I'm pretty big into sneakers and have found the bot game to be really interesting, and how companies are fighting it by removing "first-come first-served" is a rational response.
The money in reselling is decent but you can usually make more by selling the software itself. I collected a few rare pairs and definitely found that fun. Also highly ego driven and there’s an entire “sneaker Twitter” community where people just want to show off.
I was mainly into it for the software engineering side of things. You end up having to build really interesting/complex software. My infrastructure was basically half a dozen servers with a coordinator that would scrape websites all day long. Also had to learn how to exploit different features of websites to speed things up.
Generally enjoyed it but the community is pretty toxic. Mostly driven by money and ego, no room for collaboration because it’s more profitable to keep things to yourself.
Your software finds margins of x, but surely only so many people can make use of it before it stops working for anyone.
It’s in everyone’s best interest to keep the total number of bots in circulation relatively low. Helps that genuinely good software is difficult to write and most people doing that work are young/inexperienced - huge advantage to anyone with a strong softeng background.
You see similar things in rare craft beer releases.
What could go wrong?..
Aside from the obvious stolen CC#, there are legitimate services that provide you with a disposable per transaction card number..
I find the parallels here very interesting and the suggestion from the first comment that a lottery could be deployed for all who purchase within the first X minutes. Maybe that’s the way forward for tickets too.
It seems to me both markets have a producer retailing a product far below the market clearing price. A 3rd party is thus stepping in and claiming that unclaimed value.
It seems to me that the producers hold all the cards needed to put the 3rd parties out of business. They can increase prices, or supply. Why don't they?
I've heard accusations that musicians are getting kick backs from touts, which suggests that the touts are basically scapegoats.
The question then becomes why people don't think it's reasonable for these producers to raise prices. That view is kind of understandable for musicians, they are 'artists' not in it for the money, although why their fans would begrudge them more money or why the artists wouldn't want to perform more for their loyal fans I don't know.
In short it's a strange market dynamic, where nobody actually seems to be honest about their motivations.
Musicians are concerned with their reputation. They want to tour (though some don't) but not burn out and also need time to work on new material and recording. They want to play the best possible gig. That means sell-out performances with the most devoted fans, not the richest ones. It means venue matched to the type of music.
Venues and promoters are in similar positions. Auctioning tickets to the highest bidder could be short-term profitable but in the long term it's a disaster.
If you want that long list of things, and can get it, good for you. Does it then follow you can demand legislation to protect that?
Then there's the question of what a devoted fan is. Surely if they only wanted devoted fans they'd site the concert somewhere out of the way. The South pole perhaps? That would sort the touts.
And a final point, my experience as a fan would be much improved if I could reliably go out and buy say 4 tickets for me and my friends, any friends because i don't know which will be free, and if only 2 can make it, sell 1 to someone else that would like to go.
I ended up paying some inflated price at a dodgy computer centre (as the alternative would have been to take out another 2 year phone service subscription).
However, I believe you that regulating this appropriately is complex. I'm not sure, for example, what Apple could have done better (beyond their 2-per-customer-limit, apart from raising prices or magically producing more). Lotteries might be one way (and that's what Apple did later in HK, I believe).
(And, BTW, cool to have a MEP here :-)
It's pretty big, there's markets for residential IP lists, bots that mock organic web traffic by browsing Google and watching YouTube so they can defeat recaptcha, there's even escrow services so that you don't have to sell out of your house.
There's groups that track potential high value product releases and coordinate large buys. It's mutually beneficial for them to work together, because unauthentic demand boosts the resell market.
I don't know if I approve of it, because groups work out large fandoms and potential demand, and effectively price out segments of the population to take a cut off of the top. But I do have to sit back and marvel at how much technology and research goes into neutering antibot measures.
Biggest thing that you wouldn’t know looking in from the outside is that bots can only get you so far. Bots for well-known sites are basically at their theoretical limits. Bad server-side software basically makes it random whether you’ll actually get in at that point.
Information is what really determines whether sneakers are going to be profitable or a complete waste of time. I ran with groups of people who had relationships with employees of all the big sneaker manufacturers (primarily Nike and Adidas). I’d know months in advance what was going to release and, perhaps more importantly, what was going to re-release (causing the price of existing pairs to crash).
People belonged to strong (and private) groups. Never too big, ~15 people was the max for the really good ones. Usually you’d have a slack channel with a ton of integrations, anywhere from simple in-stock notifications to full bot integrations that would allow you to buy sneakers with a saved credit card by tapping a button on the notification (so much for PCI compliance).
Those groups are difficult to access. You have to build up a reputation before you have a chance, most of the good ones will literally interview you. You’d pretty much be blacklisted if you leaked information. Overall it’s a lot like cracking culture if it suddenly became 100% legal.
I'd be judgemental and go all "kids these days" on him if only it wasn't so lucrative for him. Sure, it's not that much money relative to an adult's earnings over a couple of years, but he's 12. My sister (his mom) worries he won't learn to appreciate savings and frugality as he never had an allowance before doing this. Me, I think he'll do just fine.
Ironically, when I asked him some more questions about how the sales worked and he explained things I then told him he should write a bot.
Some buy them to wear; some buy them to put them on a shelf; some buy them to seal them and resell them down the line.
If you also get a legit pair, then you could sell to make money.
If they tried to capture all the value by auctioning, they might sink the whole thing.
You're totally right, that part of the value of these shoes to the company is the commotion they create in the market as everyone scrambles and pays attention. Then if someone can't get the limiteds, they'll settle for the dope looking regular release (which is still sold at insane margins for the company).
More importantly, the fast sellout times create hype, which just further drive the market. These companies will make more money in the long-term because people will keep coming back to get one of these shoes that “no one else has.” Trick is that the companies do eventually flood the market
For Nike in 2014, it was $28 a pair to make. They are getting plenty of markup.
They'd also lose brand good will because people would stop trying to buy if the auctions prices were out of grasp.