Here's Why You Can't Find a PlayStation 5

When shopping online, it's a battle against bots
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 20, 2020 3:55 PM CST
Here's Why You Can't Find a PlayStation 5
Ben Hoban, 17, of Clarks Summit, Pa., carries his new Sony PlayStation 5 video game console out of a GameStop store on Black Friday, in Dickson City, Pa.   (Christopher Dolan/The Times-Tribune via AP)

Can't score a PlayStation 5? Thank the so-called "grinch bot." The Washington Post reports that Ted Brack, 47, is among those buying the next-gen consoles with software that alerts him when products are available—and allows him to "hammer" retailers with orders faster than a regular customer ever could. "I can see why somebody would get upset about it," says Brack. "But any time that there's demand for something, you're always going to find somebody in between a purchaser and seller." Brack tells the Post his side hustle will earn him about $30,000 this year. On the other side is John Coleman, 13, who has been trying without success to purchase a PS5 since the units first went on sale last month. "Think about the little kids who've been waiting for it; it will be their first console," he says.

Shopping bots like Brack's are legal, but retailers deploy detection tools to block them. Walmart, for instance, says it blocked more than 20 million attempts by bots to place orders during the first 30 minutes of its PS5 sales event on Nov. 25, NBC News reports. And bots aren't just for buying game consoles: During the pandemic, people have used them to target essential goods, like toilet paper and disinfectant spray, as well as grocery store delivery slots. But there is a move in Congress to pass laws to shut down the so-called "scalper bots," per Quartz. Democratic Representative Paul Tonko says such legislation "will restore fairness for consumers so that they're not paying inflated prices because a few unscrupulous people took advantage online." (More playstation 5 stories.)

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