Best Buy Online Sale Shows Company Not Quite Ready To Become E-Commerce Powerhouse

Today’s sale took BestBuy.com to its knees.

Last week, new Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly said the company needs to make online sales a priority, as the retailer continues losing market share to e-tailers like Amazon and Newegg. But if this morning’s scheduled sale is any indication, Best Buy is not ready to compete with the big boys and girls.

BestBuy.com is currently supposed to be hosting a sale for Reward Zone Silver members, but not only are they unable to snap up the deals — the entire Best Buy website is up and down for users, with some able to access the store while others get the message that “Our site is incredibly busy! Please be patient while we shovel you a path.”

The announcement that went out to Reward Zone Silver members also included a phone number for placing orders. But Consumerist reader David says that, unable to access BestBuy.com, he tried the phone. As of shortly after noon, he says he’s been waiting for more than an hour to place his order.

“After three years of this nonsense, I don’t think any excuse is appropriate at this point,” writes Consumerist reader Tim, who was 3/4 of the way through his order when the site crashed. “They can’t say anymore that they just didn’t expect such a response when this happens year after year. The only thing that changed from last year to this year is that they had a graphic ready for when the site crashed. So they knew they were going to have problems again despite any assurances to the public last year and this year.”

Tim says that even though the site eventually came back up — at least for him — the item he’d been this-close to purchasing is now gone.

This crash does not bode well for Best Buy’s upcoming Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales, which are sure to draw even more traffic than today’s restricted offerings.

No doubt, Best Buy will attempt to spin this problem as a “we had no idea we’d be so successful” story, much like Target.com did in the fall of 2011 when its new site kept crashing from too much traffic. But as we saw with Target, that spin only works for so long, as the Target.com president was ousted from his position only a few months after the site’s re-launch.

The announcement that went out to Reward Zone Silver members.

Retailers like Best Buy have cried for years that Amazon and other online-only retailers have had an unfair edge because they were not compelled to collect sales taxes. But as the tax advantage disappears, with at least a half-dozen states now requiring Amazon to collect taxes, Best Buy should have be expecting that a growing number of consumers will be checking out BestBuy.com.

This is like being a touted AAA prospect in baseball finally being given a shot in the majors. Judging by the comments on Facebook, many buyers consider this strike one against BestBuy.com.

Let’s also hope we don’t have a repeat of last year’s Black Friday fiasco, wherein BestBuy.com customers weren’t informed until a few days before Christmas that their orders — placed weeks earlier — would not be delivered until after the holiday.

Thanks to David for the tip!