Flipkart's 'heartfelt' apology is too little, too late


"An unprecedented 1.5 million people shopped at Flipkart yesterday."

That is how Flipkart's apology letter to its customers began. The letter, however, didn't mention how many of those 1.5 million people ended up being disappointed with Flipkart's "A Billion Day Sale". It also didn't mention that many of Flipkart's issues should not have existed -- if only they had planned things a little better.

Flipkart tried to address the most chronic issues in the mail but even its arguments fell flat.

For example: "Price Changes: As we were preparing various deals and promotional pricing in the lead up to the sale, the pricing of several products got ​changed to their non-discounted rates for a few hours​. We realise that this breaks the trust our customers have put in us. We are truly sorry for this and will ensure that this never happens again."

Flipkart has been in the business for seven years now. Surely, they have learnt how to check things in the backend before uploading it onto the server. They should have also realised that the issue of marked up prices would come back to hit them. There was enough analysis of how Flipkart sale was not what it was said to be. And then again, when you mess up, be prepared to pay for it. It takes but a few seconds for a screenshot to be taken and for it to spread like wildfire. It also isn't the first time this has happened -- so can we be sure that this will be the last time? As they say, never say never.

The absolute worst thing about a sale is to log in and find that everything you wanted is either out of stock or sold out. It is perhaps even worse when you log in at 0800 hrs IST (when the sale was supposed to start) and find that things are already out of stock.

Flipkart's explanation went thus: "Out-of-stock Issues: We ran out of the stock for many products within a few minutes (and in some cases, seconds) of the sale going live. For example, most of our special deals were sold out as soon as they went live. We had ensured availability, anywhere from hundreds to a few lakh units for various products, but it was nowhere near the actual demand. We promise to plan much better for future promotions and ensure that we minimise the out-of-stock issues."

Now, if Flipkart were actually serious about the explanation then instead of throwing vague numbers at us (anywhere from hundreds to a few lakh units), it would help if the company actually showed its inventory listing. That way, we can be sure that they aren't just giving us the runaround.

The thing that irritated people the most though were the cancellations. Instances when you would make the payment and think that you had yourself a good bargain, only to then get a mail a couple of hours later that their order has been cancelled.

Flipkart attributed these cancellations to a "large number of people buying specific products simultaneously."

To say that Flipkart doesn't have a mechanism in place to avoid over-booking borders on scandalous. If you have ever attempted to book a movie ticket online -- you would notice a timer that tells you how particular seats are locked in for a set time period. You have to confirm the payment and enter all the details within the allotted time. If not, then you have to restart the process. It is a simple enough process and Flipkart didn't have anything like this in place.

Finally, we had the server issues. Their servers also crashed during the Xiaomi Mi 3 launch, the Moto G launch and the Moto E too, but obviously they don't seem to have learnt. 5000 servers and preparing for 20 times the traffic growth don’t cut it. It has become a recurring issue for Flipkart and we still haven't got into the logistics.

The mail also mentioned that Flipkart "worked very hard over the last seven years to earn your trust."

But it took them just a few seconds to lose that goodwill. Sadly enough for them, these are all issues that they should have and could have tackled. That they couldn't, tells us a lot more about them than any 'late' apology letter could.

Disclaimer: Firstpost is owned by Network18, which also owns Homeshop18.


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