Bots: The Supreme Craze Further Explained

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Two weeks ago I gave a presentation on Supreme, and the mass hysteria behind buying their clothing at retail price on the drop date, every Thursday at 11am sharp. As a part of my anecdote, you realized that you’d never be able to buy Supreme the same way you buy from Amazon, J.Crew, etc. because people use bots to help them put the item in their cart and check it out much faster than the average human could ever do. It was at this point that I should have further explained what bots are, and how big they are in the world of Supreme and streetwear. So, lets just start by refreshing your mind.

What is a bot again?

A bot is a computer program that performs an automated task that a human can do…but you already know that. If you were to ask someone not engulfed in the world of streetwear the same question however, they might tell you a bot is something like Siri or Cortana, or something like a chatbot that talks to you like there’s a human on the other side. Here’s a wonderful example of the pitiful chat bot CNN created to be used through Facebook Messenger:

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As you can see, there’s nothing too exciting about this technology and there is a long way to go before this becomes fully ready for use. But I digress, lets get back to the bots that we’ve come to know and love. The bots made for Supreme look something like this:

new-bot

It’s pretty simple. You input all your address and billing information into a profile that you can save to the bot, so you only have to do all of it once. This also allows you to have multiple profiles so your friends, siblings, parents, and grandparents can make profiles and buy Supreme. On the left side there is a text box where you’d put down the name of the item, the color, the size, and the selected profile. You would then put the refresh time down in seconds, and this means that the bot will reload the website for you every x seconds. If you were to turn the bot on at 10:59am, the bot would refresh 60 times and the second the clothes go live and they’ve officially dropped at 11:00am, the bot will immediately recognize that, and purchase the item you specified. It is said that this specific program can do the entire checkout process in 5 seconds. 5 seconds. Are we kidding?!

But wait…did you notice something about the above screenshot? It looks pretty aesthetic for a computer program doesn’t it? Why does it have a name?

Well, that’s because this bot is on the market, for sale. As it turns out, there are several bots specifically made for Supreme, that are being sold for anything between $6 and $90 online. Websites like Supreme Bot, Super Cop Bot, Heated Sneaks Bots, and a Google Chrome extension called Supreme: Autofill all seek to achieve the same thing, make buying Supreme easier. And by the way, these are just the ones that show up on the front page of the Google search I put in. Imagine all the Supreme fans who pay their coder friends to create bots, or people who sell their bots at cheaper prices on Reddit threads! Isn’t it crazy? People are willing to pay money for the opportunity to pay more money every Thursday. That’s how deep this Supreme craze goes.

Has Supreme done anything to combat bots?

I always wondered, if it’s so obvious that people are creating, selling, and using bots to gain an unfair advantage over people trying to buy Supreme the normal way, then why hasn’t Supreme done anything to solve this problem? Well, they did attempt to solve this problem, to no avail.

At one point, Supreme decided they would set up their website so that if someone didn’t stay in the checkout phase long enough, they would block the orders assuming they were bots. Sounds simple and effective, right? Apparently not. Some die hard, veteran Supreme fans were so experienced with the Supreme checkout process that they bought an item within the time that Supreme deemed impossible by hand. After complaining, Supreme eventually took this down, allowing the bots to once again dominate the Thursday morning drops.

Can anything else be done?

Yes. The only way to truly prevent bots is to create a lottery or raffle system which would make customers put their info in beforehand, so they can only purchase things if they win. Kanye West’s YEEZY product line (in partnership with Adidas) operates on this system, and so does some exclusive divisions of Nike. This is the only way to be sure that your drop won’t be infested with bots. With that being said, Supreme probably won’t make this change. It has created a culture around it’s weekly Thursday morning drops, and if they were to change it to this lottery system, the tradition would diminish, many of its die hard fans would lose interest in the brand, and it’s status in the streetwear world would fade away.

7 comments

  1. Nice post. You’re right, this angle would have been a great addition to the presentation. They have certainly managed to turn demand into a marketing tool (much in the way Apple did in the early days with the iPhone). They want to keep the bots around, but they want ot make sure its not so dominant that the people get locked out entirely.

  2. polmankevin · ·

    Cool post, Aditya. This information provides a lot of cool, additional insight into your presentation. The obvious but difficult challenge in managing this unique style of branding is maintaining exclusivity while also making sure that consumers can get their hands on the product, if they try hard enough. I am easily discouraged by this exclusivity. I like the fact that the brand is unique but I don’t like that its so difficult to get. At some point, and I think they have definitely reached this point, the clothing becomes a commodity to the brand. The clothing becomes a sign of all of the hard work or the excessive amount of cash that was required to get the clothing. I like the way that Kanye is handling the Yeezus brand, I think the lottery system keeps the clothing integral to the brand. It creates more of a sense of pride in the clothing. Consumers feel lucky for being chosen.

  3. bishopkh1 · ·

    Really cool post. I’d be curious to hear about how bots can be implemented on other platforms. Is this a problem for others besides Supreme? Also wondering about the common check box that users have to check sometimes that says “I am not a robot”. If this is preventing the bot problem for some sites, I’m curious why doesn’t Supreme start employing this method.

  4. I think this brings in a great piece to your presentation. These bots are so simple yet are extremely sophisticated. If it is simple to make and have these bots, how exactly do bots differentiate themselves against others? If speed is the only factor, will there ever be a point where you simply cannot become faster? I think this is great evidence to the craze that streetwear brands have, which you did such a great job of highlighting in your presentation. Overall great post, Aditya. Thanks for sharing.

  5. olearycal · ·

    Wow who knew people were so passionate about new clothing. I only ever thought of bots being used to buy up all the good concert tickets so I don’t think of them too highly. I wonder if people will soon be able to buy bots for Ticketmaster. I was told about how the tickets for the Harry Potter play in London were sold online. Instead of everyone trying to get their tickets all at once, customers had to virtually wait in line for maybe 6 or 8 hours. As a big Harry Potter fan myself this makes me happy to hear because it is only the big fans that are willing to wait that long and the tickets are less likely to be bought in mass and then put instantly online at an outrageous price.

  6. Seems a bit like an arms race. Get the fastest bot to buy the clothes.

    Something similar happened on the stock exchanges. Traders figured out how to arbitrage between exchanges, utilizing the information gleaned on one exchange to manipulate the price for a very slim, fast profit, that only few even noticed. They called these guys flash traders. It is still happening. The traders who “won” had the fastest speeds between exchanges and their trading desks, and I’m talking about building their servers into the telecom closets next door to the exchange’s servers, to reduce the linear feet the data would have to travel.

  7. sandytanny · ·

    Really interesting post and great addition to your presentation! I wasn’t that familiar with the use of bots for these exclusive online brands / items but it definitely makes sense. The demand is so high and competitive, that we must turn to technology to beat the odds! I wonder what the percentage is for how many people actually use bots when purchasing these products, and if so, how does the system determines who is first, if they are running the same program.

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