Or you can please none of the people at all of the times... (1 of 2)
Update (September 20, 2016) with this link in our fall newsletter, here's a quick full time zone adjusted schedule before the wall of text scares you off:
|Eastern Time||Central Time||Mountain Time||Pacific Time|
|Premier Launch||12 AM||11 PM||10 PM||9 PM|
|Email delivery of launch stats and teaser||7AM- 8AM||6AM- 7AM||5AM - 6AM||4AM - 5AM|
|Relaunch||8 AM||7 AM||6 AM||5 AM|
|VMP reserve||4 PM||3 PM||2 PM||1 PM|
end of update - original post below
Twelve years ago I launched the first internet daily deal store. In many ways this seems like an eternity ago. Remember the internet without Facebook, YouTube or Twitter? It was an entirely different era. In contrast, the latter half of that time seems to have gone by quickly. I can hardly believe it’s been 6 years since I sold Woot to Amazon—which means that any day now Amazon will have owned Woot longer than I did! (At least in a woot site operational sense - the origins of Woot actually pre-date Amazon itself by a month in 1994… so from a corporate perspective, I started the company that later became Amazon!)
Maybe time moves faster to each of us as an artifact of aging. Or there’s that crap that time flies when you’re having fun. However it happened, here we are now in year 3 of our Meh.com experiment. We’ve rebuilt much of the infrastructure we had in the past. In fact both our wholesale and fulfillment departments do more volume than our retail! But it’s taken us more time than I had hoped to spend. I’m ready to mix things up. If time moved slower back when we were pioneers, then let’s get to pioneering again!
Change #1: Meh Event Circuit Breaker
Perhaps my first decision in creating the first daily deal store was to launch each product at 12am central time. It was simply when the date changed and I didn’t ask for a more granular measure in the code. Of course it wasn’t even 30 days after launch before I was hearing things like “1AM IS TOO LATE FOR US YOU IDIOTS” and “WHY DO YOU HATE THE EAST COAST?!?!” For years I deflected and ignored this. Over time, our workday morning crowd even became the most financially important to us–it seemed to me that the East coast was contributing just fine. I concluded that East Coast visitors even benefited by the West coast forum activity and opinions the night before. Besides, if they wanted to, they could just stay up until 1am, right?
Ten years later, as we launched our classic daily deal endeavor here on Meh, we did actually allow an exception; a change to our old-school modeling. We launched at midnight Eastern! Sure, most of us still reside in the Central time zone but, what if we had moved to the East Coast? Besides, we weren’t getting any younger and now we would only have to stay up until 11pm to put out fires. HOORAY—we thought—what superior folks we were to have such a fine idea.
A few months ago I was asked to technically review the status quo timing. It’s quite repetitive to this topic but if you missed it and are bored here it is:
Oddly, after viewing this smug (dry humor assist by @matthew) topic-ending gag, I wanted to rebel against it. Once the argument was over—shrug of apathy or not—the challenge of maintaining backbone against change ended. Surely it was possible to develop a system that would give both East Coast and West Coast opportunities to buy a product at launch? What about an ideal time like Noon Eastern in which everyone would have a more equal chance during the day?
The crazy growth of our midnight audience 12 years ago at Woot precluded us from doing anything but scramble to keep up. Our resources were scant and our personnel stretched so thin that we often didn’t have product received and creative done for the next day until 30 minutes before it launched. Back then, moving the launch time to a daytime period when the site would be doubly slammed would have been insane. As CEO I would have only created more stress when we were already unable to handle demand.
More importantly, though, switching away from our “Midnight Madness” style launch would irretrievably alter our culture. We would be more corporate and less fun. More chasing the buck and less favoring the creative idealist. Why are creative idealists up at midnight anyways? What jerks.
I thought again of another approach that was summarily discarded at early Woot: Surge pricing! Now that Uber had popularized the concept that demand increases pricing, we could slow the rate of sales by temporarily increasing price. We’d make more money even! While this discussion is lively and we’d enjoy the capitalistic outcome, it ultimately results in a store that is selling something for more than is necessary to at least a portion of its audience. It truly would be against a core principle and in many cases would just ruin the point of the platform.
So what do you do if you like the Midnight launch crowd and you can’t do Surge Pricing? How about installing a Trading Curb or a Circuit Breaker. A circuit breaker goes into effect when the stock market tumbles rapidly and trading is halted for a time. Now, in the case of stock markets, the circuit breaker is in place so that rational thinking can catch up with panic buying and selling and allow both sides to equalize—but why not use it here to create fairness within our geography. Once the circuit breaker has been thrown, why not hold and wait until the East Coast morning crowd is awake to participate. We can price our items aggressively, launch at Midnight Eastern, set a circuit breaker point in the inventory and, if necessary, relaunch our exciting sale at 8am Eastern.
That’s the long backstory of the change we are proposing. Someone walking up to see our system today would simply say we have two piles of inventory and we launch each at different times for different audiences. Sure, it would be easier to describe that, but it leads to less understanding of our peculiarities. Multiple launches look gimmicky and that’s the main reason we’ve resisted it in the past.
Starting sometime next week, here’s the main addition to our model:
8AM Guarantee: We guarantee to have inventory available for sale at 8AM EASTERN every day *
AND we will maintain our 12AM standard launch. In fact, on most days, you will notice nothing different and we’ll continue selling inventory fluidly without pause all day. However, on days that demand is rapidly outpacing supply, our circuit breaker will flip and sales will halt to relaunch again at 8AM Eastern.
*The very nature of what we do is hope to not have sufficient supply. We don’t guarantee you will get any inventory, only that we will have had it generally available. Oh, also, the word guarantee is just for fun since we didn’t take any of your money yet #hoorayasterisks.
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