Up until this week, there generally were few reports of holiday season on-line shopping glitches or meltdowns, unlike last year.
Alas, news reports like this one by Bloomberg News yesterday afternoon indicate that consumer-electronic store Best Buy is having to cancel some on-line customer orders because the company has run out of "hot product orderings." The demand for those product offerings were hyped by Best Buy itself as a way to compete against Wal-Mart, Amazon and Target, its main competitors. The Bloomberg story notes:
"The canceled orders covered the weekend after Thanksgiving, when Best Buy stepped up discounts against Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) Best Buy promoted 'aggressively online,' leading to higher traffic and an increase in sales by stores open at least 14 months, Chief Executive Officer Brian Dunn told analysts on Dec. 13."
Too bad Best Buy's management forgot the old adage, "Be careful what you wish for, you might get it."
Best Buy will no doubt take a very deserved beating in the press for the next couple of weeks for this "Grinch Glitch", especially in light of its "guaranteed delivery by Christmas" advertising blitz.
In addition, according to an updated Bloomberg piece in Advertising Age, Best Buy which "... has been at the forefront of using social media to engage with its customers..." has gone strangely quiet about the issue, a fact for which it is also now getting beat up for by its customers.
It will be especially interesting to know when Best Buy knew it had an inventory problem before it decided to let its customers know. This story, for instance, at Minnesota Public Radio says Best Buy was still taking orders yesterday morning for Christmas delivery.
Best Buy, however, is not alone in getting coal in its holiday stocking.
Turns out, UK retailers Sainsbury's and Fortnum & Mason are also having problems. According to a BBC story, some 200 to 300 customers of Sainsbury's have had their online Christmas meal order inadvertently canceled. This article at the London Telegraph explains the problem this way:
"Customers who ordered food on Sainsbury’s web site to be delivered in time for Christmas found that their all-important delivery slot disappeared if they temporarily clicked back to check their order at the end of their shop."
Sainsbury's apologized "... unreservedly to customers who have been inconvenienced in any way" and is trying to work out compensation for the glitch.
The London Telegraph is also reporting that "severe issues with its IT infrastructure" is keeping upscale retailer Fortnum & Mason from being able to deliver an unknown number of its famous Christmas hampers - some of which cost up to £5,000 - from being delivered by Christmas. The Telegraph says that some 100,000 such hampers are sent out around the world by Fortnum & Mason every holiday season.
The Telegraph says that hundreds of hampers may not be delivered, but it may well turn out to be significantly higher than that. Fortnum & Mason is offering refunds for undelivered hampers.
And finally, Virgin America looks like it is starting to turn a corner in dealing with the fallout from its reservation system rollout of late October. According to a story appearing Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal, Chief Executive David Cush stated that "... most of the bugs have been fixed and that 95% of transactions now are successful."
However, CEO Cush also admitted that "... call center wait times still average 14 minutes and bookings made with reservations agents take 30% to 40% longer than they did, a situation that will probably last another month."
Given that the problems were previously promised to be resolved by the first week in December, I might view that prediction with a bit of skepticism.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.