Most Retail Sites Shrug Off Cyber Monday Deluge

Cyber Monday came and went with a conspicuous absence of problems at major retailer Web sites. It’s a fact that could mean E-Commerce teams did a good job preparing for the expected onslaught or that the blow was softened because many merchants began running sales earlier in November. That said, the day (Nov. 30) wasn't error-free. There were some sporadic periods of downtime at Kohls.com, a site that also had problems early on Black Friday.

CVS.com suffered a brief period of slow responsiveness, while Home Depot had a half-hour period of downtime beginning at about 4 A.M. (New York time). VitaminShoppe.com failed to properly process E-mailed discount coupons, and much of Americangirl.com presented visitors with a site-down message during the day.

Dotcom-Monitor noticed a glitch at Bloomingdales' site during the day. At one point, Bloomingdales.com displayed a message that said something to the effect of 'Please Stay With Us,' while the homepage took a long time to load, said Brad Canham, vice president of business development at Dotcom-Monitor. "Their standard response time is less than a half-second, but they did have one thing happen there," he said.

AlertBot saw minor problems at Kohl's. "The downtime periods haven't been that long, but their Web site is still running very slow and timing out from time-to-time," said Justin Noll, sales and marketing director at AlertBot.

CVS.com suffered problems "relating to its server performance," said Gareth Evans of U.K.-based monitoring company Sitemorse, which noted that the page response problems started at about 11:45 A.M. New York time. CVS' "servers were averaging nearly 2 seconds to respond to simple requests for content such as images," Evans said. "We saw one of the links to one of their pages take longer than 60 seconds to respond," a situation that worsened to the point where the servers were averaging more than 3 seconds to respond. It soon improved "to a slow, but not terrible, 0.8 of a second."

Evans said it must be remembered that the response figures "are the average for the requests for each of the elements of the page," including the HTML, each .gif and .jpg image, and the JavaScript. He said the site was working normally shortly after noon. "This probably relates to heavy load on their Web site," Evans said. "It didn't fail, but it creaked for 10 to 15 minutes."

The VitaminShoppe glitch was a case of digital couponing gone bad. The vitamin chain E-mailed customers 10-percent-off coupons, all set to expire at the end of Monday, but the coupons didn't work. The coupons "did not process correctly during checkout" and it was "due to a technical error," the retailer said in an E-mail blast to coupon recipients. The apology E-mail noted that the company was extending the sale to the end of Tuesday (Dec. 1).

AmericanGirl.com had a series of "sorry, site problems" pages up throughout Cyber Monday. The site's homepage worked fine, but attempts to dig deeper or to buy anything proved fruitless. "To improve your online experience, we’re updating our site," said the site when shoppers attempted to view items. "This requires the Web site to be temporarily unavailable. We apologize for the inconvenience. Check back soon to enjoy the changes we’ve made."

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