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The World of Sneaker-Buying Bots

posted by Tim Carmody   Jan 25, 2019

Air Jordan XI.jpg

Buying vintage and collectible sneakers online has become so complicated that a secondary industry has sprung up. Programmers create bots to outbid humans at auction. Initially, these were used just to snap up shoes to be sold at a markup on secondary markets. Eventually, though, enterprising botmakers realized they could avoid having to deal with shoes altogether by selling their bots to thirsty sneakerheads directly. At Complex, Tommie Battle breaks it down:

It’s now seen as a must that you need a bot. Copping “manually” is a risky endeavor—a misstep in entering credit card info or your address could mean that the item that was once on its way to being delivered to your door is now swept from under your virtual feet. That very sequence has happened to so many customers at this point that it’s now a part of the release date experience, and there is seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel.

The exclusivity will always be there in the world of streetwear, and it’s quite possible that the exclusivity is what drives brands to stay the course in regards to how they handle not only the availability, but the probability of purchasing their product. After all, the hype doesn’t follow every sneaker. The issue remains that the playing field must be even, especially in the digital realm. The old phrase is that the customer is always right, but what happens if the customer is a mindless bot?

The main question I have is this: what other economies have been disrupted by bots? Presumably, the rest of the collectors’ markets haven’t been untouched by this. The fundamental technologies and principles are basically the same. Entertainment, too, in the form of tickets to events, anything else sold by auction or to the first bidder. But how deep does it go? How far has the rot spread?