Cop? More Like Drop: How the online sneaker game sets us up for failure


Torch Photo/ Anna Pierratos

April 18, 2014 was the day I fell in love with sneakers. Growing up, my parents always made sure I had coordinated outfits with cutesy, girly shoes. I had a pair of hybrid sneaker-flats from Skechers with hot pink rhinestones to match my Y2K Juicy Couture bag. I did not yet understand what the brands were, but as long as I had pink and purple incorporated into my outfit, I loved it.

In middle school, Nike Roshes and Adidas Superstars were the sneakers of choice. As someone who liked to wear unique pieces, I wanted a pair that no one else had, and in a color that no one would expect me to wear. On that April day, I started researching “cool” sneakers on Google, and I was introduced to the sneaker game. Air Force 1s, Jordan Retro 4s and Jordan 1s flooded my page. 

But while I was intrigued, I was not completely impressed. I kept scrolling, and ended up on an advertisement from Foot Locker — it was the first time I saw the Aqua 11s. An all-white sneaker with a textured bright aqua wave across the side made for the perfect pair of sneakers for school. The day of the sneaker release, I went to my homeroom to be met with about 15 girls and two boys — the only two boys who had not cut class to wait in line at the nearest sneaker shops. 

In a world that now puts online interaction first, the thrill of waiting in line for a new release is one of the lost pre-pandemic experiences. Today, sneaker collectors and fanatics must rely on brand websites or apps like SNKRS to purchase a pair of kicks. 

Valentine’s Day weekend marked the releases of several sneakers and other streetwear apparel. Nike used the SNKRS app to sell their white and pink suede Air Force 1 “Love Letters,” as well as the burgundy-detailed Paris Saint-Germain Jordan 1s. At 9:45 a.m., I found myself waiting on a virtual line on the app, waiting for a 10 a.m. Air Force 1 release. An hour later I got a “Better Luck Next Time” message. Thanks, Nike.

Not only did I not score the shoes, but I had wasted my Saturday morning. I hopped onto StockX, one of the many sneaker reselling apps, only to find that a pair that originally retailed for $150 was being resold in my size for more than $300. 

Buying and selling sneakers has become increasingly difficult, especially in an online format. Sneaker resellers are making careers by taking advantage of the online software used to retail sneakers, even using “bots” to purchase more than the amount allowed per customer. People pay “robots” to hack the retail software and secure a place on the virtual shopping line so that they have access to the releases before everyone else who is “waiting” on that line. As someone who wakes up and is online at 10 a.m. (the typical sneaker-release time), it is extremely frustrating to know that robots are securing two or three pairs of a highly sought after shoe simply because they want to resell them. I just want to rock a cool pair of shoes! I am no sneaker connoisseur, but I do have a few coveted pairs in my closet. As someone who does not have connections with someone who works at a sneaker shop or resells sneakers, I lose out on the experience of the new sneaker smell, as they come fresh out of the box, without the grimy hands of resellers unwrapping them and taking photos for their “businesses”. 

We just saw the swift fall of ex-Nike Vice President, Ann Herbert, who allowed her son, 19-year-old Joe Herbert, to use her employee discount and insider trading to purchase $133,000 worth of coveted sneakers in an effort to resell them at inflated prices. Perhaps resell culture will be taken down in the near future, as sneaker appreciators are fed up with the investment game played by those who want to make easy money. Until then, there are other highly anticipated releases coming in the next few months. Hopefully, you’ll be met with a “Got ‘Em” message.