The key word here is, ‘chance’. There are people, most of them young people, who are paying up to $300 for the chance to buy sought after tennis shoes or sneakers. Keep in mind that they might not get the shoes at all and the $300 might just as well have been burned, but, at least they will have a slightly better chance than most people to get their hands, or feet, on these prized shoes.
So what are these people, or victims, actually paying for to get this chance? They are paying for a shopping bot; a bot that will automatically search for the sneakers you want the instant they appears for sale on any online retail site. These bots range in price from free to over $300. Presumably, and it is only a presumption, the more you pay, the better your chances of getting your desired item.
To make this phenomenon a little more understandable, think of Black Friday. Think of all those people who camp out in the cold in front of a large retail outlet for the chance to get the few low-priced TVs that will go on sale when the store opens. There is no guarantee that these people will get the item they want. Some people may be quicker, stronger, or simply more ruthless. In this case, the time they spent outside in the cold will be wasted. That’s the chance they take. However, there is no chance that people who come to the store an hour after it opens will get the TVs. No chance at all.
That’s the way these so-called sneaker bots work and it all begins with hype. The hype for the appearance of a new sneaker will begin months before the sneaker goes on sale. The big companies talk them up and give out release dates. They make it seem as if it will be nearly impossible to get these sneakers so as to build their desirability and, thus, increase their sales. On that long-awaited day of sale, sneaker enthusiasts will rush to the online outlets and, if they are really lucky, may be among the first to get these coveted items. Not all will be lucky. In fact, most won’t. That’s part of the plan. In fact, almost always, the lucky buyers will only be those using sneaker bots to beat the competition.
Do those buyers think this sneaker is the greatest artistic creation since the Mona Lisa? Probably not, and it really doesn’t matter. They take advantage of the previous marketing to resell as many shoes as they can buy. There are special online marketplaces for this. In fact, there are special sites, like StockX, that are mainly dedicated to reselling sneakers at pumped up prices.
The fact is that paying $300 for the chance to buy a $200 pair of sneakers is not a real good business move. It only becomes a good business move if you buy as many of these desired items as possible and then resell them at a higher price. Depending on demand, markups on resale outlets run between 30% to 50%, but can be higher for some items. Kanye West-designed Louis Vuitton Yeazy sneakers, which retailed at around $1000 are now reselling for up to $11,000. Check your closets to see if you have anything that looks like this.
So what’s the hot new release the sneaker bots are waiting for? Here they are.
Not all sneakerheads are pleased with this new style. As one sneaker lover wrote.
My guess is that good marketing will convince most people that this is the style of the future and will convince them they will look cool wearing them: The emperor’s new clothes in the digital age.
Of course, the manufacturers aren’t going to just sit around and watch others make money at their expense. Both Adidas and Nike have special apps that are designed to stop bots by giving their own users the inside track. For the most part, bots are stopped by asking them questions (Are you human?) or serving up reCAPTCHAs. Even if the bots find ways around these obstacles, they cause delays which could ruin the bot owners’ buying chances. Even nanosecond delays can cause the loss of a buying opportunity. For this reason, some sneaker bot sellers claim that they are located physically closer to the point of sale and, thus, have a microsecond advantage. This is one reason these bots are more expensive.
But how are bots able to avoid reCAPTCHAs? Apparently, they manipulate the Google Chrome browser to bypass them. Some of the bots have clients sign into a Gmail account. Others are able to decrypt CAPTCHAs like this by decrypting the underlying hash supporting it.
Of course, other sites are not protected from bots at all. But, since these are often smaller online outlets, they are, in effect, brought down by what amounts to an accidental Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. The sites become inoperable because the servers are overwhelmed with requests. A human would have to manually reload the web page but bots have infinite patience and will continue to hammer the site’s server until it gets through. This ability is delineated by one of the most popular, and most expensive, bots available; the AIO Bot. For those not in the know, in the explanation below, ‘cop’ means ‘buy’.
“Get ready to cop those sneakers. Are you wondering why you need an AIO Bot when you can buy sneakers from a retailer website? The answer is simple – you can’t easily buy from a retailer website. That’s because, on a hot release like the Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 or the Nike Shattered Back Boards, retailer websites will crash. Get AIO Bot and it will buy your shoes for you while you relax. How easy is that? What are you waiting for?“
AIO makes it clear as to why sneakerheads would want to pay $300 for a bot. It’s all about reselling.
Many sneaker outlets try to limit the purchase of highly desired sneakers to one pair per customer. Good bots will get around this by giving its customers multiple IP addresses to use when buying. As AIO puts it, “sneaker sites give every customer a single chance at getting the sneakers they want. But a single pair is not what you’re here for. Is it?”
But as is the case wherever money can be made, there are scammers waiting to take advantage of the naïve sneakerhead. Imitation sneakers sometimes show up on these reselling sites, even sites that claim to verify their authenticity. It is also common for people to resell their bots at a discount price. These and free sneaker bots have been found with built in malware: Programs that try to get your personal information as well as credit card data so that they can use it for themselves.
Sneaker bots are simply an outgrowth of good marketing. They are also an outgrowth of a culture that believes a person’s value can be determined by the shoes that they wear. In short, expect sneaker wars to continue far into the future.