly already been fired for it.
This could be a far more organised effort than simply rogue drivers, however. Another anonymous source, who had worked as a courier for a delivery firm not affiliated with Amazon, told me of a scam they had seen before, that they suspected could be at play here again.
“I’m going to assume this issue is a result of drivers being bribed,” they told me, “Our courier company had the contract from Apple to deliver iPads and iPhones. After a little while, one of our delivery drivers was approached outside our depot and offered cash for iPads.”
“It was a nationwide network of criminals, working several delivery companies, and for a while they seemed to be quite successful,” the source tells me.
— Lad (@amarthegod) November 20, 2020
Here’s how that scam worked: drivers were offered payment for the deliveries, and were met on the road, somewhere along their route, where a switch of packages took place, and the real, high value packages were given away.
So could the swapping of PS5s for other items be the work of a criminal organisation and not the odd underpaid employee? Considering the spread of those affected (we’ve seen reports from up and down the UK), the similarities in cases, and even reports of similar scams reaching as far as the US and beyond, it suddenly seemed plausible.
I took this back to my Amazon driver source to get their opinion. “I didn’t see any behaviour like this, and as a delivery partner it’s foolish to even attempt this,” they told me, “Everything you do, from the route you take, to the parcels and the returns is tracked by an app. If you don’t return the parcel then you probably will get marked down and lose the opportunity to work with Amazon again.”
There is nothing to stop gangs waiting for delivery partners – and frankly nothing to protect you, as a delivery partner, if that happens.
Though they added, “There is, however, nothing to stop gangs waiting for delivery partners outside the depots, or on the routes, and stealing packages from their vehicles – and frankly nothing to protect you, as a delivery partner, if that happens, other than calling the police and alerting driver support.”
At this point in my investigation, I must let you down with the news that I haven’t infiltrated the theoretical gang in question. But this got wilder than I’d ever considered going in. Wildest of all, the gang theory seems… credible. I can’t say for certain that this crime has taken place. But I know these hundreds of instances look too uniform in their systematic approach for it to be a total coincidence. But, of course, I can’t prove anything, because no one – particularly not Amazon – is giving real answers to this issue.
The allotted 48 hours of my first complaint to Amazon about the erroneous air fryer came and went, and I hadn’t heard anything from the company as I had been promised. Many others said the same – on November 23, four days since UK PS5 launch day, and two days since Amazon’s 48-hour investigation window should have closed, 63% of people missing their Amazon PS5 delivery from launch day told me on a Twitter poll they had not even had a refund confirmed yet, let alone received the console they had ordered.
I called Amazon again. After our joint hours of detective work it was time to compare notes.
“I’m not seeing whether there has been any update on it as yet,” said the Amazon customer service rep, when I asked them for the results of their investigation.
“Oh,” I told them, “I was told when we spoke a few days ago that Amazon was opening an investigation into what had happened?”
“I do see that the information was submitted to have an investigation done, but I’m not seeing that there have been any updates on the investigation,” the customer service agent clarified.
I had seen other users on Twitter discuss compensation they had been offered, with some even being offered up to £150 on top of the refund. With Amazon’s investigation apparently less fruitful than my own, I asked about that too.
Thanks @AmazonUK for sending me this instead of the ps5 I ordered. And then telling me sorry, we can’t send you the item you actually ordered because we ran out. So you’re gonna have to wait over 10 days for a refund. Absolute shambles pic.twitter.com/2slEFxKxlc
— Kirsty (@oopssimafan) November 20, 2020
The value of compensation for the preorder I set with Amazon months ago, all those lost hours with my PS5, and now, with no stocks left, no option of buying another? £5. Specifically, a £5 Amazon voucher. A cooler version of myself would have told Jeff Bezos where to stick it. But, to be fair, it was £5.
Somehow, I should probably count myself fortunate – some victims of the delivery failure hadn’t been offered that. Some hadn’t even been offered a refund for their missing item when I spoke to them.
So here I am, with no PS5 (or even an air fryer – Amazon collected it), potentially even the victim of a highly organised nationwide gang, and with £5 in Amazon credit to my name.
On Twitter, other victims bemoaned the situation. People were being refunded against their will – we didn’t want refunds, or even generous £5 vouchers, if you can believe it. In fact, Amazon’s wildly random approach to these vouchers, varying from £5 to £150, has just made the whole affair more chaotic. What we wanted was a PS5 – or priority access to the next wave of PS5s to arrive.
I don’t want a refund, I want a guarantee on a unit from the next batch of stock.
“I’m fuming with it all to be honest,” Paul Longworth tells me, another Amazon customer whose PS5 preorder never arrived, “I don’t want a refund, I want a guarantee on a unit from the next batch of stock… I now feel I’ve been closed down as they’ve issued me a refund without my consent.”
When I asked Amazon about how they were helping customers, an Amazon spokesperson said:
“We’re all about making our customers happy, and that hasn’t happened for a small proportion of these orders. We’re really sorry about that and are investigating exactly what’s happened. We’re reaching out to every customer who’s had a problem and made us aware so we can put it right. Anyone who has had an issue with any order can contact our customer services team for help.”
Sony was contacted for comment for this article too, but did not respond.
With seemingly no investigation work done, or specific answers given by Amazon, it feels like this potential scam is being left to disappear. Amazon still hasn’t spoken about why this happened, or discussed the idea of anything untoward happening on their end. In fact, as Longworth told me, the refund on his non-existent PS5 was labelled as a ‘customer return’. “It adds insult to injury,” he tells me.”
When Amazon sent me the instructions to return my unwanted air fryer, the email even called it a PS5. My eye twitched.
It leaves us PS5-less, preorder-less customers in the middle of the madness just as baffled and upset as when we first saw our cat food, or foot massagers. To be fair, I have at least learned there is no shortage of air fryers, if playing with low-fat chip recipes over the holidays is your idea of fun.
Hi @amazonuk, it’s now been more than 48 hours and I haven’t heard anything from you about this missing #PS5. Was promised would hear back in 24-48 hours while you conduct your investigation… #AmazonPS5Scam @AmazonHelp https://t.co/DohPlzfhrX
— Bex April May (@bexlectric) November 21, 2020
Then I received a new email from Amazon – apparently a blanket one, sent to everyone affected. It read, “We know how excited you were about your new PlayStation 5 order, and we’re sorry that you haven’t received your item. We are continuing to investigate why the item was not delivered to you.” Before mentioning that a (non-refusable) £10 credit was now being added to our Amazon accounts.
So perhaps Amazon is still investigating… or just watching Twitter’s detective work. I’ll be continuing to look into how this happened – because the letdown for those affected is not just that this happened at all, but that we still, after all this time and searching, don’t know exactly why.
If you have more information on the missing PS5s, or any information on how they may have been stolen, please get in touch with IGN’s Newstips email address – [email protected]. You’ll be kept anonymous in any further reports.
Bex April May is a freelance journalist. You can follow her (and get updates on the mystery) on Twitter.