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Find Covid-19 Home Tests Using Online Product Trackers

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

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

Stock-monitoring platforms periodically check inventory at various retailers and send users alerts if hot-ticket items become listed as available to purchase. Some of these services, including NowInStock.net, ZooLert.com and HotStock.io, are tracking Abbott’s BinaxNow self-test and similar products at retailers such as Walgreens, CVS, Walmart and Amazon. Some services say these tests are among the most sought-after items.

Whether you are using the services’ websites or apps, getting the ping about a product in stock is only half the battle. You will have to move fast enough to place an order before everyone else finds out they are available.

Here are some tips for improving your chances of securing a test—at least before the Biden administration begins distributing them free—with the help of shopping bots:

• Choose how you want to be notified. NowInStock and ZooLert can send you email, text messages and browser alerts. You might not see them if your devices are silenced. The HotStock app will send push notifications to your phone. You can also just leave a tracker’s webpage open in your browser and watch for changes.

• Turn up the volume and make sure your notifications are turned on. Turn off Do Not Disturb if you are hoping for alerts on your smartphone. Also, turn off low-power mode, which can sometimes slow down notifications.

• Create accounts with the retailers selling the home tests, and be sure to save your address and payment info. If you already have an account, log in on your browser. This ensures a faster checkout. (Also, you can use your browser’s autofill feature to quickly input name and shipping information.)

• Be patient. The listings and notifications are only as good as the tech powering them, which is generally computer code that monitors retailers’ inventory lists or scans retail websites for changes in inventory status. (You can learn more about this in my video.) Occasionally, you might click through and find that the product isn’t really available, or it is listed with a painful gouge of a price.

On Monday, we had a NowInStock page open to the Covid-19 test page for several hours before a Walgreens listing for the BinaxNow test went green. We jumped on it, managing to place orders at the list price of $23.99. Shortly after, the Walgreens product page said the tests were out of stock. So did the tracker.

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 hot-ticket products they are looking for. Here’s how those websites work. Illustration: Sebastian Vega

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Write to Dalvin Brown at [email protected]

Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Appeared in the January 5, 2022, print edition as ‘How Tech Can Help Nab at-Home Tests.’

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