by Diann Daniel, Kim S. Nash, Thomas Wailgum

How IT Failures Wreck Holidays, Special Occasions for Many Companies

Nov 16, 20074 mins
BPM Systems

Untested information systems. Unforeseen spikes in demand. A combination of both, and more. Trouble comes in many shapes when companies' computers crash, or information systems fail nto meet customers' expectations. A timeline of recent events.

Hershey’s famous Halloween 1999 ERP stumble is just one of many technology problems that have damaged sales during crunch times.


E-Commerce and Supply Chain Systems Gird for Black Friday

Online Shopping: How to Get the Impulse Purchase

The High-Stakes Search for Supply Chain Excellence During the Holiday Rush

Is Your Website Ready for the Holiday Traffic?

Business Intelligence: A Must for Winning the Holiday Shopping Wars

Hershey couldn’t process candy orders when a new order-taking and distribution system—built on software from SAP, Siebel and Manugistics&mash;went bad. Hershey sales dropped $150 million that quarter.

Here’s a look at other expensive failures:

November 2007: Everyone Wants Olympic Tickets

Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games ditches online ticket sales after a crush of eager buyers crashes the ticketing system. During the first hour, the site received more than 8 million page views with visitors filing more than 200,000 ticket requests per minute. The system, however, couldn’t go the distance. It was built to handle 1 million visits per hour and 150,000 ticket requests per minute.

Valentines Day 2007: The Ice Storm and JetBlue

An ice storm on Valentine’s Day this year causes JetBlue to cancel 1,100 flights over six days, costing the airline $30 million and a chunk of its reputation for good customer service. Hundreds of hearts were breaking as people were stranded inside idle planes on the tarmac for hours as JetBlue’s customer service systems bogged down. The company discussed its problems openly, but no one was showing JetBlue any love after that.

2006: No Games, No Fun for Nintendo, Sony

Nintendo runs out of Wiis just in time for holiday shopping. Six hundred thousand game boxes were sold in the first eight days of release, and Wii-related revenue from games and accessories had hit $190 million by the end of November. But news reports noted that supply shortages left many shoppers unsatisfied, twiddling their unoccupied thumbs.

Sony, meanwhile, runs out of PlayStation 3 consoles due to manufacturing and supply chain problems. Four hundred thousand units were expected to hit U.S. shores in time for the holidays; only an estimated 125,000 to 175,000 arrived, forcing Sony to say sayonara to sales.

Thanksgiving 2006: (Un)Smiley Faces for Shoppers

On the day after Thanksgiving, experiences a few hours of glitches that result in blank and slow-loading pages being served to would-be website shoppers, MSNBC reports. This, after Wal-Mart had launched launched a redesigned site the month before, as noted by CNN. The company blames unexpectedly high traffic, and at one point, the site simply told visitors to come back later.

2004: Bare Cupboards at the Supermarket

U.K. supermarket chain Sainsbury’s blames a botched supply chain overhaul for stocking problems that leave shelves bare of groceries. It renegotiates its contract with Accenture, which it had hired to help with the project, and reports its first-ever quarterly loss. No bangers and mash for Sainsbury’s execs that day.

Christmas Eve 2004: Comair’s Holiday Failure

US Airways and Comair mess with the flight plans of a combined 824,000 passengers over the December holidays, when weather delays cancel thousands of flights. US Airways suffers staffing shortages, and on Christmas Eve, Comair’s computer systems fail to properly schedule flight crews, a U.S. Department of Transportation audit later finds. “Comair could not pinpoint a reason for the computer crash,” CNN reported, “and could not say why there was no backup system.” But really, who couldn’t use a little more time at an airport during the holiday season?

2000 Holiday Season: E-Commerce Host That Didn’t, Shopping Sites Go Dark

A December hardware failure crashes Nexchange, an early e-commerce hosting company, for one day during the holiday shopping period, taking down such sites as and Nexchange has since become an e-commerce consultancy. No, really. and sites go down in late November, frustrating visitors who, intermittently, can’t access the sites or have to wait forever to pay for their items. Just like in the real world.

1999: Victoria’s Not So Super Fashion Show

Victoria’s Secret’s much-hyped first-ever online fashion show falls flat when 1.5 million visitors overwhelm the lingerie company’s servers.