Crashes, Hiccups And Other Things That Go Bump In The Black Friday Night

Black Friday and Cyber Monday came and went quietly this year, with strong financials and traffic claims from quite a few chains. These key shopping days also brought brief outages at Victoria's Secret, Kohl's, Fry's Electronics, JCPenney, American Eagle Outfitters, Office Max, Meijer, Rite Aid and Borders.

American Eagle Outfitters experienced a couple of major site slowdowns on Cyber Monday, according to AlertBot, a traffic monitoring firm. "American Eagle's problems began around 6:36 PM EST when the Web site began loading very slowly. It seemed like the problem was resolved 30 minutes later, when the Web site starting loading within is usual time period only to have the problem occur again beginning at 7:30 PM EST," said AlertBot's Justin Noll. "The second failure was much worse, lasting over two and a half hours. The issue was finally resolved around 10:08 PM EST."

AlertBot also reported an issue with the Office Max site.

"On November 25 starting around 9:10 PM, OfficeMax.com's Web site started timing out. This was later combined with their site intermittently displaying a page stating their site was down due to routine maintenance. It's very hard to believe that a retailer would have routine maintenance right before Black Friday," Noll said. "Combined with the fact that the failure started with the page failing to load within 30 seconds and the maintenance page was only displayed for about 30 percent of total failure time, this was either unplanned downtime or poorly planned maintenance."

Pingdom saw major problems with JCPenney's site on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. "It looks like the site simply couldn't handle the increased visitor numbers without significant slowdown," said Pingdom's Peter Alguacil. "Even when the site didn't time out, it was slow during these periods, which becomes exceedingly clear when you look at the time it took to load the HTML code for the site."

Dealnews.com (which did a superb job of tracking site problems, by the way) found a few non-outage problems on Black Friday, such as Toys R Us and Walmart.com, which "advertised sales starting online at midnight that didn't start until well after," and Staples, which offered a coupon for "$35 off everything on Staples.com costing $35 or more. Not surprisingly, this wasn't intended, and Staples canceled all orders 'misusing' the coupon."

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