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Costco Says Hold on a Minute, or 24 Seconds

Thursday, 14 Jan 2010 | 2:50 PM ET

Last week I wrote about research from Gomez, part of Compuware, which measured how quickly retail Web sites responded to consumers over the holiday.

A Costco employee pulls shopping charts at a Costco Wholesale store.
Damian Dovarganes
A Costco employee pulls shopping charts at a Costco Wholesale store.

Overall marks showed improvement, though "Sites which had trouble processing transactions included HP Shopping and Costco."

Costco says not so fast, we were actually fast.

"In fact, there were no such problems," says Costco's Glen Roberts.

The research in question from Gomez said that from Nov. 20 through Jan. 3, Costco ranked 33rd in page loading times — 2.17 seconds — which was just above the industry average of 2.18 seconds. However, its overall product purchase time of nearly 24 seconds put it in 20th place and eight seconds slower than average.

In particular, Gomez points to this chart from the evening of Dec. 17, which indicates that transaction times slowed dramatically in the Miami market for Costco, meaning people in South Florida trying to order stuff at Costco.comwere having to wait a longer.

Source: Gomez Division of Compuware

"I double-checked our availability reports to confirm we had no issues," Costco's Roberts told me. "The chart below from Gomez appears to indicate their monitor in Miami experienced an issue contacting our site. There are probably multiple reasons why this might be the case, none of them could possibly be due to a problem with our Web site."

He goes on to say that all of the other cities were tracking just fine, "thus supporting the notion there was some kind of anomaly within their measurement system itself."

Matt Peopsel, VP of Gomez's performance strategies, sees it differently. He says if the problem was in Gomez's monitoring, "we would've seen multiple retailers impacted in Miami. In fact, we only saw Costco."

While Roberts says Costco cannot release internal information, he reiterated that there was no slowness in getting orders processed (do you know you can even buy caskets online there?) during the holidays.

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