Oriental Trading Site Plummets In Availability—Or Did It?

Written by Evan Schuman
September 10th, 2008

Online customers trying to reach the 76-year-old crafts catalogue retailer Oriental Trading Company found a lot more hassle than crafts last month, according to the latest figures from online availability research firm Gomez.

But the apparent Web performance plunge may not have happened, and it’s a fascinating look into the limits of Web traffic analysis.

When Gomez reported its latest batch of uptime figures for the Top 50 E-tailers covering the month of August, 3,000-employee Oriental Trading came in dead last. How dead last? The top retailer’s high broadband connection (Costco) was a 99.83 percent uptime, and the numbers for retailers stayed in the upper 90s all the way down the list, with the 49th weakest high bandwidth uptime performance going to PC Connection, which clocked in at 98.83 percent uptime.

Number 50, Oriental Trading, had only 68.15 percent uptime. That was for high broadband. For low broadband, it dropped to 60.80 percent (no one else on the list dropped below the upper 90s) and for dialup, Oriental hit an impressive 6.09 percent.

The range for dialup was much broader, as many major e-tail chains have given up on dialup, with the second lowest being Toys R Us at 30.17 percent dialup uptime and the third lowest for dialup being The Gap at 34 percent. Still, no one came close to Oriental’s 6.09 percent.

"That’s unusually low. That’s much lower than what you would expect for a major retailer today," said Matt Poepsel, the Gomez Vice President of Performance Strategies. "You’d definitely expect more than 98 percent for high broadband."

Poepsel noted that the site had changed slightly and that "change management, that’s a big big change."

But the figures didn’t smell right to Oriental. On Aug. 2, the site moved its co-location facility, a transition that was wrapped by Aug. 3, according to Brian Moen, Oriental’s VP for E-Commerce. The site sustained a "big outage" on Aug. 2—from 2 AM to 5 PM—but was fully back the next day, Moen said.

When Poepsel started re-examining Gomez’s findings, some possible contradictions cropped up, raising the possibility that the data was flawed. One possibility that both execs touched on: In the server transition, addresses may not have all moved perfectly. It’s possible that the Gomez server was hitting an IP address that no longer housed active Web activity. But the reports of Oriental’s performance had already hit major media.

With the growing popularity of privacy options on existing and new Web browsers, questions have already started about how accurate internal Web traffic analysis is and will be in the next year. This is a good reminder that uptime logs are also subject to the strangeness of the Internet.


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.