Supreme and the Botmakers
Early on a steamy June morning in Plantation, Florida, Matt Steiner sits working at his parents’ 10-person dining room table. It’s the start of summer vacation, and he is joined by his buddy Chris, who is freshly home from his first year at college. Between yawns the two send tweets and check emails, but mostly they wait for 9 am. That’s when the pair will open access to their website for 60 minutes, just as they do every Thursday. During that hour, and that hour only, people can buy the use of Matt and Chris’ web bot.
Finally the time comes. Within one minute, 10 orders have rolled in. By 9:04, that number has doubled. People are browsing the site from the UK, South Korea, Hong Kong, looking at images of limited-edition products. If they’re interested, they enter their address and payment information. If they want a hat, it’ll cost $10. For a T-shirt it’s $15. Hoodies are $20. To be clear, these aren’t prices for the shirts, hats, and hoodies; they’re the prices would-be shoppers pay to have a shot at buying the damn things when the apparel brand Supreme opens its own website and stores at 11 am.
More than 1,200 miles up the coast, in downtown Manhattan, people—mostly guys—are lined up outside Supreme’s NYC store for the same reason others are clicking on Matt and Chris’ website: to get their hands on gear. On the Supreme subreddit, photos are filtering in from shoppers who already got lucky in London and Paris, providing a valuable preview of what’s to come.
At 9:55, Matt and Chris are closing in on 10,000 visitors to their site. The problem is, on this Thursday their customers aren’t spending much money. Supreme releases only a handful of its seasonal collection each week, and this week’s drop isn’t a great one. The guys were hoping that the long-promised Everlast boxing bag would come out today, or at least the $200 basketball, covered with butterflies, designed by skating legend Mark Gonzales. Instead, the core of the drop is a series of T-shirts made in collaboration with a Jamaican musician from the ’80s. Most “hypebeasts”—the largely teenage and twentysomething consumers who obsess over streetwear and sneaker brands—are too young to know the dancehall stylings of Barrington Levy. By the time Matt and Chris shut down their site to finalize details before the Supreme drop officially starts, they’ve topped out at 38 orders.
“All right, it’s 10:59,” Chris announces, hovering between his two computers. Matt stands behind him, phone in hand, watching over Chris’ shoulder and nervously bouncing from foot to foot.
At precisely 11 am, their bot connects to Supreme’s servers, armed with all 38 customers’ shopping lists and credit card numbers, and efficiently completes the checkout process. It easily outpaces online shoppers who are trying to click through Supreme’s byzantine website, type in their billing information one keystroke at a time, and place orders before everything sells out—which it almost always does.
Read more at Wired.