Updated on July 17 at 4:30 p.m. ET
The promotions started more than a week ahead of time: Amazon, the world’s biggest e-commerce site, was launching its annual Prime Day on July 16, with 30 hours of deals online and in Whole Foods markets. The company issued five press releases promoting Prime Day, during which shoppers who pay $119 for a yearly Prime membership are offered flash sales and discounts on various products. Consumers gleefully prepared for the deals, and competitors planned their own sales to lure in buyers, with Target, eBay, and Macy’s launching their own events.
And then, at noon eastern time on Monday, as Prime members sat down at their computers and tried to shop, the site failed. Shoppers were redirected to pictures of dogs, with captions like “Sorry. Something went wrong on our end. Please go back and try again.” The hashtags #PrimeDayFail and #DogsOfAmazon started trending on Twitter. Other retailers tried to lure away customers. Office Depot, for example, sent out an email, “Tired of looking at dogs? Our deals are still up.”
Yet customers still kept trying on Amazon. Amanda Taylor, a blogger and mother of two who lives in St. Louis, sat down when Prime Day started and tried to buy an air fryer. By the time she got through, the item was sold out. She estimates the site failed 50 separate times—that’s 50 pictures of dogs—as she tried to shop throughout the day. “It was such a frustrating day yesterday,” she told me. She eventually ended up buying school supplies for her kids, some discounted sandals, and Star Wars salt and pepper shakers—on sale for $11.99, a 70 percent sale.