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As I write this (11am CST) I’m repeatedly hitting Apple-R on my keyboard to refresh my browser. That’s right, I’m one of the thousands of giddy electronics fans trying to cash in on SparkFun’s Free Day. Last I saw, almost 92% of the funds remain, mainly due to people DDOSing the server with their frantic reloads.

OK, hands off the keyboard. Let’s take a deep breath, step back a moment and consider a question: in the final analysis, is this $100,000 free-for-all — the nerd equivalent of 10,000 soccer moms battling over a limited number of Teddy Ruxpins on Black Friday — really a good idea for SparkFun? Ultimately will it help or hurt them? I asked two hardware hackers, Garrett Mace and MAKE’s own John Edgar Park, to weigh in. Bear in mind that they wrote these opinions last night.

First, Garrett Mace says negatory, bad idea:

It just seems like a bad move for SparkFun. More of a risk, actually. They are definitely getting a lot of publicity from Free Day, but I don’t know if it will outweigh the negatives. Their site has been slow all month, bad for any online business. They’re losing $100,000 of income, or about $20,000-$50,000 in costs. About 1,000 people will get their free stuff, but many thousands more will fail to do so, for various reasons. The people who didn’t get their free stuff will somehow feel cheated, either by SparkFun or by the ones who did get the free stuff. There will be hundreds, maybe thousands of emails to SparkFun support complaining, or begging for special consideration because a computer crashed, the power went out, etc. And I think that many of the lucky 1,000 will be those only looking for something free, instead of those who would fully appreciate and use the hardware. I expect that a lot of the free stuff will end up in the bottom of a drawer forever. There are definitely 1000 electronic hobbyists out there who would truly appreciate SparkFun’s gesture and would put the hardware to good use, but there’s no way to select for them. I think SparkFun would get much closer to what they’re trying to accomplish here if they held smaller giveaways throughout the year, with a more selective approach (design contests, quizzes, etc). Regardless of what happens, we’re not going to hear any misgivings from SparkFun after the fact…they have to play it off as a grand event now that they’ve committed to it, so we’ll hear upbeat reports with lots of words like “amazing”, “exciting”, “overwhelmed”, “community” and so on.

I hate to be negative, since the actual intention behind the idea is great. I’m just speaking from experience seeing other giveaways; hackaday and “i want this book”, the Woot.com Bag Of Crap, etc.

For the counterpoint, J. Edgar says yea:

SparkFun’s Free Day is a great idea for a number of reasons. Foremost, they’re getting a ton of free publicity for it. I won’t claim to have run any numbers, but I’d guess that this kind of advertising is worth thousands or tens of thousands of dollars (remember, $100K of merchandise will cost them between $25-50K at cost, and they ain’t paying for shipping). Why is this stunt worth so much? Because it’s not limited to a single ad in a few print publications or banners on websites. It’s the juicy kind of advertising that’s hard to buy; it’s buzz. People are tweeting about it, blogging about it, excited about it. Not only are the major hacking/building/making sites writing about it, but so are the deal sites, the forums, and so on. They’ve even got 274 comments on their original blog post announcing this — when people make the effort to become part of the conversation you know they’ll remember you the next time they need to buy a breakout board.

Next, their stated reasons are sound. They want to stress test their new servers. This’ll do that. They want to engender good will to their customers. Engendered. They have excused themselves from shipping it all immediately, so they won’t need to hire extra hands or crush the existing staff.

Sure, most people will be turned away at the door, and some people will send email to complain about that, but in the long run this is a terrific move. SparkFun has great products and a winning personality, so anything they can do to get their name out to a wider audience will benefit them in the end. [Full disclosure, SparkFun distributes ScrewShield kits, of which I'm a co-creator.]

What are your thoughts, readers? Did you successfully battle your way to the checkout window? What loot did you score or not score? Leave your comments but please keep them rational and courteous.

John Baichtal

My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal nerdage.net


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Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    FAIL

    1. ewertz says:

      Never underestimate the strength of the human beings’ newly developed sixth sense — the sense of entitlement.

      And I don’t think that they alienated any “customers” that they’d want anyways.

      Sparkfun’s often seemed (to me) to go about things in an odd (sometimes confounding) way, and I’d include this as one of them. The weirdness also part of their charm. But to sit around and *complain* about what they did is just plain weak.

      As far as part of the explanation being “we wanted to test our servers”, that’s clearly the beer talkin’ (sorry Nate, but you might want to get some help with that :-))

      More power to ‘em.

  2. Chukhazard says:

    I’m with the first guy. I’m pissed. After about an hour I had made it as far as the checkout page, then the server really crapped out. They weren’t ready at all for the traffic. Sure a thousand people (a little bit more actually as probably not everyone spent 100+) got some freebies. I’d bet a lot more than that just wasted an hour and a half of their time and are (like me) bitter. I’m no big electronics shopper but I was looking to get some starter kits. I hadn’t heard of sparkfun before but now that I have I will shop far and wide before I go to them.

    I think a drawing would have been better, as it wouldn’t have pounded their servers.

    1. Brian says:

      This was 100& FAIL.

      I have never ordered from Sparkfun before but thought this would be a good chance to star off as a customer.

      I was ready to go for 1 hour, then as the sale started, I couldnt get to the checkout. I couldnt even get to the main site!

      How can anyone have gotten anything? I was able to get a refresh at about 45 minutes into the sale, and there was only $5200 spent. I dont see how they went from $5200 in 45 minutes to $100,000 in 60 more minutes.

      I was looking to pick up an Arduino starter kit (thats it) but it looks like if I have to buy one, I’ll get it from another shop since they are not the only game in town.

      Living in Massachusetts, I can easily take a 30 minute drive to You-Do-It Electronics rather than have to order online for my electronics supplies.

      Too bad… I was very excited to try them out.

      1. Sean says:

        Heh Heheheh heh!

        Customers actually pay for stuff.

  3. Anonymous says:

    If their intent was to reward their loyal customers (which they stated WAS their intent), this didn’t. It just randomly rewarded people that wanted something for nothing.

  4. Steve says:

    Fail. An hour without a single successful page load.

  5. Rufus T. Harlemberry says:

    First two posters sound like my kids, complaining that they didn’t get their free stuff. Go call your mothers, I’m sure they’ll make you a sandwich.

  6. MG says:

    I didn’t manage to get through, but really all I wasted was a bit of time on my browser. Every couple of minutes I flipped over and hit refresh when I saw it had timed out, and like most people I had filled my cart and was ready to check out long before the sale kicked off.

    I would have preferred a lottery, but I certainly won’t avoid them because I didn’t manage to get through. I’ve run into stores before hoping to get 1 of 20 TVs they had on sale. I still shop at those places even though I didn’t get the great deal I wanted. At least this time I didn’t have to line up at 6am.

  7. Lost Customer says:

    I agree with FAIL! I had a cart ready to go and ws logged in. Tried for about an hour and a half and never saw the check out page once!

    I will probably not choose to do business with sparkfun because of this negative experience. The fact is everything they sell can be found much cheaper somewhere else.

    I also wont forget that they subjected me to chasing a carrot dangling from a stick for an hour and a half. This leaves a very negative taste in memory for the future.

  8. Tony says:

    I’ve been a customer of Sparkfun for a while now, and had my cart pre-loaded etc. etc. I got up early, sat in front of the computer, watched all the twittering, tried loading the pages, etc. etc. I never ended up getting through.

    Even if they had the server capacity, there were thousands of people lined up in exactly the same way, so it wouldn’t have made a difference. I didn’t expect to get through, so I wasn’t dissapointed. I think this will in the end turn out well for Sparkfun. There are always going to be pissed off people, but they are almost always a minority, and the balance will be in Sparkfun’s favor.

    I think that if you take away the people who were just trying to get something for free, there is an overwhelming number of people who really will use the stuff. If you took away those trying to get free stuff for the sake of it the result would have been very similar. Those people are more likely to be the ones who would give up after half an hour or an hour.

    I think what may come out of this is someone realizing there is little competition for Sparkfun and that someone else could get into this market with a similar business model and do well.

    Oh and we also learned that there is an infinite market for free cool stuff. :)

    1. Nick Waanders says:

      I tried, but didn’t get through. I could be pissed and angry for not being able to get a $100 free, but frankly I think it’s great that 1000 people DID get it, and that this whole free day idea speaks volumes about SparkFun’s attitude. I had a little cart ready to go, and I think I’ll order it anyway.

      On the flip side, anybody who organizes an online sale or give away should realize that actually giving a specific time when it’s going to happen is setting themselves up for a massive server outage, and lots of user frustration. It would probably have been better to randomly award vouchers to anybody who has an account with them or something.

      All in all though, awesome way to give back to the community SparkFun!

    2. RocketGuy says:

      I too had a full cart ready to go, and didn’t manage to get in. Did it make me a little sad? Yes. But am I all offended and bent out of shape by it? No.

      If y’all had bothered to actually read the free day spiel, they did put in a new cluster for more load generally, and wanted to stress test it with free day. It’s not economically possible to securely scale to that kind of load to the point of providing a seamless lag-free experience. So if that’s a FAIL, it’s an expected fail.

      So all of you who are so deeply horribly offended that you couldn’t get anything you wanted right this instant: Chill.

      Go check out C.K. Lewis’s bit on the modern age and get a little perspective. Hilarious, yet relevant commentary.

      Gave away free stuff, yeah we should *punish* them for that, don’t want them to ever try anything that could be fun or remotely altruistic now do we?

      I’ll be placing my sparkfun order later tonight after I review my project part counts. They try to do right by their customers more than most.

      1. indylarry says:

        This is the first I have heard of free day. I tried my best and couldn’t get in. I probably would have bought my cart if you had offered a small discount for those of us who tried hard and failed. I won’t be wasting my time next year.

  9. Mr. Fright says:

    I was one of the lucky 1000. I filled my cart two hours before the start time, and even then things were slow. Lots of refreshes. One of the freebies I got was an Arduino, and I intend on giving it to someone with the hope of getting them interested in that kind of thing (or just donating to my local hackerspace, which will do the same thing.)

  10. asp55 says:

    I’d say that freeday was an astounding SUCCESS.

    Before I go into why, let me just say: I’m one of the unlucky many that did NOT manage to place an order. Regardless of having been trying since they opened the gate.

    1) First of all, they went into it stating very clearly that it was going to be a crapshoot whether or not those trying to place orders actually would be able to place one. The #1 reason for doing this was to stress test their new servers, and I’m sure it did that like crazy.

    2) The buzz around this has been amazing. Not only the build up to it (which took a negative tole on the experience with their old server) but they’ve been in the top 10 google searches all day, twitter is alight with various takes on it, and generally the name is out there.

    3) They did just give away $100,000 of merchandise. Not only is this just dang cool, but it’ll hopefully spark people who have not played with electronics before into starting. This is actually the #1 bonus of giving away stuff shotgun style rather than via a selective process. Sure, some people just wanted to get free stuff, but how many of them do you think actually slogged through the 2 hour server bog? And more over, having been through that, I think the odds of just haphazardly throwing things into a drawer, rather than finding a use for it, are much lower than if it had been a smooth, easy, giveaway.

    Points for improvement:
    The number one thing I think they could have done better though, would have been to transition to the new servers BEFORE announcing they were planning to do that to stress test them. Clearly the month of the old server struggling just to keep up with all those who were interested in the details provided a negative experience to both their regular customers and new ones alike. This also would have allowed them to fine tune a lot of the kinks out prior to throwing the doors open and saying “have at it.”

    Still, it was incredibly exciting. Sparkfun is still a great company, and I look forward to seeing what they do in the future.

  11. N says:

    made it out with a couple of xbees and the arduino shield. I am one of those loyal SFE customers, and hopefully they have generated some more! I think that there are an awful lot of companies that have spent well over $50K on advertising and have never seen the top 10 on Google, much less multiple entries. Congratulations, SparkFun!

  12. noise says:

    I think it was a cool idea, it certainly got lots of attention. I didn’t get any goodies, but it’s not like I lost anything.

    1. Pounding their servers was kind of the point.

    2. Do you think everyone only ordered $100 of merch?

  13. OllieTech, LLC says:

    This reminded me a lot of Woot.com when they have a Bag of Crap for sale. Servers get overloaded, everyone gets upset and millions of human hours are lost chasing after something we really don’t need. Then again, I guess that’s human nature.

  14. Anonymous says:

    oh my god how lame. sparkfun sucks.

  15. David says:

    There are other ways to stress test a server than pissing off customers. I finally got something into a cart, nothing more. This makes me not want to come back. Fail.

    Instead they could have given something to each of the maker spaces around the country.

  16. cyenobite2 says:

    While trying not to sound like “sour grapes” I appreciate Sparkfun’s effort and willingness to give that much product away. Thanks for that. But clearly many more people did not “win” – and because of the server issues it feels like we didn’t even get a chance to play. I was there at 11:00:10 clicking my “checkout” button, (after spending about an hour the previous night waiting and waiting for pages to load so I could fill my cart). But from 11:00 til about 1:00 I could not get the site to load after multiple attempts. Then only to learn that the quota was met (not sure how others got the page to load while I couldn’t).
    So now I have a full cart of items I still want, but they still have incredibly slow page loads, not to mention they are going to be out of stock on a lot of items now, not to mention the massive amounts of shipping.
    So I think I’ll take some of this extra time now and shop around and possibly get better deals elsewhere.
    But – thanks anyway Sparkfun!

  17. anonymous says:

    as a new customer who did not sign up for an account ahead, i was unable to do so in order to place an order. giving away free stuff is a great way to get new customers to come in the door for the first time and encourage them to come back. since i didn’t have an account, all i could do was watch others take home stuff while i became frustrated with a site that would not load. this leaves a bitter taste in my mouth and causes me to want to look elsewhere for products since i am clearly not wanted at their store.

  18. Bill says:

    I thought it was a great idea to give back (even though they can write all this off taxes), and so I put it on my calendar to remind me. I was all ready to go. then. the. site. crawled. I spent about an hour trying to get a few items into my shopping cart. Once I was finally ready, the site just didn’t work. I finally had to leave for a meeting, and as I sat in the meeting, I watched the @Sparkfun twitter feed as the $$$ they were giving away kept going up. Once I returned to my office, it was over and I wasn’t able to get anything. ah well. would have been nice and i hope those that did get things will enjoy them. I think Sparkfun can see how their servers held up under the strain. thanks for the efforts.

  19. Andy says:

    I gave up after fifteen minutes of watching their servers get hammered. Disappointing.

    Still, I can’t feel too let down that I didn’t get a whole lot of free stuff that I wasn’t going to have anyway. Net loss: 15 minutes of time.

  20. steve says:

    I am a loyal SFE customer too, and I worked through it, to buy a 70W soldering station and some other goodies. For about $30 I massively upgraded my workbench! I guarantee you that iron will get a workout.

    For the hour and a half that I kept refreshing, I was pretty sure I was gonna miss out. But, I still plugged through. I was really surprised to get in at around $65k on the giveaway. I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for those who feel “cheated” by this, but on the other hand, go ahead and rage away, it’s your right. If I hadn’t gotten the deal, I would have been disappointed, but I wouldn’t blame SFE. It’s just the luck of the draw.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I think it was a good idea.

    I did not try to get anything. I’ve been a customer for quite a while now. While I like free stuff, I can afford to buy what I want. In fact, I placed an order on earlier this week hoping it would ship before the rush (it did).

    I hope that most of the people who were successful were people who will use the stuff and could not otherwise easily afford it.

  22. Jason! says:

    I think all the naysayers need to calm down and take a few deep breaths. Clearly there were going to be timeouts with 10,000 or more people vying for 1000 spots, all at the same time. I’ve seen TicketMaster choke on similar loads, so this isn’t a big surprise. None of the other places people are stomping off to in a huff could have handled the load either.

    Even stranger, there seems to be some sort of expectation of a queue here “I got up early/made an account/preloaded my shopping cart” that simply doesn’t exist. It’s a scrum, with winners and losers, based (mostly) on luck. Even if the servers could have handled the load, there would still be many more losers than winners. It’s free stuff. You chose to spend your time trying to get it. You lost. It’s not personal (it’s also not your fault). Get over it.

    That being said, I’d love to see a geographic breakdown of the winners. How about it, Spark Fun folks?

    Also: Four of the top ten Google searches and a Twitter trend is probably worth a fistful of cash, even with all the whiners.

    I’ll be getting my project parts from them, and pay happily.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I have never understood the concept of “giving back” something you worked for. Nobody gave it to you, you earned it. Maybe teaching a man to fish would make more sense.

  24. Anonymous says:

    It was SparkFun’s risk to take.

    I’m sure they hope that this ploy that uses their community as free ad men to get on Google page 1 will result in more customers. When you start making big money like they are you stop caring if you piss off a lot of customers, as long as you get the chance to take money from many more.

    This is a win if they got 5000 new customers for the 2000 that they stopped caring about. Net gain of 3000 people that they will get money from.

    Money talks. SparkFun listens.

  25. lag1980 says:

    I got in near the end. I never expected to get through, and anyone that is pissed that they didn’t get free stuff obviously set their expectations on actually getting something. With this kind of thing, expecting to get through is just ridiculous. That being said, I got a uBlox GPS module, ArduPilot, and FTDI breakout board. Well on my way to converting my R/C plane to an UAV.

  26. Michael says:

    Here’s what they did wrong – they made a free giveaway that was based upon an imaginary lottery where the winners were chosen by the chance astrological lineup of database and web servers, switches, routers, and personal computers. Had I clicked at 9:01 A.M. EST and the contest had been over simply due to my not being fast enough, I would have been less bitter than I was after spending a couple of hours trying to get past shipping confirmation.

    However – I do agree that the random components I chose (two of which would have been really useful, the other seven were “I think I can make something” purchases) would not have been as treasured as if I’d have bought them outright. It has not necessarily turned me off of SF. I look for the cheapest price, dependable company, etc. and if SF is it, then I won’t be better about pressing the “Confirm Order” button.

    Next time though, do a Twitter lottery for a gift card and decrease the tension (and loss of work productivity ;)

  27. Ken says:

    I missed out on getting my cart for free. Searched on the internet and found another site selling the same stuff for almost half the price, bought it from them. Hopefully sparkfun enjoyed my free server testing, but I probably won’t be buying anything from them.

    1. Anonymous says:

      So where? I would really like to know.

      1. Ken says:

        Specifically, the DIY Oscilloscope kit I found at http://www.nkcelectronics.com/digital-storage-oscilloscope-diy-kit.html for 60% of the sparkfun price.

        Not sure how reliable this company is though. Well see :P

  28. Chuckhazard says:

    I myself had forgotten that this was partially to stress test servers, so on that count they did succeed. I wonder if they deem these new servers adequate? Their average throughput is nothing like today I’m sure.

    I expect a lot of people didn’t even forget, but just never knew, having heard about the sale word of mouth.

    Personally I’m still bitter. I can’t fault them for giving away free stuff to entice people to pound their servers but I can certainly shop elsewhere.

  29. gyziger says:

    You know, I came into this not expecting to get anything, and didn’t get anything. I decided to try just because of Make’s reminder posted yesterday. Even if I did actually track SparkFun’s free day from the start, I would have entered the contest with the same attitude. It’s a “free-day,” an opening day for everyone to try and get their stab at something for no cost to them but the time they spent clicking.

    Didn’t get anything? Well, what would you have spent that time doing otherwise? I’m not trying to be rash or call anyone out, but it is an honest question. I know I’ve spent hours sitting on the computer doing mindless unplanned research on wikipedia, make, instructables, etc. Spending the (albeit, small) amount of time this morning trying to get something that SparkFun was GIVING OUT FOR FREE was just another day on my computer.

    I don’t really care that I didn’t get anything. To be honest, it was actually pretty exciting to see if I got through. I say props to them for trying something actually NEW for once instead of doing something particularly boring or routine.

    Regardless of “winning” or not, I’m still planning on purchasing what I was wishing to get today, and I’m certainly not going to stop making things or stop my love for tinkering. If SparkFun wants to have another free day, well, more power to them. If other sites want to try this (COUGH) I’d say more power to them too.

  30. Jim says:

    I don’t think this went so well. I didn’t feel like I was part of a contest or anything, it felt more like three hours on hold with customer service in Bangalore followed by being transferred to a disconnected phone.

    Free stuff is cool, but this was the digital equivalent of throwing turkeys out of a plane on Thanksgiving.

  31. thedave says:

    Really those that are angry must live a perfect life. I have real issues in my life. Wether or not i get $100.00 worth of electronic components my life does not change. Maybe some of you just have high blood pressure and should be out excersizing instead of sitting at your computer hitting ctrl-r over and over.
    Seriously get over your selfs.

  32. kevin says:

    I think the biggest problem was the frustration it caused. Clicking the refresh for over and hour and getting a headache from doing so. Then thinking in the back of my mind that some guy who has never heard of sparkfun, got some free stuff today (I know this because I saw it on twitter).

    I’m 100% with what Garrett Mace said. I’m not bitter because I didn’t get something, but that I wasted time and it caused frustration. I’ll buy from sparkfun in the future if they have good deals. But to be honest, I find that sparkfun isn’t the cheapest place to get electronics. So even though I poured a lot of money into sparkfun in the past, I will probably do so less in the future.

  33. Gardevoir says:

    To begin, I heard about this a month ago and stocked my cart that very day. I had never ordered from them before. But I have read and read all the cool projects, hacks, and gizmos people have been building using Arduinos and such for the last 6 months of my Undergrad Degree. I barely had the money to buy food, much less project materials. I knew coming in that this event was going to crush the servers (it was essentially a massive DDOS), so I didn’t expect to get anything. Well, the moment I got into work I told all my managers that I would be busy with this very event (they all thought it was very cool ^.^ ). I had been refreshing and reloading over and over since 8:30AM EST. It crawled. But when I got through at 11:13AM EST, I was so happy (oh btw only $190.00 had been spent at that point (probably do to the fact no one could get through)). I am truly grateful.

    Sorry for the book.

    Long story short, Sparkfun finally gave me the tools I needed to break into the project world. Thank you Sparkfun.

  34. http://www.ndmckinney.net/author/nick/ says:

    I was one of the lucky ones who, after an hour of frustration, was able to place a free order. I had a couple projects that needed components anyway, so the timing on this was perfect for me. However, I don’t think the long-term effect is what SparkFun wants. Giving away 1000 free orders is not nearly sufficient to meet the potential demand, and many of those who were turned away/unable to connect will be rather resentful, if only for selfish reasons.

    I’m a big fan of SF, but I think the implementation on this was quite poor. The system was not setup to handle this load, and they should have anticipated the stampede of bits on their servers and come up with a better solution for handling the hordes of disappointed clients.

    If SparkFun wanted to reward their loyal customers, they could have required that a previous order was necessary to qualify. That wouldn’t have attracted new customers, but it would have built a lot more goodwill.

  35. Bob says:

    Sitting and waiting for nothing back from their servers was very frustrating. I’ve shopped there many times before and will continue to do business with them, so I wish they’d had a true “customer appreciation” day where past customers could get freebies. There were a lot of people at my office who’d never ordered anything from them before yet fought to get freebies, and are unhappy with the failed experience. Not a good way to attract new customers nor reward past customers.

    FWIW, I’ll probably place a $100+ order tomorrow, realizing fully that it won’t ship for a while. This didn’t turn me against their brand, I just think they did this poorly.

  36. Former Spark(not)Fun(anymore) Customer says:

    Yeah a few hacks got through the mess and are smiling like kids with free candy do, but most (and more importantly) new prospective customers got slammed. Do someone good and you never hear about it, slam someone and the news spreads like H1N1.

  37. jeff-o says:

    What do you think would have happened if their servers had been up to the task? Instead of $100k being given away in less than two hours, it would have been gone in 15 or 20 minutes. Less time wasted for anyone who didn’t get there in time, I guess. Still no free stuff.

    I think it would have been smart of them to limit the maximum amount to $40 or $50. That way twice as many people would be able to get a good deal, and those people would likely go above the limit a bit as well.

    It also would have been nice to limit the contest to those who’d bought something there before (say, with a special code emailed to every active account a week before), but it’s true that opening it up to everyone would generate far more publicity…

  38. adb says:

    While intellectually I acknowledge/understand that:

    1.) this was to test their servers
    2.) there were no guarantees
    3.) it was only for $100,000 (a lot of scratch) which meant (only) about 1000 people would get it…out of (conservative estimate) 100k folks trying.

    I still feel bummed. Maybe I shouldn’t have pored over the catalog, carefully selected each item I wanted, removed and then switched things around. Nope, I shouldn’t have. I shouldn’t have gotten excited or told everyone I knew about it.

    Should have given up in that first 1/2 hour when I couldn’t get in, when the checkout didn’t work, when my carefully crafted shopping cart came up wonky. Instead I kept reloading for almost 2 hours.

    I should have realized that given (probably) over 100k people were vying for a spot, it would be very, very unlikely to get anything. Should have treated it as a lottery. Because then I wouldn’t have spent hours hoping/dreaming/getting excited.

    Nope, I would have given it a quick try and then “eh, looks like it’s not going to work. Bummer.” and moved on.

    Oh well. Kudos to sparkfun for their (very inventive) bit of advertising and genuinely creative stress-test methodology. Yeah, I’ll probably shop there again. But it still leaves more than a little bit of sour taste in my mouth.

  39. Ph says:

    I’ve been unemployed for almost a year now. I tolerated frequent browser re-freshes and checkout slowness for almost 90 minutes. But in the end I got my free stuff and will use it to learn new skills, and hopefully have a more marketable resume so I can land a job soon.

    Sparkfun WIN, I’ll be back and with a full wallet.

    1. Anonymous says:

      omg, that’s so BEAUTIFUL… 8_0

  40. Bill Owens says:

    ***Standard Template – please choose your complaints***

    SparkFun sucks! I have never |bought from them|heard of them|heard of electronics|bought anything online| before, but I expected to get a hundred bucks worth of stuff for free anyway. And then their site wouldn’t met me in! I couldn’t |connect to the website|create an account|fill my cart|collect the free stuff that I so richly deserve| because their servers were so lame. Now that I have heard of SparkFun, I hate them! I’ll never buy from them, ever!

    ******

    Seriously, folks. Ever tried to get a Bag o’ Crap? Buy tickets to a hot concert? Win a radio call-in contest? Snag that $100 LCD TV at Walmart? How could anyone possibly expect anything other than that the game (and yes, it was a game) would either be over instantly, or that the servers would be hosed. I’m frankly amazed that their site was more-or-less operational the whole time.

    Yes, I tried to get some stuff, about $72 worth. No, I didn’t make it in. Yes, I’ve bought from them before – a box arrived from them just yesterday. And I will certainly buy from them again.

  41. tt says:

    I did not participate, but wanted to chime in about SparkFun. Don’t give-in to the ginormous hype machine; SparkFun is not that great of a store. I have ordered from them in the past expecting good customer service and prompt shipping for the premium pricing and did not receive such. You can buy Arduinos and similar gear elsewhere. Unless they are the only supplier of a product, I will MAKE my own or get it elsewhere.

  42. SparC: Just kidding says:

    So I got us this new Sparc server thing for $100K. I told the manufacturer: “…if it crashes in the first month I’m not paying anything…”
    And they want to our name????
    http://www.sparkfun.com/commerce/news.php?id=300
    Just kidding….

  43. Former Sparkfun customer, current Sparkfun hater says:

    This is not a question of people railing due to a sense of “entitlement”. People did everything in their power to participate, only to be faced with partial page loads, randomly emptied carts, inexplicable denial of the $100 credit, teases of getting further along in the process only to be sent backwards, and most people probably has no idea what was going on since the only reliable facts were coming off Sparkfun’s IRC channels.

    The last thing that a lot of people are going to remember about SF is how frustrating this was. I fully admit that SF is the same company I thought was cool yesterday, but because this was handled so poorly every time I think of them I feel angry. I feel jerked around. Someone made a comment about not feeling angry because they didn’t get 1 out of 20 TV sets on sale at a brick-and-mortar, but I think you would if you found the electric doors opening enough for you to get your foot in and then slamming again, and you get halfway up the TV aisle when you suddenly end up outside the store, or you give the cashier your credit card only to find you are no longer holding a TV *and* you are back outside the store. That is what “Free Day” was like.

    I cannot imagine how Sparkfun are going to save face. They should have done a lottery, or a discount for purchasing tiers, or free shipping, or any of a million things that would have been utterly fair and absolutely stable. Congratulations on flunking basic psychology guys.

  44. cnorrick says:

    Luckily I made it out with a Arduino starter kit, a tshirt, and some stickers at the very end. It was going to be a shot in the dark. Everyone knew it. I don’t see how anyone can complain about free stuff. Sure you had to invest some time in hitting reload over and over and over, but what do you expect for free? No one forced you.

  45. Tom says:

    There was a $30 item I needed but I didn’t even bother waiting for the free deal after noticing how appallingly slow their server has been lately. Poor publicity stunt.

  46. MattMiddleton says:

    I think this went as well as could be expected. I tried to navigate, but ended up giving up with all the page failures. That being said, I don’t feel ripped off or anything like that – I think it was a cool thing for them to do, and I just didn’t luck out.

  47. tinyenormous says:

    Sparkfun did something cool, and lots of people are just bitter. I loaded up a cart, couldn’t log in, and then bought it after the 100k of free money was up. Either you want the stuff or not, you have the money or not. It’s not sparkfun’s fault that every make subscriber was on their website this morning.

    Be thankful that they gave anything back.

    I bet digikey’s website was working flawlessly this morning – at full price.

  48. Josh Kopel says:

    Come on people. We all know the internets are held together with bubble gum and string. You had to guess that their servers were going to get pounded.

    Sparkfun played a little game with us. They gave away $100,000 worth of stuff and I doubt they made up for it with the amount over that those 1000 people paid. It is not like you were being forced to do this. You could have stopped hitting refresh whenever you wanted, right?

    We all knew the rules, and for those of us who missed out, well too bad. I am still convinced that they have one of the best stores out there. This certainly isn’t going to stop me from shopping there. Well it might today, but I don’t have any money to spend until Friday anyway.

  49. justDIY says:

    I’m not bitter about missing out of free stuff. I wasted a few hours this morning hitting “retry” every few minutes, but that’s time I would have wasted playing crysis or surfing in general, so no loss.

    What upsets me is the arrogance of Sparkfun’s management and IT people, claiming the servers “weathered the storm”.
    OK, so maybe on paper, there servers did not crash, as in, having to physically reset a machine. But they did not “survive” or “barely make it.”

    Nate and the gang; your servers were down, not just during the “event”, but several times in the days leading up to the event. Even at 4:30am MST, your servers were timing out and returning 0 byte responses. That is not slow, that is down. Bragging about things running just fine but a “bit slow” on your website, the IRC channel, and other outlets seems just as childish as the people who are whining about missing out on free stuff.

    1. Andy L says:

      Let’s see how arrogant they are about server issues. Here’s the relevant quote from their “wrap-up” news post.

      “This was, of course, more than just a test for our servers – we could’ve done that virtually and I think anyone who participated in Free Day knows how this worked. Our server went down three times during this ordeal. Once, it really broke on its own (the day before Free Day). Yikes.”

      What was your point again?

  50. willy says:

    I am always upset when I can’t get a free bag of crap from woot. Does it make me hate woot? No. In fact I watch woot and buy more from them because they do weird things like the bag of crap.

  51. Jkx says:

    !!!!!! This was the FreeTimeOutDay !!!!!!!!

    totally stupid from this kind of company, what a bad communication !

  52. sshaw says:

    I think it was a great idea. Granted I was lucky enough to be one of the winners. I received 2 arduino boards for christmas and shared one with my dad. I’m married, kids, working full time and going to school (computer engineering), so money isn’t a thing just laying around for me.

    This stuff is will definitely get put to good use. If not for SFE I’d be several months out since I can’t necessarily afford $100 right now.

    So, huge thanks to SFE for boosting my toy box :)

  53. drusilla says:

    I think Free Day was a good idea. Though I’d heard of Sparkfun I had never bought anything from them. Now I think I’m likely to purchase more things from them.

    I did manage to come away with some loot, to my surprise: some tools (needle nose pliers, diagonal cutters, breadboard, illuminated eye loupe), 4x 6.5″ 7 segment displays (to build a big alarm clock), and a Simon’s Game kit (to practice surface mount soldering).

    Anyway congratulations to Sparkfun on what I think was really effective advertising.

  54. Qenton says:

    It was fun. I give myself about a 10% chance of getting anything. Almost made it too. Was at the last screen when the money ran out. If I had done more homework I would have made it through.

    By the way, have bought from them in the pass, back when they were just starting up. Fantastic company, I’m glad they are growing.

  55. Eric says:

    One (of several) reasons this stunt was not a great idea is that it underscores the extent to which Sparkfun price gouges.

  56. Mike C says:

    1.Reward loyal customers – Fail: This only frustrated loyal customers

    2. Load test their severs – Fail: Killed their servers. Proves they could not withstand a DOS attack. Could also have been network or ISP.

    3. Give to maker community – Pass: they gave away $100K retail ($40K – $65K wholesale)

    4. Free press – WASH: free publicity, but getting flamed for implementation and lack of capacity.

    1 and a half out of 4 Definite FAIL.

    I’m Thinking about canceling an order from a few days ago that has not shipped.

  57. annoyed idiot. says:

    aaargh. i wound up paying for the same crap i would have paid for a month ago. plus i’m now in line behind 1000 other clowns for shipping. plus i ditched work. plus must keep reminding self that only self is to blame.

    1. N3OX says:

      Annoyed Idiot, if I ran SparkFun I’d make the Free Day shipping queue a second priority over paid orders in the next day, or at least interleave the order fills.

      I don’t know if they’re going to do that, but I wouldn’t be surprised. They said up front to not expect any particular schedule on shipping.

  58. N3OX says:

    You folks who are insisting that Sparkfun dropped the ball by not being able to take orders without their servers crapping out … I don’t get it.

    I looked at the pre-free-day buzz, thought about the size of SparkFun, thought about the number of people who clearly wanted in on this thing, and nearly decided not to participate.

    But I figured, what the heck, why not sit here for an hour or two and click refresh. So last night, I filled up my cart with some bluetooth gadgets that I kinda-wanted-but-probably-wouldn’t-pay-for-right-now … stuff I want to use to play with interfacing my Droid to little projects.

    And today at 11A.M. I hit the checkout button, and it timed out, just like I knew it would. I’m sitting here running an experiment all day, zero cost to me to just flip over to the SparkFun tab and hit refresh again.

    I finally got to the part where I selected payment method for shipping when the news came in that it was done for.

    So I didn’t get my stuff. Just like I knew I wouldn’t.

    Am I upset at SparkFun? Hell no. They gave away stuff for free and never promised anyone that it would be easy to get it. I knew it wouldn’t. Many people knew it wouldn’t. The winners were selected by some combination of timing and intarweb vagaries. Who cares? I’m not walking away from SparkFun just because their servers didn’t promptly tell me at 11:15 this morning that all 1000 orders had been processed.

    SparkFun is not a company that has the least bit of reason to be able to take the 600 orders per hour they managed to fill today in the midst of a DDoS attack. Think about what they get on a normal day.

    SparkFun is a great company in my experience. They have prompt and helpful customer service and prices I think are reasonable on stuff I want. They sell high quality things that are not very available elsewhere. You folks who have a bad taste in your mouth… try SparkFun sometime when you want to pay them for something. After all, that’s what they’re actually there for.

    They’re not a company who’s in the business of filling stampede orders at all, like Ticketmaster or whatever, and they’re *certainly* not in the business of filling stampede orders to people who aren’t going to pay them for stuff. It’s pretty weird to get upset or resentful that a widely publicized free giveway shut a smallish niche electronics shop’s servers down. You might consider that a small niche electronics shop is able to justify tossing out several tens of thousands of dollars in stuff to the crowd every once and a while.

    This isn’t some Hail Mary play to keep from going under, it’s a neat stunt from what seems to be a successful, growing, pretty great business. I probably won’t buy that BlueSMIRF I was after *just* yet. But I’ll be ordering from SparkFun many, many times in the future.

  59. stormadvisor says:

    I agree with several here. I tried from the checkout and could not get a page to load. When it was “done” it was a blank page. That’s all.

    I like spark fun and all but this is ridicules

  60. Eric says:

    They got publicity, “trending”, some happy people, and some pissed off people. Me, I’m a little disappointed and honestly it will delay when I next order from them. There is nothing I “need” from them (it’s a hobby, not source of income) and not getting through although getting painfully close takes some of the desire to get “toys” from them.

  61. Todd says:

    Have to agree with the Fail comment as well as the commenters who think that this was like getting halfway to the cashier to find out you don’t have the TV and are outside the store.

    I was logged in, full cart with $200 worth of stuff, on my cart page, and kept hitting refresh and next buttons only to get to the “confirm shipping” page after 1hr 44min of failed page loads etc.

    I know – logically – that it doesn’t make sense to feel cheated, but it is basic psychology that I would and do feel this way.
    I played by the rules, took my chances, and would have felt like I missed out but not cheated had it been over with in 15min or something from the start, instead I invested time and energy into trying to feel like they failed to even make this a fair chance of a lottery.

    My Impressions of Sparkfun:
    Thought they were cool, now think they are meh, still cool(ish)
    Positive feeling of brand is now tarnished.
    Frustrated with their system and feel like shopping is a pain and cart process sucks. – will look elsewhere first.
    Prices were higher but felt good about brand so that was ok. – Now don’t think so, will look elsewhere.

    Overall I think this was a FAIL.

  62. OhNoYouDi'int!! says:

    What really bothers me is the clever manipulation. Just testing the servers? really?, or do they not want us to think of this as a cheap advertisement scheme so that we won’t feel guilty dragging our friends into the manipulation and spreading it around even more.

  63. charlie says:

    Only in our current times could a company give away $100,000 worth of stuff in a terrible economy and be given such a fail..

    Its a fail alright, but not on sparkfuns side.

    everytime a company tries something like this, its overloaded by those wanting something for nothing, even if they don’t need it, they just want it. There are those that are perfectly valid and are interested to get something. Lots of people will try to beat the system by employing techniques that will cause more damage to the system.

    web servers aren’t made by sparkfun, amazon etc has even failed to do this. the web itself isn’t good for this sort of thing, but neither is a store, at least people didn’t get trampled to death in the sparkfun riots of 2010. its always underestimated just how much traffic you’ll get, and the ISP’s don’t exactly do a gret job of handling these insane loads either. Repeatedly hitting F5 isn’t helping anyone.

    It was just horrible to watch it unfold and the reactions, I do agree with what Mace is saying, there was going to be a lot of complaints, unfortunately it seems if you side with the negative it’ll win out more often than not.

  64. no name says:

    I’m not sure, but I think they probably did something illegal (unknowingly, of course) here in the state of Colorado. You never, NEVER test servers with the public!!! It’s against PCI compliance laws! I would be totally fired if I did that! Any small business, for one fourth of the price than what they gave away, could rent a test server and hire someone to test their website. This should have been done a month ago. They should have known that. I really don’t buy into the “testing servers” crap. It was just a big ol’ advertisement, one that worked because it got a lot of people looking. Including me. They certainly proved that there is a sucker born every minute!! I’ve been finding better prices and products all over the internet. Won’t shop with Sparkfun for a really long time…. (lost my trust!)

  65. Rob says:

    I nailed an awsome order. I was fully expecting the competition to go exactly as it did. Anyone who thought different was dilusional. I also do not buy the “I don’t care about the stuff, I’m mad you wasted my time!”

    I call BS. WHY did you waste your time? YOU wasted your time because YOU wanted free stuff. You could have tried a few times and given up after 30 minutes. I’d maybe have bought your lies then. But the fact that YOU refreshed for over 1.5 hours is YOUR fault.

  66. Troy says:

    I hope those that were lucky enough to get free items put them to good use and share what they do with the community. For a past customer that tried and failed the next best thing to getting free loot is seeing what others do with free loot.

  67. Alex Dickman says:

    I’m overly happy that I got to focus on not having a pair of xbee today, as opposed to tomorrow, where I’ll focus on not having food, or teh mortgage payment. Kudos sparkfun, fighting fire with gasoline.

  68. andr01dm says:

    Mostly this was very frustrating.. and puzzling. I can’t understand how anyone actually managed to order anything with how slow the server was responding. It took me almost two hours to add a single item to a shopping cart. 0.0;

    I pity anyone who actually had non-freebie business that they wanted to do this morning.

    Will I still buy from SparkFun? Sure. I’m pretty happy with the bits and pieces that I’ve bought from them before and will likely need more in the future.

    But I think doing a draw would make more sense if they plan to do this again, to avoid having their server hammered, frustrated customers and to create a level playing field.

  69. Tired says:

    If I were SparkFun, I might be happy in having succeeded in hyping the crap out of an gimmicky promotion. Sure, they’re probably uncorking the bubbly. But on the consumer side of the story I don’t give a rat’s ass if SparkFun had a publicity coupe. It just prevented a lot of people from getting into the site to get our business done. I expect this from Walmart and Target. Not SparkFun. Just makes them look desperate.

  70. toto says:

    I didn’t know what a “ScrewShield kits” was, after googling it I found out it’s a PCB with wire screw terminal blocks!!!!

    How can someone be the creator of a PCB with terminal blocks?!!!
    Oh no excuse me, be the co-creator, I misread :-)
    They had to be several of them to “create” that!

    How can someone be proud of such a common and simple thing?
    I didn’t say it’s not a useful thing, I mean, Arduinos are meant mostly for inexperienced µC users and preventing them from soldering wires is a good thing, but for godsake don’t be proud of it, or proud of advertising it! All the more as I am sure it’s selling well with all the Arduino buzz that’s going on at the moment.

  71. Almost_There says:

    I started trying to log-in at 08:40 Mountain Time, I never even got the Log-in page to load until about 10:50; by then it was over. Why did some people get better connectivity than others? (But I hold no grudge against SparkFun, they didn’t owe me anything.)

  72. Formori says:

    Okay, for the people out there who were thinking about “trying out” Sparkfun on free day… are you nuts? I first ordered from Sparkfun about a year ago, and have never had a problem with them. Excellent customer service and excellent products. I know it’s a little more expensive there, but I think it’s worth it.

    Now, I did actually manage to get through after constantly refreshing for an hour and a half, but I really wanted the Xbee kit I ordered and currently don’t have the money for it (being a student sucks). So I think this whole deal was worth it, thumbs up to Sparkfun!

    I honestly don’t believe that the people that were just getting the $100 of stuff to throw in their junk drawers would actually do all of what I did to get my order. So, in that case the idea of Free Day worked, since mostly people that really need/wanted the parts got them, which was one of their first reasons. So to all the whiners out there about not getting the order, the world doesn’t revolve around you and you don’t deserve something for nothing. This was a FREE day, so if you were lucky enough to get through and make an order, then you deserved it. Hopefully we see more companies do things like this in the future!

  73. waterlogged says:

    It would be a great idea, if the world wasn’t full of whiny brats who expect to be the special one. I spent an hour trying and didn’t get it, but I was lucky to have the chance. Why the hell is everyone pissed?

  74. jdawg says:

    Fail, fail and Fail…

    I can’t speak for Sparkfun as a company but from a user experience it was a disaster. Seems like the idea was barely thought through. I mean lets look at this from a realistic point of view. Sparkfun is a business, not your friend. Every decision is motivated by money and the bottom line. “Free Day” would not have taken place if it didn’t benefit Sparkfun. There are much SMARTER ways of “giving” back. I’m sure there are plenty of schools / clubs that would have loved to get some free hardware and would have actually used it and not put it up on ebay. I personally would rather have seen a nice blog post about how Sparkfun helped out some schools that teach electronics and then a follow up on the projects the built and the kids affected.

    My point is treat it for what it is, a big publicity stunt that may or may not pay off.

  75. djkraz says:

    I agree with the previous guy about donating to the schools being a better way to go but since they didn’t…

    I’ve ordered from them before with no problem. I had my cart ready to go 8 hours before they opened and the site was responding great for me. However, I tried several times to start the checkout process in case there was something I would need to fill out to save time later but I kept getting a blank page with “refresh=1″ in the url (it was not an error page, just a blank page). I assumed that it must be because they are preparing for the launch of free day so I decided to just wait. Free day opens and I tried many many times like most people to get through and unlike many people I did get through several times, however every damn time I did, I got taken back to this damn blank frickin page!!!

    Anyway, I fully assumed the site would have serious problems so I can’t blame them for that but there is definitely something else going on besides just overload issues and it is really frustrating… I can’t say I will never order from them again because they have some great products, though quite often overpriced, and when you are prototyping things they usually have what you need. I guess what I’m saying is that there grand gesture would have been much grander by simply lowering there prices for say a couple days by say 25% or so until they hit the same 100k. Sure it wouldn’t have caused as much of a marketing hype but if they were being honest about this being for the stress test of their new servers, they still would have gotten that and it would have made a lot more people happy. Oh well, you can’t ever please everybody I guess.

    1. Jake of All Trades says:

      That’s odd. I noticed that “refresh=1″ in the URL when I was filling my cart last night too, but the pages always loaded fine. It was a bit slow, but no blank pages or anything…

  76. elmegil says:

    I’m not *mad* that I didn’t get my free stuff. C’est la Vie.

    But come on, if you want to “test” your servers, you need to have servers that come somewhere CLOSE to being capable of handling the load you’ve set yourself up for. The only way I got anything into my basket was by using google to find what I wanted, and in two of three cases, using google cache to load the product page. Only the “add to basket” button had to go to their site, and still checkout stalled completely.

    The bitters who refuse to shop at sparkfun are, as they freely admit, succumbing to sour grapes. But never underestimate the amount of sour grapes you can generate on the internet with such a poorly thought out plan.

  77. Mike says:

    When the SparkFun give away was announced I thought it was a really cool way to give back to their supporters. In the end, it predictably turned into a online equivalent of a black Friday combat shopping experience.

    I tried for about an hour to get through and then gave up. Like most of the other posts I’m not mad, I’ll continue shopping sparkfun, I’m just a little disappointed. Clearly they were trying to thank people that have supported the company, the plan was so poorly conceived though that it just frustrated everyone. If sparkfun does this again (and I hope they do) I think it needs to be planned better.

  78. Anonymous says:

    Wow — can’t believe the degree of sour grapes out there. I loaded my cart last night with an arduino (my first, been wanting one for a while) and a 3×3 led cube, then progressed through shipping and credit card info and let it sit overnight. Hit F5 about a gazillion times this morning, only getting the order page to load ten times or less. Hit the ‘submit’ button each of those times and had it time out every time before giving me a confirmation page. Was bummed to see that it had ended, shrugged my shoulders and thought about how cool it would have been to get free stuff.

    …then checked my email and saw an order confirmation.

    So in the end, I came out a winner. But by no means was I upset at the company when it appeared I had missed out. I just don’t comprehend that attitude when you’re talking about free stuff being handed out. If you didn’t like the (entirely predictable!) experience of dealing with downed servers, you should have given up and poured yourself another cup of coffee.

  79. Garrett says:

    A lot of the…er…sweet grapes…seem to be from people who managed to get some of the loot.

  80. Anonymous says:

    Total Fail. I do have to agree with people on many of the complaints. My primary complaint is in line with the “tv” comment. You have the TV in your arms and then appear outside again without it, you walk through the front door and it closes on you, etc.

    It wasn’t a straight win/lose lottery or anything like it. It was a “you might be a winner, just click one more time!!” Sure, it’s my fault for wanting to avoid paying $100 and having the gall to think with my prepared cart before hand and several year old account could win. But it’s their fault for making it so damned painful and such a tease.

    In the end, I gave up and just bought my $250 worth of parts at one of their competitors. Saved a bit of money to boot!

  81. Anonymous says:

    They don’t know Economics 101 and I’m ashamed that I forgot too in the wee hours of the morning.

    I’m boycotting Sparkfun because they reminded me that with the right pitch I can be gullible again and I hate that.

  82. Shadyman says:

    Wow, sour grapes.

    Their checkout process could probably be streamlined a bit, but it was indeed fun and suspenseful.

    I’ve got some interesting data from wireshark, which I ran during my attempts.

  83. DJ Ir0nGruve Drinkus Partius Maximus says:

    I didn’t expect to “win” anything but I had a few projects lined up that the parts would really have helped.

    Thanks to an IRC tip I turned off images in firefox which helped but the final SparkFun shipping confirmation page is *not* F5 friendly.

    I was prepped in the credit card confirmation page right before final shipping page and managed to see the last page before “order placed successfully page” 4 heartbreaking times.

    btw the sparkfun channel on freenode got to 2300 users repeatedly.

    1. Shadyman says:

      @DJ Ir0nGruve Drinkus Partius Maximus:

      All of the checkout pages were refreshable (or F5′able) for me in Firefox. FF asks if you would like to resubmit the form data.

      Mind you, I have shopped on the Sparkfun website before and had my shipping address already stored (which is an option you can set under profile settings).

  84. Anonymous says:

    Complete Fail.

    Like the last poster said, I wasn’t expecting to get anything just for showing up, but I did expect just as much a shot as everybody else. The contest failed due to poor site design.

    I managed to get about halfway through my checkout page fairly early on but could never get beyond that because if you press a button on the order page and the next page to load times out, the ENTIRE PROCESS HAS TO BE REPEATED!!! I got stuck in this infinate loop for hours.

    The way the promotion should have been setup is the instant you get to the FIRST PAGE on your checkout you should have been awarded your free stuff. The page would then add $100 credit to your account or list a custom 100 off promo code, which excludes gift cards and any of the no applicable item they mentioned, and the actual ordering process could occur anytime within the next 30 days. That would have been fair as the first 1000 to actually try to order something would have got their parts instead of the first 1000 to somehow magically make it through the gauntlet of 6 order pages to checkout.

  85. Eddie Edwards says:

    I forgot :( Sounds like I really missed out on some fun!

    Sparkfun seem to have shot themselves in the foot here, if the whining self-entitled schoolkids here are anything to go by.

    When I was about 12 I wrote off to a breadboard mfr to buy some breadboard layout paper and some breadboard prototyping boards, but I couldn’t afford the breadboard itself :)

    I don’t know if they felt sorry for me or realized I was just a kid, but they actually included a breadboard in my order, which I hadn’t paid for.

    I still get a warm feeling about this 25 years later.

  86. Anonymous says:

    Sparkfun used their loyal community for their own gain.

    Tell the sheep we’ll give them something. In return we get to number 1 on Google.

    People on a personal level that didn’t get the freebie might label it a FAIL for not getting what they felt entitled to get.

    I consider it a FAIL for the animosity it generated. A FAIL for being a marketing ploy MUCH more than the stated “giving back”. A FAIL for the long-term negatives, rather than the short-term positives.

    It is easy to argue that you shouldn’t complain. “What do you expect for nothing.” “They were only being nice.” But step back and look – From their eyes they are #1 on the Google page. Blind to them are the many places like here where their customers feel (rightly or not) cheated, deceived, and used.

  87. toddthuma says:

    I thought this was a great idea. I didn’t receive a freebie though I tried and I was initially pissed. But, hey, in the spirit of Louis C. K. I got over it. SparkFun didn’t have to do this and they spelled out in the Open Source spirit why they were doing this.

    The owner or owners of SparkFun need to send their IT staff back to web school. Seriously, do you really have your commerce server on the same box as the rest of the web site? The web site has always had issues and for months there have been occasional interuptions with your content delivering and timing out.

    Get the tutorials and other cool stuff onto a content server and the commerce on a commerce server. You could have managed the server load much better and improved your day-to-day web presence 100 fold.

    Sincerely,

    Todd

  88. Anonymous says:

    Sparkfun didn’t have to give away anything. But they did.

    I had my cart ready to go and hit checkout seconds after the promo began. If it had immediately come back and said I was too late I would have been far less disappointed than the hours spent trying to get the checkout to not time out or return a blank page.

    I have thrown a good deal of my shopping their way in the past, despite their higher, sometime far higher, prices as I like their tutorials.

    Now I am completely turned off by them. Is it fair to Sparkfun? I don’t care. I will forever associate them with a bad experience and hours of frustration and I’m certain that is what I will recall whenever their page comes up in a search or when I am looking for a part.

    I’m happy for those who managed to get through, even the ones who are just going to resell on ebay.

    1. Freddy says:

      It would be interesting to gather how many people got stuck on the checkout page, I bet it is a figure way bigger than the 1000 happy guys, which would turn this into a bad move when the word spreads.

      And yes, count me in that list, I really don’t mind not getting freebies but it would be fun to actually be able to see it happening with the site working %100 instead of just staring at a loading forever page, easier to imagine a scam if the counter goes from a couple of dollars to $100,000 while the site is not working at all for lots of people.

  89. Sean says:

    If you were sitting there constantly pressing refresh, you were participating in a lottery where the selection was limited to who got through a DDOS. You were trading your time for a possible chance at getting something for free, something old ladies spend hours and loads of cash pulling a one-armed bandit hoping for. You didn’t have to pay for the experience, unless you were fired for misuse of company time. And face it, you had nothing better to do in life than sit there F5ing the heck out of an overloaded website, or at least felt in some weird thrilling way that it was important.

    Meh, if you have never bought anything from them before, and were hoping for something free, and claim that you won’t buy anything ever from them because of the poor experience; in my experience, you were never going to buy anything anyway.

    Anyways, I know this bar where they serve lunch for free from 11 to 1. The food’s a little salty though, so you’ll need to drink off about six pints.

    Reminds me, I have a shopping cart waiting for me to finish checkout. The site must be robust, it didn’t lose the contents!

  90. Anonymous says:

    This was a great idea! I am just starting to experiment with electronics and robotics and this ultimately prompted me to place my first order. I have to admit, at first I only intended on placing my order if I was going to get it for free. I created an account and filled my cart.

    In the end, like most others, I was unable to get past the shopping cart part of the checkout process. However, I recently received the Getting Started with Arduino guide as a gift and by the time I got this far, there was no turning back. I ended up placing my order and paying for the entire thing without so much as a complaint.

    I can’t wait to get the Arduino Starter Kit and other parts that I ordered.

    Thanks guys, you’ve made a repeat customer here.