Silly, Pandering Politicians Introduce Silly, Pandering 'Cyber Grinch' Law That Would Ban Buying Bots
from the the-grinch-turns-out-good-in-the-end dept
In December of 1983, I had just turned 9 years old, and all of my friends wanted Cabbage Patch Kids dolls. They were everywhere, and are remembered as one of the most well known holiday crazes in which scarcity of the toy, and overwhelming demand, resulted in parents absolutely losing their minds trying to find the dolls. My parents, instead, told me that the dolls were impossible to find, or super expensive if they could be found, and told me to expect something else instead. I never got a Cabbage Patch Kid, and I survived the experience (and learned a bit about supply and demand… and mass hysteria).
Anyway, I’m thinking of that experience from nearly 40 years ago today upon reading about the new “Stop Cyber Grinches from Stealing Christmas” bill, which has been announced via a press release with no actual bill text attached (which really shouldn’t ever happen). However, as described, the bill would effectively outlaw “bots” that buy up all of the popular toys in order to resell them at jacked up prices:
On Cyber Monday and with holiday shopping underway, Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Ben Ray LujÃ¡n (D-NM) today announced the introduction of the Stopping Grinch Bots Act. Their bicameral bill will crack down on cyber Grinches using â€œbotâ€ technology to quickly buy up whole inventories of popular holiday toys and resell them to parents at higher prices. These third-party sellers use bots to bypass security measures and manipulate online sales systems to buy toys, leading to some toys being almost impossible to buy online or in stores at retail prices, exacerbating shortages caused by stressed supply chains.
â€œAt a time when families should be able to spend time with their loved ones, digital â€œGrinch botsâ€ are forcing Americans to scour online sites in the hopes of finding an affordable gift or paying exorbitant prices for a single toy,â€ said Tonko. â€œThese bots donâ€™t just squeeze consumers, they pose a problem for small businesses, local retailers and other entrepreneurs trying to ensure they have the best items in stock for their customers. Our Grinch Bots Act works to level the playing field and prevent scalpers from sucking hardworking parents dry this holiday season. I urge my colleagues to join me in passing this legislation immediately to stop these Grinch bots from stealing the holidays.â€
And, sure, it sucks that bots are buying up popular items and then jacking up the prices, but is that really a situation that Congress needs to get involved in? Not all bad things need new regulations. And… I’m not one to necessarily say that the free market solves all problems, but this certainly seems like one that the market itself can and should deal with on its own. Companies can produce more of hot products. Retailers can put in place technical solutions to deal with bots and bulk buyers. And, like me and the Cabbage Patch Kids, kids can learn that they don’t actually need the hottest toy on the planet (and parents can realize they don’t need to buy their kids those products either).
I’m sure it must be good politics for a bunch of elected officials to claim that they’re “saving Christmas,” but that doesn’t mean that it’s good policy.