The scalpers who stole Christmas
It happens every Christmas. Some fad toys get hot (remember Tickle Me Elmo and Furbies?) and profiteers scoop in to buy and resell at astronomical markups online. This year, so-called scalpers have brought a whole new level of technological sophistication to their operations with even more pricey consequences for adults simply looking to get their kids the toy they really, really want.
The recently-released Playstation 5, a hotly anticipated console for gamers, is being bought up by scalper bots and resold at dramatically higher prices and at faster rates than retailers like Walmart can match, according to an NBC News report.
Since there is no law against automated, bot-powered reselling of products purchased at retail in the U.S., as there is for concert tickets, retailers are essentially on their own when trying to protect themselves from scalper bots and make sure their customers have a crack at products before flippers get them. Target and GameStop have implemented tech solutions to keep bots off of their websites. Nike, whose limited edition sneakers have a dedicated collector base, making them a favorite for flippers, combats resale bots by giving members of its loyalty program the chance to reserve new products for in-store pickup.
Pandemic-era circumstances appear to be making the problem more severe from both sides, with more consumers trying to get hot items online rather than in-store and more flippers in need of a quick buck due to adverse economic circumstances.
In the recent past, other retailers have taken different approaches toward the growing issue of online flippers.
In 2014, Lululemon began banning customers who were caught reselling on eBay from shopping Lululemon online, according to Mashable. The chain quickly relaxed the policy after receiving customer complaints.
More recent developments point to perhaps some honor among resellers, at least in some niches.
At the time of the sudden, tragic death of Kobe Bryant earlier this year, for example, some sneakerhead resellers either locked in prices on the former Lakers star’s products or stopped selling them entirely for a period, in order to avoid profiting unfairly from the tragedy.
- Good luck finding a PlayStation 5: Walmart and other retailers battle fast-buying ‘bots’ – NBC News
- Lululemon Will No Longer Ban Customers Who Resell Items – Mashable
- Is it ethical for resellers to raise the price of Kobe Bryant merchandise? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What are the best methods that retailers can use to combat the use of scalper bots? How important is it that retailers take action in this area in order to maintain customer goodwill?