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The Bad News About Queues: How Product Launches Are Being Exploited

June 28, 2024
Audrey Fairbrother
Sr. Content Marketing Manager


  • Many brands use online queues to manage the demand for their hot product launches, but unfortunately, both bots and real fans alike have found ways to bypass them.
  • Queue hacking doesn't take much sophistication. We’ll dig into how scripts, VPNs, or even creating multiple sessions within one popular browser are being used to get an unfair advantage.
  • Sneaker drops and limited edition collectibles are particularly susceptible to queue hacking.
  • Queues can have a negative impact on your brand’s reputation and lead to customer frustration and loss of trust.
  • There's an alternative way to launch that makes things fairer and more enjoyable for your fans without relying on queues at all.

Queues breed contempt — from pretty much anyone

No one likes to wait. It's a time-sink, and almost everyone born in the last 30-40 years is pretty accustomed to instant gratification. Whether it's sweating it out in line at a physical store or watching your wait time tick up in an online queue, customer patience has certainly not grown in the last decade, and this is especially true when passion for a product runs high.

In these moments, whether you're a bad actor trying to score a hot ticket item for resale, or just a regular fan who doesn't feel like waiting 4 hours to check out, finding ways to jump or hack a queue is going to be appealing. And this has created a market for various tools and techniques aimed at circumventing queues on the internet.

At EQL, we already knew that there had to be a better approach than queues to managing high-heat product drops. That was before we discovered how prevalent it is to find queue-hacking tips in fan communities from every corner of the internet.

That’s why we’re encouraging in-demand brands to ditch the queues and commit to new solutions that improve the fan experience while also helping retailers maximize launch opportunities. In other words, choose tech that works better for everyone — except bad actors. Bad actors can pound sand.  

Understanding the basics of online queue hacking

Quick queue 101: Most queuing systems operate by relegating users to a digital queue, akin to the experience of waiting in line at a physical store. In instances of heightened website traffic, the online queue will intercept incoming requests and redirect users to a designated waiting page, where they are assigned a queue number. This is done to prevent the site’s infrastructure from being overwhelmed and crashing under a massive, sudden influx of traffic as thousands of customers attempt to load the site at once.

This is inherently problematic from a user experience standpoint. First, queue numbers aren’t always assigned first-come-first-serve. Sometimes they're random. Customers who encounter a waiting page in a queue might have absolutely no clue what kind of delay they'll be facing in the checkout process, particularly during peak traffic hours. The wait could be 4 minutes, 4 hours, or 4 days (we’re not counting that out). Then, there’s no guarantee that the wait will even pay off. The product could sell out by the time the user reaches the end of the queue — which is an easy way to turn impatience into all-out rage.

The rise of queue hacking for in-demand products

The rise of queue hacking can be attributed to the difficulty fans have in securing the products they care about — particularly in the realms of sneaker drops, limited edition collectibles, and art. These products often have a limited inventory and high demand, leading to heightened competition and a frenzy among fans.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. When it comes to in-demand commerce and the desperation to have the product you want, perfectly logical and moral people might give into the dark side. 

In this particular battleground, many fans are willing to go to great lengths to gain an advantage in online queues. And honestly, most queues make it too easy. While some fans resort to the more common refreshing of the webpage or using multiple devices, others have taken more of a cheat route, employing automated scripts and tools to bypass the queue system altogether, scooping up inventory and purchasing products before anyone else has a legitimate shot.

Common strategies used to bypass online queues

Fans who are eager to bypass online queues have devised a variety of strategies to gain a competitive advantage. These strategies include:

  • Using automated scripts and bots to do the manual work..
  • Employing VPNs and proxy services to mask location and access the website from different IP addresses.
  • Utilizing additional devices or certain browsers to start multiple concurrent sessions increases the chances of getting through the queue. (Firefox, anyone?)
  • Sharing tips and tricks on online forums and social media platforms to help others bypass the queue system.

Unethical? Sure. But many fans are tired of getting bulldozed by bad actors, and begin to adopt the mindset of "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." And when they're that passionate about the products, it's hard to blame them. The problem is, this perpetuates the vicious cycle in which cheating becomes the only way — making fandom less fun for everyone involved.

Automated scripts and bots for hacking queues

Automated scripts and bots are powerful in helping customers bypass virtual queues. These tools work by continuously refreshing the webpage, or automating the process of waiting in line. These methods help customers increase their chances of gaining access to checkout faster than other users.

Automated scripts and bots are often programmed to mimic human behavior, making it difficult for even advanced bot mitigation software to detect their presence. These queue jumpers can be customized to bypass specific systems and are capable of performing tasks at a much faster rate than us real human users.

VPNs and proxy services to mask location

VPNs and proxy services are commonly used by fans to mask their location and access websites from different IP addresses. By connecting to a VPN server or using a proxy service, users can appear as though they are accessing the website from a different geographic location. 

In doing this, customers can gain an advantage in online queues, as some launches prioritize users from certain regions or IP addresses. They can also use several VPNs or proxies to make it appear as though there are multiple unique users in the queue, with the goal of decreasing their wait time and bumping their position to the front of the line more quickly.

Studies show that most queue entrants aren’t playing fair…

High-demand product launches, such as sneaker drops and limited edition collectibles, have been particularly susceptible to these types of queue hacking.

According to Retail Touch Points: a recent post-sale audit of a top 10 footwear brand drop showed 97% of the activity on the launch was inorganic — including clicks, visits and requests from bots designed to snatch up stock for resale at huge markups.

Of the 1.7 million visitors who tried to access the drop, less than 100,000 were playing by the rules.

When you consider the long-term implications of this for brands, it shows the need for protection beyond a queue in order to protect brand sentiment and customer lifetime value.

So what's the solution? 

Stopping bots and bad actors from attacking your online queue is a time-consuming and expensive endeavor. Not good news for brands.

The great news is, that you don't have to rely on queueing technology at all if you have an in-demand release coming up.

Instead, you could ditch the queue system entirely and partner with EQL, which allows you to create a smoother, fairer customer experience, and maximize the moments before, during, and after your release. Here’s how.

EQL: A better solution for in-demand product launches

EQL takes a different approach to high-heat launches that not only protects the customer experience but also helps maximize launches for the brands that run them, including capturing a full picture of your customer demand, rewarding certain audiences, and more. 

The beauty of EQL is that a queue system isn’t necessary at all, because our pages are endlessly scalable. That means our infrastructure supports limitless entries all at once, and sites won’t crash. 

As your customers enter, our system begins the process of eliminating any bots or bad actors on the backend — keeping them in the dark as to whether or not they’ve been detected (spoiler alert: they have) while bumping your real fans to the top. 

This approach not only creates a much smoother launch experience for you and your fans, but gives brands an entire picture of the demand for their product, and insight on who all their interested customers are — not just who made it through the queue line. 

There is a long list of reasons why brands are able to maximize their revenue through their launches with EQL vs. a queue in this post — check it out. 

 Final thoughts…

Put yourself in your fans' shoes — would you rather wait in a queue to get the product you want, or enter instantly on your own time with EQL? 

That answer is obvious. Then, consider that as a brand, EQL will help increase customer sentiment, reduce operational headaches, and gain more revenue from every launch. 

So what’s stopping you from making the switch? Get in touch today and start getting more out of every launch. 

Frequently Asked Questions on EQL vs. Queues

What makes EQL resistant to common queue hacking strategies?

Quite simply, we’re not a queue. EQL’s indestructible launch pages can seamlessly handle the traffic of your launch, even on your highest heat releases. We accept all fan entries and quietly capture and analyze millions of signals from your entrants to filter out the bots and bad actors and push real fans to the top of the list. 

Can EQL handle extremely high traffic during product launches?

Yep. EQL has successfully handled some of the world’s highest-heat launches.

How does EQL ensure fair access to in-demand products?

All of EQL’s launches are certified Run Fair®, meaning:

  • Multi-step verification process: Every entry is subjected to rigorous analysis to confirm it’s not from a bot or bad actor. This gives genuine fans a better chance at scoring a win.
  • One entry per person: Entries are deduplicated against unique identification tags.
  • Launches are always secure: We use best-in-class security protocols and comply with GDPR standards to make sure information is protected.
  • Easy entry: Once you have a verified EQL account, entering just takes a few clicks.

When you see the Run Fair® logo, it's a sign of integrity. It means the technology used and the steps taken by the retailer or brand to run the launch are of the highest standard.

What steps should brands take to integrate EQL into their launch strategy?

Getting set up with EQL is easy, and requires no dev support. Our team can have you up and running with your new launch in a matter of hours. If you’re interested in ditching the queue and setting your fans up for a successful launch, get in touch with our sales team. 

How can consumers ensure they're ready for an EQL launch?

Entering an EQL-powered launch is super simple. To get started, fans can create their EQL account. When you share your launch link, they can enter with just a few clicks, and EQL will notify them after the launch closes as to whether their entry was successful or not.
Audrey Fairbrother
Sr. Content Marketing Manager

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