Amazon’s Football Foul-Up Wasn’t In Sending Congrats Hours Early, But Days Late

Written by Frank Hayes
January 9th, 2013

By now, almost everyone in retail knows about Amazon’s glitch that sent congratulatory victory E-mails to fans of both Alabama and Notre Dame—half a day before they played in the NCAA championship game on Monday night (Jan. 7). The obvious question: Why weren’t safeguards in place to prevent this from happening?

Amazon isn’t saying, but chances are good that such safeguards were in place—and that’s why the victory E-mails went out hours before the game even started.

After all, the best safeguard against any tech glitch in sending automatic victory messages as soon as the final gun sounds is to test in advance. Amazon undoubtedly wanted to make sure that the test was thorough, that its CRM system kicked out the full set of Alabama and Notre Dame customers, and that the E-mails were all generated and nothing coughed part way through. OK, that part of the testing went fine. The only piece of the morning test that failed was the part responsible for not actually sending the messages.

The irony is that Amazon probably was right to run the test and should have planned to send actual E-mails in the morning. It just shouldn’t have sent victory E-mails, instead sending some type of “good luck to (YOUR TEAM’S NAME HERE) in the BCS Championship!” message, complete with links to merchandise—just not actual BCS Championship merchandise.

Even smarter would have been to do that test a few days in advance, so customers would have had a chance to order game-day merchandise in time to have it in hand on game day. Then Amazon would have gotten two bites of that apple, in addition to having the test out of the way well in advance of the game.

That’s not the way IT shops are accustomed to thinking about testing, though. Tests aren’t supposed to be live. They’re supposed to be tightly controlled and tightly contained. That’s still a perfectly reasonable way to think about testing, especially when it includes anything involving payment or personal information.

But especially in a low-risk situation, the closer a test can be to real conditions, the better the test will be when it comes to turning up real-world problems. Triggering the test Notre Dame E-mails a day before the test Alabama E-mails, for example—and both of them days in advance of the game—would have provided good separation for test results in what was effectively a safe testbed and generated sales based on pre-game customer enthusiasm, as well.

(Face it: No.-1-ranked Notre Dame fans were definitely in a mood to buy team-branded products a few days before the game. Once the game was over, not so much.)

Yes, one safeguard failed. But Amazon missed a chance for a safer test and a selling opportunity. Isn’t that what No.-1-ranked Amazon is supposed to be good at?


Comments are closed.


StorefrontBacktalk delivers the latest retail technology news & analysis. Join more than 60,000 retail IT leaders who subscribe to our free weekly email. Sign up today!

Most Recent Comments

Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

I am still unclear about the core point here-- why higher value of European cards. Supply and demand, yes, makes sense. But the fact that the cards were chip and pin (EMV) should make them less valuable because that demonstrably reduces the ability to use them fraudulently. Did the author mean that the chip and pin cards could be used in a country where EMV is not implemented--the US--and this mis-match make it easier to us them since the issuing banks may not have as robust anti-fraud controls as non-EMV banks because they assumed EMV would do the fraud prevention for them Read more...
Two possible reasons that I can think of and have seen in the past - 1) Cards issued by European banks when used online cross border don't usually support AVS checks. So, when a European card is used with a billing address that's in the US, an ecom merchant wouldn't necessarily know that the shipping zip code doesn't match the billing code. 2) Also, in offline chip countries the card determines whether or not a transaction is approved, not the issuer. In my experience, European issuers haven't developed the same checks on authorization requests as US issuers. So, these cards might be more valuable because they are more likely to get approved. Read more...
A smart card slot in terminals doesn't mean there is a reader or that the reader is activated. Then, activated reader or not, the U.S. processors don't have apps certified or ready to load into those terminals to accept and process smart card transactions just yet. Don't get your card(t) before the terminal (horse). Read more...
The marketplace does speak. More fraud capacity translates to higher value for the stolen data. Because nearly 100% of all US transactions are authorized online in real time, we have less fraud regardless of whether the card is Magstripe only or chip and PIn. Hence, $10 prices for US cards vs $25 for the European counterparts. Read more...
@David True. The European cards have both an EMV chip AND a mag stripe. Europeans may generally use the chip for their transactions, but the insecure stripe remains vulnerable to skimming, whether it be from a false front on an ATM or a dishonest waiter with a handheld skimmer. If their stripe is skimmed, the track data can still be cloned and used fraudulently in the United States. If European banks only detect fraud from 9-5 GMT, that might explain why American criminals prefer them over American bank issued cards, who have fraud detection in place 24x7. Read more...

Our apologies. Due to legal and security copyright issues, we can't facilitate the printing of Premium Content. If you absolutely need a hard copy, please contact customer service.