What to know about the business of sneaker bots: the controversial tech that helps resellers flip hundreds of hyped pairs of Jordans, Dunks, and Yeezys

sneaker bots resellers 2x1
  • In the sneaker resale world, a “bot” refers to a software application that expedites the online checkout process.
  • Though certainly a controversial aspect of sneaker culture, bots are essential for purchasing latest releases at retail prices.
  • Here’s everything you need to know about the business of bots and their role in buying sneakers.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

There are a few of reasons people will regularly miss out on hyped sneakers drops. But odds are, it’s because of a bot.

In the sneaker resale world, a “bot” refers to a software application that expedites the online checkout process and helps resellers nab hyped pairs in seconds – including limited-edition drops and collabs.

When sneakers are released in limited quantities, it’s often a race to see which sneakerheads can input their credit card information on a website or app the fastest in order to checkout before the product sells out. Bots are specifically designed to make this process instantaneous, offering users a leg-up over other buyers looking to complete transactions manually.

Though bots are notoriously difficult to set up and run, to many resellers they are a necessary evil for buying sneakers at retail price. The software also gets around “one pair per customer” quantity limits placed on each buyer on release day.

As the sneaker resale market continues to thrive, Business Insider is covering all aspects of how to scale a business in the booming industry. And bots are a major part of that. From how to acquire and use the technology to the people behind the most popular bots in the market today, here’s everything you need to know about the controversial software.

Acquiring a bot

Bots, like sneakers, can be difficult to purchase. Most bot makers release their products online via a Twitter announcement. There are only a limited number of copies available for purchase at retail. And once sold out, bots often resell for thousands of dollars.

Some private groups specialize in helping its paying members nab bots when they drop. These bot-nabbing groups use software extensions – basically other bots – to get their hands on the coveted technology that typically costs a few hundred dollars at release.

Once the software is purchased, members decide if they want to keep or “flip” the bots to make a profit on the resale market. Here’s how one bot nabbing and reselling group, Restock Flippers, keeps its 600 paying members on top of the bot market.

How to properly use bots

While bots are relatively widespread among the sneaker reselling community, they are not simple to use by any means. Insider spoke to teen reseller Leon Chen who has purchased four bots. He outlined the basics of using bots to grow a reselling business.

Most bots require a proxy, or an intermediate server that disguises itself as a different browser on the internet. This allows resellers to purchase multiple pairs from one website at a time and subvert cart limits. Each of those proxies are designed to make it seem as though the user is coming from different sources.

For example, “data center”proxies make it appear as though the user is accessing the website from a large company or corporation while a “residential proxy” is traced back to an alternate home address. Whichever type you use, proxies are an important part of setting up a bot.  In some cases, like when a website has very strong anti-botting software, it is better not to even use a bot at all.

The anti-bot faction

While most resellers see bots as a necessary evil in the sneaker world, some sneakerheads are openly working to curb the threat. SoleSavy is an exclusive group that uses bots to beat resellers at their own game, while also preventing members from exploiting the system themselves. The platform, which recently raised $2 million in seed funding, aims to foster a community of sneaker enthusiasts who are not interested in reselling. 

We spoke to one of the group’s founders to hear about how members are taking on the botting community. 

The people behind the technology

In many cases, bots are built by former sneakerheads and self-taught developers who make a killing from their products. Insider has spoken to three different developers who have created popular sneaker bots in the market, all without formal coding experience.

Splashforce, a bot that services nearly 4,000 customers, was created by an 18-year-old who had previously described himself as “dirt poor.” The teen founder and co-owner of Adept, another major sneaker bot, initially earned money via a paper route. Meanwhile, the maker of Hayha Bot, also a teen, notably describes the bot making industry as “a gold rush.”

Each of these self-taught bot makers have sold over $380,000 worth of bots since their businesses launched, according to screenshots of payment dashboards viewed by Insider.

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Rural communities are pushing back against vaccine-scheduling bots they say are giving out-of-towners an upper hand

vaccine wars
Some communities are fighting back against vaccine scheduling bots that they say give the tech savvy out-of-towners the upper hand.

  • Vaccine-scheduling bots intended to make registration easier on seniors are facing backlash.
  • A clinic in rural Massachusetts was canceled after 350 shots were reserved by out-of-towners. 
  • As of Feb. 26, more than 70 million people received COVID-19 vaccine shots in the US, the CDC said.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

On February 19, health officials in Franklin County, Massachusetts, learned they’d be receiving 350 new doses of COVID-19 vaccine to make available to their residents at a local clinic.

But less than 10 minutes after the scheduling link was posted to the state website, all of the appointments were scooped up – 95 percent of them by out-of towners, Emergency Preparedness Program Manager Tracy Rogers told Insider.

“Most of them were all gone at the same time, so we knew it was not a human being that could be doing it that quickly,” she said. “Then we found out that there is both a Twitter hashtag and a website that people can go to and sign up and the bot will just scour the state website all day long signing them up.”

Bots, autonomous internet tools designed to perform specific functions, have started to pop up in an effort to help Americans find and schedule vaccine appointments. But when online vaccine registrations rolled out, some people were left frustrated because appointment slots would disappear while patients, usually seniors who were among the first wave of people who could be vaccinated, were in the middle of trying to sign up. 

Registration systems around the US have been challenging, especially to those who are less tech-savvy. 

People trying to fix a broken system, have started to develop bots to make it easier to schedule appointments.

Some of the new bots are built to scan vaccine websites to determine when a clinic is adding new appointments, and then alerting the human overseeing them to post an alert online, the Associated Press reported. 

Others are “scalper” bots that automatically book appointments, according to the AP. 

While the bots might be well-intended, the downside is that they might not be sophisticated enough to factor in local regulations. 

In Franklin County, a community of just over 70,000 residents, this week’s clinic was intended to be limited to locals.

It was expected that some portion of the appointments would be made by people living outside of the county, but in this case, almost no Franklin residents had the opportunity to register. 

“It’s a wonderful service. It’s a great thing,” Rogers said of developers building bots to help seniors sign up. “But the bot doesn’t read where we said this was restricted to Franklin County residents only.”

Many people who signed up for the Western Massachusetts clinic were from the Boston-metro area.

Others who signed up for clinics in Franklin and the neighboring Western Massachusetts community of Berkshire County were driving more than three hours from Cape Cod for the shots.

As of February 26, more than 70 million people have received COVID-19 vaccine shots in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Rogers said officials in Franklin County were able to meet with state legislators to get permission to cancel all 350 appointments and then reschedule the clinic, making it “private.”

Doing so means the new clinic’s registration link would not be available on the state’s website. 

Details were instead distributed to local seniors’ centers, the Council on Aging, and other groups so they could assist with signups. Within two hours of reposting the new link, all of the appointments were rescheduled by local residents and people in nearby rural Massachusetts communities.

Rogers told Insider the problem has been fixed for now, but she’s not sure how long the state will give the county permission to keep vaccine clinics private.

Some eastern Massachusetts residents who were allowed to keep their appointments never showed up. 

“The found out they got in at Gillette Stadium and they never called us to cancel,” Rogers said. 

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