S3 Gets Coal, Not Diamonds in eStocking

T’was the week after Christmas and all through the land,

Diamond Rio buyers were making a stand.

They’d placed express orders that still weren’t at hand,
And were angry and grumpy and bustin’ a gland.

They’d all made their buys and were still sittin’ ’round,
For e-commerce orders that could not be found.

Though most online meltdowns had not come to pass,
S3’s estore had fumbled and bungled en masse.

Their shipping was closed and support non-existent,
For frustrated shoppers whose patience was tested.

S3’s VP and key CIO
Said things weren’t right, that much he did know.

Demand was greater than they’d hoped for,
So orders were lost and service was poor.

They’d tried and tried to handle the mob,
But their efforts were fruitless and nothing but sobs.

How they’d solve it he said was anyone’s guess
So Merry Christmas to all and to all a big mess.

Bad doggerel aside, S3’s estore found its stocking stuffed with coal rather than the diamonds it had expected as unanticipated volume melted down its ordering, support and shipping systems.

“We were overwhelmed,” admitted Bernie Miller, S3’s vice president and chief information officer. Miller said that the orders for the Rio 500 — an MP3 player from the company’s Diamond Multimedia division — far outpaced inventory.

The problem, Miller said, was with the Rio 500 models which come in iMac-like jelly bean colors. “We should not have advertised them on our site,” Miller said. He said that the company also made a mistake in accepting pre-orders for the product before sufficient inventory was available. “We learned our lesson. Next time we won’t sell items until we have them in hand.”

The shortage, Miller said, resulted in an avalanche of customer service calls which overwhelmed the company’s system. Despite that concern, the company’s estore on Dec. 27 was still pre-selling the Diamond Rio 500, telling customers: “Order Yours Now !! Shipping soon…Stay tuned!” They may have to stay tuned a very long time if this year’s Christmas eshopping experience is any indication.

Diamond Multimedia customers reported unanswered customer-service e-mails and a recording telling them that because of the overwhelming number of calls, their call could not be completed and to call again later. Customers who were able to finally reach a live customer service representative heard that their orders could not be located even though the site’s own order status system could produce their order record (but not a status report).

In September 1999, S3, known for its single-chip graphics accelerator semiconductors, bought Diamond Multimedia Systems, which sells such well-known audio and graphics products as Stealth, Viper and Monster Sound boards.

Miller said he had updated the entire e-commerce site in early December because the previous one had problems that included glitches with credit card clearing.

But rate customers who e-mailed VC Watch about the site indicated that even the week before Christmas, they had experienced credit card clearing problems and that the site had prompted them to submit their credit card information multiple times.

Unlike Toys’R’Us, which offered $100 gift certificates to frustrated e-shoppers, Miller said on Christmas Eve that S3 had no plans to make a similar “feel-good” to those who were frustrated by its site.

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