Are you having a tough time finding some of the top toys for the holiday season? You're not alone. Many people are. It's even gotten the attention of New York Senator Charles Schumer (D – NY). He said “Grinch Bots,” are to blame.
"To quote Dr. Seuss and the Grinch that Stole Christmas… because middle-class folks, they work day in and day out, which is why I’ll fight grinch bots with all of my clout,” Schumer said.
Experts describe Grinch bots as a type of software that searches out the top toys online and then buys them in bulk. The bots then resell them on second or third-party sites for considerably more money than the retail price.
"Clearly retailers and manufacturers are entitled to earn a fair profit for their products, but we don't need predatory middlemen to artificially inflate prices to line their pockets,” said Chuck Bell, program director of the Consumers Union.
According to the Better Business Bureau Northwest, Grinch bots are very similar to ticket bots.
“They have multiple IP addresses that they use, so that they can fool the programs. They have multiple credit card numbers and addresses so that it doesn't let anybody know what they're trying to do behind the scenes. And their bandwidth is higher,” said Veronica Craker, content director for Better Business Bureau Northwest.
And because the bots buy all of the best-selling toys, many people are forced to either buy the toy at exorbitant prices, or wait until a manufacturer makes more. Which in some cases may not happen until after the holidays.
For example, a Barbie “Hello Dreamhouse Playset” which retails for $300, is in some cases being sold for $1500. Fingerlings, which retail for $15 are going for close to $1,000 and the Super Nintendo NES Classic Edition which sells for $80, is going as high as $13,000 on some secondary or third-party sites.
"Since more people are ordering their stuff online, that's where they're running into the problem. Now, it's not about getting to the store as soon as it opens. Now you have to download it as soon as an item pops up on a website,” said Craker.
While we’re already in what’s considered the holiday shopping season, the BBB suggests if there is still a toy out there you want, shop for it now, don't wait any longer. They also suggest looking for trusted companies, which you can research on BBB.org. And finally, know the retail price so you’re informed on whether you’re getting ripped off or not, they said.
Congress passed the "better on-line ticket sales act" last year to stop bots from snatching up tickets online.
But Senator Schumer is hoping to expand the law to products and toys. He's proposing to work with groups like the National Retail Federation to install new safeguards by next year.