Buying sneakers has become an exercise in futility. Every time there is a big release, you can immediately go to Twitter and see the wave of complaints from people who literally want to buy ONE pair of the coveted kicks to wear them only to lose out.
Every weekend people ask why is buying a pair of Jordans, Dunks, or YEEZY’s so damn hard? When did sneaker shopping become more akin to playing the lottery than actually purchasing something? Why is Nike’s SNKRS app so trash? Who’s to blame?
There is plenty of blame thrown around, and Nike and adidas deserve their share of it, but honestly, the companies are not completely at fault here. Now before you react, hear us out. Everyone always says that Nike and adidas should make more sneakers to meet the insane demand, but that’s honestly not going to happen all of the time. The sneaker game was always an exclusive circle. The whole idea was to feel like you got a pair of kicks that someone else didn’t have, and if you got them before the release date, you were in elite company.
But here is where the game got twisted. When trying to get the latest Air Jordans, you really had to compete with two types of people, the sneakerheads plus mom and pop sneaker store owners who would flock to a store like NikeTown or Foot Locker to buy up a good size run in the hottest kicks to sell them at a marked up price. At the time, all you had to be was dedicated to the game, put in some leg work, and you could nail down a pair of those Air Jordan 11s (Bred) or (Concords). But now you have to compete with bots, and they are honestly batting 1.000.
Thanks to the sneaker reselling business and how profitable it has become, resellers, with the help of these machine learning tools, are scooping up the sneakers quicker than your human hand can input your credit card information. A Bloomberg piece highlighting how kicks have become “bona fide assets” is currently being called out for showing how the game is being “whitewashed,” but it also clearly shows how the game is rigged.
In the piece, it follows one reseller named Joe Herbert, who owns a basic-looking online store called West Coast Streetwear, and how he and his crew successfully snatch sneakers right out of your online carts thanks to the help of bots and describing it as “easy.”
“It’s easy to get a lot of this style, and they pretty much always sell,” he said, in one of a series of conversations we had last year about his business.”
“What Hebert meant by “easy” was this: The day these Yeezys were released, he’d awoken at 3 a.m., signed on to the messaging platform Discord, and rousted 15 members of his “cook group,” a term sneaker resellers use to describe their allies in arbitrage. When the shoes went on sale an hour later, Hebert’s team swarmed the Yeezy Supply website using specialized computer programs such as Cybersole, Kodai, and GaneshBot, each prepped with Hebert’s credit card information and capable of gaming a system meant to limit purchases to one pair per customer. By 6 a.m. the shoes were sold out, and Hebert’s bots had rung up $132,000 on his American Express.”
So, unless you’re equipped with your own set of bots, it’s pretty much a losing game that Nike, adidas, or any online sneaker retailer can’t really do much to stop at the moment. The companies can only do so much using methods like surprise drops or trying other methods like moving raffles to emails, but that isn’t foolproof either. Just look at what happened with Marcus Jordan, Michael Jordan’s son, and his Trophy Room Air Jordan 1 release, which was an absolute mess thanks to bots.
Albert Einstein once said that insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. Call us sneaker lovers insane every weekend. We subject ourselves to the madness that is trying to cop kicks religiously. This weekend isn’t any different. SNKRS is currently trending because sneaker enthusiasts we’re not able to land a pair of the Air Jordan 4 “Taupe Haze.”
So if you really want to “unrig” the system, you’re going to have to hurt the resellers in the process, which means punishing them by not spending over retail for the kicks they are hoarding. Let them sit on all of those kicks they bought using bots, don’t shop at sites like GOAT or StockX.
Are you willing to go that far? If not, this broken record will continue to play for the foreseeable future.
*Update Mar. 1*
Ann Hebert, the mother of sneaker reseller Joe Herbet that Bloomberg highlighted in its piece on the ridiculously profitable sneaker reselling game, has resigned from her position at Nike, Complex reports. In an email sent to the website, the sportswear company confirmed her resignation, stating, “Ann Hebert, VP/GM, North America geography has decided to step down from Nike, effectively immediately,” Nike states. “We thank Ann for her more than 25 years with Nike and wish her well.”
The company also released a press released, and it stated, “Ann Hebert made the decision to resign from Nike.”
Herbert’s resignation comes after it was revealed the credit card that her 19-year-old son revealed he used to make his purchases was under her name. When Bloomberg ran the stories, it was immediately met with outrage, with many claiming that Herbert had an unfair advantage when it comes to landing kicks due to his mother helping him and her connection to Nike’s SNKRS app.
The young reseller insisted to the story’s author that his connection to a Nike exec (his mother) not be mentioned as a condition for his involvement in the piece.
Nike’s company policy forbids its employees from participating in the sneaker resale business and purchasing sneakers, whether at a discount or retail price, to sell them at a higher price point. According to Bloomberg, a spokesperson for Nike confirmed that Ann Herbert disclosed information about her son’s business to the company in 2018, and there was “no violation of company policy.”
There was some speculation that six pairs of the extremely-limited Nike Air MAG sneakers that Herbert claimed he found in a storage unit in January 2020 were obtained through some shady means. Another source claimed that Joe Herbert would use his mother’s discount to purchase large quantities of Nike footwear from factory stores.
As we said, folks, it’s rigged.
Photo: Bernard Smalls / @PhotosByBeanz83