Bobby looks through the keyhole at more e-commerce meltdowns

By Robert X. Cringely, InfoWorld |  Business

IN SPITE OF the mountain of perfectly wrapped gifts that has been sitting in the corner of Randi's apartment for the last three months, my girlfriend is in a snit about one online order gone wrong.

"I'm never ordering with Bugle Boy again, Bobby," she told me. "Now I have to go out and get you something else."

After what seemed like days after she placed her order, Randi received an e-mail telling her it was out of stock. Then they told her the item wasn't coming back into stock -- ever.

Of all the threats online retailers must face during their busiest quarter of the year, from fraud to distributed DoS (denial of service) attacks to sluggish sales, none can come close to the wrath of Randi.

As she picked up the phone to call their customer service line again, I made my exit. I may be a hard-nosed reporter, but I can't bear to watch torture.

More site meltdowns

A few more readers have reported in from the field that their holiday shopping got temporarily derailed by slow or down sites. eToys had problems the Sunday after Thanksgiving, said one reader who ended up buying the Barbie Volkswagen New Beetle from a Target store instead. And Amazon.com has had three glitches since Thanksgiving. PayPal has had some incidents of double billing, according to a few readers. It almost makes you want to go to the mall. Well, OK, maybe it's not that bad.

Paper and viruses

In its effort to get in the swing of this new digital age, Ford has been working to turn itself into a paperless organization, sending everything to its dealerships via e-mail. In theory, it's a great idea to cut down on the paper and printing costs, plus the addition of that environmentally conscious spin to your operations. But Ford has found that virtual communications come with another price.

In the process of digitizing all its auto documentation and sending it to dealers, the car company has also been sending viruses aplenty down into its channel. Makes you wonder what sort of virus protection they have in place at the headquarters.

The Scrooge report

Feeling much like Bob Cratchit (I checked these spellings against a copy of A Christmas Carol that I found on the Web), just days after Thanksgiving many employees of Red Sky Interactive were seeing pink when the company announced its first round of layoffs.

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