The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 launched yesterday, then promptly sold out in 5 minutes according to stores like Newegg and in 15 seconds according to some very disappointed would-be customers who weren’t able to place an order. The likely culprit? Bots run by scalpers. The evidence is pretty cut and dry, but now thanks to the folks at PC Mag, we have admissions from the people running the bots, as well as an explanation for how exactly they snatched so many units away from folks hoping to get the new best graphics card.
In an article published yesterday, PC Mag spoke to the people behind Bounce Alerts, as well as a few of their customers, about how the company’s automated purchasing bots work. For the uninitiated, Bounce Alerts is a service that members can subscribe to for $75 a month which then gives them access to scripts that monitor store pages and automatically purchase items when they go in stock. The company first sprung up in the sneakers market, but there’s nothing stopping savvy resellers from applying it to tech as well.
Thank you @BounceAlerts for the Nvidia bot easy money pic.twitter.com/bLhQ7Be8z5September 17, 2020
Bounce Alerts first came up as a culprit for hogging the 3080 launch when some resellers took to Twitter to publicly thank the company. Some of these posts have since been deleted, probably to avoid orders being cancelled by Nvidia, but others are still up. One particular deleted post, which PC Mag caught in a screenshot before it got taken down, showed a reseller who managed to buy 42 units thanks to the script.
“Our job at Bounce Alerts was to ensure our customers were able to purchase the product for their needs,” an admin for the company told PC Mag. “When given the chance, I’m sure most people would purchase more than 10+ units if they have the capital and look to make upwards of $25,000+ in one single day from [the] secondary market.”
The admin also said customers should blame limited stock on the pandemic, rather than on scalpers.
A Bounce Alerts member was a bit more candid with the publication, giving the magazine insight into the actual bot ordering process. The member said that the bot works by running “an automated script to run basically from the product page to payment information and then to checkout.” They added that there it does have a noticeable flaw, though, in that the product page needs to stay live for the bot to keep working- “Whenever the site died [from too much traffic], I would have to restart the script and hope for it just to get through on the next one.”
Still the member told PC Mag that they spoke with others in the community who were able to get anywhere from 1 - 30 cards, despite the busy store page. They also estimated that more than 100 people used the bot on launch day.
More legitimate customers have since flooded the Nvidia forums in the hours following the launch, leaving messages of disappointment. One user claimed “I waited up for 35 hours waiting on this card just for bots to take over [the] site, that’s not fair at all.”
Bounce Alerts’ response? “Like Nvidia, we’re also a high demand product and we sell out. We have hundreds to thousands of users waiting for us to open the doors to invite more individuals to our group,” an admin for the company told PC Mag.
Nvidia declined to comment on Bounce Alerts’ bots when PC Mag reached out with questions, but did tell the publication that it is manually reviewing RTX 3080 orders to try to weed out scalpers and bots. The GPU maker also told the outlet that it does limit RTX 3080 orders to one per customer, though Bounce Alerts countered that it’s come up with ways to circumvent these limits.
With the pandemic limiting customers from just going to brick and mortar stores to snatch up purchases by hand, product launches are more vulnerable to online bot orders than ever. Like in high frequency stock trading, even the fastest, most diligent customers can’t hope to keep up with the speeds these bots have. If manufacturers want their products to actually make their way to people who intend to use them rather than just mark them up, they’re going to have to up their anti-scalping protections, and fast.