Scalpers Are Using Dedicated Services
Published · Jan 07, 2022
Scalping desired items is nothing new but the practice has become more prevalent and easier to do in recent years. It occurs when someone buys highly desired or rare items and resells them at a markup.
Before the internet era, scalpers most often bought event tickets and then sold them for a higher price. The practice is largely frowned upon as it simply makes goods more expensive without adding any value.
While scalping has always been frustrating for consumers, they at least had a fighting chance. Scalpers had to go out and get the items just like everyone else.
That’s no longer the case. The rise of the internet and the following ecommerce boom has made it far easier for scalpers to get goods in high numbers quickly.
Chief among the new tools of scalpers are bots. With them, they can buy up stock on websites as soon as it’s listed.
Currently, PS5s and graphics cards are the main targets. That said, items like premium clothing or Lego sets are bought up too.
Scalpers don’t even need to code the bots themselves. They can simply pay for the tools they need and even use proxy services. The latter are similar to mainstream proxy solutions but are dedicated to avoiding detection.
Government and private companies are taking steps to fight scalping. In the US, Democrats have introduced laws to ban the “Grinch Bots.”
CDN providers like Akamai, on the other hand, are trying to train their algorithms to detect bot activity and block it.
Scalpers haven’t been quiet in the face of criticism. They often try to justify what they’re doing. Some claim they are simply the “middlemen.” In reality, they’re an additional middleman that adds a heavy markup to an existing markup.
Some assert that commercial sellers condone scalping because it amplifies scarcity. This, in turn, increases the hype around products and leads to record-breaking sales on launch day.
The reality of “artificial scarcity” is debated. However, the scarcity of electronics like the PS5 is undeniable. Global lockdowns have slowed the supply chain and caused more people to invest in home entertainment, increasing the squeeze.
It remains to be seen how scalping will be prevented or if that’s even possible in a heavily digital market that favors trade.
Garan is a writer interested in how tech reshapes the environment, and how the environment reshapes tech. You'll usually find him inoculating against future shock and arguing with bots.