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Amazon Goes Down – Score One for the Little Guys

Yesterday the little guys in retail—by that I mean everyone smaller than Amazon (in other words, everyone)—got a brief reprieve from the e-commerce juggernaut that is According to, the site was down for something like 41 minutes. Across the U.S., would be Amazon shoppers received errors starting around 2:50 pm EDT. I received a few incredulous calls from friends and family assuming the problem must be with their ISP and asking if I was experiencing the same outage.


Since I’d recently reposted an infographic about what happens in 60 seconds online, I had the one-minute sales figure for Amazon in mind. A quick calculation says Amazon’s outage cost them about $3.4 million (41 minutes X $83,000/minute). Ouch, that’s more than most of us make in a week!

As soon as I realized Amazon was unreachable, I looked out my window and was reassured to see that local brick-and-mortar retailers were still up and running. The good news: brick-and-mortar retailers tend not to go down except in case of 7.3 earthquakes or other natural disasters, which are pretty rare, thank goodness.  The bad news: their other major threat, Amazon, is ever present — well, except for yesterday’s brief outage.

Retailers are racing to reinvent themselves to stay relevant in the face of the ongoing weak economy, rapid technological change, and the threat of show rooming—where their stores become the de facto showroom for online retailers, who frequently end up getting the sale because of their lower prices. The pressure is intense, and Amazon’s outage didn’t even last long enough to let retailers catch their breath. But maybe, if you just HAD to buy something during that 40-minute outage, your local electronics store, bookseller, or apparel shop might have gotten your business. It’s a nice thought, anyway.

Amazon has been mum about what happened, although they say they were NOT hacked, so apparently this was not a malicious outage. Malice or not, there may be a few IT folks in the Seattle area soon looking for new jobs. If you’re a mid-sized specialty retailer looking for experienced eComm IT hotshots to help you nail your omni-channel tech, now’s your chance.


p.s. If you’d like to do your part to help Amazon make up for yesterday’s lost revenues, you can start with my “Gift Ideas for Lance” wish list. Don’t delay. Amazon needs you!

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