Here's a cautionary tale reminding us all that there's no such thing as making a little mistake when it comes to a company's online prescence.
Domino's Pizza made headlines last week after it came out that the king of home delivered mediocre (at best) pizza accidentally gave away 11,000 pizzas.
How did it happen?
Apparantly, Domino's internally had abandoned plans to offer a free pizza deal as a part of their "Bailout" campaign. In fact, "bailout" was to be the promo code for ordering a free pizza online. In fact again, before it was abandoned, the plan had already been enacted as far as to already program in the "bailout" code on their company web site.
So when the plan was cancelled before it even launched publicly, no one remembered to make sure the promo code didn't go live anyway.
Pesky online customers sometimes guess at promo codes hoping they'll stumble onto a deal they don't know about otherwise. (Is it hard to imagine a college student doing this?)
Someone did so, successfully.
Even peskier online customers and users love to share hacks like this. Believe me; the glory of cracking the Domino's code is a lot more rewarding than the taste-like-cardboard free pizza.
Oops meets critical mass!
11,000 free pizzas later (in other words; in a matter of hours), Domino's figured out what was happening and deactivated the code.
Lessons to be learned from this one:
Commandment #1: Thou shalt not "go live" on your web site before you mean it.
Commandment #2 Thou shalt not assume that if something is active on the web site; but hidden, that it will stay that way. Online users don't need a link or a trail of bread crumbs to find stuff on your web site. Some will root around for goodies in the back forty.
Commandment #3 Offering freebies online is a dangerous business. Think it through. Think it through. And then, think it through again. Then don't do it, unless your pockets are as deep as Domino's Pizza.
Commandment #4 Thou shalt monitor visitor traffic and activity 24/7, if you are a public-facing eBusiness. The web never sleeps and neither should your eBusiness. Otherwise you could wake up and be in the red to the tune of 11,000 pizzas.
Commandment #5 Watch this video and imagine the first domino as the first person who finds an exploit in your web site.
Last updated: Apr 6, 2009
RENEE ORICCHIO is a technology writer and former supervising news producer for CNN Financial News. She has been covering the computer industry since 1987. @oricchio