Trouble nabbing that grocery delivery slot? A bot may be the culprit

It’s a new spin on the tech that allows scalpers to snap up all the Taylor Swift tix.


April 23, 2020

Think back to your last normal visit to a grocery store. And how you shot the guy who cut in front of you in the checkout line some major stink eye.

Felt good, right?

Alas, we’re sorry to report that some of your fellow shoppers at the Quarantine Whole Foods are impervious to stink eye, no matter how savage.

It’s because they’re… bots

As most folks know by now, grabbing a primo delivery slot is a bit like winning the lotto. Motherboard discovered that some rascals are building bots to do the hard work for them.

It’s a new spin on the technology that scalpers use to snap up all the Taylor Swift tix (if TSwift hadn’t canceled all her shows 😢). Or potential price gougers to automatically grab a hard-to-find Nintendo Switch.

Some grocery bots are simple (browser extensions that ping you when a slot opens up). Others are more sophisticated (they’ll take you all the way through checkout).

They give tech-savvy shoppers an upper hand over Luddites. And older folks who really need groceries but aren’t exactly known for… technical prowess.

But…is that ethical?

It’s a dilemma not seen since you were last spotted nervously counting your items in the express checkout lane.

Some developers told Motherboard that they actually meant to build the bots for people who need them most (it’s a feature, not a bug!).

“I designed the bot for those who find it extremely inconvenient in these times to step out, or find it not safe for themselves to be outside,” said Pooja Ahuja, a data scientist who released one of the bots. 

“It is my contribution to help flatten the curve, I really hope this’ll help reduce the number of people going out.”

Others might not be so confident. Motherboard said one developer apparently removed his code from GitHub after the piece was published.

The bots won’t save you from a new 1st World Problem…

…that is, mistakenly buying 10 bunches of bananas at the online grocery instead of 10 bananas.

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