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The Almighty Buck

Study Says 25% of Online Transactions Go Wrong 124

TheKodiak writes "According to this article in the Dallas Morning News, a study by Andersen Consulting, one fourth of all online transactions fail..." The story's a little vague; at one point it claims 25% of all online purchases have some sort of problem, at another it says, "More than 25 percent of the [tested] sites were blocked, crashed during the transaction or under construction." Maybe it's best that you read and intepret this for yourself. It left me puzzled.
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Server Problems Kill 25% of OnlStudy Says 25% of Online Transactions GoWrong wrong

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  • AFAICS Technical problems aren't the main part, but rather problems with the delivery, etc.. so 25% may be a little high.. the shops from which they bought aren't listed either, so you can't use that as a measurement...



  • It looked to me like they were counting the broken sites on the list of screwed up transactions. Personally, i only count it as fucked if they bill me too much, or too little, or send me the wrong item, or no item at all...that sort of thing.

    Just my take.

    Damn first posters. read the freakin' article. *sigh*
    -Andy Martin
  • Most of the problems listed in the article have NOTHING to do with the websites, but mostly with the delivery; things being smashed, late, etc.

    As for things being late...wouldn't that be EXPECTED around the holidays? Even Xmas cards can take weeks!

    It will be interesting to see which sites were "tested" and exactly what problems if they counted user problems, like information not being correctly entered

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why was the sample size so low?

    Over how many weeks did they check each site?

    Did they exclude error factors like their own LAN?

    I think AC just wanted those results for some purpose and just made the study to make them.
    No doubt a few .com companies are struggling with poor design and reliability, but this study probably doesn't prove it.

  • I've been doing online purchasing since 1997 and had about a 75% success rate. The problems ranged from getting the wrong product shipped torunning out of stock. The understocking was unique to their web site because they didn't update the database.
  • If anybody remembers, one of the leading advocates of Internet taxation is none other than Dallas's own Mayor Ron Kirk. I wonder if there is any connection to this article's production and good ole Ron himself.
  • I'd say most of the problems these sites are having are because the owners simply weren't prepared for the onslaught of the buying season.

    The surveyors particularly said that Amazon had a good business model that should be emulated. Now, while this is likely to flood the courts with more patent disputes, this just means that Amazon has more experience with the heavy customer load of Christmas

    "The answer is it may not be better to go to the Web . . . yet."
    The yet is the important part. E-commerce is still new, and the bugs are being worked out.

    I only take a drink on two occasions - when I'm thirsty and when I'm not.
  • It will be interesting to see which sites were "tested" and exactly what problems occured...

    Yeah, no kidding. Another post says the whole study being bogus, but I wouldn't go that far. It does sound a little hastily done tho...

    I only take a drink on two occasions - when I'm thirsty and when I'm not.
  • that's probably the cause of most of the delays; lousy stock DBs...

    I only take a drink on two occasions - when I'm thirsty and when I'm not.
  • by Dr. Tom ( 23206 ) <> on Tuesday December 21, 1999 @10:38PM (#1454018) Homepage

    The real problem with online shopping is all the middlemen that have inserted themselves into the clickstream between buyer and vendor to skim the top off e-commerce. Claiming to provide valuable services for the vendors, such as demographics, fancy web design, and first choice on the broker-owned portal search engine (for an extra fee), all they really provide is poor quality web forms, out of date listings, and lost orders.

    I as a client don't need any of the services they are providing to the vendor. In fact, I may even object to the fact that they are collecting demographics and I certainly object to the way that various portals reorder their search results according to the vendors they have on special that day (AltaVista and Yahoo are both guilty here -- I use only Google now).

    I don't live in the US, and I have been faced with stupid web forms put up by these para-sites that let you choose any country from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, and then require a State and 5 digit zip code (postal codes in Japan are 7 digits, and there are no States) or they'll refuse to process your order (* required field).

    These sites are often out of date. This has bitten me twice this year, once severely (a hotel refused to honor a reservation because the price on the agent's web page was out of date). And I had a toy company email me 3 days after I submitted a form to tell me they were out of stock.

    Another hotel never got my reservation (the agent was supposed to FAX it to them!).

    I have no sympathy for vendors that can't write their own web pages. Only a year or two ago, before all these portal sites crawled out of the ether, buying on-line was just like the normal mail-order catalog model of buying. Now it's a maze of bad code and bad service, and I for one now refuse to shop at any company that can't take the time to update their own web pages, and I don't use portal sites that get paid to order their search results.

  • It's Christmas, so there is no news, so the Journos need to make some. On top of that this it the first really 'E-ed up' Christmas for most people, so a good scare story is bound to get the hits in.

    From my perspective as a purchaser, the hit rate, whilst not 100%, is not low enough to stop me buying online, and is certainly not 25%.

    From my perspective working for a financial organization doing E-Commerce, the failure rate I see is very small fraction of the figure quoted.

  • I've been buying stuff online for the past few years. I've ordered over 70 DVD movies (from, and not one screw up. I've ordered from (notice the past tense...bastards), with no problems ever......cdnow no problems.....I've even ordered from shady looking places without any screw-ups. Only once, about a year ago, I ordered a wall scroll from anime nation and they sent the wrong one, I emailed them, and they sent the right one and let me keep the other one as well! Have I just been lucky? Or are these people just going to the wrong sites. I don't count server errors as a screw up, because then the order is not really placed, and it's not always their fault. that's my 2 cents.


  • Out of the 600$ I have spent so far in online purchases, the only one that went wrong was a 15$ Bjork import CD from a few months ago. It was undeliverable because they couldn't acquire the import from Sweden. Doh! If that is part of the 25% that go bad then it's a bit understandable I guess.
  • You're onto their secret plot! Get out while you can, man! The black helicopters will be there soon! Run! Run! I'll do what i can, but i can't hold off Branch L forever! You have maybe 36 hours to leave the country and change your name!
    -Andy Martin
  • Do I think this study was scientific or even minimally documented? NO.

    Having said that, I think it raises a point that the above post might be missing. It doesn't matter if the problem is the web site, or the web server, or the delivery service, or the guy that drives the forklift, the point is that things aren't working perfectly every time. Tech people are used to networks going down and hard drives crashing. Normal people who don't wear black plastic watches like to turn on their washing machines and have them work EVERY time exactly like they were expecting. Until every part of the ordering/ delivery process is completely seamless, it needs work. And I think the bottom line of the article is that there is a lot of work to be done in a lot of areas before e-commerce is really where it needs to be.

    One thing that I found funny about the article was when they said that other online retailers should take a cue from Don't take too much of a cue, like one click ordering, or they'll sue the pants off you.

  • by Rilke ( 12096 ) on Tuesday December 21, 1999 @11:01PM (#1454026)
    Read this one carefully. The headline states that 25% of online transactions go bad, but the study doesn't show anything like that. The study shows that if you take 100 eCommerce sites (at random?), you'll have problems with a lot of them.

    No surprise there, but 80-90% of online transactions probably occur at the top 50 or so sites right now. The fact that some random retailer's site still says "Under construction" doesn't mean that lots of people are getting failed transactions, it means that their online dollar is going elsewhere until that vendor get its act together.

    They're ignoring delivery issues, so it looks like the main thing they're pointing out is that lots of retail outlets don't really have professional web sites yet. This is news?

    Order a book from fatbrain. Now try to order a book from Did one fail? Does that mean that 50% of online transactions fail?

    Personally, the fact that ridiculously conceived studies like this actually make news really annoys me.
  • I think the big problem here is that with the exception of people who grew up using the web, this Christmas is the first time a lot of people will have used online shopping. I imagine that they have a pre-conceived idea of what the service will be like: Point - Click - Package arrives next day. We all know that this isn't really feasible.

    These are probably people who don't buy using mail order either, and forget that just because it's online shopping doesn't mean that there's no courier or postal service involved. I bet that a lot of the problems caused with delayed deliveries this time of year are down to overloaded postal systems.

    Personally, I ordered a product from a UK site on Saturday evening at 6pm. I never really expected it to arrive before Xmas but it was with me on Tuesday morning. Online shopping can work - people just need to be educated in what to expect from it.
  • I wonder what the statistics are for goods and services ordered by telephone?

    Many of the same things can go wrong with the orders there and yet I'd bet that nobody would think to somehow "blame" the telephone. Because there is a computer involved this becomes news.

    I personally have ordered many goods and services over the internet both from the UK where I live and the USA and have never had any serious problems at all. On a related topic I use a new internet bank and I have had a few problems with their systems. When I've contacted them they have all been sorted out efficiently though. The real issue is how many online 'transactions' fail and can't easily be resolved.

  • in order on the part of the consumer. We all know going to the mall this week is paramount to suicide. Why would ordering things via the internet be any different? Do consumers -really- expect to be able to get their CoolNewToy via USPS Next Day Air?

    Sure, a few problems crop up during the order process, but any store that's got its act together will tell you -at order time- that there's a problem. At the -very- least, I've seen them send out one of those confirmation emails that say 'We're out of stock, sorry!' or somesuch.

    Just my opinion, but people that order things (even if they're listed as 'in stock') anytime this week, and expect to get it, need to be cleansed from the gene pool.

    I want a rock.
  • by Rupert Curwen ( 56821 ) on Tuesday December 21, 1999 @11:17PM (#1454030) Homepage
    My friend at Anderson Consulting makes money for his employers setting up internet shopping sites. I think this might just be a well crafted piece of marketing. I do not reflect on the accuracy of the study, merely the conclusions drawn.

  • I've so far ordered about six times from Amazon with a total of about 10-15 books. No screw ups. I get the email notification when the item(s) ship. They almost always come the day they say they will. I can track the books as they cross the country. They've given me two or three 10 dollar coupons for their game section. All of the books I've got are the ones I ordered.

    BTW. I absolutly love the People Who Bought This Book Also Bought and People Who Bought This Book Also Bought This Author on Amazon. In the spirit of Google search, literary democracy.

    Some of the local bookstores have been playing The Mombo Kings when I shop. All I can say is think "Cleaning Woman" from Deadmen Don't Wear Plaid...

    Todd Stewart
  • No. The story has nothing to do with Dallas, it's an Andersen study after all, and the original byline is New York.

    Now it could be that Dallas is playing it up a bit because of their mayor (probably true, since it's not much of a study), but that's another thing.
  • I didn't spend the time to read the article but I can say that, for me, over 25% of online transactions have gone wrong. Poor interface or poor software on the venders end usually seems to be the problem. The problems I'm speaking about are with accually getting the transaction submitted. For instance, after filling out the web forms and pressing the submit button, a page is returned filled with MS SQL server errors. If I can get the sytem to accept the transaction, I normally don't have any problems.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I orderd a Compaq computer on-line, er.. well tried. After fighting my way though a few Netscape crashes, Java errors and the overall klunkyness that one would expect from a "You need a frames-enabled browser!" site; I click on Submit, and get a "Document contains no data" back. I hit Reload and indeed my confirmation comes up, stating what I have ordered. Just to be on the safe side I even call up Compaq and confirm the order one more. They tell me it'll take 17 days to build the computer puls shiping time. Right-o. Anyhow, time passes, time passes, 1 month goes by.. I never get my computer. So I call up Compaq and ask when I can expect my computer to arrive. Apparently I had made a mistake in entering my Telno. causing the CC company to deny my order. The Compaq rep. then told me that they tried to call me (sic), but the line was disconnected. Clever of them to call a number that the CC company said was invalid and not even to send an Email. Perhaps Compaq had confused the "e" in eBusines for meaning "eventual" rather than "eletronic". Anyhow, I ended up canceling my order and just going to a local reseller instead.

    Apropos the big scuzzy about Amazon lately, this seemd to be a rather amusing remark:

    Andersen did not list any problem Web retailers, but the consulting company did highlight as a company that others should imitate.

  • What a coincidence! After pressing the submit button to submit the above comment, a page was returned with the Slashdot header but no other text. There was nothing that confirmed that my comment was accepted. Okay, the comment was accepted but at that point it appeared that the transaction had failed. I had no clue if I should click the back button and resubmit or what. The problem could have been with my Netscape browser or possibly a Slashdot glitch. Who knows but stuff like that is what contributes to my statement that, for me, something went wrong with over 25% of my transactions on the web. (BTW, I'm not complaining or anything. I'm just relating my experiences.)
  • I read the article and it seems like I still have no interest in taking part in mass online shopping wherein I am a miniscule part of the mass. My main comment that comes out of reading this is:

    What exactly is a gameboy computer game? There's gameboy and there's computers. I see no mutant gameboy-computer hybrid on the horizon or anywhere else, for that matter.

    I hope this doesn't spread, or my parents will start saying, "You spend too much time on that gameboy." That would just be annoying. So please, join me in writing the author of that article with a demand that she complete the sixth grade or higher before she continues to write her little news--oh, it's The Dallas Morning News. Nevermind about the whole letter thing then;

    they don't teach sixth grade in Dallas.

  • It's all Bcos once money's all paid online shops care the hell whether the stuff gets to the right door the right way (75 % !!) or not (25% ??). Some kinda arrangement gotta exist so that these shops do not get to cash the full price before the ordered stuff reaches safely. Also the OutaStok issue needs atten. Some current online count in server database need to exist so that the non-existant stuff does not get sold off.
  • Anyone else here ever ordered from
    I have an absolute 100% success rate.
    I hit the site, they deliver the goods within an hour, if they don't they come back with it! that simple! same thing with If you don't get it during delivery, you don't pay for it or they can bring it later on.

    Chances are the 25% number comes from Newbies and massive stores like Amazon and B&N and all.

    Anyone know where I can order Maudite or Chimay online? :)
  • I must say, this really makes me wonder, because I have been shopping online for more tha a year (I would guess that i have bought more than 25 items online) and I have NEVER had an experience where i received the wrong goods, or anything like this (thats not entirely true, i've had one incident, but the vendor was not to blame, the problems there were caused entirely by the shipping company, and in fact, the vendor was extremely fast to remedy the situation)
    And, I have bought not only from major vendors, but from all kinds, both in the US, UK, Germany, Denmark and the far east.
    So, all in all, no bad experiences for me, and a 100% succes ratio.
  • by Mawbid ( 3993 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @01:21AM (#1454042)
    When ordering from smaller sites, the most common problem reers its ugly head when I've filled in my name, street address, postal code, and if I'm unlucky, even my phone number and billing info. The problem? The problem is that the next item on the form is a drop-down menu labelled "state" and there's no "N/A" entry and there's no "country" field. These rednecks are running a website that is accessible to the entire world and because their minds can't reach farther that to the fence surrounding their back yard, they haven't realised that they are inviting the whole world to do business with them.

    I usually email them about this, and I usually get a reply saying "We know there's a world outside the U.S., honest! In fact, we know all about the Global Economy and will be shipping internationally in just x weeks!".

    But I wasn't complaining that they weren't prepared to do business with me. I was complaining that they didn't say so in bigass blinking neon letters at the top of the order form!

    Hopefully I've learned by now to check first, but sometimes that isn't even possible due to the way some sites split up their order forms.

    Another thing: Why does the typical order form have separate fields for "Address 1", "Address 2", "Address 3", "City", "State/Region", "ZIP/Postal Code", and "Country"? Why can't it just give me a text box labelled "mailing address"? The people who wrote the software that will feed this information to the printer have no idea how to format a mailing address in my country. My country doesn't have states, it is a state, and we don't divide it into regions. So what am I supposed to put in that field? I try to leave it empty, but often the scripts will complain and I'll have to put "N/A", which the scripts will proceed to print on my package between the city and country lines.

  • yeah yeah - with all the 'new media' outlets and the old media scrapping for market share of eyeballs they are really cranking up the bullcrap factor - just like the number of dead in Venezuala, just pick a number bigger than your competing network ("50,000 dead" - now that ought to sell papers and get the ratings back up, jeez) and hang onto your liability disclaimer ("this news report is for entertainment purposes only, we are not responsible for the accuracy of any content, we're just passing on whatever juicy gossip we hear").

    I've been making deals over the Internet for about 2 years and maybe I'm just careful but of all the eBay stuff (a Bandai FriskyTom! Gimme gimme!!) and cheapbyte CD's and about 10 books from Book Exchange [] and deal arranged on mailing lists - maybe *2* have gone wrong: one was an Error 404 on last xmas trying to buy a Lego Mindstorm (ok, so just drive the 5 miles to ToysR'us) and once a guys sent me the wrong signal generator - that's IT. I'm actually amazed at the integrity of the people I've delt with considering the opportunity for wire fraud.

  • I did about 90% of my christmas shopping online this year. From site to the obscure The only bad experience was when I ordered a book from then realized it was backordered. I had a little trouble canceling it, but nonetheless it was canceled by the next day. I didn't get a tracking number from all the vendors, but the ones I did get, the shipping companies gave pretty good timeframes for shipping. I really don't see where AC gets all their 'statistics' and after the cnn article and this back to back, I think we need to urge the media to be more responsible, if you don't understand it, don't try to report on it. Mabye they can all learn a little fron Jane's.
  • Yeah, I was thinking the same thing when I saw that. "Well, that accounts for the Windows users.."

    Moderators: what's up? The post was both ontopic and funny, not a troll. Looks like AC discrimination at work again.

  • I wonder how many of the sites that have problems use NT? Several weeks ago, I read an article about how ToysRus was having problems and had to limit the number of users on their site at any given time. Guess what OS....yep NT.

    Andersen comments:
    All you AC people out there (the newbiees that is). Your getting screwed. AC is charging you out at > $250/hour and you're getting shit. Don't buy into their "AC is family" bullshit and get out while the getting is good. AC will suck you dry.

    And to all the companies that are using AC....suckers you are getting screwed. Andersen misrepresents its consultants as experienced when the most experience they have is through training at the boot camp in St. Charles IL.
  • by stuart_farnan ( 75498 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @02:02AM (#1454047)
    I personally have worked with Anderson Consulting on several occassions, and I have to say that my experiences are not good.

    They somehow manage to get contracts in many fields, including technology, but are rarely skilled in those areas (even the people who work specifically in technology).

    Granted, they are normally smart people, but you can't commission people to do work on the premise that they will pick it up as they go along, they should know the stuff at the start, this is apparently why large corporations pay around $2000 a day for anything over a junior consultant.

    In a similar way, can we really listen to their reports on eCommerce? Surprising isn't it that 25% of transactions fail!? If I was sceptical I would say that this is very similar to the tried and tested Anderson trick of convincing people that something is wrong when it isn't really, and then also managing to persuade people to pay them to write a full report on the subject, and then pay them more to fix it. I myself buy all books online, electronic products, flights, etc and have never had a problem. Maybe Anderson thought that a representative sample might contain several sites run by 1 person out to make a quick buck, but then, do they really know any better?

    With all these problems in the world of eCommerce its refreshing to know that we have AC getting to the root of the problem - I bet they are just the people the fix it for us.
  • I guess the question everybody has is, what constitutes a transaction going wrong? Take, for example, my recent trip to to attempt to find a pair of slippers for my fiance. Found em. Ordered them, filled out all my information. Then was told "That item is not available." This only after I had filled out numerous very slow pages over my 28.8 modem line. I wasn't happy. Why couldn't it have told me that immediately, before requiring all that information from me? Would that be considered a transaction that went wrong? I will give it one point. What it said was: "That item is not available in size medium and color hunter", then below that, "That item is not available in any other size" and below that "That item is available in heather gray." What I don't like is the fact that I had to wait until the end to get that information instead of right up and the beginning, which would have been most efficient.

    Compare that to, say, Victoria's Secret where I was also shopping. When I selected the detail for items, not only did it say "This item will ship on XX date", if the item was out, it offered recommendations for similar items. I was quite impressed with that engine. Of course, after I ordered something I got a card in the mail saying "This item cannot be shipped on the expected date." D'oh. (But it still showed up!)

    I ordered something from thinkgeek once pretty much as it was being slashdotted. Right at the final click to submit my order the site seemed to go down. What to do, what to do? You never resubmit, everybody knows that. Don't wanna get charged twice! So, I let the first one stand and then emailed them the timestamp (roughly) and what I'd ordered as a way of alerting them to my dilemma. I didn't hear back via email, but my package did arrive within a few days (if anything, it was even earlier than I would have expected). So whatever they're doing over there, it's pretty robust in my eyes.


  • | One thing that I found funny about the article
    | was when they said that other online retailers
    | should take a cue from

    Interestingly enough, I was discussing Christmas shopping with someone over lunch. She'd mentioned that she was having problems with (guess who?) Amazon not shipping her order out on time. She's now going to a brick and mortar store to get the book.

    Guess Amazon is one of the 25% that are broken, not the 75% that work. :)
  • It seems to me that the real villan of this story is not Anderson Consulting but rather the reporter who gulped the story down like Gerber Sugarplum baby food and spit it up all over an unsuspecting public.

    ...and they call it news...

  • Last night I couldn't easily find the device I wanted at Hello Direct [], so I went to Radio Shack [].

    It might have been a failed transaction for Hello Direct, but I found what I needed. So it wasn't a failed purchase for me.

  • OK, this is just stupid. I'm a little touchy about these studies, because I build e-commerce networks for money. I also ordered all of my christmas presents and shipped them on-line this year, and constantly buy everything I can over the Internet.

    This Christmas season, I did all my shopping last week. All of my items were delivered, on time. I got confirmation e-mails when my order was processed, and when it was shipped. (Granted, with overnight shipping, some sites didn't inform me of shipping status until the product was already there, but I won't bitch about that.) Staples managed to send me 2 of an item I ordered, but took care of it in a prompt, professional manner.

    All of the web sites I ordered off of told me whether or not an item I was looking at was in stock. None of them didn't know what was in stock or took a week to find out what was in stock. Maybe that's the way it works on, but I experienced no such problems.

    Granted, there are glitches. I have been double-billed, both by catalogs and web sites. The only difference between the two is that on a web site, a polite email gets my card reimbursed, and I never have to wait on hold for someone.

    I have had items destroyed in shipping, (a copy of freeBSD, in fact) and a polite email was enough to insure that the replacement was delivered overnight.

    I have had items run out of stock. I knew the next day, and had no problem modifying my order.

    If that record, over 3 years of impulsive internet shopping, turns into a 25% failure rate, than Anderson counts differently than me. Anderson seems to forget that catalog orders and in-store purchases fail too ... in fact, I have bought more faulty hardware from a physical store than I have from online merchants. Previous posters are likely correct ... FUD for e-business managers, and a way to generate more consulting hours for Anderson.

  • i've made between 200-300 purchases online this year and the only one that went awry was my purchase of Solaris 8 [] from Sun [] / Modusmedia [].

    (i didn't appreciate having my CC info redirected from a secure link to an non-secure link)


    listen to WBER [] online
  • "More than 25 percent of the sites were blocked, crashed during the transaction or under construction."

    Did it ever occur to anyone that it seems like at least 25% of all web sites are under construction? If so then probably about 25% of all sites with e-commerce would be under construction and therefore qualify as having bad transactions.

    Also did the sites actually crash during the transaction? It seems much more likely that either the browser or OS crashed. (especially if they're running IE on Windoze)

  • "...sites that let you choose any country from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, and then require a State and 5 digit zip code ..."

    I hate when sites do this! I'm in the UK and my address hardly ever fits into the required format for a site that's so obviously been created in the US. I guess the problem here is that in order to get good delivery times, companies like to have Zip / Postal codes and complete addresses, but to find out the format for every country from A-Z would just be too much effort.

    I had a similar experience to your Fax episode. I placed an order at a site which I then had problems with. After checking it out, I found that the form simply sent an email to a person who filled in a paper order form using the details I supplied, and then posted it to another company for processing!!!
  • Did they exclude error factors like their own LAN?

    They did have some broad criteria for failure. I wonder what a similar study in brick-and-mortar would turn up. How many such transactions fail because you get there after closing time, they don't have the particular Furby you want, or the shopper gets a flat tire on the way to the mall?

  • Not only was this study not documented, neither was the article. We're reading 3rd hand information here.

    Regardless, there are plenty of problems with this study. I would say many of the problems they reported were problems with mail-order in general.

    Example: How is it different if I call in or click-in an order for dishes and they arrive broken? Mail-order business has been around for YEARS and has dealt with these problems repeatedly.

    Other problem with the study: You can't count a site that is under construction as "an online transaction gone wrong." It's just a site that isn't online yet....nobody is ordering from a site that isn't even there, so why is that a transaction gone wrong?

  • Depends on what you mean by problem. When I ordered CU-SeeMe from White Pine, when it first came out as a commercial product, the credit card system they were using broke, but the order was never received. I consider this a glitch, but hardly a problem, as nothing had to be "fixed" to remedy the transaction. No stray credit card numbers were floating around, and no money was lost in the system.

    Then, there was Fox Store's hiccup. They had all their Doctor Who and Blackadder videos marked at around $1.50 each, by accident. This is certainly a transaction gone wrong, from Fox' perspective, but hardly from mine. My perspective said that this was one of the best transactions I've ever done online!

    So, the question should be passed back to this study - from who's perspective? Without that, the study is meaningless, even if the figures have any validity in the first place.

  • Out of about 100 online puchases I have made only once there was a problem. The data I sent was submitted twice. Within an hour I had email from both the bank and the supplier asking if I indeed intended to order the report twice.
    I'd wager the real problem with the study was the luser sitting in front of the screen clicking madly on anything that might be a clickable target, especially "Reload" and "Stop"
  • Whew! Glad I work for Andersen Consulting, 'cuz those guys over at "Anderson Consulting" are a bunch of jerks! Seriously though, AC is a big enough place that everything you hear (good or bad) is probably true in some way.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @04:22AM (#1454064)
    This article is nothing but an attemt at marketing the "new philosophy" at Andersen Consulting. (You see, there is a reason I'm posting this as "Anonymous Coward") Ever since the managing partner George Shaheen left to CEO Webvan, the new leadership has been trying to re-invent itself as an 'e-commerce' consulting firm. If you look at the AC website, you'll get an overview of 'what e-commerce means' to the AC higher-ups. This attempt to transform the company is reaching down to the lower (analyst) levels as well, as a new training program is being implemented. Most of this sounds well and good in theory, but is remarkably dangerous to any firm trying to get on to the web for a couple of reasons: 1) The AC philosophy is to hire cheap labor (i.e. those liberal arts majors who have never even *touched* a computer, much less learned to program). This cheap labor is put through exceptionally shoddy training (i.e. "learn to program in 21 days" type of stuff) and then forced into the real world to apply those skills. I've seen so many bad practices, and shoddy programming being excused as "it's OK if it works". Without skilled employees, the company relies on the occasional skilled person to provide creativity and direction. 2) With a small handful of people driving the creative process, AC tends to arrive at "the solution". Clients sign on thinking that AC is generating unique, creative solutions to thier particular situation. The truth is, the "solution" arrived at on another client site is often repeated verbatim. (Measure twice, cut once, then paste, paste, paste). 3) The partnership of AC consists soley of old accountants. 'E-business" (and yours) is simply another cash cow for exploitation. The partnership has been pretty blunt about this. To these '25%' looking to improve your business: - Look to people who know your industry or particular needs inside and out. There are more talented people willing to work for less than the $250/hr. that AC charges for analysts. Don't snub smaller consulting firms for the slick brochures and big-money dinners. - Make sure your consulting firm has talented, creative people working for them. Someday, you will be responsible for maintaining the code the consultant puts out. AC makes money by 'partnering' (i.e. turning out such a shoddy product that *no one* can maintain it.) - Don't buy into anyones preconcieved notions of 'e-commerce', or any other buzzword. If you are spending $$$ to improve or add new business, and not getting a return on that investment, you're wasting your money. Face it, 'big five' consulting firms exist soley as a money transfer device. (Read the book 'Dangerous Company' to clear your head of any forced or preconcieved notions...)
  • I bought from 3 different oneline stores. All three screwed the order up completely. One never sent a confirmation email, and it took 3 emails and one phone call to finally get a confirmation of my order, which appeared on my answering machine.

    Another one sent 3 different messages saying that the order had gone through, hadn't gone through and had been rejected. I finally called customer support and was told they had no record of the order. I ordered over the phone.

    The third was Amazon, I ordered a 3-pack of MST movies with Manos. They sent three different movies, no Manos. I sent them several emails telling them what had gone wrong, so they sent me another package. It was the same 3 wrong movies. I sent them another email, which resulted in them asking me to return everything, since they don't really stock the stuff I'd ordered, and they had already credited my credit card. No "How would you like to handle this," no "Would you like to keep these movies instead," nothing.

    Still, I've done my shopping from the office at lunch and everything was delivered there. Despite the hassle, it was still better than doing the Road Warrior thing in the parking lot at the mall.
  • Your right, this is stupid. I've been guilty of it myself, but your post has reminded me how dumb it is and I'll be fixing my sites shortly.

    But in answert to your question of "why do sites split up addresses in multiple fields rather than having a single text box"-- I can't speak for all sites, but I do it because if I do it that way, browser AutoFill features like the ones in MSIE and iCab will work, whereas they won't work in a TEXTAREA.

    Browser AutoFill is the best feature added to web browsers since tables, and nobody will talk me out of that opinion. I probably enter my name, e-mail address, or zip code into one site or another around 30 times per week. AutoFill makes that a lot less painful.
  • Incorrect inventory DBs are likely only a fraction of the problem with shipping delays. In fact, I would venture that most of these companies have up to date, accurate DBs of their inventory. However, just because I currently have none of a given item does not mean that I should say it is out of stock. If I do that's business lost and if I am expecting a new shipment in that will have the given item, well hell, I've as good as got it. Of course, now that truck ends up arriving later than expected and that just propagates. In addition, even though there are statements like "this product usually ships between 24 and 48 hours" these are likely estimated when normal shopping traffic occurs, not during the holidays, and yet people will take them as scripture. Instead you will have delays in getting things out of the warehouse (the warehouse workers have a lot more work to do during the holidays, things aren't going to keep running as usual) and delays using whatever courier service you use (let's face it, sometimes overnight delivery isn't going to be overnight delivery). When ones expectations of the process are unreasonably high, then obviously you'll be disappointed.

    And you bet Andersen has a reason to publish this "study" as they are a consulting firm and would love to be able to say to a potential client "Look, 25% of all online transactions fail. We can get your business online and help you avoid these problems (or fix them if you already are online)." Make them think that without you they are losing money and you've got them paying you money for your services.

  • And get this...

    ...received a gift that had been ordered online. It was intact and on time. But when Ms. Perkett opened the box, she found the gift - and the invoice.

    You mean, they have the gall to send me a receipt with my purchase? Give me a break. This isn't a problem, it's a good thing. And if I order a gift for someone online and have it shipped directly to them, I should realize that they'll be getting the receipt. And that they should, if it's broken (or some other problem, etc.) and they are halfway across the country, they should be able to return it. And for that my friends we need a frickin' receipt.
  • I think your summary of the problems is accurate -- with an exception. Of the e-commerce businesses I know (including some of the largest) many have lousy inventory systems that allow updating of the web site once a day. I had a recent experience with the largest e-commerce site (you guess) where the main listing showed it available for shipping "usually in 24 hours", the listing on my order said "will ship in 2-4 days" and the backorder email that I had already recieved from them told me that it would be 1-2 weeks before it would ship. I took a week and a half.

    The backorder scenario you lay out also introduces a little legal problem. You can take an order without inventory, no problem. But you can't charge the credit card of the customer until you can actually ship the product -- or send notification by first class mail (a hassle -- its easier to just ship something).

    I do believe that you are dead on about Andersen's motives -- it would match up with their actions in the past.
  • Ive ordered so much stuff online its not even funny. Ive been from this site to that site and anywhere in between. most of time), amazon fatbrain, thechipmerchant, cheapbytes, FreeBSDMall, and countless other little hole in the ground places that would scare you. The worst I have had happen is it took access micro maybe.. 2 and a half weeks to process something once. and Axion was out of stock on an item that they said was in stock. We got it straightened out with a couple of emails and they had a comporable product for cheaper (Retail K6-3 400) OU tof what 20 hours 2 had (slight) problems. Thats more like 10%. Sure thats not THE best of odd's? I will take those odd's any day for the convenience of shopping in my house however. Nothing better than reading all of the reviews on a motherboard and cruising to 5 or 6 sites and getting the best deal on it. That is just plain time consuming if you have to drive to 5 or 6 computer dealers. IF You have that many in the area. Phew Lets not overlook the fact that, some people cannot even access things yu can get on the net. So does this statistic mean anything?.. nope. Not for me anyways.
  • I've never had a problem buying software or hardware over the web. This Christmas I dared to move out beyond my "geek" boundaries and make purchases from J.C. Penney, Sears and Spiegel. I'm 0-and-3.

    There was the confirmation email from Sears that the products were on the way, but following it up through their web site order tracking mechanism I discovered that they were unable to verify my Sears credit card (with over $1,000 free on it for a $250 order) so, in reality, it was not ordered nor coming.

    The Spiegel order hiccuped and died on the web site upon hitting the "Purchase Now" button, and J.C. Penney repeatedly stated on the web site that the desired items were available, but follow-up indicated they were always back-ordered. Hey...if I know up front it's back-ordered and still make the purchase, I don't care. But the reverse....I'm not happy.

    Discussions above regarding the integrity of Andersen Consulting and the use of NT servers aside, the bottom line is that it just hasn't worked for me yet.
  • I'm with you on this one.. shopping in the malls for x-mas gifts is one of the most frustrating experiances in the world. You can run from mall to mall for days looking for that one gift and never find it. On the Internet I can usually find it within 30min without moving my arse from my chair. Jump to a couple of sites do a search check if it's in stock.. and order.

    I've been shoping on the Internet for over 5 years and I have NEVER.. and I mean NEVER gotten something I didn't order, or got over charged or a late shipment. But then again I go into it with the mind set of not needing it RIGHT NOW. I can wait the 2-7 days before it arrives instead of having to deal with the crowds and the unhelpfull clerks in the local mall.

    I did all my x-mas shopping over the internet this year.. and everything came just as I wanted.

  • In fact, it's probably a Good Thing that so many sites are unable to get it right. This is a better differentiator than who has the patent of the month: who can design a good and highly usable site, provide you with the information you want and need, and handle the transactions smoothly.

    It's still so early on in the Internet Revolution. While the web as we know it today is, for all practical purposes, about four years old, the concept of ecommerce was still a glint in most people's eyes three years ago, and the necessary evolution of seat-of-the-pants standards such as the shopping cart metaphor, broad acceptance of cookies, etc. is maybe one-two years old. Next we need to wait for all those users - even the dummies - to learn and understand these common concepts, and for coders to develop tools to put them into use, etc.

  • Right On.

    Although I disagree with that accustation of intelligence. I mean would anyone intelligent accept what in the computer industry is minimum wage and work an average 60 hours a week while their employer charges $2000 plus per day!

    Having been in the "clean-up crew" trying to salvage something meaningful from AndersEn managed projects I am very surprised that they managed a 75% success rate in something as complex as on line shopping. These guys don't fart, struggle over chewing gum and certainly couldn't do both at the same time.

  • Actually, some of us do it to make sure that we can properly format it for your country.

    Let's see, you are in Iceland, right? so your format (as I look it up) is:

    name line
    address line(s)
    delivery line (postal code + locality)

    -- an example

    Helgi Helgason
    Laugavegi 312

    It's really not that hard if you think it out. And those of us who have to ship overseas all the time generally have. The difficult part is often making sure that not only do we have the right address and format, but that we are properly interfacing with not only the express company, but its local subcontractors. (you don't think FedEx actualy delivers all over the world itself, did you?)
  • This Techweb article [] may prove interesting... a quote:

    ``Business-to-business Internet marketplaces are becoming the next red-hot E-commerce market. A flurry of year-end, big-ticket deals last week shows that major players such as Andersen Consulting, Ariba, and SAP are banking on huge volumes of business transactions moving to the Web next year.''

    Think this report may be just a tad biased?

    Nah, couldn't be.

  • I work for a small retail store that has had an online presense for about a year. I would say that about 10% of my job goes to filling online orders.

    I have easily seen 25% of online orders fail. Why? Declined credit cards. I realize this is not what the article is talking about, but not a day goes by that we do not get a bum credit card number.

    The site I work for does not do online inventory because it is simply too expensive right now (we are not even running a POS system at the store, so putting inventory online would require doing that and inventorying everything). When we get an order that specifies somehting we do not have, we:

    a) immediately place an order for the product. No sense in not having it next time.
    b) call or email the person immediately to give them the choice of waiting for it to come in or alternates.
    c) try to work it out with the customer. Frequently we do a "next best thing" approach where we will provide the better item for the price of the (not in stock) ordered item.

    Some other problems:
    a) My manager, in charge of the online site, is getting fed up with UPS. The current shipping software that they gave him does not do email confirmation. We would love to do this (I have received nice shipping confirmation notices via USP Shipping software from other companies, so we know it exists). The UPS rep that I spoke with concerning this said "Wow. That would be a cool feature." I tried to explain to him that it already exists and is working.

    b) UPS and FedEx are not guaranteeing shipping this season. We, as a site, cannot say when your package will get to you because USP will not assure us of a date. We can make sure your order goes out the day you place it, but that does not mean anything if it gets hung up at the UPS processing center for two days.
  • Why do they split up the order form address fields? Because of credit card address verifications. Many (most?) sites let you check a box that simply says, use my billing address as the shipping address. And the billing address has to have zip code and address 1 broken out so they can be passed to the credit card AVS system. Passing these values from a free form textbox is not feasible and would probably lead to more declined cards.
  • The fifth or sixth person is usually the first one to say anything with even a tiny little itty bitty teensy nugget of bearing on the conversation instead of "FIRST BEOTCH". I was staring at a screen full of first posters...
    -Andy Martin
  • Might just? I'd put it more like "almost certainly". Is it really surprising that Andersen should come out with a report of how dangerous and nasty on-line retailing can be? The only answer, apparently, is to utilize the services of the big-boy consulting firms. You certainly wouldn't want to leave such a mind-numbingly complex task to a smaller firm, or worse yet, do it yourself, would you?
  • Yes, those of us who have been on the Internet know about reliable retailers such as Amazon or FatBrain, and generally shop there. But, in the last few months, the number of online retailers have exploded. I watched a football game on TV, and there were far more *.com commercials than there were car commercials!

    I'm willing to bet a good number of these companies are on a make-money-fast business plan, and have invested far more in television commercials than in information systems. But on the Internet, how do you know? Anyone with a big ad budget and a flashy site design looks just as competent as Amazon. The local news had a piece about some company that would take on-line orders, print them out, and then phone in the order to a middleman. Yeah, that's e-commerce all right.

    So, considering the large number of companies showing up late and underprepared for the gold rush, and the large number of newbie Internet users that don't have loyalties to existing sites, I would imagine that more goes wrong than you and I would see from ordering from the old standbys.

    (My only bad experience was a series of repeated attempts to buy a 21" monitor from Each attempted transaction ended in the black hole of a MS-ODBC ASP error. Furthermore, their phone representative couldn't take a telephone order, and couldn't confirm if my order had even been placed or not. I had to call my credit card to make sure that I wasn't charged. Bottom line -- it was a pain in the ass, and there's $1100 that didn't make.)
  • 25% isn't a bad retail failure rate. The failure rate for bricks-and-mortar retail is worse, if you define failure as entering a store with intent to obtain a specific item the store supposedly stocks.

    Peapod [], which offers online grocery ordering and delivery, ran into this. Peapod does fulfilment by sending people into Safeway with pick lists. This has Safeway's full co-operation, and Peapod's product list is from Safeway's product list. Despite this, 40% of ordered items aren't found on the shelf. Safeway thought it would be 5%.

    Still, many online retailers are botching the ordering process. Competition will fix this rapidly. Here's a startup suggestion: a service like Web Site Garage [] that monitors retail sites, testing the ordering process.

  • I've ordered tons of books, music CDs, software, and hardware online and never had a problem.

    Guess whoever wrote this falls in the "using clueless criteria" category?

    Zontar The Mindless,

  • by richnut ( 15117 ) on Wednesday December 22, 1999 @07:51AM (#1454100)
    Of course the numbers are ridiculous. Andersen is trying to sell the services to build e-commerce sites. If people think the situation is bad they are more likely to buy services from AC.

  • I saw this on the local news, and I was wondering where in the hell they got these figures from. They were doing some holiday shopping story or something of the like, and brought up a screen showing all the "problems" of e-commerce. I was mad because they didn't give a source of the info, because i wanted to look into it...i guess i know now.

    sorry if it's OT

  • Based on number of credit card transactions taking place and the number of them of the total that are handled by Network Solutions say maybe 25% of them. I think every credit card transaction I have done with Network Solutions has gone bad.
  • It sounds like these people are afraid of the what-if's of shopping. Sure, if you ship dishes via UPS ground they will be smashed, that is almost a garantee. That is why good commerce sites let you pick shipping options. Time-to-ship is not a mystery, you make a lot more profit on a $500 tech toy than a $15 CD. Which one would you ship first? Places like cdw and are incredibly reliable because that is whay people pay them to be. Isn't it a given that Joe's Flowers @geocities will take longer to recieve orders and ship them? This is not an unexplainable mystery or a conspiracy, some e-commerce sites are better than others, and the best 50 or 100 probobaly get 90% of all web transactions for that reason.
  • Actually, 'some kinda' arrangement does exist. Most (all?) credit card merchant agreements state the product must be delivered or shipped before the account is charged.

    My own experience--about 100 purchases made through the web from merchants ranging from brick-and-mortar shops to online auctions to Amazon (boo) and eToys (hiss), I've only had 2 bad experiences and both were due to deliberate deception by the merchant. (One claimed the product had features it did not, and the other charged me twice.)
  • Anecdotal evidence isn't proof, but ...

    I've conducted [6] online transactions in the last six weeks. I had some sort of problem with _each and every_ transaction. (Maybe I just have bad luck?)

    In one case, the computer system on the other end rejected my address. They called to complain, left me a voice mail message, and for two weeks my attempts to call them back were greeted with "we're sorry all circuits are busy". Eventually I emailed them, the issue got cleared up, and the shipment was sent --- except they forgot to bill my credit card.

    In another case, only half of the items I ordered were actually in stock despite the fact that the web site claimed all of them were.

    In a third case, I was overcharged, complained, and was then credited the amount.

    In a fourth case, the delivery agent was unable to ship to my PO box (not indicated on their web site, but it was an international shipment, so maybe that's not too bad), called my housemate, obtained my work address, and shipped it there.

    In a fifth case, delivery --- using the most expensive delivery option --- for inexplicable reasons took six weeks.
  • Anecdotal evidence isn't proof, but ...

    I've conducted [6] online transactions in the last two months. I had some sort of problem with _each and every_ transaction. (Maybe I just have bad luck?)

    In one case, the computer system on the other end rejected my address. They called to complain, left me a voice mail message, and for two weeks my attempts to call them back were greeted with "we're sorry all circuits are busy". Eventually I emailed them, the issue got cleared up, and the shipment was sent --- except they forgot to bill my credit card.

    In another case, only half of the items I ordered were actually in stock despite the fact that the web site claimed all of them were.

    In a third case, I was overcharged, complained, and was then credited the amount.

    In a fourth case, the delivery agent was unable to ship to my PO box (not indicated on their web site, but it was an international shipment, so maybe that's not too bad), called my housemate, obtained my work address, and shipped it there.

    In a fifth case, delivery --- using the most expensive delivery option --- for inexplicable reasons took six weeks.
  • At one point the author states that:

    Andersen did not list any problem Web retailers, but the consulting company did highlight as a company that others should imitate.

    Seems like this is a good way to knock off the 75% of sites that are functional, after Amazon sues them. Bring on the OFFTOPIC and FLAMEBAIT moderation.
  • About 25% of online orders I have made have been delivered on time, but in the wrong quantities. CDW routinely sends me twice what I ordered, while only billing me for what I asked for. A friend of mine bought a computer at Onsale, paid for one computer, was delivered three computers. At this rate, they'll fix the problems or go out of business.
  • No, of all the things that I've had go wrong, this was the only one. I ordered something from the Sears Wishbook online. My mom has had a Sears card for a good 40 years, but the bastards don't ship to Canada. So I had the item sent to a friend of mine in the US. He wasn't able to pick it up in time and it got sent back to the warehouse. Now...I never got an email stating that it had been returned...there wasn't any info on the site with what to do if the item gets returned, or an email saying my account had been I had to PHONE and get it sent somewhere else...however, the info on my account on the website didn't reflect the new I am just hoping that the thing gets to my friend...

    So in the end, it wasn't the site's fault, rather a lack of planning by the people runnin it.

  • Definitely

    Andersen are running a marketing campaign at present which implies that most e-commerce solutions are dodgy veneers sprayed on. This study just "proves" it doesn't it :-)

  • You have to wonder how many people have had problems transacting with NSI. If that were the case though, I'd imagine that their estimate would be much higher than 25%
  • Today I found out that I received 2 monitors from One had a packing slip that was original - the other packing slip was marked clearly - DUPLICATE -

    What I do know is that my Appian Pro Multi monitor card is getting a pair of monitors. Perfect for tracking bids at at closing time while reading slashdot on the other. I know NT supports the 2 monitors, now I'll have to see how X runs on it.

    The other time they sent 3 hard drives in response to 1 order (billed all 3). They credited my account for one of them. If they keep sending bonus stuff, I'll keep ordering :)

    I can feel the Geek factor increasing already ...
  • remember that in this article how little info

    they give out concerning details: which sites ?

    and any other specific inofrmation.

    these "firms" make up numbers on most of these
    studies, but the actual numbers are probably
    higher since you hear about all of the hype of
    "e commerce" but it just so happens to leave out the truth.
  • 8 online orders placed Saturday
    9 packages delivered today.

    They sent me an extra (free) monitor, so actually I'm batting 1.125.

    No lines, excellent selection, shipped on time.

    So for me, -12.5 % of orders fail.
  • use and avoid the 1 person shops with poor records. The original link was through SysOpt -
  • How 'bout you find yourself a nice high cliff to take a good long walk off of, ya god damn anonymous coward.
  • AC = Anderson Consulting
    AC = Anonymous Coward

    Coincidence? ;)
  • A recent survey shows that 43.3 percent of statistics are meaningless. Judge for yourself.
  • My old roommate and one of my best friends works for Anderson as well. His last job, incidentally, was teaching a class on ecommerce. When he told me this I asked him if he'd ever set up a web server before (No). A database (No). Written CGI? (No). Of course I knew all these answers would be no because I basically taught him everything he knows about computers by living with him for 4 years. Why in the world are you teaching a class on ecommerce, I asked. Because I'm the most qualified in Anderson's mind, he replied. Now that's scary. BTW his next question was how do I set up an Oracle-driven ecommerce site on a Sun and I laughed so hard I nearly wet my pants.
    Happy Secular Days Off
  • This might work for Iceland, but what about places such as Canada, where the postal code usually follows the country?

    This is what Canadian addresses look like AFAIK:

    John Q. Public
    145 Main Street
    Anytown, Alberta
    Canada A1B 2C3

    In this case, you can't just stick the post code after the "state" (province in this case).

    (And yes, I too hate having to enter a bogus state for those who have heard that Germany has "Länder" -- Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany is one Hamburg too many.)

  • Actually, there's no problem. In the case of Canadian addresses, we would use the Canadian address format and put your post code in the right place. In fact, if one wanted to shell out some bucks, one could install a database of Canadian postal codes and addresses that would confirm if your code was correct.

The party adjourned to a hot tub, yes. Fully clothed, I might add. -- IBM employee, testifying in California State Supreme Court