The winter season, marked by warm fire places and over sized blankets that shield us from cold, snowy weather, holds a very special, very festive time of the year. Christmas time, where you dedicate the days to family and relaxation, where you overeat to the point of comfortable obesity. Christmas time where the faint glow of fairy lights create mesmerizing patterns on your walls and ornaments lazily rotate on pine trees. Regular life, for a few days, seems to come to a stand still. Until you realize you forgot to purchase a present for your brother, sister, mother, well, your entire family. You start feeling the pressures of last minute shopping in stores that resemble a post apocalyptic future with empty, messy shelves granting glimpses into the frenzy that took place days before.
Amidst the rush, you feel disoriented, lost, until you remember the beauty of online shopping. You log onto Amazon, your favourite online vendor, and are suddenly granted with a surprise like none other. All the prices have dropped to £0.01. You order five hundred cellphones, fifty flatscreens and everything you might ever need or want in quantities unheard of, taking advantage of what must be a Christmas miracle. However, on the other side of your enthusiastic spree, small businesses and online vendors are incurring losses in the tens of thousands thanks to a truly devastating software glitch just in time for the most consumer oriented season of the year. In the past on History’s Biggest Software Fails, we’ve taken a look at software glitches that have had huge financial repercussions. Today, we look at a similar bug that caused nearly immeasurable losses that, to this date, are still unresolved.
In December 2014, approximately ten days before Christmas, several prices on the extremely popular shopping portal Amazon, dropped to 1 pence. At the root of the problem lies a piece of third-party software offered by Repricer Express, which is designed to ensure your products are the cheapest on the market through dynamic pricing. Unfortunately, due to a truly devastating glitch, online vendors noticed that for one hour all their items dropped to 1p. Savvy shoppers had a field day ordering items in bulk at the impossibly low rates and tweeting their finds. To top it all off, thanks to Amazon’s automatic distribution and warehousing services, many items were already sent before vendors were able to recall the orders. The result was truly disastrous as some small businesses incurred loses of up to £100,000 and faced bankruptcy.
Amazon scrambled to recall whatever orders it could, but for some businesses the effects were irreversible as the online mogul stated it would be unable to reimburse shipments already made or items that were already charged. The fact that the glitch was caused by third party software also alleviated Amazon of any liability. Repricer Express, the company who’s software was the culprit, while having issued an apology, also has currently refused to pay for the disruption. The result has been retailers looking to seek legal action as they attempt to cover the intense amount of losses faced due to what could be one of the most serious software glitches to date.
The consequences from software bugs can be devastating as we’ve seen time and time again on History’s Biggest Software Fails. Proper testing, both for usability and functionality issues, can be the difference between a long and fruitful experience and complete failure for those operating in the world of technology. This Christmas, alongside the presents, the parties and the food, invest some time and resources into software testing and safeguard your future from potentially life changing bugs.