A few weeks ago, the VICE website Motherboard shared a story about a checkout bot that was believed to be at least partly responsible for the current Nintendo Switch shortages within North America. If you missed our own coverage, it automatically notifies users when a system becomes available online at specific retailers within the US and then completes the order process.
The creator, at the time, said they made it as a joke, and then quickly realised how powerful the open-source tool actually was. Now, The Washington Post has run its own story about the teen behind the bot. It turns out he's only 16 years old, and since the original VICE story has apparently received quite a lot of criticism. In saying this, he stands by his creation:
Some people were calling me a scalper. It’s just basic supply and demand.
His mother shared her own thoughts – explaining how there have been "valid complaints" but also a lot of "angry" messages. She also acknowledged how resellers are admittedly selling systems at huge markup prices:
He wasn’t really prepared for how this took off. He’s been blamed for causing hoarding of the Switches. He’s gotten angry messages, requests for interviews — and someone even tried to steal his code and pass it off as his own.
My husband and I have helped him understand that there are valid complaints to be made. His actions have had consequences that he hadn’t thought about, sure. In some cases, you could alter the bot and snatch up toilet paper with it. It’s true that resellers are selling the devices at a huge markup.
The positive side of this story is that his tool has since been given the "thumbs-up" by some big-time software engineers, including one at Google. According to his mother, it's helped motivate him, and he now wants to study computer science at university:
really excited that a software engineer from Google ‘starred’ his autobot on GitBook. That has motivated him more to study computer science than any AP class could.
As we noted previously, there has been ongoing demand for the Switch and games like Ring Fit Adventure, since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic. Increased prices online are also a result of factory closures. Nintendo recently apologised for the global shortages and has already promised more stock will be available soon.
[source washingtonpost.com, via gonintendo.com]
Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.
Google thumbing up a program made for greed? Who saw that coming? 🙃
Hmm hopefully people give him some slack since he's a minor. While what he caused is wrong, it's not his fault bad people used it for their own gain; that's on them.
It isn't clear that the kid has done anything illegal, but his recklessness appears to have facilitated some pretty inappropriate behavior from others. It is very unfortunate that he created this program at just 16 years old. We're still too underdeveloped at that age to be able to integrate far-reaching ethical or practical consequences into our decision-making. He could also suffer some unnecessary trauma if he's targeted inappropriately by angry (even if justifiably so) people who were negatively impacted by his creation.
I wish his parents wisdom and strength.
Speaking more generally here, but the line “hey, it’s just supply and demand” may have been encourageable in the 20th century when sustainability wasn’t on many people’s minds, but if this pandemic shows us anything, it’s that the old capitalist guard and it’s mantras need to change or this planet is done like dinner
This kid can't be blamed for the scalpers, as he mentioned it's the short supply that's causing the high resale value. There would be the same amount of scalping with or without the bot.
It’s a reckless bit of code, sure but massively impressive. Pretty much everyone did stupid stuff aged 16 but this guy created a pretty nuanced autobot that unfortunately benefitted bad people. If he’s given the time to develop and mature, realising his actions have consequences, he could make a career and life out of this as he’s clearly talented.
im more curious as to why he decided to make a program like that out of anything else he could of done that wouldn't give anyone else an advantage
that said, something complicated at 16 is a skill that will be valued by alot of people in the future.
This guy sounds like one of those intolerable jerks on the internet who makes the internet more annoying than it already is.
Just for some context, there are a ton of other "bots" like these out there. They typically connect with APIs, either provided by the companies themselves, or in some cases, created by other programmers. I've heard Zinc API is a pretty common API for Walmart, Amazon, and more: https://zincapi.com/index.html
Point is, this kid is probably getting way more flack then he deserves. There are plenty of other APIs and bots out there. This has been a thing for a long time now. We're just in a very tough time where these bots can be abused due to high demand.
It's also worth mentioning that if you're using a pre-existing API to make purchases, such as Zinc or any of the company's own tools, these bots aren't too difficult to make (although it's pretty cool he was interested enough and able to do it at 16). When I was in college I integrated the Dominoes API into a Python script to order custom pizza orders for myself with the click of a button... as you can see, my priorities were pretty bad back then haha.
EDIT: Feel the need to add that the kid should have still evaluated the repercussions before posting it online. I believe he had good intentions but programmers, especially open-source developers, need to be careful about their software being abused. It can be a bit tricky, especially for smaller scale software that's nothing more as a little side project. So yeah, the kid might deserve a little flack to be taught that lesson, but I also think he shouldn't be seen as insensitive or a jerk.
So that's why Joy-con prices are all jacked up right now. I was thinking about finally getting some new ones and wanted to see what color options there were. The prices said "no" for me.
"The creator, at the time, said they made it as a joke"
I don't get it. What's the joke?
@Paej13 he didn't really create it. He simple used a bot program that already exists and tweeked it to do the same thing for switches instead of shoes.
I'm sorry no. He's a bad man. He's in that selfish capitalist mindset of all that matters is your own personal profit, who cares who you step on to get there.
Sorry, I don't have any sympathy for him.
But I want to make it clear that if anyone was threatening him, that goes too far. Call out his BS and insult him all you like. But threats are not okay.
How about people just wait to buy instead of paying overpriced prices for something that we all know will keep being made.
I don't have much issue with people who build bots for buying stock in droves. It's been such a common factor in the footwear/apparel industry, out of forced scarcity and that's in an industry that feeds on FOMO. It really shouldn't be an issue with a three year old game console, but that isn't on the bot designers. The fact that he's 16 and he can build a bot that can purchase Switches in droves shows that retailers and e-commerce platforms need to place more emphasis in protection from these bots, if they feel for it to be much of an issue. Customers had an opportunity to purchase a Switch for sometime now, if they did want it. Its been a recognized brand, that has even gone on a few sales and promotions from time to time. I'd question the will power of anyone who buys a Switch at an increased price as well. They are literally asking to get swindled as stock dwindles for this limited time.
So if he created it then why doesnt he just get rid of it? Create a. Update to make the bot useless, problem solved.
Here's the point why buy all those when you just need one. Plain a simple Stupidity and you deserve the flake for it. Why doesn't he use those skills to enrich the impoverish instead. Like find out where all the rich people stole the hard working people's money. No this story deserves NO Excuses. Take responsibility for your actions.
Some people were calling me a scalper. It’s just basic supply and demand.
This isn't a supply demand if so why does he need more then one Switch. Pretty pathetic excuse that one got caught and can't come up with a better logic for it. He clearly knew what he was doing if not like why did he not remove it - right there it tells you his family was in on it to Scalp buyers. Glad everyone knows whom he is and this will follow him all over the internet now you can't escape your own crimes now. And also DA can consider this a crime as well regardless of his age so do stupid as stupid does. Trying to play the victim here is falling on Deaf ears-Sorry but you won't get simpity from me when it benefited only you.
To call the kid an A-Hole is shortsighted and pretty immature imo. He's not the first to make a program like this, no reason to assume he's to blame for the Switch shortages. I'd be impressed as all hell if my son was able to do this, for fun no less, at age 16. In the end, there's nothing anyone can do at this point about this specific program or the others like it. So no use in directing negative energy toward a 16 year old and his family - move along.
@NinChocolate Yeah, let's all go socialist and burn up like a Greece fire.
@xavieruniverse 100% agree. This isn't milk or eggs. It's a GD video game console. Relax everyone.
"Capitalism, God's way of determining who is smart and who is poor." -Ron Swanson
@SwitchForce Are you gonna cry?
@Silly_G Well, just stop reading your email. Geesh.
@tseliot Oh a real Troll has come out now. Only a Troller lover like you would make those comments. And that flag you better remember whom bloods spilled to give that flag to you as well. People whom used the flag like that tells me they are UnPatriotic to it's history and founding.
@tseliot Yeah, let's all go socialist and burn up like a Greece fire. Actually you are living a socialist life already you get medical and social security already so tell me again whom is a Socialists. Otherwise don't take Social Security and Medicare and come back to talk agian.
@SwitchForce He was replying to idiotic posts that were deleted by mods.
@Tasuki So if he created it then why doesnt he just get rid of it? Create a. Update to make the bot useless, problem solved.
When it was only selling a 299.99 then marksup to 700+ is criminal in itself already. If he was so only for him them why not sell them at 299.99+S&H. Now everyone knows the real intentions here and they weren't good. Doesn't matter what the original program was or he changed it or wrote it he did no one any favors but himself. People can make all the excuses they want but end of the day why didn't he sell them at the MSRP only. If they can't answer that then they shouldn't breath the same air as others whom worked their hard earn money to get one. He created the Supply and Demand otherwise why even do that and if so remove the program if he was just experimenting No there was Malice behind that .
I don't like what he did but at 16 that's pretty impressive stuff, if he carries on like this (but not creating stuff like this bot) he could go far.
@SwitchForce He isn't selling anything. Learn to read...
@tseliot That's a very simplistic or disingenuous view.
Firstly, it's not just binary choice. Secondly, the US is severely lacking when compared with most European and Nordic countries on metrics related to the general population (I.e. Freedom, poverty, happiness). And lastly, just because you don't want socialism, doesn't mean you need to whole heartedly accept the "greed is good" mantra either.
On a side note, I find it fitting that your user pic resembles Hal-9000
What is the world is wrong with this? Helping those who want a switch to buy one? Of course that increases the price when there are less switches. What are you hoping for here, that no one buys switches any more, they sit on the shelves and prices go to zero? It's a good thing if prices rise in a shortage on stuff people actually want. It gives a signal to any supplier in the chain to prioritise this item.
So basically he's in a "oh, you poor thing" condition. I reckon this is mostly because there are so few Switches around. As soon as they're restocked and the bot "automatically completes transactions", it'll be fun to see scalpers buried in Switches (and, most satisfyingly, debt). Remember, sympathy for scalpers is something hard to feel considering they're...
... well, this kind of people.
The joke is that, for the time being, people wanting a Switch will need to buy one from scalpers, paying up three times as the original price, a gallon of their own blood, their houses' deeds, and possibly their first-born son if they have one. In return, they get no warranty.
That's the "joke" for ya.
I don't understand why there aren't more rules in place at online marketplaces to stop this kind of behavior. Making it so an item can't be resold for 6 months or even just not allowing new products to be sold for more than a 25% increase in MSRP would be nice. Like, why do we let scalpers exist? Who benefits from this aside from scalpers?
'hey, it’s just supply and demand' sounds a lot like 'hey, it's just business' or 'hey, it's nothing personal'.
These are all terms used by corrupt business persons - and although he's young, it's good people are helping him catch that ugly sh*t now.
While I admire that he uses his free time constructively, but he should of put his skills to something more worthwhile. I am not going to point fingers at him as a wrongdoer because I don't think it that was his intent. How I see it, he just wanted to showcase his talent to the internet but did not realize his creations would have negative impact against the internet with scalpers and Nintendo customers. Hopefully, he learns are good lessen from this.
Great skills! But yes you are a scalper or you are simply enabling it. An accomplice or enabler of a crime is still a legal offence, so don't play the "I don't now card" or "its not my business"...
@tabris95 Its true! And I even found some stores that the own employees buy all the stock themselves... The retailers font care, they just want the quick buck
Let his future endeavours be more constructive and let this be a lesson for him. The rest is up to the lad. No point in a lasting stigma (history knows conscious hackers who went on to make honest careers in IT, including cybersecurity itself), but no point in denying that this was a careless joke with explicit malignantly abusable results.
And no point in trying to whitewash those results either. There's supply and demand and then there's exploiting supply and demand to make money on people's urges and obsessions.
@Heavyarms55 it's Nintendo's fault for sticking with their limit supply to increase demand strategy. It's their archaic business practice, they were fined for it in the 90s, it allows them to artificially maintain their RRP.
The "we are increasing production" line was always used in the 90s too when interviewed.
Nintendo never have intent on meeting demand.
I don’t blame the kid, heck not really even the scalpers (although they are opportunistic, greedy, selfish jerks preying on others). I do blame Amazon, Target and Wal-Mart for not putting limits on sales when this became a very obvious problem. Something as simple as a cap of purchases per account/card number would limit the effectiveness of this by making scalpers jump through hoops to horde.
If you are a legit retailer then there legit channels to use that is not buying from retail stores.
@DeathByLasagna i absolutely whole heart disagree that a programmer should even bat an eyelash at how someone uses their program. essentially what you’re saying is the creator or author should be responsible for others actions and that’s a very dangerous and slippery slope.
Also just as a note this bot isn’t even using any sort of API, it’s scraping sites what what I can tell.
@Paej13 the consequences of building bot to automatically buy a switch?!?!? back in woots prime scripts like this were key during woot off. keep in mind this is a toy, not a requirement for life.
@SwitchForce the code for said bot is freely available on github, so if you’re capable it’s right there for you to grab and run yourself.
also please tell me of a way to stop paying for things like social security. i don’t believe in the program and by the time i retire it likely won’t be there anyway but as they’re taking my money you best believe i’m going to get every dime back that i can.
@tabris95 why put the limit there? if people are willing to pay it then why not make the sale? nobody is forcing you to purchase it at this price and it’s not a requirement for life. manufacturers themselves enjoy markup above 25% of cost but it’s only them that can make a profit? if we limited nintendo’s cost to 25% over cost we’d be at a lower price point for MSRP but nobody is rioting there.
@Heavyarms55 actually since his he didn’t sell anything his motive was likely “i want a switch” or “my niece / nephew wants a switch”. what a horrible person making a bot to help people snipe a switch and releasing it for free. perhaps he’s racist against japanese?
"really excited that a software engineer from Google ‘starred’ his autobot on GitBook."
No idea what that is, but it seems appropriately named! 😅
@tekknik So scalping is perfectly fine because people are choosing to pay 300% more than the original price? After all, why should only Nintendo profit from their product? Are you serious? You know who actually benefits from scalping like that? People who actually have the money to horde a bunch of Switches. That takes thousands of dollars to do what some of these people are doing. You know who's actually able to buy them at that ridiculous mark up? Other people with a lot of money who can afford it. You know who doesn't get to buy one at that price? Literally everyone else. This product has now been made unavailable to the average consumer. Choice has nothing to do with it. Rich people will buy what they want. Everyone else gets left in the cold.
@tekknik the code for said bot is freely available on github, so if you’re capable it’s right there for you to grab and run yourself.
Here we go again more Trolls/Moles whom use the facade to justify their own misaligned morality. Just because it's there doesn't give you the right to abuse it. There comes Responsibility for use and making such programs and if you not ready for it then you yourself obviously have no clue. He clearly knew what he was doing and trying to now make a excuse is even more pathetic. Don't try to talk for someone else unless your that person and then identify yourself for all to know if your that tough talking.
@tekknik also please tell me of a way to stop paying for things like social security. i don’t believe in the program and by the time i retire it likely won’t be there anyway but as they’re taking my money you best believe i’m going to get every dime back that i can.
Actually there is you write to the US Government SS and identify yourself and clearly letter state you will forgo your SS and any Medicare Assistance and I can guarantee they will do just that. They couldn't be more happier if you do that so Please do that so the rest of us can enjoy our own retirements.
@tekknik Actually since his he didn’t sell anything his motive was likely “i want a switch” or “my niece / nephew wants a switch”.
Literally taken from Nintendo Life's earlier article:
I decided to make it as a joke, but I quickly realized just how powerful it could be. Me and my friends were talking about reselling Nintendo Switches, and at one point my friend, nicknamed Bird, told me I should make a bot. And here we are today.
This isn't a new concept, and he's not the first one to create a program like this. Why do you think tickets for popular music acts sell out in seconds only for an abundance of tickets to show up on the secondhand market at inflated prices?
The joke is "Can I do this?" and "wouldn't be funny if I could" and "what would happen if I succeed?". As a programmer (and a young one at that), see what you create and seeing it be used can be funny or seen as a joke. He made it thinking it would be cool and then it took off in a different path then he realized.
That's the joke. I would have had the same mindset as him as well.
@liveswired You need to take an economics class. Companies don't just stockpile loads of extra product on a naive hope that demand will meet supply. Companies go out of business that way.
He is infracting some regulations. No just the first person to do, and already had guys punished because it.
@tabris95 nope scalping is not fine but who's forcing you to buy a switch at these high prices? and if you feel nobody but nintendo should profit from switch sales, then we already have a problem as shipping companies, manufacturing facilities, sales channels all profit from a switch sale. why aren't we raging at nintendo for not charging exactly what it costs to make the switch? why are we not raging at the extreme markup for digital game sales?
@tabris95 happen to have a link? NL didn't link to any previous article and every reference both here and on the articles referenced in this article say things like "caused hoarding" and "fueled hoarders"
@SwitchForce first I never said the existence of a tool gives you the right to abuse a tool, that's putting words in my mouth. to give you some perspective on how ridiculous the manufacturer of tools being held responsible for their tools sounds, lets get some perspective. in the computing world there exists many programs that allow people to exploit or hack other computers. obviously these are dangerous in the wrong hands but they still exist. by your logic any illegal attacks made with these tools should be the responsibility of the author. now what this means is that these tools will then never be created, and therefore sane people cannot use these tools to protect themselves. also imagine if the manufacturer of a hammer were responsible for all murders committed with their hammers. it is not the fault of the tool creator with an intended use in mind if someone uses it in another way. further writing a law to prohibit misuse of a tool is incredibly difficult to write. this is a heated and active topic in computer science atm and courts have already decided this.
as far as social security goes, is there a link describing this process? all i can do is give up my social security number and citizenship, which is not going to happen (especially given i'm a veteran)
The guys a loser and will continue to be in life
Honestly, if it wasn't this guy it would have been somebody else. In fact I'm pretty sure I read one of those articles the other week and there's a whole scene for these kinds of bots. I think it started with sneakers.
I can see the negative side to this but....just don't pay ridiculous prices for these things and they can't make any money. Why isn't anyone blaming the buyers? It's not a life necessity. Have some patience people.
@tabris95 that doesn't say he was using it, it says him and his friends were joking about reselling switches and that they needed a bot to be able to buy them in the first place. and he jokingly created a bot to do this. perhaps a bad joke but this is quite different than actually doing it.
@tekknik I'm just saying it looks to me like the intention of creating this bot is much closer to the purpose of buying and reselling Switches for profit than it is to helping a friend or niece like you previously suggested. Which also implies that he knew exactly what this would be used for. To me, setting this free into the world like he did, even without directly using it to resell Switches himself, shows that he wanted to cause a little chaos without having to assume any of the responsibility for it.
16 is that magic number when your kid needs supervision the most. idk what it is about the number 16.
@tabris95 I definitely agree that it looks that way, but what I’m seeing is a kid trying to get his name out there in some way. In programming you don’t particularly need a degree, just a way to prove that you can write code. This bot he wrote serves that perfectly and showcases his understanding of some more advanced concepts you wouldn’t expect to see at his skill level. He will likely get a job, scholarship or internship based solely on this bots existence. I got started in this field doing exactly this, except in my case it was a MTGO trading bot.
Impressive for the age of the kid to pull something like this, but very concerning... I seriously am wishing scalping can be deemed as a serious crime seen as a form of hijacking the economy in some way that warrants a prison sentence. That or scalpers must have a valid business permit to sell so that they're held liable.
Innocence and ignorance need to stop being an excuse when it comes to accountability for one's actions, regardless of age or condition if we are to move from the looming extinction into the future. Think Locally and Act Globally. Each of us can begin by asking: What did I contribute to this situation?".
The sympathy for the kid is amazing, HE'S the victim? Sorry, no. He absolutely knew what he was doing, and I don't believe it otherwise. He was already well informed of what the program would do, altered it, and now wants to run back to mommy. Even worse is when companies look at something like this and give praise. It isn't basic supply and demand, this isn't happening with PS4 and Xbox 1, it was very clearly targeted (given the time frame he most likely wanted a particular Switch) and it got out of hand. He's fully responsible, scalping in and of itself should be a serious crime without question, and intentionally finding ways to make that activity easier should result in a lifetime ban of internet capable electronics.
Hand me a doggie bag full of and tell me it's candy, but don't get upset when I throw it in your face and call you a moron for thinking I'd believe it.
Also various online Auction sites used to have 'Sniper Bots' which you could rent monthly set, to buy a specific item(s) at a specific price (as a dealer/auction-er) which IMO made the auctions as a scam. Potentially buying your competitions deals dirt cheap and resell higher...You had no chance on beating a bot to a cheap bid, at the last minute. Not sure whether they're still in use or not.
@N64-ROX I feel they're wrong, but they've been going on since Ebay started, at least.
"Some people were calling me a scalper"
That's because you are one
This makes me more annoyed with the retailers than the dev. A 16 year old just reminded everyone that big companies like Amazon, Best Buy, Target, Walmart, and wherever else people get commonly scalped things are so easily manipulated into selling their stock to these scalper parasites. Not only that, but any counter measures would mean making it more of a pain in the ass for people that just want to legitimately buy things for themselves. This isn't like the crap in 2015 when tons of stuff was way rarer outside of Japan despite Europe and the US being literally and figuratively larger markets even after the whole dock strike thing.
@tekknik I actually completely agree developers shouldn’t have to be responsible for other user’s actions. The idea of having to worry about other people abusing stuff is super lame. I only mentioned that because, sadly, we live in a world where people do abuse applications and services that other people make. Some people just have different, malicious use cases for software and unfortunately the developers are some of the only people that can prevent that. It’s not the software developers responsibility to do so, but it can save them from unnecessary heat like this. Although the attention also caused a Google engineer to find him so that’s cool I suppose lol. At the end of the day, it’s a tricky topic, it’s just worth keeping in mind that there are always going to be those people trying to abuse systems.
Also, that’s pretty cool that the kid apparently made it without referencing any APIs. Might take a look at his Git page for it to see his process for it all.
The fact that he's 16 makes it hilarious. Reminds me of that '80's move war games.
@DeathByLasagna He didn't apologize for writing it, the type of bot this is is inherently ill-intentioned and at best selfish. He said he made it as a joke, I'm not seeing what kind of joke this could possibly be.
If I wrote code to automatically post "First" as the first comment of every single Nintendo Life article seconds after the articles go live, that would be selfish, annoying (subjective) and not intended to be part of the greater good of the NL community as all it does is create 100% predictable fluff. But I'm not using it myself, I'm just releasing it to the world. Should I be held responsible if someone takes that script and abuses it? Absolutely, because as its creator, I knew exactly what it could do.
That kid should be absolutely responsible for what others have done with the code because he released in a way that allowed them to alter it. Hell, even if it was just for Switches, he should be responsible because again, he knew what it could do. This kid should not be helped out by Google, doesn't deserve it.
A teenage boy that creates a program that bypasses a purchase limit and puts it on the internet for others to use is smart enough to know that there would be others that would use it for their own benefit to cause problems for parents and families across the world. There is no excuse for what this boy has done, and his "friends" need to be monitored as potential hackers. If I was his parents I would be absolutely embarrassed and ashamed of him. Neither Google nor any company needs to praise him for the problem and heartbreak he has put on millions of people because he and/or his friends could possibly hack their databases causing more problems for the world. I am ashamed of Google for praising this child and promoting his wrongdoing.
@Luke937 He distributed the bot. Made a discord to distribute the bot. And hasn't taken it down, months and months later.
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