December 28, 2012, 9:41 AM

A $38 error causes FreshDirect.com to go dark

The online grocer fails to renew its web site address.

Zak Stambor

Managing Editor

Lead Photo

When many shoppers logged on to FreshDirect.com on Tuesday and Wednesday, they saw a web page for domain registrar Network Solutions LLC that said the grocery retailer’s web address had to be renewed.

The renewal cost about $38. But the retailer had failed to pay it, which was the result of an “error in the domain name registration renewal process,” according to a spokesman for FreshDirect, No. 80 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. The outage ended when the retailer renewed its domain, which will last until 2024, it says.

FreshDirect, which was founded in 1999, delivers groceries to shoppers in New York, Philadelphia and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut. It typically experiences low demand after the holiday, so the site outage was “not a significant business disruption from a cost perspective,” the spokesman says.

Even so, the retailer turned to Twitter to reassure shoppers that it was still in business and taking orders. “We are open, making deliveries & working to get this resolved,” it posted this week.

While FreshDirect renewed its web address quickly, some Internet service providers were slower than others to refresh their servers and repost the retailer’s site, the spokesman says. And, as recently as Thursday afternoon, it appeared some shoppers were still having issues, as the retailer posted on Twitter, “Thanks for your patience! Our site is currently back & available via most ISPs. Pls call us if you have any access problems.”

The outage was a black eye for a retailer that has spent more than a year focused on expanding its online grocery delivery business into more East Coast cities.

FreshDirect wasn’t the only online retailer experiencing holiday-timed site outages. A glitch at Amazon Web Services kept many Netflix video viewers in the dark on Christmas Eve, Netflix says. And Walmart.com went down on Dec. 13, during what turned out to be the busiest online shopping week of the year.

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