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Masks: The new lottery

Apr 24, 2020, 2:22 pm

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Japanese electronics maker holds a lottery for the commodity after buyers flood the e-commerce website

By Kate Northrop

A new sort of lottery is brewing in Japan. Electronics manufacturer Sharp Corp. has adopted a new method of selling its popular face masks — via a lottery.

Unsurprisingly, Japanese hospitals, stores and consumers alike have found it difficult to acquire masks due to shortages and increased demand during the Covid-19 crisis. Sharp originally only shipped masks to medical facilities but were unable to complete any online orders once they started offering them on a first-come first-served basis.

Sharp began accepting online orders for face masks Tuesday but was subsequently forced to suspend operation of the website when it attracted more buyers than it could handle. Sales for Sharp's other products and services, from TV displays to high-tech kitty litter boxes, were also affected since they rely on the same website masks were being sold on.

Spokesman Kentaroh Odaka issued an apology to customers who were inconvenienced by the crash.

As a solution, Sharp devised a lottery for 30,000 boxes of masks, with a limit of one box of 50 masks per person. Each box is worth 2,980 yen, or $28.

Here's how the first round of the new lottery system works: customers may place orders starting from midnight Sunday to 11:59 p.m. Monday. The following day, the electronics manufacturer will randomly select and notify the winners through email. The timing of a person's order has no bearing on the odds of winning. Sharp is also on the lookout for people who try to discreetly place multiple orders — these entries will be nullified if Sharp determines that the same person has tried to purchase multiple boxes.

Initially, Sharp had anticipated they would sell 3,000 boxes a day, with customers unable to place another order until three days after their most recent purchase.

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