A golf ball denial of service attack? Costco hits bogey as website topples over golf sales craze

The golf ball that ate Christimas

This might be the first time a golf ball has caused a denial of service attack on a major website.  And…just in time for Christmas!

It’s a story that could only happen in 21st Century America.  Costco golf ball fans crushed the warehouse store’s website on Wednesday, rushing to fill their shopping carts with Kirkland-brand golf balls that seem to travel as far as balls costing twice as much.

The balls, which have achieved something of legendary status, had been out of stock for weeks. The retailer promised they would be available again this morning, and they were — but sales stopped after an hour or two.  Would-bebBuyers reported all sorts of shopping snafus.

“I cannot believe that I had the signature golf balls in my cart and couldn’t check out. 1 hour. All my cc and info was there. Ugh,” wrote one.

A box of Kirkland Signature Four-Piece Urethane Cover Golf Ball (24 of them) goes for $29.99.  By mid-afternoon, the scarcity — and presumably, pressure to have them in time to put under the Christmas tree — saw a huge aftermarket developing.  Boxes of the things were selling for up to $90 on eBay.

The anger spilled so far and wide that Costco was actually forced to apologize to customers by midday.

“We apologize that the KS Golf Balls sold out and you were not able to complete your purchase,” said one such email, forwarded to me by a frustrated consumer who said he’d wasted his whole lunch hour putting purchases in his shopping cart, seeing it crash or become unavailable, and then trying again. And again.

Even ESPN sports reporter Darren Rovell took notice:

“Costco slammed with website traffic this morning as golfers try to order their much heralded ball. Lot of complaints,” he Tweeted.

It was unclear whether Costco had run out of stock, or its website had simply run out of digital firepower.  My bet is on the latter, as some users said late in the day on Wednesday that they were able to order the golf balls anew.  At least, temporarily.  At 6:15 p.m., I was able to add a box to my cart, but I didn’t buy them, so your mileage may vary.

There was no indication that Costco website suffered from general outages today, simply that some bottleneck occurred that made purchasing the golf balls fail.  One can imagine the complex inventory systems at play.  One can also imagine a retailer like Costco enjoying a holiday-week sensation like this.  We’ll probably never know the cause.

It seems odd that this year’s Cabbage Patch Doll is a Costco golf ball, but hey, Happy Holidays.

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About Bob Sullivan 1344 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

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