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Democrats Attempt to Use the Power of Christmas to Pass a Bill That’ll (Hopefully) Stop “Grinch Bots” From Buying Everything Up

You're a mean one Mr. Grinch (Bot)

Grinch Bot

On the first day of Christmas, democrats gave to me, a proposed bill that’ll stop bots from buying hot ticket items and reselling them at unreasonably high prices – in a pear tree.

While it is true that chip shortages have contributed to the rarity of things like the mirage that is the PS5, bots like the ones referred to in the Stopping Grinch Bots Act (yes, that is the name of the bill) aren’t helping matters, either.

Arguably, this has been an issue for as long as I can remember, and definitely an issue that exists beyond December 25th, but the holiday angle does add an extra sense of urgency, I suppose. It at least makes the issue more relatable, as politicians may not understand my mad dash to get a Funko of Fat Gum from My Hero Academia over the summer but I’m sure they understand getting a Christmas list from a tiny tot and balking at the price of their beloved (insert console or Cabbage Patch or whatever) because it’s only available at three times its actual price.

On Cyber Monday and with holiday shopping underway, Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) today announced the introduction of the Stopping Grinch Bots Act. Their bicameral bill will crack down on cyber Grinches using “bot” technology to quickly buy up whole inventories of popular holiday toys and resell them to parents at higher prices. These third-party sellers use bots to bypass security measures and manipulate online sales systems to buy toys, leading to some toys being almost impossible to buy online or in stores at retail prices, exacerbating shortages caused by stressed supply chains.

The Christmas analogy isn’t just in the name of the bill. Each representative made sure to keep the holiday theme going when discussing the proposed bill. “At a time when families should be able to spend time with their loved ones, digital ‘Grinch bots’ are forcing Americans to scour online sites in the hopes of finding an affordable gift or paying exorbitant prices for a single toy,” said Tonko. “These bots don’t just squeeze consumers, they pose a problem for small businesses, local retailers, and other entrepreneurs trying to ensure they have the best items in stock for their customers. Our Grinch Bots Act works to level the playing field and prevent scalpers from sucking hardworking parents dry this holiday season. I urge my colleagues to join me in passing this legislation immediately to stop these Grinch bots from stealing the holidays.”

The other representatives followed suit. Blumenthal, for instance, mentioned how these bots are ruining the holidays for kids because it’s near impossible to get these items before they’re marked up to ridiculously high prices. “New tools are needed to block cyber scammers who snap up supplies of popular toys and resell them at astronomic prices. Price gouging hot toys by Grinch bots should have zero tolerance.”

Schumer, working to add more oomph to the proposal, talked about how this has been a particularly trying year. Due to the extreme amount of exhaustion and stress 2020 the sequel has given us, “No parent or American should have to fork over hundreds – or even thousands – of dollars to buy Christmas and holiday gifts for their children and loved ones.”

Luján expressed similar sentiments but also added how the bill would help all year round and not just during the holidays.  “This is a sacred time to be spent with family and loved ones. Americans should not be stressed financially by online algorithms that hoard high-demand toys and goods and resell them at huge margins. This critical legislation will protect New Mexico’s consumers during the holidays and year-round.”

Several organizations are in support of the bill, including Consumer Reports, the Consumer Federation of America, and the National Consumer League. The letter included data from 2017 that gave examples of items that had a tremendous markup after being sold out in stores.

● Fingerlings, which typically sell for $14.99, were out of stock online at Toys-“R”-Us, Walmart, and Target. However, the item was available for sale on Amazon and eBay for as
much as $1,000 each.

● Super Nintendo entertainment system NES Classic Edition, which sells for $79.99, was out of stock online at BestBuy, Game Stop, and Target. However, the item was available on
Amazon and eBay for as much as $13,000.

● L.O.L. Surprise! Doll, which sells for $9.99, was out of stock online at Toys-“R”-Us, Target and Walmart. However, the item was available on Amazon and eBay for as much as $500.

● Barbie Hello Dreamhouse, which sells for $300, was out of stock online at Toys-“R”-Us.

Four years later and I’m sure we can all think of items that are going for thousands of dollars online when they are nowhere near that expensive.

I’m not sure how much progress will be made with this bill as this isn’t the first time it’s been introduced, according to PCMag. However, reintroducing it during peak shopping season is smart, so I don’t blame them for the heavy-handed “Grinch” theme of it all. This is also hitting at a time during supply shortages, so it’s extra frustrating to have bots buying up everything 0.0001 seconds after a product goes live.

As an 80s kid who grew up in the “video games are pure evil” political era, I’m just amused at the idea of politicians getting Christmas lists from grandkids who want PS5s and waltzing into a store thinking that it’s readily available, only to be directed to an eBay listing that makes their wallet cry out for help. I imagine one of them going, “Someone should do something about this,” then realizing that, wait, they’re that somebody.


(Image: Dr. Seuss/Sony)

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Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)