You’ve probably noticed the trend with every popular new toy: There’s a lot of people who can’t buy it because it sells out. It turns out bots might be the ones that buy the toys and not other people. At least that’s what a report by News 12 Westchester says.
So, how a typical online sale goes? Well, you go to the site of an online store, click the item you want and order it. When the item is very popular, like the Hatchimals last year, for example, you might get a message it’s sold out.
You then go to another online store only to find out the same. And again, and again. So, naturally, you think that other people simply were faster and luckier than you. It turns out, that’s not always the case.
There are online bots which go around and quickly snatch up popular toys from websites, experts say. What are online bots? They are automated computer programs programmed to do a specific task. It can be pretty much anything. From monitoring publications on websites, to posting comments to.. buying toys online.
Why would someone make bots just to buy toys? Are these people that big of toy fans? Not at all. They just follow the trends. If, for example the Fingerlings toys are very popular and sold out, people will pay more just to get them. So, some people use these bots to automatically crawl the online toy stores and order the Fingerlings (or other popular toys) when they pop up. Then they resell them for much higher prices on third-party sites.
The software can do so in a huge scale. A similar tactic is being used by other people who use bots to snatch-up concert tickets and then resell them for a premium.
As you can imagine, it’s not really fair. But it’s not quite illegal either. It’s more like a grey area. But it’s a problem and a serious one. It has even made its way to the Senate. Senator Chuck Schumer for example is calling on trade groups to act on this.
The problem now even has a name: Grinch bots. Senator Schumer wants the trade groups to step in and stop these Grinch bots from buying out popular toys and holiday items. Even if they do so though, it’s not going to be easy. Online stores could add another verification step to the ordering process to make sure a real person is placing the order. But that implementation will take time and could be costly. So, at least for this Christmas, the ill practice will continue. Hopefully it will be resolved by next year’s holidays.