For the average person, online sneaker drops end the same way every time: the shoes you want sell out within seconds and you’re left empty-handed, ranting about how botters ruined sneaker culture. Simply put, these botters are way more tech-savvy than you and I will ever be. Not only do they have an army of programs that buy sneakers in bulk, but they obnoxiously resell the goods for five to 10 times the price you were willing to pay.
Botting is nothing new, but during the early stages of the pandemic, sneaker botting became more of a mainstream hustle. As long as you had some capital (AKA a $1,400 stimulus check) and access to YouTube, you could learn how to buy and use a bot. But now that the free government money stopped flowing and retailers have gotten privy to the scheme, the state of sneaker botting is up in the air.
To learn more about the scheme we found a 22-year-old sneaker botter who agreed to talk with us and break down the biz a bit more, as long as they could do so anonymously.
How many pairs of sneakers do you have in your apartment right now?
In the past four years, there have been hundreds and hundreds of releases but I think I only kept around 40 or 50 pairs.
Last year, I stopped keeping a lot of the sneakers that I got online and would just sell them. There’s nothing new to me that’s really interesting. I mean, when Yeezy Foam Runners came out that was a huge deal for everyone in the sneaker space because it was something special and something new. That’s why Kanye is a fucking G bro. Like, he is crazy. I can’t even believe that he came out with that shit, honestly.
So even if the shoe is ugly, you stand by a shoe if it’s different enough?
Yeah, like, look at how many Jordan 1s have come out. Jordan 1s have hit a point where it’s just too much. They always sell out because they’re a classic, but Nike needs to do some shit where they step up their game. They just change some color and release the same shoe. It worked for years, but now, that’s why sneaker prices kind of dropped. Dude, even Dunks! They’ve been pushing those out like crazy and they’re all the same. A lot of people have this same thought.
How’d you get into sneaker botting?
I got into this space like four years ago when I was in high school. At first I was just buying them to wear but my girl actually got me into sneaker botting. She said, “Why are you buying them at retail? Why don’t you buy a couple of them and sell some so you have them for free?” I was like, “Damn, you’re right!” [laughs]. I looked into it and I tried learning how to sneaker bot, and at the time it was hard because there was nobody helping others get into it. I figured it out by myself, eventually, and I bought my first bot. It was really expensive so it was a big investment for me.
What costs go into botting?
I spent like $3,000 on that bot. I did my research, you can’t just click around and get the bot. That was one of the top bots at the time.
Another cost is proxy usage. A lot of sites don’t let you buy multiple pairs of shoes on the same IP address. There are specific proxies for sneaker botting that let you bypass security. Oxylabs and Smart Proxy are like actual companies. Proxies are used for different sites, so for example, you have a Foot Locker proxy and a Yeezy Supply proxy. They’re different because of what security the website uses.
That cost is really, really high. Usually, my cost per month was $1,500 to $2,000. Also, you might not get any shoes from that. It’s not like you buy a proxy and you get the bot and you get sneakers. There’s still more to factor in; did the website change something? Did the bot or the developer change accordingly to the website? Is your proxy working on that site? Sometimes the proxy could be banned. If that happens, you basically lose the money.
What is the state of sneaker botting right now?
It’s kind of weird to do this interview now. To be honest, sneaker botting is on a downtrend over the last year. My friends and the friends I’ve made online have gotten out of the space already. I sort of got out of the space too.
The two main websites where we would bot sneakers from were Foot Locker and Yeezy Supply. They are the two big factors why sneaker botting went down. Those websites sort of changed their way of releasing the product.
Yeezy Supply has four shoe releases a month if it’s a good month. Out of those four pairs, maybe one is profitable. Yeezy Slides and Foam Runners are money makers, but if you get fucking QNTM and MNVM type shit, that’s not going to make you a profit. The website is still there and we can bot it, but there aren’t enough releases.
On the other hand, Foot Locker had constant drops, like Jordan 1s, 4s, Dunks, and restocks. Those were big profits. In November of 2021, Foot Locker decided to change the way they release the product. Instead of first come first serve, they had raffles, which are a pain in the ass. To me, a raffle means the shoes are getting back doored [laughs]. There’s not a lot of supply that’s thrown out online so it’s harder to get pairs.
“You have to treat it like a real business, not just a side hustle type of thing.”
Has anything else contributed to the downtrend?
I think over the last two years or so there have been a lot of sneaker-botting YouTubers. The most famous is probably Botter Boy Nova. People were watching his videos thinking that you just press a few buttons and you get shoes [laughs]. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes.
Also, important to know, there’s a new law that got passed that says you get taxed for your sales if they go over $600. That’s a huge factor. I sell three shoes on StockX, that’s $600, I get taxed? That’s crazy. So a lot of small resellers are basically selling them locally. You have to be a really big, huge supplier to actually make a profit botting. You have to treat it like a real business, not just a side hustle type of thing.
Do you think all the YouTubers and content creators are partially to blame for blowing out the space?
Definitely. I don’t blame the sneaker YouTubers for doing it though, because people are free to do whatever they want, but they definitely have an effect on the space. They killed the game, basically.
When you hear people say sneaker botters are the reason normal people can’t get Dunks to wear, what do you say?
I don’t give a fuck about what those people say [laughs]. You have to adapt, right? Everyone has to adapt to regular things in the world. If you really like a sneaker and a sneaker botter took all of them and sold them for more and you couldn’t get it, then why don’t you try to hop on sneaker botting too?
But also, there’s nothing wrong with people saying shit like that either. I understand the frustration. They can’t get anything manually. They might have a regular nine-to-five job and they don’t have time to be there for the drops. You can’t really say anything about people being upset, to be honest.
Who is developing these bots?
It’s mainly just people in this space who want to make money. The age group of this space is mainly from like 15 to 26. People who develop the bots could be 25 to 28 where they have an actual coding job, they know about cyber security type shit, and they develop their own because they see there’s money in it. They’re kind of building actual software, it’s amazing.
The developers are also interesting because I know a developer that is literally 16 years old. I’m pretty sure he comes from a tech family and has been coding since he was like five years old. There was so much demand at the time it was crazy. Some of these developers made millions of dollars.
I bought my first bot four years ago for $3,000, then a year or two ago that bot was selling for $9,000 when sneaker botting was at its peak. Even though the developer or the team behind it doesn’t get money from me selling the bot for $9,000, what they do get is a monthly user fee, like a subscription fee. It could range from $50 to $100 a month. So imagine each of your users paying $5,000 at a minimum [for the bot] and then the $50 monthly.
Some people say resellers contribute nothing to the world. What do you have to say to that?
There are always haters. I 100% disagree with people saying that resellers contribute nothing to the world. Resellers’ average age is like 18, and some are making $10,000 or more a month. These haters online really gotta think about what are they doing when they were 18.
Another thing I want to mention is the sneaker bot developers. These bot developers also have an average age of 18-20 and they are literally building software that’s fighting against corporate companies. Like, come on, saying people in the reselling community have not contributed to the world? These sneaker bot developers could literally change the world, I know a lot of people already in talks with Facebook, Google, etc.
What is the most expensive pair of shoes that you own?
Well, the most expensive shoe that I copped I haven’t sold yet. I haven’t worn them yet, obviously. It’s the Off-White MCA Blue Air Force 1s. I’m not going to sell them now. I’m sad that Virgil passed away, but like when Kobe passed away, people were buying up Kobe shoes and they just go up in value. I feel like a dick to do that because someone died, so I didn’t buy any Kobes. But that’s how this market works.
The shoe I’ve sold for the biggest profit was probably the Travis Scott Jordan 1s. I bought them for like $170 or $190, and I sold them for $1,200. I sold them pretty fast because I didn’t want to hold them. I didn’t think they were going to go up but they did a little bit.
How much profit in total do you think you’ve made sneaker botting?
I would say I spent about $10,000 in bots, but I can always sell those. My monthly average cost was $1,000 to $1,500 between proxy and bot subscription fees. I would say I profited about $6,000 each month on average after deducting costs.
“I know a developer that is literally 16 years old. I’m pretty sure he comes from a tech family and has been coding since he was like five years old.”
Have you used bots to buy anything else like Playstation 5s or graphics cards?
I was never really a big retail botter. Retail botters use their bots at places like Target and Walmart. Each of those websites works differently. Target has its own proxy, website protection, and bots. So does Walmart.
Retail botting was making people a lot of money. At first, I didn’t want to get into it because I’m not a huge computer guy and don’t know what graphic cards to sell. My friend came up on 500 PS5s earlier in COVID. His profit was like $400-$500 per PS5. But now, everyone who wants one already has one, and anyone who doesn’t have one but wants one is waiting for the price to drop and supply to increase.
Have you tried to buy weed with a bot?
Not weed, but I did try to bot an air fryer on Black Friday [laughs].
If someone wanted to sell sneakers in bulk, how would you go about doing that?
When I was really into sneaker botting I got to know a lot of big suppliers and long story short, sneakers were really popular in China. I’m talking like a huge business that has more shoes than a retail store. At the time, a pair of Jordan 1s from Foot Locker would sell for $200 in America, but in China, I could sell them for $450.
Here’s how it works – a Chinese business person will seek out an American sneaker botting partner. The Chinese business person has the capital to front the American partner to buy up 500 – 2000 pairs of each shoe. My friends here in America would buy the shoes for American resale prices off of resellers. Then they ship them to China where the Chinese partner would sell them for Chinese resell prices. Aside from the shipping fees and stuff, they’ll probably still make $50 to $100 per shoe.
The Nike scandal in Xinjiang had a huge effect on the market and that was pretty much it. It kind of fucked a lot of people who were shipping shoes back to China to sell. The price dropped like 20% for each sneaker. There was a lot of money lost.
When you hear stories like that, do you hesitate to buy Nikes?
Although I’m American-born-Chinese, I have always identified as Chinese, so yes, I definitely lost some respect for Nike when they had that scandal. But the truth is, there’s still demand so there’s still money to be made. My passion for a lot of Nike products has died down, though. I won’t keep Nike’s for myself unless it’s a collaboration with an artist I really like.
Do you think what you are doing is greedy?
I wouldn’t say that’s greedy, I think that’s just a strategy to make money. In a way, reselling does benefit both the seller and the buyer. The seller can avoid platform fees, and the buyer can buy at a lower cost for each pair if they buy in bulk too. Then he can sell for higher if he has the buyers for them.
Are bots useful for upcoming metaverse web3 stuff?
Funny you mention this, last year in October when sneakers were kind of dead I hopped into NFTs. Have you heard of the term “cook group”?
It’s basically a group of friends online – mainly on Discord or Twitter. You pay to get in, but it’s a community where we teach new people how to use a bot, how to buy a bot, and everything else you have to know. The founder of the cook group is usually someone who is influential within the space, and they make their own Discord. They’ll hire people they know who are experienced to be a part of it as staff. It’s basically a school for sneaker botting [laughs].
I work for some of the cook groups I’m in. One of them is founded by SNKR MAMI. She is a content creator and influencer. When I got in, she was really big because she was one of the first female sneaker botters who created content. I’m staff in her cook group. Back in August, she and another founder of the cook group went into the NFT space.
How much can you predict making off of NFTs?
It depends on how fast you can learn NFTs and if you can put your emotion aside because it is just like trading stock, but a lot more volatile. If you get greedy you will lose out on a lot of profit, or even lose your money. Personally, I have turned $2,000 to $60,000 in four months through NFTs. I know a lot of friends that got into the space the same time as me and they’ve made $300k. I would say luck and hard work definitely are a big factor with NFTs.
So sneakers are out and NFTs are in?
Yeah, we’re at NFTs right now. I thought the NFT thing was a huge bubble and could pop at any time, but now I see it’s part of the future. Once sneakers were dead, SNKR MAMI told me to come to the NFT space with her.
And you can bot NFTs?
Yes. It’s easy for sneaker botters to understand what is going on in the NFT space. Flipping .jpegs and flipping sneakers is pretty much the same. The space is different though. They hate us sneaker botters because a lot of NFT people are real investors. They probably have multimillion-dollar businesses in real life. They’re crypto investors who got into NFTs just for the fun.
There are a lot of sneaker bot developers who have made sneaker bots that implement NFTs. It’s basically the same thing as sneaker botting. Minting an NFT in public space is equivalent to Foot Locker releasing a Jordan 1 publicly first come first serve, so you can see the deal. NFTs are a lot easier to bot and now we just bot NFTs [laughs].