Can’t find any Fingerlings? Bots snap up popular Christmas toys for resale

Hot holiday toys have always been hard to find. But the proliferation of online shopping makes it even tougher to purchase coveted items because of software that snaps them up as soon as they are offered for sale.

Fingerlings, those colorful chirping monkeys (and sloths and unicorns) that wrap around your finger, have become one of the most desired toys on holiday shopping lists.

Unfortunately, the $15 creatures are sold out online almost everywhere. Toys R Us? Gone. Walmart? None left in stock. Target? Nope.

But check eBay or Amazon, and sellers are offering them for double, triple and quadruple their original price. There is even one being advertised for $5,000.

Hot holiday toys have always been hard to find. The long list of heartbreakers includes Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, which caused parents to mob stores in the 1980s, Tickle Me Elmo in 1996, and a toy version of the “Star Wars” droid BB-8, which quickly sold out in 2015.

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But the proliferation of online shopping makes it even tougher to purchase coveted items because of software that snaps them up as soon as they are offered for sale.

“If it’s popular, it’s going to be taken by bots and resold,” said Omri Iluz, the co-founder and chief executive of the cybersecurity firm PerimeterX, in a phone interview.

The bots work by constantly pinging retail websites, searching for sales and analyzing URLs.

The moment an item is in stock, the software runs through the checkout process at a speed that is “completely inhuman,” said Iluz, whose company protects large retailers and other organizations from bot attacks.

The bots are drawn to scarce items “like sharks to blood” and use web-scraping techniques to guess the ID of an unreleased product, PerimeterX explains on its website. That allows scalpers to buy products before an official sale becomes public. Bots can also subscribe to online notifications of sales and bypass purchasing limits set by retailers by using multiple internet addresses.

Laura Oliver, who blogs about deals on her website, A Frugal Chick, has been keeping tabs on Fingerlings, the brainchild of the company WowWee, for months, and notified her readers on Facebook whenever she found a retailer that had them in stock.

It was an all-consuming job.

“I have had dreams about Fingerlings,” she said.

On Amazon, Fingerlings priced at $15 will sometimes last as long as 25…

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