Last year, Mindy MacDonald went hunting a Hatchimal a few weeks before the holiday.
"I found there was nothing in the stores, nothing online. Everything was sold out. I went everywhere I could think of," said parent Mindy MacDonald.
Since it was her daughter's big Christmas wish, her family cracked under pressure, found one available on eBay and shelled out quite a bit.
"$120 dollars for it which I think is almost double retail what it was going for back then."
The Hatchimal shortage was due in part to the use of scalper bots, short for robots -- specifically designed to do one thing. Buy mass quantities of a particular item in a matter of moments.
"This is their sole purpose. They are created for speed and you're just not going to beat them," said Consumer Reports security and privacy expert Bree Fowler.
Once they buy up as many as they can, they turn around and sell them on the secondary market at a premium.
"Sometimes 2, 3, 4 times more than what you would be paying in the store."
Scalpers have used this technology for years to snatch up tickets to concerts or sporting events. The BOTS Act or better online ticket sales act of 2016 -- tried to end to that practice but the law only applies to tickets, leaving scalpers to move on to things like toys or sneakers. Not illegal, but frustrating for consumers like MacDonald -- who places bot users on the naughty list.
"I feel like people are taking advantage of other people's desperation."
So how do you get the must-have toy without getting played? Bree Fowler of Consumer Reports says you won't beat the bots, so try to get ahead of the trend.
"When there are pre-orders for things like the Nintendo systems, you can get online and try your best. It also pays to shop early. Get in before the hype."
Strategies for holiday shopping