Fight back against 'Grinch bots' with a bot of your own

If you’ve been doing some online Christmas shopping but the items are out of stock before you can get to them, it’s likely a bot snatched them up, but you can also buy a bot to fight them.

“I couldn’t get the PS5,” said Jay Astudillo, shopper.

Like so many shoppers, Astudillo has not been able to order a Play Station 5 gaming system.

“Sold out every time,” he said.

It’s likely because "Grinch bots" bought them all up.

Shopping online (Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

“These bots get trained to go to certain websites, make the purchase, ship the product and then someone flips it on eBay or some other auction site and gets way more money for it,” said Tom Jelneck, president & CEO of On Target Digital Marketing.

”It’s kind of messed up for people that are just trying to buy one thing,” Astudillo said.

Tech expert Tom Jelneck says this is happening more than people may think.

“Last year, 92% of all of the traffic to a major retailer’s website was coming from these bots, so what does that mean for you as a shopper? You’re not gonna get the deal, you’re not gonna get the product because these bots get them the second the store restocks their shelves,” Jelneck said.

But there is a way to fight back, deploy a bot of your own. Subscribe to paid shopping bot sites that will level the playing field for you.

“You hit go and these things go out and do their job, they’ll run around the internet and will find the best deal or they’ll find things that are in stock. They scrape websites that could be a service that can be very useful. You’re gonna pay a premium on top of what you’re gonna pay for the product itself,” Jelneck said.

However, beware of malicious bot providers.

“I would be very cautious about putting my credit card into any of those because there are so many that are spoof, legitimate looking websites, etc.,” Jelneck said. “Can it save you a lot of hassle? Potentially. Can it cause you a lot of hassle? Absolutely.”

Shopping bots are legal for now. Back in 2016, the Federal Bots Act criminalized ticket scalping bots, but retail shopping bots are not included in that legislation.