Amazon's Prime Day from hell: Website issues a rare black eye for e-commerce giant

The mad rush to Prime Day 2018 was held up a bit after Amazon's website stumbled out of the gate.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Amazon's website stumbled out of the Prime Day gate on Monday as pages were slow to load at 3 p.m. EDT when the sale began.

Twitter erupted as people waiting to buy sales found messages saying something went wrong on Amazon's ends. 404 error pages with dogs are a nice touch, but probably not what Amazon was going for. In fact, there were plenty of dog jokes on Twitter under #PrimeDay as Amazon's IT problems stretched past 4 hours.

While Amazon seemed to stabilize somewhat by 3:30 p.m. EDT, as of 4:30 p.m. EDT there were still errors throughout the home page and cart process. If you click on "Shop All Deals" from the main Prime Day home page you may or may not get the listing. One common problem loop went like this:

  • On the Amazon home page, under the current graphic promoting Prime Day, clicking on the Shop All Deals button takes you to another page, with the same graphic.
  • The second screen may or may not get you deals. By the third click you are back to the logo.
  • On the Amazon home page titled Shop Deals by Interest, and clicking on any of those sale items takes you to the logo again.
  • Searching a product specifically seems to work.

That loop of e-commerce hell continued for hours. Search was also spotty at best. There was no official word from Amazon about what was going on exactly, but the company did acknowledge customers were having problems. All Amazon Web Services offerings were running normally, according to the company's status dashboard. These problems continued as of 7:15 EDT.

Prime Day 2018 is expected to set another record for Amazon. The duration of the sale was extended from 30 hours in 2017 to 36 in 2018. Prime Day deals will also cover four new markets to reach 17. And there's a greater selection and tie-ins to Whole Foods and Amazon subscription services.

Historically, Prime Day generates sales, as well as Prime subscriptions, which generate more revenue for Amazon over time. Prime Day 2018 is also expected to be an inflection point for voice shopping.

Update at 5:30pm EDT on July 16: An Amazon spokesperson provided the following statement to ZDNet concerning Amazon's site issues on Prime Day:

"Some customers are having difficulty shopping, and we're working to resolve this issue quickly. Many are shopping successfully -- in the first hour of Prime Day in the US, customers have ordered more items compared to the first hour last year. There are hundreds of thousands of deals to come and more than 34 hours to shop Prime Day."
Update at 2:04 pm EDT on July 17: At an Amazon Web Services conference in New York, executives didn't address the outage. AWS services were all functioning during the Amazon e-commerce glitches. "AWS continues to function normally. We saw some intermittent AWS Management Console issues earlier today, but they did not drive any meaningful impact on Amazon's Consumer Business," said a spokesperson.

One workaround is going through smile.amazon.com. Another is a direct search, but that worked sporadically too.

Searching deals directly may get you to where you need to go because you get around the home page loop. However, ZDNet tests have been hit or miss with search. Here is a quick roundup of sale items.












CNET, our sister site, has also covered all the best Prime Day tech deals, by category:

Editorial standards