May 25, 2010

Perhaps They Should Have Tested More - Zappos/

Last Friday,, the sister site of Zappos, messed up the coding of business rules in their pricing engine, resulting in undercharging customers to the tune of approximately $1.6 Million.
  • a few symbols missed
  • a mistake in the pricing engine capped everything on the site at $49.95
  • company has honored customer purchases
  • took a loss of over $1.6 million 
  • nobody fired
  • CEO Tweets "I guess that means no ice cream for me tonight"
  • last July, Zappos was purchased by Amazon for a bit more than $49.95
From Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos:
"We have a pricing engine that runs and sets prices according to the rules it is given by business owners. Unfortunately, the way to input new rules into the current version of our pricing engine requires near-programmer skills to manipulate, and a few symbols were missed in the coding of a new rule, which resulted in items that were sold exclusively on to have a maximum price of $49.95. (Items that are sold on both and were not affected.)
We already had planned on improving our internal pricing engine so that it will have a much easier-to-use interface for our business owners. We are also planning on adding additional checks and balances to hopefully prevent this type of thing from happening again.
To those of you asking if anybody was fired, the answer is no, nobody was fired - this was a learning experience for all of us."
It's nice that Zappos honored the low prices.  
It's nice that nobody was fired.  
It's nice that they are planning additional checks and balances.

Perhaps next time, they'll test more?


I'm Joe Strazzere and I'm currently a Director of Quality Assurance.
I like to lead, to test, and occasionally to write about leading and testing.


  1. I rather suspect that they will test more, but I'm very impressed by the response.

    - The CEO recognizes, so it seems, that he (not some programmer, not some project manager) is responsible for a loss of $1.6 million.

    - The CEO recognizes that this was a learning experience, rather than an opportunity to lay blame.

    - The CEO recognizes that his company, and not the business user, is responsible for the error due to the opacity of the soon-to-be-changed interface.

    To me, these are all pieces of good news: a company behaving ethically and responsibly.

    ---Michael B.

  2. Michael - I agree. I suspect most companies would not have responded so responsibly to such am error.