So on Wednesday morning I was up at 6am, along with a large number of others trying to get their hands on one of the 10,000 Raspberry Pi which were currently finishing Quality Assurance in China.
Unlike what had been answered several times, they weren’t to be sold directly and we now being offered by third party companies RS and Farnells.
Straight away browser tabs were open to both sites.
Searching for “Raspberry” on RS loaded a “Register your interest” page, with no sign to buy I filled in my details and hit enter. However I ended up on the same page I was just at. So I tried again, hit enter and nothing, server errors, so through out the morning I was hitting refresh. Finally it submitted, but again taking me back to where I began.
Then on Twitter Liz running the @Raspberry_Pi account said:
If you’re only seeing “register an interest” on RS’s site, you’re on the wrong page.
— Raspberry Pi (@Raspberry_Pi) February 29, 2012
Maybe if I had an RS account I might find this magic purchasing page, so I tried to sign up. Again server errors all over the place, but eventually I managed it. Then typing “Raspberry” in to the search box, just took me back to the Register page. So one final time I entered my details and this time was taken to a Thank You page. This was two hours later and clearly put me back to the end of the queue.
Whilst all this was going on, my luck with Farnells was even worse, pages just wouldn’t load at all, until they finally stuck up a “Maintenance” page. Then after 8am, it looked better, I could add a Raspberry Pi to a shopping basket, then the pages timed out as I tried to complete the order process. Finally at 8.24 I managed to complete the order.
I joked at the time that:
yay, finally got a pre-order sorted on Farnells for a @Raspberry_Pi, now the waiting game for delivery. Guessing at May.
— Ryan Cullen (@artesea) February 29, 2012
but a short while later I got an email with a delivery date of 26th March. Wow, that was fast, but the speed of the email still left me thinking May. Later in the day a second email arrived, this with a new delivery date of 26th April, a month later. As it’s not far off my expected date I wasn’t too upset.
So the morning was long, but I got an order placed, my Pi will arrive one day and I’m happy.
Some people however appear to be far from happy.
They were disappointed that RS and Farnells websites couldn’t cope with the pressure (these are companies who sell electrical components, I doubt they have ever had a rush to their sites, and have any of these people tried to buy tickets to gigs before?).
That shipping wasn’t available to their country (on the wrong country website).
That the price wasn’t $35 (mine cost £31.86, around $40 + vat + postage, giving Farnells some profit, shock!)
That they only heard it was on sale due to the news/twitter/facebook/friend, yet they were subscribed to the Announcement list (my email arrived the night before, but I had @raspberry_pi open in a tab on my phone for the last week and knew within an hour that 29th Feb 6am was the time, not only that but the blog and other sites had covered the annoucment. Relying on one email, which could end up in a spam folder is the worst way to be ahead of the game for a limited sales run).
That @Raspberry_Pi wouldn’t answer their questions directly on twitter (they were getting around 100 @replies every minute).
However I would say that comms were poor, it appears that Farnells and RS hadn’t made their plans clear to the Raspberry Pi team, and no one from either company appeared to be around at 6am to clear things up.
What could have been done differently? I’m not sure, whenever there is limited supply and hyped demand it’s going to result in a lot of unhappy people. Maybe a lottery, one day to register your interest, then the next day email people, one a minute for a week, with a unique code to purchase one Raspberry Pi.
This way the demand on the order day can be spread stopping people rushing at 6am DDOSing sites (although I’m sure they would still try), the emails would be manageable, avoiding most spam rules, and people clicking through to purchase wouldn’t reach a broken website.
However you still end up with a large number of unhappy people who didn’t get one.
But unlike tickets for the come back gig of Steps, more Raspberry Pi’s will be made, and the reason for using Farnells and RS is that they can now start making them to order, meaning there is no “second batch”, just lots more rolling of the production line.