|Internet commerce has been around for over a decade and Thanksgiving sales have been around for many years. So, one would have figured that a technology company like Best Buy would be prepared to handle a little something called a pre-sale for its Silver Rewards member. Wrrrrrrrooooooooonggggggg. On Monday, November 19th, just days before Black Friday in the US, Best Buy had a special pre-sale event for its Silver Rewards members. These are loyal members of Best Buy who spend at least $2000/year. These are your high spending VIP customers who you really wanted to impress with a good experience so they would come back on Black Friday and shop some more. Unfortunately for Best Buy, this pre-sale turned out to be quite a disaster especially for customers like me who may not want to shop on their site or even deal with their phone lines.
Best Buy had been hyping this sale over the past week with a number of emails about the upcoming pre-sale. They even had a preview on Sunday. With all the preview traffic and email, they should have had an idea of the amount of traffic to expect. The sale kicked off exactly at 11 AM EST. Thanks to the preview, I knew that I wanted to get 3 DVD sets of the Big Bang Theory (yes, I am a geek). I quickly found the items and started adding them to my shopping cart. I must have added 2 items reltively quickly but by the time I got to the 3rd item, the site had slowed down to a crawl. This was all within the first 5 minutes of the pre-sale event starting. I tried to Checkout but the system hung for a while and returned back with an empty cart. Within about 10 minutes the site had crashed and I got the "We were expecting Snow but we got a Blizzard" screen. Awwww, so cute, if this were my child's website but this is Best Buy. You should not only be expecting a Blizzard, you should expect Superstorm Sandy and be prepared for that. Bestbuy.com went down faster than any of the the Kardashian sisters.
They had provided a Silver Member hotline so I decided to call that. After navigating through the phone tree, I was put in the queue only to be rudely disconnected. Seems like the Blizzard hit the phone lines too. I tried calling back but never made it. At this point, I checked Twitter and the FB page and realized that there were many irate customers like me. I tried loading the page every few minutes but kept running into the same "Blizzard" message. About an hour later, the site came back up to some extent but I had trouble adding to my cart. Eventually, I was able to add my 3 DVDs and started checking out when it hit another snag with their tax software. Fortunately, it allowed me to make the payment. It took me about 90 minutes to complete something that I should have been able to do in 5 minutes. I am still unsure the DVDs will arrive in the mail in the next two weeks.
Best Buy is one of the few businesses in the US that sells electronics and has a retail front. In the last few years, with Circuit City and Comp USA shutting down, Best Buy probably survives only because consumers do not have too many options to go to a store and purchase electronic items. They are having a hard time making profits and should do anything to avoid a black-eye or turn away loyal customers. In the age of Cloud Computing and Big Data, is it that hard for a technology company to figure out capacity? After all they have trends for the last so many years on their big sale days.
In the age of social media, they should take advantage and do any damage control, but unfortunately that did not happen either. There was no apology on the Best Buy Facebook page, there was no email from Best Buy and neither a tweet. Ironically, they were promoting Rihanna's new album aptly titled Unapologetic. The reality must be that the Marketing team that handles social media, probably reports to another part of the company and have no idea of this disaster.
They have three days to prepare for Black Friday. If they have the same issues, Black Friday may well turn in Red 2012. Now I understand why folks start camping out 4-5 days in advance, they just don't trust bestbuy.com. I still think they are morons but now perhaps give them some benefit of the doubt.
*On a somewhat funny and related note, there was a headline today that Best Buy provided Romney technology for his campaign. #Winning
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