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Australia Businesses Christmas Cheer IT

Australian Dept. Store Chain's Website Crashes and Can't Get Back Up 156

Posted by timothy
from the work-calmly-and-rationally-instead dept.
McGruber writes "Myer, Australia's largest department store chain, has closed its website 'until further notice' at the height of the post-Christmas (and Australian summer) sales season. The website crashed on Christmas Day and has been down ever since. This means Myer will see no benefit for those days from booming domestic online sales, which were tipped to hit $344 million across the retail sector on Boxing Day alone. Teams from IBM and Myer's information technology division were 'working furiously' to fix the problem."
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Australian Dept. Store Chain's Website Crashes and Can't Get Back Up

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  • Cost center only? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whoever57 (658626) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @01:56AM (#45803351) Journal

    Another company that sees its IT department as a cost center only and not a part of the company responsible for bringing in revenue?

    Now, perhaps, its management will have another thought about that, but probably not -- probably they are thinking about assigning blame and who should get fired.

    • by SumDog (466607)

      Most retails outlets have freezes on any production changes from after Thanksgiving until at least January. More likely it's either a load issue or DoS

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 28, 2013 @02:52AM (#45803543)

        What the bloody hell is thanksgiving mate?

        • by jonbryce (703250)

          It is a feast we have in our local church on the last Sunday in September to thank God for the harvest.

          • by tomhath (637240)
            September? [youtube.com]
      • Re:Cost center only? (Score:5, Informative)

        by whoever57 (658626) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @03:06AM (#45803573) Journal

        Most retails outlets have freezes on any production changes from after Thanksgiving until at least January

        As others have pointed out, Thanksgiving isn't really "a thing" in Australia, however, taking your premise that changes should not be made in the run-up to Christmas, Myer doesn't seem to have followed your suggestion. Myer changed their externally facing hosting technologies on November 27. [netcraft.com]

      • by Dabido (802599)

        We don't have Thanksgiving in Australia, but you are correct that most IT departments (whether in retail or not) put a freeze on changes over the Xmas period. Companies I work for usually had them start the week (or week before) of Xmas (i.e., if Xmas falls on a Wednesday, then the Monday before, 23rd is when the moratorium on changes happen). Depending on the company, the freeze will usually run for two or four weeks. (To get past January 1st). Mainly as it is also when summer holidays occur, and most

    • It hurts how relevant this cynicism is to corporate america. Having had the...um..."pleasure", of working for several stores ( grocery, retail and a few specialty. Best not to ask ), large and small, IT is treated with, at best, neglect. Usually, however, it's more along the lines of resentment. Like they feel pressured to allocate budget money to IT that they feel might be better put towards anything else, but since everyone else is doing it they feel like they should too.

      And it shows.

      • I briefly worked for a small grocery chain a few years ago in Bellingham, WA. IT personnel were of a much lower caste. Never mind that the whole operation would have almost immediately ceased to function if the technology folks took a walk en masse. Grocery operations culture placed a very large value on antiquated rituals, rather than useful new industry approaches. I recall how the clueless CEO and his direct reports would gather every few days in the BIG MEETING ROOM to strategize about next week's
    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      Another company that sees its IT department as a cost center only and not a part of the company responsible for bringing in revenue?

      Now, perhaps, its management will have another thought about that, but probably not -- probably they are thinking about assigning blame and who should get fired.

      No probably they are thinking that online sales makes up a tiny pittance of in store boxing day sales.

      For us boxing day is like your black friday sales except with far less computer and online stuff moving.

    • Re:Cost center only? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mjwx (966435) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @06:09AM (#45804093)

      Another company that sees its IT department as a cost center only and not a part of the company responsible for bringing in revenue?

      Now, perhaps, its management will have another thought about that, but probably not -- probably they are thinking about assigning blame and who should get fired.

      I have no doubt Coles/Myer do that but the problem is far, far worse.

      Coles/Myer deliberately dont want Australians shopping online, not just at Myer but anywhere online because products are so ridiculously overpriced in Australian retail stores it's not funny. You're looking at paying 50-250% more just by purchasing the product in Australia rather than from an overseas vendor or even an Australian vendor that practices drop shipping [wikipedia.org] who pays Australian wages and taxes (so there goes the wages and taxes arguments).

      Retailers and distributors deliberately keep prices high because historically Australians have never had a choice. Then along came the internet with overseas shipping and all of a sudden revenue dropped. The golden cow they've milked to a husk finally stopped giving milk. Now the old box retailers like Coles/Myer are upset about it. They've been doing everything from trying to raise a tax on overseas sales to suing dropshippers, pretty much everything except competing in an attempt to go back to the glory days when Australians had no choice but to suck up their stupidly high prices.

      So it's less incompetence on Myer's planning part and more a complete failure in Coles/Myer's business model.

      • by dbIII (701233) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @07:20AM (#45804347)
        How high you ask? Example - Scarpa hiking boots - $125US online from Italy (where they are made) or the USA. "On special" in Australia for $450US, normal price most likely higher. That's why we shop online.
        • But what do you then pay for shipping to Australia? I know to ship a book (1 lb) from the US to the UK generally costs about $50 each way.
          • by mjwx (966435)

            But what do you then pay for shipping to Australia? I know to ship a book (1 lb) from the US to the UK generally costs about $50 each way.

            Sorry but you seem to be getting ripped on shipping. To ship 1 KG from the US to Australia via the slow post is about A$20. Shipping is cheap compared to buying locally here in Australia. I regularly get books shipped from the Book Depository (UK) for half the price of buying them here in Oz. It costs me about A$10 per book from the UK compared to buying it here online for A$20. Shipping included as buying the same book from a brick and mortar store is A$25.

            Express post from the US costs a bit though. Bu

          • by thegarbz (1787294)

            The most I've ever paid for shipping was $55 and that was couriered, arrived on the wrong day with the wrong paperwork and got held up with the tax department and as such incurred a $20 "processing" fee.

            Most shipping charges are $35 from the US or Europe to Australia. Most shipping charges are $free-$20 from Asia.

            It's interesting to note that shipping charges depend on the country doing the shipping. There's no way I could ship something to the USA for the same cost as shipping something from the USA to her

          • by dbIII (701233)
            Lots. But less than $325 :)
    • They are doing the needful! I'm sure stack overflow is full of "Sir, how do I start IIS? I'm getting error like password incorrect. Please to be telling me password".

  • by toygeek (473120) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @02:00AM (#45803367) Homepage Journal

    And I can't get up!

  • They should check the free drive space. Bam -- that one's on the house. You're welcome.

  • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot@worfMOSCOW.net minus city> on Saturday December 28, 2013 @02:10AM (#45803403)

    Just so everyone gets the scale of the issue - Boxing Day sales are a Commonwealth tradition - started in the UK, but most countries do observe them (including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and others).

    It's really the Commonwealth equivalent of Black Friday - including the traditions of sales starting the day before the event (Thanksgiving for Black Friday, Christmas for Boxing Day). It's a huge spike of traffic for most sites - I know even as little as 5 years ago - sites going down around 9PM PST were common (given most sales started at midnight) - 8:59 and the site was fine, once the clock ticked over, the sites fell over.

    These days the sites do often slow down, but they stay up as many sites now employ mitigation techniques including queuing transactions to avoid overloading the SSL payment backends (they call it the checkout queue).

    Of course, that was years ago, there's almost no reason why in 2013 the site should go down, nevermind going down permanently. Of course, perhaps the biggest reason is they were hacked - the best time to hack is during heavy times where systems fall over in unpredictable ways that may expose information to get at the juicy data as well as hiding in plain sight. There's really no other reason why a site would be taken down - heavy traffic is easily anticipated (It's not like you don't know when Christmas is) and accommodated.

    I bet that's what really happened - they got hacked. Better to say "too much traffic!" and show incompetence that way than to show incompetence in handling customer information...

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      In the States, Boxing Day traditions are very different: What we do is go up to some random stranger and punch them in the face!

  • They mentioned "teams from IBM" .... this wasn't a V7000 Unified that died on the backend, was it? :)

  • by frovingslosh (582462) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @02:13AM (#45803417)
    ... I think I see the problem.
  • I am sure they are happier with customers coming to their stores.

    • by jonwil (467024)

      If the amount of traffic passing through the stores I visited today is any indication, I dont know if anyone is saying "The MYER website is down, I will go to MYER and buy it", they are probably saying "The MYER website is down, who else online can sell me one" :)

      • I suspect a lot of the myer online traffic was window shoppers and people comparing prices. Makes me wonder if myer shut it down to pull bodies into their stores and create more sales.

  • It's working perfectly. If it's not, it's just a 'glitch'.

    It'll be working fine in an hour, or a year from now, but if it isn't, use this toll-free number.

  • by Required Snark (1702878) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @02:48AM (#45803523)
    So here's a going commercial entity, clearly not a government, and they have had a huge website failure at a critical time. So let's apply the same "logic" that has been used to slam Obamacare and the Healthcare.gov website.

    1. Meyer's is doomed. It's imploding and will fail.

    2. They should have never tried to do have a post Christmas online sale in the first place. It was always going to fail.

    3. The website failure is 100% conclusive evidence that post Christmas online sales are wrong.

    4. The people who came up with the idea are evil and want to destroy their customers, but the website failure saved people from ruin. Now they need to heed the warning and make sure that Meyers fails to protect themselves in the future.

    5. Even thought other commercial websites are working (just like some state run healthcare sites) all post Christmas web sites are just as intrinsically evil and bad for users and they should all be dismantled before they ruin everything.

    All these, and all the other criticisms of Healthcare.gov, all sound really crazy when applied to this similar situation, don't they? This might be a clue that this kind of hysterical reaction is equally foolish when applied to the Healthcare.gov rollout problems.

    Note how much hysterical reaction this receives and you can see the full process unfolds in miniature.

    • by tlambert (566799) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @04:06AM (#45803747)

      So here's a going commercial entity, clearly not a government, and they have had a huge website failure at a critical time. So let's apply the same "logic" that has been used to slam Obamacare and the Healthcare.gov website.

      ...

      All these, and all the other criticisms of Healthcare.gov, all sound really crazy when applied to this similar situation, don't they? This might be a clue that this kind of hysterical reaction is equally foolish when applied to the Healthcare.gov rollout problems.

      Unless you add a "6: Picked the wrong contractor for other than technical reasons".

      Then the situations are pretty much identical.

      • Care to present any citation other than Fox News or other RWNJ outlet that there was any actual corruption involved, rather than just a random association of someone who'd gone to school with someone else? Thought not.... You guys are rich.
        • by tlambert (566799)

          Care to present any citation other than Fox News or other RWNJ outlet that there was any actual corruption involved, rather than just a random association of someone who'd gone to school with someone else? Thought not....

          You guys are rich.

          Why is corruption required to make a bad decision? Who said anything about corruption, other than you? Stupid doesn't require a conspiracy.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      No, you misunderstand. The Myers website was created by a private, for profit company. Therefore it is flawless and was created using the most efficient development and management methods ever developed by modern man. If it failed, it was probably due to unions, or perhaps government meddling.

    • Meyers

      With a mistake like that how do we know you are not Lion :)

      They should have never tried to do have a post Christmas online sale in the first place

      Why are you bothering to post when you clearly know so little about the issue? It would be like me telling you that sales around Thanksgiving are a bad idea. This is the local version of your "Black Friday" sale and the entire retail industry here is doing it.

      Please find out SOMETHING about the topic at hand before you try to use it to push your own barro

    • by tomhath (637240)
      Both failures probably have the same root cause. Software development running behind schedule, a deadline looming that management wouldn't/couldn't move. So run it up the flagpole and hope the failure isn't too spectacular. Then make excuses and claim it isn't really as bad as it appears.
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by ScentCone (795499)

      All these, and all the other criticisms of Healthcare.gov, all sound really crazy when applied to this similar situation, don't they? This might be a clue that this kind of hysterical reaction is equally foolish when applied to the Healthcare.gov rollout problems.

      Straw man.

      The hysterical reaction to the ACA relates to the fact that millions of people are losing their health insurance, and only some can afford to purchase the newly mandated services with the sky-high new costs. The fact that some of the people that are willing to try buying such coverage are having trouble using the federal exchange web site, or some of the truly broken state exchange sites doesn't change the main and most significant underlying complaint: the law itself is spectacularly flawed a

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Straw man.

        You're only noting what was entirely evident from the nature of the post? It's deliberately reflecting the absurd arguments presented about healthcare.gov.

        The hysterical reaction to the ACA relates to the fact that millions of people are losing their health insurance, and only some can afford to purchase the newly mandated services with the sky-high new costs.

        No, it doesn't. The hysterical reaction to the ACA is rooted in a lot of different things, and only uses "facts" as a matter of convenience, switching them as desired, and not even bothering to verify them, let alone examine them in detail.

        The fact that some of the people that are willing to try buying such coverage are having trouble using the federal exchange web site, or some of the truly broken state exchange sites doesn't change the main and most significant underlying complaint: the law itself is spectacularly flawed and results in deep financial distress for the same millions of people whether or not the web site was behaving in a useful way.

        Yeah, if only we put them on Medicaid, or otherwise had state-sponsored socialized medicine. Oh wait, both of tho

        • by ScentCone (795499)

          Yeah, if only we put them on Medicaid, or otherwise had state-sponsored socialized medicine.

          I'm not poor enough to be given someone else's money to visit the podiatrist over a sore toenail. We're not talking about people who are gobbling up all that new medicaid spending. We're talking about basic middle class people.

          See the paucity of details in your claims?

          What? Those are exactly, specifically details. We used to pay just under $350 a month, and now we're going to be paying about $1,100 a month. We used to have a $1,500 x 2 deductible, for $3,000 a year, and it's now jumping to $12,700. The only plans available no longer cover the doc

        • by ScentCone (795499)
          Yeah, I thought so.
      • As someone who appears to trying to indirectly cheer on the ACA, please explain to me how the fact that my premiums have nearly tripled, my deductible has more than quadrupled, two of my local hospitals are now off limits, and that I've lost the services of my doctor is a good thing?

        Now you have a really good reason to stay healthy?

  • I wonder what kind of Xmas Bonuses the IT team can expect
  • Down, down (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    websites are down :P

  • A bit of context ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rip!ey (599235) on Saturday December 28, 2013 @03:05AM (#45803569)
    A little bit of context might help here.

    Myer's is a "Bricks and Mortar" store in Australia, with stores in every major city and shopping center. Like most "Bricks and Mortar" stores here, they resisted the growing online shopping phenomenon for far too long. They are the direct opposite to the likes of Amazon.

    You can add to this the massive increase in savings rates here over the last few years as a result of the world-wide debt crisis, where Australians in general tightened their belts and stopped spending. It got to the point where if something wasn't "on sale" it simply wouldn't sell at all. The stores that have done well regardless are the low margin high turn-over stores. This is not Myers.

    But while Australians might have tightened their belts, there is one time of the year where they will spend more freely. Christmas. This is the big reason that boxing day sales have become huge here. It's really just taking advantage of the herds spending mentality at that time of year. And this year, finally, the belts are starting to loosen more than they have been for a few years now.

    So you have this convergence of factors, where Australians are finally loosening their belts, at the time of year where they traditionally spend more freely, with a "Bricks and Mortar" store that is late to the party, and an internet sales portal that has never actually been properly stress tested.

    It could be a hack, but I kind of doubt it.
  • www.myer.com.au says it is running: Microsoft-IIS/7.5

    Page Title: MYER

    Additionally, it mentioned the following:
    Accept-Ranges : bytes;
    Content-Length : 12726;
    Content-Type : text/html;
    Date : Sat, 28 Dec 2013 07:53:26 GMT;
    ETag : "054e9c0693cf1:0";
    Last-Modified : Sat, 28 Dec 2013 01:11:36 GMT;
    X-Powered-By : ASP.NET

  • In An interview with Myers CEO, he said a small percentage of their sales are online, so they will not miss too much.

    • by tomhath (637240)

      he said a small percentage of their sales are online

      Well, yea. Their web site is down.

  • turning it off and on again?
  • by nut (19435)

    Someone's job is on the line.

    • by cusco (717999)

      Unfortunately it will almost certainly NOT be the jobs of the executives that are at risk, most likely the heads that will fall are those of the IT guys who tried to tell them that the site wasn't ready.

  • ... put up a Yahoo Store (or something similar), in the meantime.

    Get a subset of your products out there, at least. Use a CMS and eBay to check out. Whatever it takes! Get something out there.

    Make it clear that this is a stop gap measure, pardon our dust, whatever. But c'mon. People who sell scrapbooking supplies out of their basement are selling them online. You can at least get the functionality out there while you fix or build something for your real offering.

  • It was already broken before Christmas, I happened to go on their site the day before and even a simple search failed, category pages didn't load in a timely way and things were just visibly bad... As they have been for so long. Months ago we had a click-frenzy promotion, an attempt to have an Australian black-Friday situation and a number of web sites failed in the deluge of visitors, including at that time.. Myer.
    This is a systemic problem and as a web tester I have a fair idea what is going on. The syste

  • Usually when a system problem becomes a long playing catastrophe it is because there is either no backup or the backup is not restorable. ---------------- Steve Stites
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