BBB gives tips on how to beat the “Grinch bots” when shopping online for Christmas

One of a parent’s worst nightmares is not being able to give their kids what they want most for the holidays. And it can get worse if the toy is one that is most sought that year. You go to a store’s website and see that the toy is sold out. How can that be when they just went on sale?

Let us introduce you to the “Grinch Bot.”

First, let’s understand exactly what a “bot” is.

According to Norton “Bots, or Internet robots, are also known as spiders, crawlers, and web bots. While they may be utilized to perform repetitive jobs, such as indexing a search engine, they often come in the form of malware. Malware bots are used to gain total control over a computer.”

Basically, a “bot” crawls websites where the most wanted toys are being sold. They buy up as much, if not all, of a particular product making it impossible for consumers to buy on company websites. Afterwards, consumers will see the product on third party websites at a much higher price. Sometimes the price can be 100% over the normal cost. Parents lose to computer programs.

This is where the name “Grinch Bot” is derived. It seems only a Grinch would try and exploit Christmas toys!

To help combat “bots,” Congress passed the Better Online Ticket Sales Act of 2016. Unfortunately, it does not apply to toys.

Specifically, the BOTS Act makes it illegal to “circumvent a security measure, access control system, or other technological control or measure on an Internet website or online service that is used by the ticket issuer to enforce posted event ticket purchasing limits or to maintain the integrity of posted online ticket purchasing order rules.” The law applies to public concerts, theater performances, sporting events, and similar events at venues with seating capacity of over 200. The State AGs and the FTC have enforcement authority.

How can you beat the “bot?” You won’t but you can shop early and pre-order electronics or other highly sought after gifts. Also, make sure you know the actual retail price of an item so you can make an informed buying decision.

BBB advises consumers to check out any company prior to doing business at Since toys or other Christmas items are not affected by the Congressional Act, parents will have to decide if they are willing to pay extravagant prices to ensure a Merry Christmas for their child.

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