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'Grinch Bots' are trying to hijack the hot toys, and Congress members are working to stop them

Posted: 3:16 PM, Nov 28, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-30 17:37:32Z

Parents everywhere are looking for hot holiday toys — especially online. Unfortunately, so are computerized "Grinch Bots", which buy up huge amounts of the popular toys so they can be resold by scalpers at 3rd party websites with greatly marked-up prices.

"Grinch Bots" are able to search websites and grab the toys faster than consumers.

It is such a concern that U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) is pushing Congress to pass the "Stopping Grinch Bots Act of 2018."

The proposed legislation would give the FTC authority to track and prosecute scalpers who use "Grinch Bots."

Schumer's office found that, last year, "Grinch Bots" contributed to "sold out" status online for several popular toys which then showed up on sites like Ebay with inflated prices:

  • Fingerlings, which typically sell for $14.99, were out of stock online at Walmart, and Target. However, the item was available for sale on Amazon and eBay for as much as $1,000 each – an increase of 6,571% over its retail price.  
  • 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 each – an increase of 16,152% over its retail price.
  • 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 each – an increase of 4,905% over its retail price.
  • 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 each – an increase of 400% over its retail price.

According to Distil Networks, a company that researches bot-use, there was a 20% spike in bot use during Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2017.  Data for 2018 is not yet available.

In 2016, Congress passed legislation that prevented the use of bots to snatch up concert tickets.

However, the law has a loophole which allows scalpers to grab hot toys before consumers can.

"Grinch Bots" also make it hard on small toy shops as the bots can manipulate pricing and availability while creating panic buying from parents.

In case you are wondering, here are the hot toys for 2018 (Thanks to Fisher-Price & Mattel for the information):

JCPenny “Top 20 Toys” [ir.jcpenney.com]

  • Barbie Ultimate Kitchen Doll
  • Fisher-Price Double Dance and Sing Along Mat

KMART Fab 15 [prnewswire.com]

  • Hot Wheels Mega Garage by Mattel
  • 2018 Holiday Barbie by Mattel
  • Barbie Dreamhouse by Mattel
  • Sunny Day – Sunny's Styling Head by Fisher-Price

2018 Target Bullseye's Top Toys [target.com]

  • Barbie Dreamhouse
  • Hot Wheels Gator Car Wash
  • Imaginext Jurassic World Jurassic Rex
  • Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Learning Home
  • Fisher-Price Think & Learn Rocktopus

Walmart “Top 40 Toys Rated by Kids” [walmart.com]  

  • Barbie Dreamhouse
  • Power Wheels Power Dream Camper (exclusive)
  • Imaginext Jurassic World Jurassic Rex
  • Little People Take Turns Skyway
  • Fisher Price Laugh & Learn 3-in-1 Smart Car
  • Hot Wheels Ultimate Garage (exclusive)

Amazon Top 100 Holiday Toys for 2018 [amazon.com]

  • Hot Wheels Corkscrew Crash Track Set
  • Barbie Dreamhouse
  • Barbie Care Clinic Vehicle
  • Fisher-Price Dance & Groove Rockit
  • Fisher-Price Think & Learn Rocktopus
  • Polly Pocket Transformation Playset
  • Lil’ Gleemerz
  • Thomas Super Station