Photo Courtesy of Nintendo
The Super Nintendo entertainment system NES Classic Edition is one of this year’s hottest toys that, according to Sen. Schumer, are being scooped up by cyber bots.
By Forum Staff
Opportunists are using cyber bots to scoop up popular holiday gifts, from dolls to gaming equipment, for resell on other websites at outrageous prices, according to Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, who on Sunday called on two of the leading retail trade associations to block the bots and lead the charge against future efforts to prevent customers from buying toys at fair retail prices.
Schumer said bots are sophisticated computer programs often used by scalpers and brokers that plague the online sale of many items.
“Grinch bots cannot be allowed to steal Christmas, or dollars, from the wallets of New Yorkers,” Schumer said. “Middle class folks save up—a little here, a little there—working to afford the hottest gifts of the season for their kids but ever-changing technology and its challenges are making that very difficult. 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 prevent future Grinch bots from stealing the season’s hottest toys.”
Schumer noted that the same cyber scalpers responsible for having scooped up tickets to Broadway shows and major concerts have migrated to in-demand holiday toys. For example, popular Fingerlings—which typically sell for $14.99—are now being sold on secondary websites for as much as $1,000.
Schumer also pointed out that last year, Congress passed the Better Online Ticket Sales Act, co-sponsored by New York’s senior senator, which prohibits the unfair and deceptive act of using mechanisms such as bots in order to scoop up tickets before consumers are given a fair chance to buy them. However, the legislation does not include items beyond tickets, Schumer noted.
That’s why Schumer has sent a letter to the National Retail Federation and the Retail Industry Leaders Association to investigate the prevalence of bots on their members’ websites and help their members institute best practices to subvert these computer programs.
The senator’s staff searched online for some of the year’s top holiday toys: WowWee Fingerlings, Super Nintendo entertainment system NES Classic Edition, the L.O.L. Surprise! Doll and the Barbie Hello Dreamhouse Playset. In addition to the Fingerlings mark-up, Schumer’s office found:
• Super Nintendo entertainment system NES Classic Edition, which sells for $79.99, was out of stock online at BestBuy, Game Stop, and Target. However, the item was available on Amazon and eBay for as much as $13,000.
• L.O.L. Surprise! Doll, which sells for $9.99, was out of stock online at Toys-R-Us, Target and Walmart. However, the item was available on Amazon and eBay for as much as $500.
• Barbie Hello Dreamhouse, which sells for $300, was out of stock online at Toys-R-Us. However, the item was available for sale on Amazon and eBay for as much as $1,500.
“Consumer Reports urges retailers and policymakers to work together to develop solutions, so that consumers will be able to shop for toys and other gifts on a level playing field,” said Chuck Bell, programs director of Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arms of Consumer Reports, who joined Schumer at his press conference on Sunday.