Pointed Development

Early Adopters, Online Events and the Sad State of Online Ordering

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I just purchased a Nexus 10 from Google. Here’s how it went down:

  1. Load up the Google Play store
  2. Add Nexus 10 to shopping cart
  3. Checkout
  4. Enter new payment details
  5. Get an error. Try again
  6. Checkout
  7. Get an error. Try again
  8. Item mysteriously disappears from cart
  9. Add Nexus 10 to shopping cart
  10. Get an error. Try again
  11. Add Nexus 10 to shopping cart
  12. Checkout
  13. Get an error. Try again

This went on for at least 30 minutes. The Play store (mostly) worked fine, the checkout process did not.

I’m finally able to get to the Google Wallet checkout process. It asks for my billing information, shipping location, etc. Get an error. Try again.

After another 10 minutes of checkout attempts I’m finally – finally – beyond the shopping cart. I’m waiting for the Order Complete window to pop up.

WHEW! What a pain in the ass.



My card carrier decides it’s a fraudulent charge and locks my account. Okay, fine. Let me spend another 10 minutes on the phone with my card company. Oh, by the way, the checks and balances around fraud prevention are ridiculous.

Google subsequently cancels my order due to the declined charge.

Excellent. I now get to start the whole process from the beginning. Thankfully, the second time around didn’t take as long as the first, presumably because everyone else was getting frustrated with their own buying experience.

Amazingly, purchasing the Nexus 10 only took one hour of my life away. I’m not sure it was worth it.

Here’s what irritates me:

How many times have we seen this exact same issue in the last two to five years? Hotly-anticipated products are launched and the backing infrastructure buckles under the demand. Who was sitting around and thinking “We’ll only get a couple of orders for this product, no need to worry about scale!”

In a similar fashion, the failing backbone and the (mostly) working frontend weren’t playing well together. I received no notice that anything was under heavy load. I got the following message:

An error has occurred.

Really?! Thank you!

I find it absurd that with the amount of anticipation, the amount of effort put into the product, the amount of up-front knowledge about the demand and yet (of all companies?) Google STILL couldn’t handle the load of its buyers.

And they even did a controlled world-wide rollout! From what I’ve been reading, everyone had issues with the purchase (backing links coming later).

Improve the Experience

I understand scale and load and demand and the numbers behind the services. What I don’t understand is the piss-poor experience. Why didn’t the Play store and the backing infrastructure work together to provide a uniform notification service? If I were told an ETA for the workaround, or a more descriptive error message, or a ANYTHING else other than the crap I received, my experience would have been much more enjoyable.

As it was, the state of ordering hotly-anticipated items hasn’t progressed from five years ago.

I feel like we’re taking ten steps back.