IT systems overload stymies hotel offer

IT comedy of errors as promotion offering accomodation at top quality hotels for under $20 crashes Web site not once, but twice.

A Leading Hotels of the World (LHW) promotion offering accommodation at top quality hotels for US$19.28 — to celebrate 80 years of operation since 1928 — has been postponed indefinitely after a comedy of IT errors.

The promotion offered LHW customers major discounts on rooms at a number of hotels throughout the world on a first-come, first-served basis.

But to take advantage of the offer, users had to log in to a specific Web site between 10-10:15pm EST on the nominated date. Due to far higher than expected interest, the Web site promptly crashed.

One customer who contacted Computerworld said he logged on to the site at exactly 10pm, but already could not get through.

"I tried for 10 minutes and you just absolutely could not get through to the site," he said.

"I certainly made it a point to log on at exactly the right time, but it looks like so did several hundred thousand other people."

The next day LHW sent out e-mails through its mailing list apologising for the situation. The e-mail included an application form for users to fill in, which would again be accepted on a first in best-dressed basis.

"But then they told us to e-mail everything in by a certain time," the customer said. "Which again sounded to me like exactly the same problem. They hadn't quite twigged."

Sure enough, a few hours later the promotion had been postponed.

LHW did not immediately respond to Computerworld's e-mail inquiries, but in an e-mail informing customers of the postponement the group offered an explanation:

"Although our original back-up plan provided a viable solution for the 150,000 people who were registered, it was met with some confusion over submission procedures and timing," wrote Tad Teng, LHW's president and CEO.

"In addition, we have become increasingly concerned that a large number of non-registered respondents plan to submit forms which would inundate the system."

Teng was apologetic over the mix-up. "We are sincerely committed to restoring your faith in our brand and do not want to risk disappointing you again," he wrote.

"We are working tirelessly to develop a solution that will be fair for you and all registered participants."

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