In the classic Dr. Seuss book, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, the titular character makes it his goal to ruin Christmas for the residents of Whoville. The Grinch succeeds, but not without realizing the mistake he made. In 2017, a new "Grinch" could possibly ruin the holidays for some young children, because "Grinch Bots" may be why some toys are sold out this holiday season. But one can hope that they don't succeed in ruining your Christmas.
"Grinch Bots" have one purpose: to buy all of the hottest toys this Christmas before anyone else can, making Christmas shopping even harder and more stressful than it already is. This year, according to NPR, cyberbots are buying up the most popular toys of the year online and hiking up the prices on third-party websites. In the most dire of situations, when all a child wants is a Fingerling for Christmas and they're sold out everywhere, some parents are pretty much forced into buying toys from them for their kids, even if they don't agree with the prices.
Fingerlings, one of the hottest toys of 2017, are being sold on Amazon and eBay for almost quadruple the regular price, according to The New York Times and have practically gone extinct from the shelves at Toys "R" Us and Walmart because of it. People are understandably upset about it, especially since, according to MSNBC, Fingerling inventory has been "tight" at retailers since as early as September.
But Fingerlings aren't the only sold out item that might be gracing your child's wish list. According to BuzzFeed, there are three other toys that are the target of "Grinch Bots" this year: Super Nintendo NES Classic, L.O.L. Surprise! Dolls, and the Barbie Hello Dream House. All of these items have been sold out at stores, but are just as expensive on third-party resale websites.
"Grinch Bots," according to NPR, employ the same tactics as the bots that buy concert tickets and resell them at insanely high prices (and was probably the reason why you missed seeing Beyoncé in your city last year). This doesn't benefit anyone but the seller, and your child who didn't think they would be getting the hottest toy of the season. And as long as there are "hot toys," there will be parents who will go through hoops to make sure their kid is happy.
Parents aren't the only people who think this is a problem. Over the weekend, according to Newsweek, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer called for an end to the bots, seeing how it negatively affects the people in the middle class that save up throughout the year to afford these gifts for their children. "It's time to #BlocktheBots," Schumer tweeted.
In part of his efforts to "block the bots," according to USA Today, Schumer has asked the National Retail Federation and the Retail Industry Leaders Association to "help investigate the bot issue on their member's websites." Both groups told USA Today that they support Schumer's efforts. Schumer explained why he feels so strongly about this, in a statement shared to his website and asked for a call to action:
It's time we help restore an even playing field by blocking the bots. When it comes to purchasing products online, major retailers should put forth policies that will help future Grinch bots from stealing the season's hottest toys.
Hopefully by next year, holiday toy shopping could be a lot easier. But until something is done about it, according to ABC News, consumers should shop with a few things in mind. Before buying from a unknown seller, according to ABC News, shoppers should know of a toy's retail price, shop before the holiday rush (easier said than done), and have patience when it comes to the items being out of stock. "[Waiting is] a better solution than rewarding people that are fleecing customers," Consumers Union spokesman Chuck Bell told ABC News.
Unlike The Grinch, this story doesn't really have a happy ending. But like the Whos in Whoville, banning together to combat the problem could be the best solution.
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