Early Adopters Peeved as Others Race to Buy the TouchPad at Bargain Prices

HP has slashed prices to clear hundreds of thousands of orphaned TouchPads from store shelves, following this week’s announcement that it would no longer make devices based on webOS.

On Friday night, it was discovered by PreCentral.net that the 16 gigabyte version had been marked down to $99 and the 32GB version was down to $149, representing a deep price cut of $300 or more.

By Saturday morning, bargain hunters had moved quickly to pick up the tablet at rock-bottom prices, while early adopters were left licking their full-priced wounds.

UPDATE: Best Buy has decided to resume sales of unused inventory, and HP has decided to offer refunds to customers who bought devices at full price. See the latest here.

The quick decision by HP to liquidate the TouchPad left retailers scrambling to decide whether to follow suit and discount the hardware or to pull it from store shelves. By early afternoon, HP listed the device as sold out; Best Buy had pulled TouchPads from its shelves and extended its return policy, and Amazon was still listing it at regular prices.

“I’m so BLISTERINGLY pissed about this … never … NEVER will I buy anything HP again,” complained one commenter on PreCentral.net, who said he paid 500 bucks plus tax on the first day the device came out.

A commenter on Amazon echoed that opinion: “I will never purchase another HP hardware product again. I realize that will be rather easy as HP has said they would like to divest themselves of their consumer computer lines. I now own a $600 clock/picture viewer as I have no hope of seeing any meaningful apps or updates to apps I have purchased.”

Meanwhile, bargain hunters quickly made up their minds that a picture frame/e-reader/Web browser was a deal at $99, even if no new apps were coming for the device. They flocked to stores and visited e-tailers to buy TouchPads, despite the uncertainty surrounding the future of its operating system. Who knows: Maybe they’ll find a way to put Android on it?

“I actually will probably pick a couple up myself — I already wanted to get a second one for work, and at that price, there’s no excuse not to. Then I’ll grab another as a backup for when one of them dies,” wrote one enthusiastic deal hunter.

But finding one might be a problem.

BestBuy.com is now redirecting visitors to its return and price match policy for the TouchPad, which kindly states that it is extending its 14-day return window to 60 days, for a complete refund for the device and accessories. It adds that it is no longer honoring its price match policy (meaning that if you can find listed for $99, it will not cut you a check for the difference).

On HP’s own site, the 16GB version is listed as $99, but it is sold out. It is likely the device could make a reappearance there, as retailers, including Best Buy, send their TouchPad stock back to HP. A selection of merchants on Amazon continue to sell the devices for $400 or more, and even on eBay, current bids are exceeding the $99 price point. Office Depot has picked a completely different path altogether and has marked down the devices — but not all the way. The smaller capacity version will cost you $130, while its larger sibling will set you back $150. However, when you try to add it to your cart, it suddenly becomes unavailable.

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