9:30am, check Nike.com for updates…nothing. Search the site and web for possible links…nothing. 10:30am, friend hits me up, to discuss availability of links. I get back on Twitter to hit up Nike lab account. Find release time and relay info to friend. New drop time..1pm. 12:50pm, search begins, no links — Frantic search, phone buzzes. Friend has the link, sends it over. Opens page and readies for order. Coworker comes into the office, small talk about lunch. Make lunch plans, back to the count down. 30 seconds….15 seconds….2, 1…QUICKLY CLICKS ‘SHOE SIZE’ AND ‘ORDER’. Wait in line…confirmation from friend, he got his pair…waiting…waiting…sold out. Sold out in under 2 minutes. Welcome to the world of sneaker bots.
Over the past few months I’ve been on a sneaker Renaissance. Buying multiple pairs of shoes like I’m investing in Gold bars. I’m no sneakerhead, I can’t run down specifics of a shoe or tell you certain tidbits, I just buy what I like. And usually, what I like isn’t on the radar of most folks, except for the occasional Jordan release. I had been lusting over the Air Max 1 patch for weeks. It was a relatively low key sneaker that I wanted in my collection for summer. So after weeks of waiting imagine my utter disappointment when the sneakers sold out at lightning speed. I felt cheated, but also intrigued. How does something like this happen? And on such a large scale?
Usually a quick Google search holds the answers I seek. Not this time. Why? Because bot use is one of those things that is not really talked about. A necessary evil in the sneaker game, a moral gray area for sneaker enthusiasts. So what exactly is a bot? It’s a software program, either installed as an extension on your browser or downloaded and installed on your computer as a separate application. There are even mobile applications that you can install. Once you install the program you have set up…when the sneakers drop, the magic starts. Bots usually hack the ordering system of major websites like Nike.com. The trick is adding shoes to the shopping cart and checking out faster than humanly possible. The result? Depending on the bot, a higher guarantee on the shoes you want. Of course this comes with a price. Bots can run from a couple bucks to a couple hundred.
With the rise of bots, I assumed an arms race would take place between retailers and bot makers. If you were to check the pulse of the sneaker community, defenses against bots aren’t happening quickly enough. It’s a weird intersection because these programs aren’t mining for data, but taking advantage of simple web functions. One would assume corporations see them as something that is annoying but not a threat to their business; Because after all, bots actually help the sneaker companies move their product as quickly as possible.