Grinch Bot

What is a grinch bot?

Software used to quickly snatch up products online

A grinch bot is a computer program designed to search e-commerce websites for specific items and purchase them, often clearing out inventory. It is especially common during the holiday shopping season, which is why frustrated online shoppers gave the bot the "Grinch" name.

While shopping bots have been around since the 1990s, they did not become widely used until the mid-2010s. The bots then gained the Grinch name in fall 2017 as they annoyed shoppers and retailers during the holiday shopping season.

The grinch bots are typically used to snatch up hard-to-find items to deplete inventory, then re-sell the items at a marked-up price to make a quick and sometimes hefty profit. For example, during the holiday shopping season of 2020, grinch bots snatched up PlayStation 5 gaming consoles, and the bot "owners" re-sold the units for double, triple, and quadruple their original retail prices. This is known as "console scalping."

How do grinch bots work?

First of all, a bot is a computer program developed to quickly automate tasks, or script, to carry out a specific purpose. It could perform mundane tasks on your computer like re-formatting Word documents, or it could be programmed to perform more complex tasks like posting on social media platforms to sway public opinion on important voting topics.

In the case of grinch bots, the programs are designed to search for online retailers selling a specific item, then fill out online purchase orders to buy the item when it becomes available. The user is then able to purchase multiple items much quicker than users simply surfing the web. In some cases, the grinch bots just search for the item's availability, then alert the user, who then completes the purchase manually.

Are grinch bots illegal?

As a grinch bot user snatches up in-demand items, he then re-sells the items for a marked-up price. There is nothing illegal about this practice. If the buyer is willing to pay the marked-up price for the item, it's just a simple supply-and-demand economics lesson.

However, online retailers have begun tracking and blocking bot purchases to give other users a chance at snagging hotly sought-after items. They look for suspicious user activity and add security measures like captchas to differentiate between real users and bots.


Man, I wasn't able to find any PS5 consoles on Black Friday because of all these grinch bots!

Grinch bot buying up the entire inventory

Related Slang


Updated December 18, 2020

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