The Bot Advantage

Holiday Season and Scarcity

If people fight over a box in the store, what do you think they are willing to do out of the store?

Let me start with a simple story.

Once upon a time the Cohen family noticed that every time we went online to buy the Xbox console, we could get it into the cart but never pay for it before it was sold out. After a bit of reflection and hearing stories of local kids using bots to buy consoles a resell them, we had a realization. The scarcity in the market on video game consoles is just another sign of the times. Regardless of the reasoning Microsoft and Sony underestimated market demand or chose not to produce consoles, they are selling off the shelves before hitting them. Once there is scarcity, there is ingenuity and people will do whatever it takes to get what they want. At the moment, there are many tools and methods to get to the goal without any protections for fairness. Once we had our moment of clarity..

We realized that buying a console online was unlikely due to legal scalpers , we decided to buy one in a store. My boys asked me to sit in line for 14 hours to get ahead of others and have an opportunity to buy a console. Under any other normal circumstance, I would have said hard “no” but under these conditions, I agreed.

We drove to our local Gamestop which reported no consoles but when we called the store, they reported they would have some in stock. There were other sites that reported upwards of eight consoles. When we arrived at the store, there were four people there and at least one of them was an employee of Gamestop. They told us that there were only 4 consoles. As we contemplated what we were going to do, one of the young men came up to us to share what he knew about other stores in the area. His intention as we discovered later was to drive us away. We chose to leave for a few reasons but mostly because my boys felt uncomfortable sitting with these people for 14 hours under the condition that either we don’t believe them or they are lying to us. If Gamestop had just shared the information, we would have had more of an opportunity to stay given we had real numbers. As it goes, they did have more and others chose to ignore their lies and stay.

We didn’t get a console that day and my kids and I were more upset about how it all went down. At the time, I shared with my boys when the young man came up to us to tell us about the other stores, that he was being kind. They were suspicious of it and they wound up being right. It’s a gaming system but its a shame.

Photo by Julyo Saenz on

What is a Bot?

Where knowledge is power, here is a tiny bit of something. If you don’t know about “bots” it is time you learned a little bit about them. Simply put, a “bot” is an automatic process or tool that runs to perform tasks. It can be used for many reasons and it is sort of a utility knife for people who have mastered the utility of automation. In the video game world, bots can cause gamers to be banned from platforms because it can give such an advantage to players that it creates conditions where normal players can’t win.

In the business world, there are also bots. Many people use bots with the stock market, and other securities. They use bots to buy, trade or sell on platforms and in this case that I am mentioning, they use bots to buy and scalp products.

The question about why they are legal or illegal is a difficult one to answer. If you stop them, it impacts legitimate process and business transactions. If you don’t stop them, normal people will continue to be in the same position as those who play video games against people using bots. There will be an unfair advantage.

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on


In sports, we spend a lot of time leveling the playing field. It isn’t a free for all and it is highly regulated for fairness.

In video games, a player can be banned for life from using automation to gain unfair advantage.

In the stock market, players can generate large sums of money from using automation and complex algorithms. Why is it “smart thinking” in business but unfair advantage in video games?

All said, there are a few things you can do to level the playing field yourself.

  1. Learn..
  2. Buy .. (example)
  3. Leverage ..

I don’t think any of the retailers are going to do anything about bots and I don’t think we will have a chance unless we master the same tools, techniques that others are using to take advantage of systemic weakness.

What do you think?

If you didn’t know about bots, now is a good time to learn. They will be here for a while….

Happy Sunday

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