Shopping bots help buyers snatch in-demand items before they sell out

Instead of periodically checking to see if your desired item has been restocked, you can employ a bot to snatch it up immediately upon its restock. The shopping bot services have been used by resellers and sneakerheads who intend to buy and flip limited-quantity items, but their popularity is broadening as families shop for Christmas presents amid supply chain shortages.

WSJ reports on SlapX, software that charges $40 upfront plus $30 per month to crawl retailer websites and order the in-demand items you select in advance. Another shopping bot is SnailBot, which charges $99 per month.

Many people see botting as market distorting, especially ahead of Black Friday, a day many consumers wait to do their holiday shopping in anticipation of discounts. One group of lawmakers tried to outlaw the practice through the "Stopping Grinch Bots Act" in 2019, but it failed to pass Congress. Bot activity has since surged.

Monthly bot attacks on retail sites have increased more than eightfold over the past two years, according to estimates from Imperva Inc. Peter Klimek, director of technology at the cybersecurity firm, attributes the growth largely to the pandemic's social-distancing restrictions and the global supply-chain crunch.