Nintendo product

Find Covid-19 home tests using online product trackers

You don’t have to go all over town looking for self-test kits. Just be ready to buy when the bot says they are in stock.

Over the holidays, getting a PlayStation 5 under the tree took patience, luck, and a bot-powered online product tracker. Now the same shopping tools can help people find at-home Covid-19 tests, which have become scarce as the Omicron variant rages across the country.

Inventory monitoring platforms periodically check inventory at various retailers and send alerts to users if hot-priced items are listed as available for purchase. Some of these services, including NowInStock.net, ZooLert.com, HotStock.io and Brick search, follow Abbott’s BinaxNow self-test and similar products at retailers including Walgreens, CVS, Walmart and Amazon. Some services claim that these tests are among the most wanted items.

On Tuesday, the Biden administration began accepting orders for free Covid tests which it will begin distributing later this month. And on Saturday, private insurers in the United States began covering the cost of up to eight over-the-counter coronavirus tests per month per individual. Until those government-provided tests arrive – or if you need more than the four allocated to each residential address – you’ll have to find kits yourself.

Whether you’re using the services’ websites or apps, getting the ping on an in-stock product is only half the battle. You’ll have to move pretty quickly to place an order before everyone finds out they’re available.

Here are some tips to improve your chances of getting a test using trading bots:

• Choose how you want to be notified. NowInStock and ZooLert may send you emails, text messages and browser alerts. You may not see them if your devices are silent. The HotStock App will send push notifications to your phone. You can also simply leave a tracker’s web page open in your browser and watch for changes.

• Turn up the volume and make sure your notifications are turned on. Disable Do Not Disturb if you expect to receive alerts on your smartphone. Also turn off Low Power Mode, which can sometimes slow notifications down.

• Create accounts with retailers selling home tests and be sure to save your address and payment information. If you already have an account, log in to your browser. This guarantees faster payment. (You can also use your browser’s auto-fill feature to quickly enter name and shipping information.)

• Be patient. Lists and notifications are only as good as the technology that powers them, which is usually computer code that monitors retailer inventory listings or scans retail websites for changes in inventory status. . (You can read more about that in my video.) Sometimes you might click and find that the product isn’t actually available, or it’s listed with a painful price.

During our initial research, we had a NowInStock page open on the Covid-19 test page for several hours before a Walgreens listing for the BinaxNow test turned green. We jumped on it, managing to place orders at the list price of $23.99. Shortly after, Walgreens’ product page said the tests were out of stock. The tracker too.

Shoppers are seeing more out-of-stock messages than ever, but inventory-tracking websites like HotStock and ZooLert are giving people a better chance of finding the hottest products they’re looking for. Here’s how these websites work. Illustration: Sebastien Vega

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Write to Dalvin Brown at [email protected]

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Appeared in the January 5, 2022 print edition under the title “How technology can help with home testing”.