That Wasn’t a Sale, That was a Massive DevOps Screwup

What might have appeared to be a fire sale on the website for UK hardware retailer Screwfix early today was instead a massive and totally avoidable screwup.

The glitch was an unforeseen error causing all of the items on its website to sell for £34.99 (about $58). All items sold for £34.99, even high-priced riding mowers that retail for thousands.

Thousands of site visitors no doubt were thrilled by the chance to scoop up some deals of the century. A statement from the company seemed less thrilled.

“Our website Screwfix.com receives 1.3 million visits each week,” the statement read. “Last night a number of customers visiting the site experienced a technical issue which resulted in some products being displayed at obviously low prices. The issue has now been resolved and everything is back up and running as normal.”

How Does This Happen?

It seems some developer might have been using £34.99 as a stand-in price for test data in his release. The release might have carried a hard-coded price entry, forcing the accidental price rollback and a great opportunity for hawk-eyed customers.

Now, Screwfix is attempting to recover from its screwup and understand whether or not it can keep the books in the black by simply refunding the orders and not fulfilling them.

This type of situation shows the enormous risk in pushing out software releases into production without getting all of the systems in-line and verified correctly. Companies continuously deliver features, fixes and specials to their customers and need to have automation performing all of the tasks. There is simply too much risk in not having a release automation software platform to perform all of these functions for all of the teams that support these complicated systems.

Screwfix will soon be evaluating how to eliminate this type of error from happening in the future.

Marketing Strategist and Head of Marketing at Krista Software.