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How bots help snatch up PlayStation 5 consoles with superhuman speed

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At 12:01 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 22, I leaned forward in my computer chair and placed my head on the keyboard, exasperated.

In my inbox, an email bearing bad news: “Order update: Order cancelled – Target”

Three hours earlier, I’d placed an order for the PlayStation 5 . I received a “congratulations!” email, informing me the order had been placed. For the next 180 minutes, I’d believed I’d finally scored Sony’s next-gen console.

Nope. “Sorry for the inconvenience!” the freshly arrived email started. “There is a problem with your order.” The was that Target had sold me a PS5 that Target didn’t actually have.

I’d been trying, on and off, to nab the console since July. Others had been trying since it was first released back in November 2020. New consoles are always in high demand but, thanks to a global pandemic, a chip shortage and highly coordinated efforts to grab consoles in bulk, the PS5 was practically unobtainable. It remains so today.

The fact I’d come within seconds of finally scoring a PS5 was thanks to Jeremy, an 18-year-old student from Melbourne, in his final year of high school. From a modest bedroom, white-walled with a window looking out into his backyard, Jeremy […]

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