Just three weeks into the holiday shopping season, and you're probably already feeling frazzled. Especially if you have kids or grandkids that are asking for the latest toys. If you've tried to find them online, you're likely striking out. These popular products are being bought by robots.
It's almost impossible to compete with these bots, which are essentially product scalpers. They're programmed to swipe up new toys and products right as they're released. Then, the owners of these products turn around and list them on eBay, where you'll be charged more for them.
Easy way to make a profit? Absolutely. But, it's also becoming a huge problem that retailers and manufacturers have to deal with.
Adidas, for instance, has been dealing with "shoe bots" for years. These bots are designed specifically to swipe up their new sneakers as they're released, and are used mostly when a new limited-release shoe becomes available.
In an effort to combat these robots, Adidas even designed its own app to give customers reserved access to new products. But the results weren't that successful.
Other retailers are also at a loss when it comes to cyberscalpers. The robots make it nearly impossible to offer regular consumers a fair chance at getting high-demand products when they're released. They have software that places orders immediately when products become available online, and even manage additional accounts to side-step quantity restrictions.
Even CAPTCHA tests aren't stopping these robots. Over time, their software has been adapted and they've become better at solving these tests. And retailers are stuck, because making CAPTCHA tests harder may turn off their human customers who take the tests, too.
There is a new method being researched in attempt to stop cyberscalpers. Countermeasures are now being embedded into certain Web pages to act as hidden traps for these robots. The pages, which are commonly used by banks and airlines, are designed to resist automation.
For now, consumers are stuck fighting the bots as best they can. But, hopefully, further tests and research will eventually find a solution to make shopping better on the Internet.