Kindle Black Friday Deal Aftermath

Well, the $89 Kindle Lightning Deal has come and gone, unsurprisingly leaving behind it a cloud of shocked customers, angry shoppers, and confusion as to what exactly was going on in the first place.  Some people are happy, having gotten themselves a new and extremely giftable Kindle for a great price, while most of us who showed up at 9am were at least mildly disappointed.  As always on days like this, there is some inclination to cry “Scam!” and express our displeasure in other equally vocal ways.  Let’s take a moment first to look at the larger scheme of things and see if we can get a clear picture.

To begin with, it is useful to note that this was perhaps the most highly publicized Amazon sale of the year.  Not only was it clearly noted on the site itself, but they spread word via both Facebook and Twitter.  That means that the(as of writing this) 123,292 people following Amazon’s sale page on twitter and 373,006 people who have hit the “Like” button on their Facebook page were all notified in advance.  Even setting aside the blogging community’s spreading of this information(and there was certainly plenty of that), there’s the potential right there for just under half a million people to know about this deal over a day before it happened.  The numbers should help put things into perspective a bit.  I’m not saying everybody who heard about the cheap Kindle through these sources was getting in line to try for one, but word of mouth and information spread further down the news chain almost certainly shored up the numbers significantly too.  There are a lot of people talking now about the Kindle vs Nook comparison(refurbished Nooks were on sale for $99 and didn’t sell out nearly as fast), but let’s face it, there wasn’t nearly as much of an advertising push behind anything B&N was doing.

This doesn’t mean that there was universal disappointment for aspiring Kindle customers, however!  Yes, people are upset and venting their frustrations as in the case of Amazon customer Grebewatcher, who was of the opinion that:

“Amazon knew it would be flooded with people wanting this product across the country. To have it NOT available from the SECOND it goes on sale is FRAUD. New laws are needed to govern this sort of sale situation. (And yes, I have done many auctions and understand that sometimes you can’t get what you want. But to not even have enough for 5 minutes?! Two minutes?? ONE minute?!!!!! Bulls—.)

There are quite a few more carefully considered opinions being expressed, though, such as that of Emerald Coast:

From the information I can dig up, Amazon is the worlds largest online retailer in the world. I know many people in England, Ireland, Brazil and Iceland shop on this site. Two that I know of that live in England got the Kindles yesterday. If Amazon had 2000 units for sale, it is a no brainer to figure out how fast they would sell out….about 2 seconds.
People are being totally unrealistic. On the other hand, the odds truly were astonishing for some.
Think of it as purchasing a lottery ticket…….the odds of winning are slim to none, but there are winners.

Some people have even come forward to point out that they did, in fact, get lucky enough to get in on the deal and can therefore confirm that it was not a hoax.  Mostly these comments seem to be little more than confirmations that come people did indeed get what they wanted, like Chris Hillman:

I got one without too much problem. Was waiting like everybody else and it worked for me. Sooo at least they did have a few for sale…

While it is completely understandable for some people to be annoyed, these sales are intended to be analogous to the standard Black Friday Doorbusters sales that you might expect to see at any physical outlet.  The Black Friday FAQ in the upper-left corner of the deals page indicates for people that, as with your average retail outlet, quantities are limited and deals are short-lived.  Everything is first-come, first-served. Even more limited are the Lightning Deals, such as the one the Kindle was involved in, where things are expected to sell out so quickly that they actually instituted a short-term wait list that lasts until every one of the product being sold has made it through checkout.

What it comes down to is that we can’t claim the information wasn’t out there.  It was clear from the start that this was meant to be a moment when demand would overwhelm supply by a fair amount.  I do believe that many, perhaps even Amazon themselves, were shocked by exactly how great the discrepancy between the number of Kindles and the number of Kindle buyers was, but that’s often the case at sales like these.  The local Best Buy might have twenty of the amazingly priced computers they advertise, but you know there are going to be a couple hundred people lined up in the morning hoping to get those wristbands that will guarantee them a slot.  It’s all about the luck of the draw.  In the meantime, you can still get the newest Kindle for only $50 more than the sale.  If you were in it for yourself, or even if you really like the person you were planning on giving the gift to, the Kindle 3 is a step up anyway.

13 thoughts on “Kindle Black Friday Deal Aftermath”

  1. I tried several times to purchase the Kindle at the exact time it was suppose to be on sale. What a joke. I don’t believe Amazon really sold the Kindle for $89. When I emailed customer service about it I received a condescending response. Amazon should be ashamed for their false advertising. I thought they cared about their loyal customers more than that!! Shame on you Amazon!!!
    Looks like I’ll be getting a Nook from Barnes and Nobles. At least they have good customer service!!

  2. I have to disagree with your analysis. They did not learn from customer satisfaction failures of other customers. Over the life of Amazon this single event will end up costing Amazon millions of dollars in lost sales. I have seen many presentations and P&L spreadsheets to know this has cost a ton of goodwill and future lost revenue. Businesses do not survive in this manner long term. The difference between success and failure is often measured in small percentage points. If you accumulate enough of these you fail. The marketing manager and customer service manager should be raked across the coals (figuratively of course).

  3. i was able to get one! as soon as i added one to my cart i was told to sign into my amazon account. after signing in it looked like the site crashed and i thought i lost the kindle. after about 5 minutes of trying to refresh the page i saw that i had 1 item in my cart. i was able to submit my payment info and my $89 kindle is currently in transit to me!! :)

  4. I agree with Larry. Amazon might have thought they were planning the biggest Black Friday event. But it turns out it may have moved people towards their competitors who felt “cheated” of an opportunity. What’s more, their site continues to advertise Kindle 2 as being available for sale at $189.

    I don’t recall Amazon saying that quantities were limited to 2500, which would seem to indicate selling out at 2.5 secs according to the author. If people knew how many units were for sale, they would have been better prepared for the shock of not having been able to get one.

  5. I too waiting until the exact second the Kindle went on sale and like millions of others was not able to get it for the sale price! In my frustration and dissastisfaction, I emailed AMAZON and got an insulting, condescending email as well…all it did was manage to piss me off even further…Thanks rock!

  6. Loui, you are very lucky to have been one of the few to receive this deal. The second it became available we clicked and received an instant notice that it was sold out. There were thousands more like us. Amazon was ill-prepared and that shows shoddy business sense.

    As a matter of maintaining good customer relations Amazon should have made some sort of conciliatory offer to those who missed out within the first few minutes, a coupon or percentage off or something in the name of good faith. That they failed to do so show that they really don’t care much about customer relations.

    Has Amazon lost our business over this? Yes, it has, for the time being.

  7. It’s the whiners that cry scam and then throw around bad publicity for amazon because they as an individual didn’t get exactly what they wanted when they wanted it, which will put an end to good sales. If having amazing sales, is bad for marketing, then you will lose your chance at a good deal altogether. Can’t have it both ways. Appreciate a sale when it comes, if you get to partake, enjoy, if not, get over it.

    Larry, you prefer they go out of business selling their items under cost to whoever wants them or just not having sales period? (That said, I challenge your theory about losing millions because for all the people claiming they’ll go buy the nook instead, there were probably just as many that turned around and bought the new kindle or the refurbed k2 when they didn’t get the deal. And the previous, would probably have never bought a kindle at regular prices (and probably won’t actually buy the nook either) in the first place.)

    As for the Kim claiming that B&N has good customer service. You might want to google that first… Oh and good job on ignoring the fact that LOTS of people got them, just not you.

  8. This isn’t about whether Amazon had the Kindles, it’s about credibility. It appears that Amazon knew the very limited quantity would be gone in a flash but they went through with the marketing and sale nonetheless, purely so they could drive internet traffic to the site and hope for follow-up sales of the Kindle 3 (reference the nice plug at the end of the blog). The downside is that the number of those left empty handed is so incredibly large that there will invariable be a good number that will bad-mouth Amazon for a long time to come, myself included.

  9. Wow, the amount and level of animosity being directed at Amazon are amazing to me. Low quantities and the speed of sellouts of Amazon’s lightning deals around the holidays have been around almost as long as on-line shopping has been around. There are some items which everyone wants to give as gifts, and those hot items go quickly, just as they do in brick-and-mortar stores. Amazon is no different from other retailers in that regard. Anyone who has ever tried to obtain the really hot toy in any given year should understand the “limited quantity available” fact of life, both in physical shops and at Amazon.

  10. Trellis, it absolutely is about credibility. The marketing plan was horrific as it failed to compensate in advance to limit the anger created. Lets say you have 2500 satisfied customers that will continue to purchase products from amazon with smiles. The issue is now you 500,000 customers that have moved from dedicated customers to dissatisfied customers. These 500,000 customers when presented an alternate choice will now take thier business elsewhere. It takes an incredible amount of work to move those customers back into the satisfied quadrant. This really was a boneheaded marketing move. There are some very real numbers out there that will speak to the bottom line loss this will cause amazon over time. Whether by word of mouth or selecting option B, when a choice is presented, this loss will come. Of course it would be ridiculous to give every person that tried for the freebie the deal at a loss. You set expectations in advance and prepare for the eventuality. Half a million pissed off customers throughout the world is just a stupid business strategy.

  11. @Larry…

    I would point out that at an $89 price, it’s unlikely that Amazon is losing money. There are some estimates in the marketplace that the raw manufacturing cost of the Kindle is in the low $50 range. They have to have more room to move the price down as lower price competitors hit the marketplace and drive prices even lower.

  12. Gosh, you are some spoilt Americans. If you want Kindle that much – stop whining and order it at a regular price ;-)

  13. Waah waah waah! I agree with Hans! Spoiled American consumers! Cry babies! This is how lightning /Black Friday deals work. Consumers are “entitled” to coupons or discounts if they did not get what they wanted when they wanted it?? This is exactly what is wrong with this great country. Does every retailer owe every consumer a coupon for every item that sold out quickly? Yikes! Three cheers for good old American capitalism – which enables so many of us to buy so many nice toys and gadgets. In a socialistic country, you surely would not have this problem! You would have no toys or gadgets. You would, however, wait in line for basic necessities and healthcare. How WOULD you handle that?

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