Posted in production bug

Allegro: How production bugs killed small business.

the killer

After first publication of this blog post I was accused for lying, being not honest and unprofessional.

No,  I don’t work for Allegro.

No,  I didn’t contact technical team before publication to hear their side of the story.

No, I don’t know the Wide context of current layout changes.

No, I didn’t write a lie. It’s a story from end User’s – retailer’s- point of view. Not from allegro tester’s point of view.

Yes, I am a mean person.

I have nothing against Allegro as a company.

I just feel that testers and developers should fight for bug-free deliveries.

All examples are real.

Each new tester, at the beginning of his journey through ISTQB requirements, is being thought a series of major production bugs that have caused financial loses or could have damaged someone’s life. At the same time, when people hear about safety issues or hacked bank accounts – they feel worried.

What about us – testers and developers – what do we think when we experience some major production issues on someone else’s website? Does it bother us? Do we feel harmed or rather smile with a triumph thinking about some lousy testing?

This post won’t be about tools and pure testing stuff today. It will be different, based on friend’s of mine – Polish retailer – a true story – his experiences and struggle. It also will be a tale about some bad marketing decisions, too rapid changes and about severe production bugs on Polish most known auction platform – Allegro.

I would like you to get familiar with a series of production issues on a platform, which most of you, readers, may have never heard of. Those issues damaged or ruined several local companies, harmed hard-working people and their families. In the end – no one feels responsible for it.

If you ever wonder how your production bugs might impact business – keep on reading.

What is Allegro

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Allegro is a younger brother of Amazon and Ebay.

At first,  for several years, Allegro operated exclusively on the Polish market – now it’s a really big player in eastern Europe.

It started from being an online flee market and evolved into platform dedicated mostly for local retailers. It offers a space for selling and buying products and become a beating heart of Polish small business.

However….

Selling products on Allegro was always expensive for retailers, and really profitable for the portal itself. Some shops, apart selling products in their own e-commerce spaces, were using Allegro more as a commercial tool than main sell target. On the other hand, there were shops, that were selling things on the platform only and became very dependent. That made Allegro  huge player on Polish e-commerce market – it is the best known, it made also Polish market resistant to Ebay or Amazon influence. This quick overview will help you understand how strong position it has at the moment.

The Retailer

A friend of mine – Garry – is a small retailer. He sells small electronic parts online. Garry owns an online shop – but majority of the sales goes through Allegro. He runs his business for several years now with a great success. Last year he even received a prize for being such successful brand in e-commerce market.

Issue No1

work safe

One day Garry wakes up, logs into Allegro and realizes that his auctions doesn’t work.

He checks all of them – all switched off. He checks all his bills – everything is fine – checks his timetables – all auctions should be on – but THEY ARE NOT.

Garry tries to switch one auction on and receives a popup:

” Account locked.
Your bill was not payed.
Amount : 0,00 PLN”

You could just imagine how Garry was … surprised.

In the background – I can just imagine this failing database or fantastic live migration left by devops for the weekend.

Account locked: 3 days
Garry’s loss: several thousands PLN
People feeling guilty or apologizing from Allegro site: 0

Funny fact: It wasn’t one time event.

Issue No2

work safe (1)

Strictly connected with the first one.

After writing and calling to Allegro without success (well done you, Support Team!), Garry decided to transfer small amount of money to his Allegro account –  in order to have his account unlocked.

Guess what?

He was not able to transfer any money to his account, because there was no debt.

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Account locked: 1 week
Garry’s loss: First time his costs were grater that his income
People feeling guilty or apologizing from Allegro site: 0

You can only imagine that Garry was not the only person harmed with those issues. Unfortunately, it was just the beginning of his troubles.

A chain of disasters

work safe (3)

At the beginning of 2017 Allegro decided about UI changes and strict regulations for all retailers. I believe (this is my assumption) that it is also connected with their mobile app that is being constantly improved for several months now (well done Allegro mobile Testers – the app is really cool – like… Really).

Spider’s web wrote some doubts about logotype changes here.

All retailers were obliged to change the overall look of their auctions:

  • remove logotypes
  • remove watermarks
  • remove branding
  • make all picture’s backgrounds pure white  (RGB 255, 255, 255)

Imagine retailers having over 1000 items on a sell, mostly using AI to renew the auctions, facing this one great challenge now: prepare all of your auctions from scratch. Enjoy.

On one hand I understand Allegro – white – in mobile design – is the best you can do. Agree.

On the other hand – removing all logotypes and retailer’s names from the pictures, auction names and so on – made them invisible.
Before that time – if you had 10 identical items on the list – you was able to distinguish the sellers and buy several items from the same person  – or – from your favorite retailer. Now – the only distinguish factor is THE PRICE.

As you can imagine – this extremely brilliant PR (or whoever decides about it at Allegro’s site) decision – promoted the biggest players – who can offer prices below the market rate. All other offers went down the list. What is more, the rumours said,  that those who can afford promoting on Allegro homepage – gain the most at the moment. (I don’t know the exact prices, as it’s top secret).

If you go to Allegro app right now – you’ll find just list of pure white identical images – and a sea of boredom. But they achieved what they wanted. Probably…

I also like Allegro’s sense of humor when replying to people complaining on new design and requirements (this information comes from Allegro’s support:

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“We are testing the new design. We switch it on for random group of users, examine the influence on buyers. We compare the results, and improve if necessary or change the look of certain elements. For the next couple of weeks you’ll see your offers in different versions. We’ll choose the one, which will be the most convenient for the users”.

I miss “Enjoy” at the end.

Issue No3

work safe (2)

Layout change caused some “unexpected” issues – missing auctions.

Due to constant improvements (and probably some migrations) random items kept disappearing from retailer’s list of items. They were able to see them from admin site – but they were not visible for Allegro users.

Oh, two missing items? No one notice, we’ll fix it in the next sprint. – Does it sound familiar?

For some of the retailers – auctions were available – but their new images were missing for days (sic!). It seems like testing images on production is not always the best practice, isn’t it?

Some people skipped their orders, because not all of the items they wanted were available.

Garry’s loss: several thousands PLN
People feeling guilty or apologizing from Allegro site: 0

Summing up

Garry has already lost a lot of money.

His company started to fall, as all new regulations and constant production issues damaged his income. He had to dismiss his employees, as there was not much work to do for all of them. He has closed his office and had to look for some additional job.
This is not just a story – it’s a fact.

Your production issues – Allegro testers – caused someone’s unemployment.

It seems just unreal – because Garry’s company was successful for several years! All happened because of too rapid and reckless changes on the online platform. Imagine youtubers, dependent on their one and only communication channel, facing some unexpected platform changes. I bet some of them will loose their audience and income as well.

The sad fact is – Allegro doesn’t care. No apologies. No regrets. They’ll get the income anyway.

Will hundreds of people like Garry influence the general income of Allegro? I have no idea.
I just feel sorry for Garry – a hard-working person who lost (for some time) his life joy. Because of bunch of production errors and rapid marketing decisions.

I’m not against Allegro testers. I believe it is a good lesson for all of us to think wider. Not only within the sprint or release frame.

There is a real user out there.