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Security Businesses Christmas Cheer The Almighty Buck

Automated Scripts Overrun eBay Holiday Contest 182

turnkeylinux writes "TechCrunch is reporting that eBay is under fire from users because of a holiday giveaway contest gone awry. On Tuesday Nov. 25, eBay announced its $1 Holiday Doorbusters deals promotion, giving away 100 gifts on a daily basis, all for a $1 fixed price. The gifts ranged from jewelry, clothing, digital cameras, and GPS devices to a brand-new Chevrolet Corvette. The only catch is that there's no announcement on when these items are released or in which category they will be. But cheaters came up with a clever way of winning deals on an automated basis by continuously running scripts to bid on items for $1."
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Automated Scripts Overrun eBay Holiday Contest

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  • by hansamurai ( 907719 ) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Friday December 05, 2008 @12:22PM (#26003703) Homepage Journal

    Are these scripts still running. Seems like it's time to list a ton of stuff for a buck that wouldn't even sell at a garage sale. I wonder if they check the shipping price... could really nail them then.

    • by mikael ( 484 )

      Then they would just add a keyword search to the listings. If the punters were after an iPhone for $1, then Ebay could sell iPhone covers, iPhone cases, iPhone headphones all for $1. But the punters would get wise and look for a string like "iPhone with *", rather than "iPhone *".

      • by nizo ( 81281 ) * on Friday December 05, 2008 @12:41PM (#26003957) Homepage Journal

        Your life won't be complete until you augment your iPhone with a new postcard! Bidding starts at only $1!!

      • Eh, easy enough way around that. You could grab a pencil, draw a 2-second drawing of an Iphone with case (a few squares inside of other squares, maybe a circle or two would suffice), and advertise it as "Iphone with case drawing". If shipping is included (as stated with the stamp), it might look almost legitimate enough that a script kiddie would just glance at it and might think it's the real thing. If he has to skim though hundreds or thousands of bids his script made, that might be just enough to net y

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Sure, in a perfect ebay where people weren't unscrupulous, this might work. But you have to figure the case is more like, they opened a new account just for this bot (or maybe stole someone elses account), just in case they get caught, their "real" accounts won't get terminated. After their bot runs, they pick and choose what they want. They let the rest go, simply not paying for it.
      • I'm not sure that would work.

        Ebay is quite good at connecting accounts, and typically the will block a whole string accounts based upon shared IP addresses. So somebody thinking they could setup an account "scriptbot2" while leaving their other "smithfamily" account clean will likely find both accounts linked together as one customer & then blocked.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Blimey85 ( 609949 )
          Use a proxy? If you are sophisticated enough to write a bot for this sort of thing, you surely know about using proxies and most likely have some at your disposal. Or maybe your mom hates you and won't let you get broadband to the basement so you are still on dial-up. Each time you dial in, you get a different ip address. But then again, how are you possibly running a bot that needs to make a lot of connections on dial-up? lol
    • by theaveng ( 1243528 ) on Friday December 05, 2008 @12:36PM (#26003907)

      You read my mind. I have a few items left-over from last Christmas that didn't sell even when marked down to 0.01 so maybe they'll sell now this year to one of these script-kiddies.

      DRAWBACK: A lot of these script-kiddies are probably deadbeat non-payers as well. Surely they are not going to buy 10,000 items that they won last week for a dollar each. Instead they'll just refuse to pay and leave sellers to eat the losses in Ebay fees.

      • by theaveng ( 1243528 ) on Friday December 05, 2008 @12:39PM (#26003931)


        And of course with Ebay's "brilliant" idea to not let sellers give buyers negative feedback, there's no way for us to warn other sellers about these deadbeat non-paying bidders. Yippee.

        • Really? You can't leave negative feedback for buyers?

          What is the point of feedback?

          • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot@@@worf...net> on Friday December 05, 2008 @01:03PM (#26004257)

            Really? You can't leave negative feedback for buyers?

            What is the point of feedback?

            Because a good chunk of sellers won't leave feedback until the buyers leave them positive feedback. It became a tit-for-tat system, where sellers could get 100% feedback ratings because buyers who got scammed refused to leave neutral or negative feedback. There were even lawsuits threatened (and maybe even launched) because sellers took negative feedback as libel.

            Buyers have few recourses if scammed by a bad seller. Sellers who have a non-paying bidder though, should file a complaint with eBay (who is supposed to refund all fees due, and mark the buyer, I don't know if this happens).

            Feedback is supposed to rate the trustworthiness of buyers and (especially) sellers. It's a bit more important for a seller because buyers use that to determine if they should bid since once payment is sent, recourse is limited. Pretty much the worst that can happen for a seller who has a bad buyer is they don't pay. (Of course, there is the issue with sellers claiming they didn't receive it or it was damaged, which is why there's tracking information and insurance, all of which a seller can mandate).

            I will agree though that eBay's system is horribly screwed up (as a buyer). Some sellers have gone to use the (neg) in the comments to mean negative feedback. A system where feedback is kept hidden until both parties have sent it in (keeping tit-for-tat at bay) would work better.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Poruchik ( 1004331 )
              As a seller, now I have no recourse against a bad buyer. Ebay does not refund ALL fees, just the final value fee, which is a percentage of the final price that the buyer pays. I lose the insertion fee (which would be refunded if an item is relisted, but not for multiple item auctions) and any and all listing upgrade fees that are substantial. So in essense, it is GOOD for Ebay to have non paying buyers, as they get double the fees if the item has to be relisted.
              • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                by Anonymous Coward

                The perfect compromise would be that sellers CAN leave feedback, but they must leave feedback BEFORE the buyer can. Once I give a seller my money, they have everything they need to give me feedback, and they know everything that they and other sellers need to know about me, that I pay on time. I should feel free to leave any feedback I feel appropriate for a seller without worrying that they will leave me negative retaliatory feedback.

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  I disagree. I sold some used motorcycle parts a few years ago, clearly stating in the auction that the parts were used and taking very close-up detailed pictures of the parts. Despite that, one buyer left me negative feedback because the item was "scratched." I can think of a dozen other hypothetical situations where I would want to leave negative feedback for a buyer, most involving the buyer not reading the auction or trying to scam a refund after the fact for some BS reason. If a customer is consiste
                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by rfunches ( 800928 )

                  Based on that, they should allow sellers and buyers to submit feedback into a private "holding area." Sellers have 14 days to post feedback, and buyers have 30 days to post feedback, leaving enough time for longer payment methods (mailed payment, or waiting for a check to clear) and longer shipping times. If feedback is received from both sides before 14 days, it is released and posted to the accounts immediately; otherwise, any feedback received within the two time frames is released after 30 days. Until o

                  • Hiding feedback for any amount of time, creates a gap for the scammers to hide in. Thus making any feedback hidden for any amount of time mostly useless (and thus why they probably just removed seller negs as a option.)

                    Ebay had made it too intimidating to post negative feedback. So much so that a single negative feedback (buyer, or seller) is huge. I never reported for this reason, by the time you follow all of ebays tips and warnings, a month has gone by, and that was the limit.

                    Also if one buys/

                • I just offloaded a good chunk of my wheat pennies. Some guy on the other side of the country took four weeks to get his, and despite having tracking info, left me negative feedback and filed a dispute with PayPal in the third week.

                  In the end, the post office had damaged the packaging and it took longer to get to him but now I have a negative feedback he won't agree to retract because somehow I'm the Postmaster General and oversee all mail delivery in the United States, so I should have known better than to

            • by theaveng ( 1243528 ) on Friday December 05, 2008 @02:05PM (#26005063)

              So now we have a solution where buyers can blackmail sellers with comments like, "Give me free shipping or I'll leave a negative on your account," and of course ebay won't do anything to stop the buyers from this blackmail.

              >>>Buyers have few recourses if scammed by a bad seller.

              Bullshit. I'm a buyer and I have LOTS of recourse for protecting myself:
              - threaten to neg seller if he does not do the right thing (not very effective)
              - file paypal complaint (you almost always win)
              - file credit card chargeback (you win 100%)
              - court lawsuit

              The real problem is: Who protects the sellers? I had a buyer return an EMPTY envelope to me, and then she filed a credit chargeback to reverse $80 out of my account while she kept the PSP handheld. There was nothing I could do to stop this scam, or any future scams. It's the buyers who are best-protected, and the sellers who are most vulnerable.

              • by PingXao ( 153057 )

                Everyone should realize that both sellers AND buyers are not very well protected. Sellers scream all the time but buyers are just as much at risk of being ripped off.

                I didn't "do" ebay until a year ago. The first item I bought was a Sony stereo microphone at a great price. When I got it one of the channels didn't work. Result? I paid again for another one because it wasn't worth it to ship it back to the seller, and I also left the seller positive feedback because there was no way I was going to leave

            • Why wouldn't ebay just 'escrow' all feedback... give notification to the seller that the buyer had posted feedback, but not make it visible until they had also posted. Give X days for each, and if they refuse to leave any, call it 'neutral'. Seems mostly fair to me... surely they thought of it, though, and for some reason decided one-sided feedback was better?
      • by sukotto ( 122876 ) on Friday December 05, 2008 @03:00PM (#26005765)

        Why waste any more of your time? Donate anything reasonably nice to the Salvation Army or Goodwill or Freecycle and throw the rest away.

        Free yourself from your "stuff"

        Give up on those "penny here, dollar there" items and go spend the time you save doing something fun.

    • No, there are specific items to look for, only that it is not known which ones on which days.
    • by xgr3gx ( 1068984 ) on Friday December 05, 2008 @12:47PM (#26004035) Homepage Journal
      Oooh! Scam the scammers!
      Sell a bunch of worthless crap for $1 and charge $8 shipping.
      Assuming you can get the script to automatically pay with paypal, I'll be selling all of the pennies in my change jar for $9 each!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Some people are already doing that as a way of revenge against the scripters.....a woman was selling pictures of her cat for $1 each by putting DOOR BUSTERS in the picture description.....sold quite a few according to one article.....nice.....
  • eBay (Score:5, Insightful)

    by olddotter ( 638430 ) on Friday December 05, 2008 @12:24PM (#26003719) Homepage

    eBay needs help. They have alienated there sellers, gone to supporting "stores" more than hobby/small-time sellers, and they take almost 10% of sells.

    Now they show they can't think through the obvious implications of a badly designed promotion (scam).

    Really ebay would do much better to cut their fees and support the mom and pops in this economic environment. I think the time is ripe for competition in the on-line auction market. http://poorbenjamin.blogspot.com/2008/08/for-jerry-yang-to-ponder.html [blogspot.com]

    • Re:eBay (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cwAllenPoole ( 1228672 ) on Friday December 05, 2008 @12:29PM (#26003815) Homepage
      s/eBay/Microsoft/ The basic problem though is monopoly. Once an organization reaches critical mass, it has the ability to simply dwarf the competition. Look at how long it has taken to get Firefox to reach its current position, and alternate OS's still haven't managed to even dent the mega-corps. Fortunately things are never quite that bad on the internet, but the fundamental issues are the same.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Blimey85 ( 609949 )
        It depends on what you are offering. Google seems to be quite good at breaking into existing markets. I've used Gmail for a long time now and most people I know also use it. Even people who before handled email themselves have switched to Gmail. I did just for the spam filtering because no matter how many hours I spent working on it, I could never get filters setup just right on my own servers. A quick signup with Google and a few minutes changing dns and now email for my domains runs through Gmail. I can s
        • Amazon used to have auctions, and maybe they still do, but the couple of times I visited years ago the place was dead. The hot action was on eBay. If a behemoth like Amazon can't pull it off...

          Not sure if Amazon still uses their auction system, but they do have another system in place [amazon.com] that (IMHO) works better for mass-produced, non-collectible items that generally don't require auctions anyway because they're all similar in price (e.g. portable electronics, media items, toys, etc... basically anything Amazon sells that has a UPC or ISBN). When you see an item in their catalog, you can list it for sale yourself. Then when a shopper looks for an iPhone, for example, they see the Amazon price for

      • by pzs ( 857406 )

        I concur. When eBay made PayPal mandatory in the UK I tried to take my business elsewhere by selling my latest round of unwanted games and DVDs on eBid, which (as I understand) is their nearest rival. I couldn't get any bidders at all on fairly recent DS titles so I had to go back to eBay just to shift the items :(

      • It doesn't take very long for a good product to overrun a shitty product. The problem is, too many people think their baby is way better than the competition, and its simply not, no matter how cool the 6 people who use it think it is.

        Alternative OSes ... lets be realistic, you're talking about Linux. Mark me as flamebait, but Linux is shit for work in the corp world from an end users perspective. Sure you've got a bunch of apps that will half ass work and almost open all the documents you need, but it wi

    • by tgd ( 2822 )

      You forgot, also, that the odds are as a buyer you're still going to have your money stolen if you buy from there ...

    • Why does eBay need help? If anything they need more direct competition and a loss of revenue that forces them to address the multitude of complaints regarding their service. Until that happens eBay will continue to slowly alienate the grassroots users (hobbyists, individuals) that made eBay what it is today.

      At one point I thought Craigslist might be the catalyst for change at eBay. Craigslist seems to be where former eBayers end up, but that mild exodus hasn't slowed down eBay at all.

    • Re:eBay (Score:5, Insightful)

      by timholman ( 71886 ) on Friday December 05, 2008 @12:52PM (#26004129)

      eBay needs help. They have alienated there sellers, gone to supporting "stores" more than hobby/small-time sellers, and they take almost 10% of sells.

      The problem is that eBay quit being an auction site a long time ago, and now has become the world's biggest flea market. There's nothing necessarily wrong with that; I often will buy some inexpensive item from a "Buy It Now" power seller, but I gave up on actually bidding for items a long time ago. Between the scammers and the snipers, it's not worth the hassle. The power sellers are now eBay's true customer base, and that's who they cater to.

      Nowadays I find that Craigslist typically provides a better selection of high-end merchandise, plus you deal with local sellers and buyers without the overhead. The real problem, I think, is that the online auction business model is slowly becoming obsolete - otherwise, you'd see legitimate competitors taking over the market segment that eBay has turned its back on.

      • The problem with buying on Craigslist is that you have to be careful where you go and who you buy from and who you sell to.

        I've had good experiences selling some items, but I'm always REAL wary of prospective buyers who email you one-line questions like "Where do you live?" It's too easy to have it become a burglars' shopping service, or even if they buy something not terribly expensive, they get a chance to case your house. Buying is a whole other risk category; wandering into a strange house/neighborhoo

        • Re:Craigslist (Score:4, Insightful)

          by alienw ( 585907 ) <alienw.slashdot@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Friday December 05, 2008 @04:02PM (#26006587)

          Unless you live in a fucking ghetto, I don't think this concern is justified. It wouldn't be very smart to rob someone right outside your own house, particularly when the victim has your address. As far as burglars: unless you are selling drugs on Craigslist, I really doubt anything you put on there will interest them. Burglars are opportunistic, and will pick a house that looks like an easy target. They won't spend months researching Craigslist.

          You need to be a little less paranoid. Not sure what it is with gun nuts, but you guys are very much out of touch with reality.

          • "You need to be a little less paranoid. Not sure what it is with gun nuts, but you guys are very much out of touch with reality."

            But he never said he was going to use it, unless someone threatened him??

            There are plenty of people out there that carry concealed weapons on them daily, and legally. I would submit to you, that you really don't have to worry about them pulling a gun on you...unless you try to harm them for some reason. But, saying you carry a weapon for protection should give no alarm to anyon

          • It wouldn't be very smart to rob someone right outside your own house.

            You're right, that wouldn't be very smart. Giving you a *different* address and then having 5 of my buddies help me jump you when you show up might be, though.

        • What's sad is that it's really hard to even give nice stuff away on Craigslist. We've tried to get rid of a pretty decent entertainment center that we just don't need any more, and we can't even get someone competent enough with a truck to come over and pick it up.

    • They have alienated there sellers...

      Their sellers are there?

    • Online auctions suck in general.

      8/9 years ago it wasn't bad, if there was a good deal you could get it without the aid of sniping software or other crappy tactics.

      If I buy on eBay it's almost always from a store or at least "Buy It Now" because I'm sick of losing auctions to a script.

  • by Andr T. ( 1006215 ) <andretaff@@@gmail...com> on Friday December 05, 2008 @12:27PM (#26003779)
    From TFA:

    Meanwhile, bot scripts are being offered on RentACoder for $20 and even free of charge here and there.

    How can I sell my scripts if there is someone giving them out for free? This is outrageous!

    • How can I sell my scripts if there is someone giving them out for free? This is outrageous!

      Somewhere, Darth RIAA has felt the presence of his new apprentice.

      • Somewhere, Darth RIAA has felt the presence of his new apprentice. --

        You read this sig. You owe me $1.

        I know by your sig that you want to compete with me. Com'on, let's get this over with.

        * Grabs his red double lightsaber *

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by MiniMike ( 234881 )

      Sell them for $1. You'll be amazed how many you can sell at that exact price...

    • How can I sell my scripts if there is someone giving them out for free? This is outrageous!

      if you not good enough to write a script to take over my PC, then why would I bother to pay you for it?

  • Cheaters? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by forand ( 530402 ) on Friday December 05, 2008 @12:28PM (#26003797) Homepage
    I don't see how making a script of this sort is cheating. If they don't want to allow scripting that is their problem to try and stop but anyone with the knowhow will realize that spending 30 min writing a script is much better then spending 24 hrs/day hitting refresh on the same search.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      They made the "special" very boring; and repetitive, I cannot remember where I read it but last time I checked any good sysadmin loved to automate the boring and repetitive.
    • by Kneo24 ( 688412 )

      It's not cheating, but at the same time it's not in the spirit of it either. Everyone should be on an even playing field here in that regard. If you want the $1 item, you need to work as hard as joe schmoe by out clicking them manually, not having a script do it for you.

      So yeah, not cheating, but definitely cheap and lame.

    • I don't see how making a script of this sort is cheating. If they don't want to allow scripting that is their problem to try and stop but anyone with the knowhow will realize that spending 30 min writing a script is much better then spending 24 hrs/day hitting refresh on the same search.

      Way to go shitting on anyone's cornflakes who were playing fair. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. There is a difference between following the rules and following the spirit of the rules. It's things like this that destroys the fun for everyone else.

      For other examples, research mmoglider, moving the chess pieces while the other person isn't looking, and using a dictionary during scrabble.

  • Too bad. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jeheto ( 1414993 ) on Friday December 05, 2008 @12:31PM (#26003853)
    It seems Ebay's advertising CEO's have trumped it's techinicians, as is inevitable in all companies.
    • IT folk: File this and other blunders so that you can (hopefully) force your company's marketing department to have their ideas vetted by IT.
    • I am over marketing and IT for a small manufacturer. I am constantly trumping myself, and it is starting to piss me off. ;) And yes, marketing considerations always win.

      As I told someone yesterday: It does you no good to have great customer service if you have no customers.

  • Common theme (Score:2, Interesting)

    by thecalster ( 1081075 )
    I've seen this done on a few other websites as well... wowhead.com (World of Warcraft db) ran a contest where you had to find where 5 different pictures were located on the site. It wasn't the best contest as the name of the file name was the exact same that they used for the caption as the filename for the page. So what people ended up doing was caching the whole site and just doing a quick search for where file name *******.jpg was located at.
  • eBay is not news (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zoomshorts ( 137587 )

    The first year it was in business, it was fun and useful.
    Now it is so-called "power sellers". Just a bunch of merchants
    without a brick and mortar presence.

    Let it die the death it deserves and stop posting eBay related

    • Just a bunch of merchants without a brick and mortar presence.

      This may be so for common consumer crap. But there are still a lot of individuals selling stuff (like myself - collectable Indian pottery and Navajo rugs, collectable beads...).

      On a different note, several posts here say (essentially) "Fuck eBay, more power to the bots". But I have to ask: Why is it OK to screw eBay for being Big Giant Cocks, while it's "unethical" to fight fire with fire when it comes to spammers?

  • me@localhost:$ python grinch.py -bid_a_buck_on_ebay
  • The solution is to put out a lot of fake items (e.g. empty envelope sent by USPS) for $1 as well. The automated script wins thousands of these, bankrupting the Script Kiddies. Moral: Look before you bid.
    • by Aladrin ( 926209 )

      That only gets the stupid ones. The smart ones know how to parse the page to be sure they're getting one of the items, rather than some fake. A friend of mine wrote his own script for this and he hasn't had any false hits on this except the ones he did on purpose to make sure the script would really make it through the buy process.

      So for less than $10, he has a shot at a car and quite a bit of experience learning to scrape websites. His wife's a little angry about the lack of attention last weekend, thou

  • Whoever came up with this idea should have bothered to put a minimum time limit. Even if someone is super-speedy, it should take at least a half second to click the "bid" button, load the bidding page, and hit submit.

    I would have at least set up a new random bid URL for each items so people couldn't just hitting the URL for regular bidding and would need to take the time to download the item page before finding the URL for that item. Plus, after they caught on, that'd reduce the # of false bids on other $

  • (re)captcha? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Devil's BSD ( 562630 ) on Friday December 05, 2008 @01:27PM (#26004545) Homepage
    they just couldput in a recaptcha... prevent bot bidding and help digitize books... it's win-win!
    • Search Slashdot for "Captcha" and you'll see why the "prevent bot [x]" part of your comment is funny.

  • This should be easy to catch. Just search the database for users making a few thousand $1 bids per day. Normal users probably won't be doing that level of bidding, especially all at the same price. Of course, then the script writers could make the bids random values between $1 and $2 (eating the extra $1 would be nothing if your prize is really worth a few hundred or thousand dollars). Still, looking for users making a large number of low cost bids should be a warning flag.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 05, 2008 @01:49PM (#26004839)

    Ebay tried to make things harder for the scripters as time went on. The first few days, the listings were simply text, easily searched by bots (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=270311657856&ru). They then shifted over to making the entire description an image (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=270313225226&ru).

  • eBay can list 100 million pennies for sale, each with a reserve price of $1. By the end of the contest, the script kiddies get a bill for $1 million.

They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.