Computer programs known across the retail landscape as ‘Grinch bots’ are further complicating the supply chain snags across the U.S. and around the world as the bots buy the most wanted holiday gifts in mere moments with a single click, Financial Times reported Tuesday (Dec. 21).
The Grinch bot software scans websites for in-demand products and buys them all as soon as they are available, the FT report says. Entrepreneurs use these programs to buy the products in bulk then sell them at exorbitant prices to consumers who find themselves with no other options but to pay them.
Walmart and Target are among the retailers that have developed their own software programs to block the Grinch bots and ensure the products aren’t scooped up by one buyer in an instant. Imperva’s Research Labs team monitored bot traffic on retail sites in the U.S. in November 2021, seeing an increase of 73% over the previous month.
Adobe Analytics says online shoppers got 258% more out-of-stock messages in November 2021 than they did two years ago.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., reintroduced the so-called Stopping Grinch Bots legislation with three fellow Democrats last month after it was shot down in 2018 and 2019. Retailers also want Congress to pass the Integrity, Notification and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers (Inform Consumers) Act, which would make online sellers verify the identity and bank details of “high-volume” third-party sellers — those who have made 200 or more sales worth $5,000 or more in the past year.
Amazon recently supported a modified version of the bill in the House of Representatives.
For those who are fortunate enough to outpace the Grinch bots, they may face problems when it comes to returning gifts that weren’t exactly the perfect fit. More than half (51%) of holiday shoppers would be willing to keep items they want to return in exchange for a 30% discount.
About half – 45% – of holiday shoppers say they would keep an unwanted item for a 10% discount on a future purchase. Almost 63% of shoppers say they’ve either returned or plan to return a holiday purchase.