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Robbie Williams Dot Stupid

You have got to love marketing.

Robbie Williams' management company puts together an elaborate plan to allow pre-release tickets to go on sale for every date of his upcoming tour. They even come up with the idea to charge GBP25 for the priviledge of access to these tickets.

And some idiot decided that all tickets for all dates would go on sale - all at the same time.

The resultant rush brought down the fragile Worldpay credit card payment gateway for over an hour. What did this mean for fans? You could book tickets, you just couldn't pay for them, turning first come first serve into a luck of the draw.

But it's to be expected isn't it? That many people arriving at the site at one time? Of course not.

Pre sales tickets were only available to pre registered people. They knew exactly the number of people who were coming. And they built the http://www.robbiewilliamstickets.com website to handle it. The ticket site worked flawlessly, or almost.

Only they didn't check with Worldpay, their credit card payment gateway that they could handle the load. The gateway failed almost immediately, serving people at random who were lucky enough to reach the end of the credit card billing process.

Worldpay's customer service line's hold message included the line "we are experiencing technical problems at the moment, please bear with us". The customer service representative could only offer a meek "we are sorry for the inconvenience", and "can you not try later?".

The answer of course was no. The trouble was, the ticketing site was not programmed to deal with the case where the payment gateway had failed. The end user was forced to enter the ticket ordering process from scratch, where after 45 minutes of constant trying, you eventually got this:


This site went live in 2005, over ten years after the web took off. You would think that website architects would have learned by now that load spikes are a website killer.

To Robbie William's marketing team: Your efforts at online ticket selling have turned into a PR nightmare that any competant design house should have warned you about. The only thing fans have taken away from your website is ill will.

To Worldpay: To run a credit card gateway that cannot handle load spikes in 2005 amounts to gross negligence. Your meek "sorry for the inconvenience" to a group of people who have just spent a frustrating hour trying to buy online and coming away empty handed regardless just doesn't cut the mustard.

Apparently according to a damage control email from the Robbie Williams marketing company, "lots of tickets" are still available. Sorry, "sold out" is all my screen is saying.

Oh well, that was GBP25 well spent.


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