Amazon Prime Day got off to a bit of a rocky start, with a website glitch that disappointed and angered shoppers, a strike in European fulfillment centers and some protests in the U.S. over the sale of books by fringe groups. Yet the company said sales out of the gate were pacing ahead of 2017.
In fact, that’s quite an understatement. According to data from Feedvisor, a provider of algorithmic repricing and revenue intelligence, Prime Day orders were up 69% in the first 12 hours vs. 2017, and sales up 89%. Compared to the same period last week on Amazon, sales are up 80%, Feedvisor said.
Right at the 3 p.m. EDT start time on Monday, there was a website crash that prevented shoppers from accessing Amazon.com, leading to images of dogs, apologies and of course lots of social media blowback. After the site was back up, shoppers had to temporarily enter a security code to get in. It’s unclear how long the site was down although some of the issues seem to have been resolved by 4:30 p.m. EDT, while others continued until 7 p.m.
“Some customers are having difficulty shopping, and we’re working to resolve this issue quickly,” an Amazon spokesperson told CNN Monday night. “Many are shopping successfully – in the first hour of Prime Day in the U.S., 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.”
In Spain, nearly 1,800 Amazon workers walked off the job on Monday for a planned 72-hour strike in a protest over wages and working conditions, with workers in Germany expected to do the same today. This has happened in past years leading up to the Christmas holiday but not on Prime Day. Amazon said the labor issues didn’t materially affect its operations.
“Amazon is a fair and responsible employer and as such we are committed to dialogue, which is an inseparable part of our culture,” the company said in response. “We are committed to ensuring a fair cooperation with all our employees, including positive working conditions and a caring and inclusive environment.”
Advocacy groups have organized a boycott of Amazon and protests outside Whole Foods Markets throughout Prime Day to pressure the company to not sell Nazi, Confederate and white supremacist items from third-party merchants.
“The goal of #PrimeDayofAction is to raise awareness about the harmful practices of the nation’s largest online retailer and to ask: is there anything Amazon won’t do for a dollar?” said The Action Center on Race and the Economy.
In a counter to all the bad PR moments, Amazon sent out a number of press releases this morning touting new Amazon Web Services contracts with Major League Baseball, 21st Century Fox and Epic Games. AWS is by far the biggest profit center for Amazon, which made it easier for the company to spend more than $7 billion in shipping costs last year. That rapidly rising figure is the impetus for Amazon’s ever-expanding logistics developments, an attempt to lessen its dependence on major carriers and handle peak volumes.