Resellers, Bots, and the Herberts

Mar 2, 2021

What kind of restrictions should be on people who work in the sneaker industry? At what level should you be limited in what you can buy what are we thinking of morally and legally because those are two different ways of thinking?

With the recent news about a Nike executives son buying bots and sneakers in bulk we have to really talk about resellers and the industry. Look some people hate resellers and I get why. You miss out because someone pays for a program to buy dozens of pairs. It is annoying and seems to break the old school rules where maybe you had a hook up. Maybe you got an extra pair that you could sell to your friend, or eventually on eBay. But should we be stuck in wanting the old rules or move forward and learn to adapt.

We have seen the companies and stores all try to find different means to get sneakers into the hands of people who want them and avoid the resellers. From raffles to online draws, offline and in person only sales, someone is always angry at how it goes and it speaks to the growth of the sneaker game and how companies market to keep it growing. Yes, they could make as many as are needed but part of the value and appeal in the game is getting that exclusive, that shoe that no one around you has. That piece in the collection that sets it apart. This is in everything that is collected from baseball cards to cars. It would be convenient for us to pretend it doesn’t matter we we take that L.

Just after his rookie season Upper Deck was accused of printing out Ken Griffey Jr.’s rookie cards by the sheet and selling them to collectors at card and collectibles shows

So now we have to talk about the elephant in the room, there is a lot of speculation already in the sneaker game and a lot of sneaker heads feel like the brands are in on the reselling game. We can’t prove that they are or aren’t but there is a difference in creating false scarcity to drive up rarity (once again see baseball or pokemon card collectors all about it) and conspiracy. The recent developments don’t help that. Joe, may not need his mother’s help to locate sneakers of he has an entire network of people in the region who have good enough information and connections. In detailing his 25 day trip to buy “Bricks” he never mentions his mother helping him, although name dropping, definitely could have occurred along the way.

We can go off what he says and what we can prove. Bots have changed the game. Every game. From video games to computer parts. They are also somewhat democratic. You can go online and learn to make one. You can buy them. It sucks, but what defenses for then can you really have and be democratic? Please let’s come up with the ideas and tell the companies this is what we want them to do, but we have to be willing to not purchase, and that’s hard to do especially when so many have disposable income and just want to be stylish. It’s why you get a sneaker rental service, which can be a good thing if it keeps stylists and celebs and pseudo celebs from buying all the heat to throw into their closets. 

  • Joe Herbert used a strategy of buying “Bricks” and selling them at a profit and low margin
    • “Bricks” are sneakers that often get discounted at regular retailers after a time that you can buy on sale or with discount codes and eventually sell for more than you bought them for.
  • Bots are the new standing in line
    • The Bots business was lucrative enough that Joe started West Bricks a discord group that helps other resellers get into the game as well.
  • Created a subscription service
    • Charged to provide store locations and current discounts mirroring couponing groups
  • Selling wholesale
    • By selling wholesale to other resellers, Joe was able to turn merchandise while not holding out for the most profit.
  • Business Credit
    • Joe was able to leverage his mother’s credit score and salary for a business card in the name of his business WCS LLC.

Now the Bloomberg article says that Joe used a company card in his mother’s name. A lot of assumption is that it was a Nike card but that has yet to be proven. It would definitely be a good strategy to use his mother’s personal credit to get expanded credit for his company early on, but speculation is that this is a Nike corporate card. That would be horrible indeed. If what you allege is that she and others at the upper echelons are conspiring using company funds, it opens up a lot of issues that aren’t worth it for Nike or the people who would potentially participate . An SEC probe would cost this brand more than insiders flipping grails could ever make and cost them more when you think about options, benefits, salary, fines and the potential for jail time. We understand greed but we often over estimate the benefits

Ann Herbert reportedly informed Nike about her son’s company but is she still at fault? If we find out more information about her involvement then we can know for sure, but it somewhat interesting that Nike reportedly did not find a conflict of interest. In the Portland area, it must be a lot of activity related to the sneaker world and athletic apparel in general just  based off of Nike, the number of ex-employees they have, and the other brands that are in and around the area. What are the real conflicts of interest and is there a more liberal policy in place since there is a lot of activity in the area? Was it ethical for her son to have a reseller business at all and what business lines could they be allowed to work in when you talk about athletic wear and sneakers.

I think we can easily look and say that there are a lot of people who should have more stringent rules placed upon them when they work in the game. But where should those be relaxed? A Foot Locker store manager probably makes on average in the 60k range. How mad should we get at them if they move a few boxes to their friends or a reseller? If we say it’s not too big of a deal then how many is too many? 3? 9? We have to really be specific in our discussions to be able to have some resolution. If an employee gets to buy one pair for themselves should they be allowed another for a friend or family member? Can a sneakerhead really claim that title of they’ve never gotten the call for one release with someone saying ‘they’ve got you’? I can’t be mad at that. But when you start to add it up the numbers available for the public do start to dwindle some. But that has always been the game for desired items. Knowing people is important. 

So where does this leave us? We have to keep following this story and make sure that we get the details right. But we also must decide where we stand on the other issues in the sneaker game. Do we all still want to fight over exclusives or will you trade the idea of exclusivity for broader styles, silhouettes and colorways. It’s a choice that we all have to make. Will we want to keep supporting resellers when it suits our needs and be able to profit ourselves if we decide we don’t want our collections anymore or is it for the love only. Maybe we have to agree that what being a Sneaker head is, is no longer one size fits all, much like hip-hop used to be. It has grown and there will be things that we dislike along with that growth but what matters is how we move forward.

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